Portland Maritime Discovery Centre houses a Maritime Museum, Visitor Information Centre and gift shop. Built on reclaimed land on the Portland foreshore, the centre was opened in 1998. The design of the building, when viewed from above, represents the shape of an anchor.
The museum documents Portland’s rich maritime history from the arrival of the first European settlers, the Henty brothers, in 1834. The displays are drawn from Glenelg Shire Council’s extensive Cultural Collection, with much of the maritime material donated to Council by the Port of Portland in the 1990s.
Displayed in the entrance to the museum is the skeleton of a 14 metre Sperm Whale which washed up on nearby Narrawong Beach in the late 1980s. The surrounding exhibits tell the story of the early days of whaling and sealing in Portland Bay.
Centrepiece of the museum is the 1858 Portland lifeboat, one of the oldest surviving shore-based lifeboats in Australia. It served at Portland from 1858 to 1915, and in 1859 it was used to rescue the 19 remaining survivors from the famous and tragic grounding of the steamer “Admella” near Cape Banks in South Australia.
Other exhibits in the museum include a functioning lighthouse lens; a Paper Mache replica of a 5.7 metre Great White Shark caught of Portland in 1982; model boats; and other displays documenting wreck and rescue, underwater exploration and Portland’s early fishing industry.
In addition to the permanent museum displays, the centre also houses a temporary exhibition space which features changing thematic exhibitions which explore Portland’s maritime and social history.
The Visitor Information Centre is a “one stop shop” for information on attractions, accommodation and things to do in Portland, the Glenelg Shire and surrounding regions.