Today it was up to us to entertain ourselves. We began with a visit to the local history museum at the information centre.
Portland is Victoria's oldest town, settled in 1834, and the museum has artefacts and stories about all aspects of Portland's past including whaling and shipwrecks. In particular the harrowing tale of the Admella which wrecked in 1859 and survivors clung to the wreck for 8 days before being rescued.
We visited the Portland Botanic Gardens, which are small compared to other gardens we've visited, but very pretty and teeming with birdlife. In particular dozens of New Holland Honeyeaters and Musk Lorikeets.
Again we sat by the port to eat lunch, this time we were entertained by a trio of Musk Duck preening in the water. Intermittently they would roll onto their backs to groom their tummy feathers, making them look like little otters as they floated along. Very cute.
Because we can't resist a walking trail with an intriguing name, we headed out of town to the Enchanted Forest. At the trail head we spotted a beautiful Beautiful Firetail and then set off along the track that descended the steep hillside into a magical stand of Moonah (Melaleuca lanceolata) trees. Their twisted branches all covered in bower spinach vines, did give the forest a very enchanted feeling.
After meeting up with our friends, we decided to have one last try at getting a decent view of Rufous Bristlebird. Our hosts chose Ben's Walk, a trail which meanders along the top of a sea cliff. The habitat was right, and while we didn't see the birds, we did happen across a rather large Tiger Snake. As this was a reptile lifer for me, I couldn't resist a closer look, and because I only had my phone to use for a camera, I leaned in quite close to snap a picture. The snake was coiled, sunning itself in the afternoon light. I knew it was aware of our presence, so I wasn't too concerned about startling it into aggressive behaviour. It was only later that I read Tiger Snakes are the 6th most venomous snake in the world, that their bite can kill in 30 minutes, and that 70% of bites are fatal. If I'd known that, would I have still stood there gawking at it? Yes. Yes, I would have. For foreigners this may sound terrifying, but as Aussies, encountering poisonous snakes is a fact of life. If you are observant and sensible, you have nothing to be unduly concerned about. Still, I do not recommend getting as close as I did. Wild animals are unpredictable and I was lucky.
As this was our final night with our friends we decided to go out for dinner. We enjoyed a delicious pub feed at Macs Hotel, with views of the harbour. A big thank you to our Portland hosts. Even though we spent four days exploring the area we feel like we've only just scratched the surface. I think it's pretty safe to say we'll find ourselves visiting Portland again.