We stayed in Adelaide a couple days after Jonnie left. The final day there we became aware that the air was smoke-filled and we could see smoke clouds gathering northeast of the city. As we headed out of Windsor Gardens, a huge cloud of smoke appeared ahead of us, and we wondered what we were in for. Fortunately, about the time our cell phone provided us with an “emergency warning” of a bushfire in the area, the highway on which we were driving turned further southeast, avoiding the fire area. We stopped that night in a little town called Naracoorte. Apparently, there was another bushfire southeast of us, and with all the smoke in the air, the sunset was spectacular.
We continued through the southeast corner of South Australia. This is rolling, pastoral country filled with vineyards and pine tree plantations, sheep and cattle ranches. The tree farms are planted in straight rows and surrounded with wide firebreaks, for obvious reasons. Many of the vineyards in the Coonawarra Region were still decorated with whimsical Santa scenes.
Clinging to the coastline, we traveled into the state of Victoria and found our way to Portland, which has a sister city relationship with Portland, Oregon, near our home in Washington. A signpost downtown states that Portland, Oregon, is 13,412 kilometers (8,334 miles) from Portland, Victoria – we really are a long ways from home!
This Portland is much smaller than the one in Oregon but no less charming. It is the oldest European settlement in Victoria (settled in 1834) and now boasts a population of nearly 10,000 people. Portland Bay was named for the Duke of Portland in 1800 when British navigators first explored the southern coast of Australia. It provides the only deep-water port between Adelaide and Melbourne. Much of what we saw waiting in the port to be loaded on ships was wood chips and logs. Fishing and the nearby aluminium smelter are also large parts of the economy.
The Portland Cable Tram carries tourists along the cliffs above Portland Bay from one end of town to the other, a distance of 8 kilometers (5 miles) using diesel-powered 1880s-vintage cable cars on rails. Portland has maintained many of its historic buildings from the 19th Century, 50 of which we explored on the Historic Building Walk. Many of them are built of “bluestone,” which we learned is actually basalt from extensive lava flows from long-ago volcanoes in the area. A special treat was the sighting of a wild koala in a tree next to the tram tracks as we rode the Cable Tram home after a long day walking around town.
An easy day trip from Portland is Cape Nelson State Park. The Cape Nelson Lightstation began operation in 1884 and includes the lighthouse and cottages for the head keeper and two assistants, along with other utility buildings. The lighthouse is fully automated now and the keepers’ cottages are used as vacation accommodations; the old stable is now a café; and access to the lighthouse is by tour only. We had an excellent tour of the property including learning about the communications and coastal-guarding responsibilities of early lighthouse keepers. In the Lookout House (signal station) are a full set of signaling flags and a 2.1-meter (nearly 7-foot) long brass telescope that was installed there in 1885 to watch for Russian ships along the shore; German ships were the threat during World War I (which Australians call the Great War) and again in World War II, along with Japanese ships and planes.
Nearby, Discovery Bay Coastal Park sights along the Cape Nelson coastline include the Enchanted Forest, where a dense stand of Moonah trees creates lovely archways over the trail; and Yellow Rock, an eye-catching sea stack.