Focus on Portsea

Portsea is located approximately 110 kilometres drive south of the Melbourne CBD, and is the most westerly settlement on the Mornington Peninsula.

The official population of Portsea is 787 according to the 2021 census. The size of Portsea is approximately four square kilometres.

In 1840, a freed convict by the name of James Sandle Ford took up a parcel of land which he named Portsea, after Portsea Island which is an island incorporated by Portsmouth in England.

As Melbourne grew in the late 1830s there was a growing demand for lime which was used as a mortar in building. Limestone was plentiful in the area and from 1840 a number of kilns were established.

In the early 1850s a ship entered Port Philip carrying passengers stricken with typhus. A quarantine station was established in 1852, just west of the present town of Portsea. In the 1990s, the Quarantine Station housed 400 Kosovars, refugees from the Bosnian War. The former Quarantine Station was opened to the community as part of Point Nepean National Park in December 2009

A fort with barracks was built at Point Nepean in 1882 to defend the headlands of Port Phillip Bay during a period when there was a fear of invasion. After World War II, the facilities housed the Officer Cadet School (OCS) Portsea and later the School of Army Health from 1951 to 1998. The area was opened to the public in 1988 upon the formation of the Point Nepean National Park.

On 17th December 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared, presumed drowned, while swimming at Cheviot Beach which is part of the Point Nepean National Park in Portsea. Mr. Holt, aged 59, departed Canberra on Friday 15th December and flew to Melbourne in a RAAF VIP aircraft and later drove his maroon Pontiac Parisienne to Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula for a relaxing weekend at his family home. The most likely scenario was that Holt was caught in a strong rip off Cheviot Beach and was swept out to sea and drowned. In 1969 a plaque commemorating Holt was bolted to the sea floor off Cheviot Beach after a memorial ceremony. It bears the inscription: ‘In memory of Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, who loved the sea and disappeared hereabouts on 17 December 1967.’

Located on the narrowest section of the peninsula, the northern section faces the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay, and the southern side faces Bass Strait. The often turbulent surf beaches on the ocean side are broken up by rugged headlands and cliffs, steep dunes and the impressive London Bridge rock formation.

Median property price is $3,400,000, and weekly median advertised rent is $1300.

The Portsea Pier is the home to the spectacular weedy sea dragon, as well as many other fish species, including numerous pufferfish.

Coffee Safari

Freshly brewed coffee is a must-have and the Mornington Peninsula’s coffee haunts are second to none. Check out these when you’re visiting!

Le Capucin

3770 Point Nepean Road

Enjoy premium coffee and a fresh croissant or something from the French-inspired cafe menu. Dine inside, on the terrace, or take a short stroll and picnic on the beach.


3760 Point Nepean Road

Find a cozy spot in front of the fire for a coffee, glass of wine, something from the all-day breakfast menu or a Mediterranean-inspired morsel.

Portsea Hotel

3746 Point Nepean Road

With sweeping views of Port Phillip Bay, The Heads and Queenscliff, the Portsea Hotel offers upmarket pub classics, wood-fired pizzas and fresh Australian seafood. Finish with a coffee and bask in the gorgeous setting.

Baked In – Portsea

145 Hotham Road

Savour excellent coffee, flaky baked goods, açai bowls and more in the inviting outdoor dining area.

What to do

Cool off at a bay beach or ride the surf at the ocean beach.

After a day out in the water slow down with friends on the green lawns of the Portsea Pub.

Learn to scuba dive amid sea dragons and rays around Portsea Pier.

Glimpse the lifestyles of the rich and famous who reside in Portsea’s millionaire mansions or explore the fascinating labyrinth of nineteenth-century tunnels and fortifications in the Point Nepean National Park.

Photos Yanni

Peninsula Essence – April 2023