Tucked at the end of the spectacular Great Ocean Road and three hours south-west of Melbourne lies Port Fairy.
ASB Magazine publisher and Go Surf surf school owner Keith Curtain and his family – wife Fiona and six year-old daughter Kitty – are proud to call the town home, and Keith is quick to point out Port Fairy was awarded the title of the world’s (yes, the world’s) most liveable town in the under 20,000 people category at the UN-recognised LivCom awards for the second time running.
There there’s good reason for the accolades – Port Fairy is a storybook sleepy hamlet as popular with nature-loving fishermen and surfers as it is with well–heeled Melbourne escapees, meaning it offers families the best of both worlds. Think a myriad of beaches and outdoor attractions set alongside quaint heritage homes, boutique-style shops and cafes and even a two-hatted restaurant…
For those venturing Fairy-side, we hit Keith up for a few insider tips for visiting families:
Q: Tell us a bit about your surf school – and how much of what you do is inspired by being a parent and/or where you live?
GO Surf & SUP School operates on the beautiful pristine beaches of Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Cape Bridgewater and is staffed by passionate surfers and standup paddle boarders who live and breathe surfing all year around. Being a parent of an active 6 year old, we wanted to provide a safe, nurturing and most of all FUN environment where we could pass on our love of all things to do with the ocean and be fully inclusive of our friends and their kids. The SurfGroms program became the perfect vehicle to do this. You should see the froth levels at our after school SurfGroms program, it’s parents, friends, mums dad’s and kids totally frothing out.
Q: How do you juggle the whole work productivity/parent thing?
Our daughter Kitty is right there under our feet. So it’s a juggle. 9-330 tend to be our most productive hours when she’s at school as well as 7 until midnight when she’s asleep! Peak season when its all on, friends, grand parents help us out a lot.
Q: Best thing about where you live:
The sense of community. Port Fairy is 3hrs from Melbourne CBD and is a remote, beautiful region of SW Victoria at the end of the iconic Great Ocean Road (7 hrs along the GOR). Incredibly safe east facing beaches in contrast to the ruggedness of the Great Ocean Road. It’s very active 6 months of the year then returns to a sleepy hollow in Winter when we have time to travel to warmer places. Port Fairy was voted the ‘Wolds Most Liveable Town’ under 20,000 people (although I have no idea who voted for this… I didn’t).
Q: Best time of year to visit:
Folky! The legendary Port Fairy Folk Festival in the long weekend in March. Or either side of the peak holiday periods if you want a quiet relaxing, easy car parking, wide-open-beaches type of experience. Or Peak summer if you’re chasing the best weather and are on school holiday schedules. Go Surf School operates Oct-May and bookings can be made online at www.gosurf.com.au
Q: If you had overseas visitors with kids staying with you, where’s the first place you’d take them?
Probably Tower Hill, a very rare imploded Maar Volcano crater with an amazing crater lake and guaranteed emu, kangaroo and koala spotting. Lovely walks, or you can just drive through. Alternately, walk around Griffith’s Island to the Lighthouse with an abundance of wallabies and sheerwater rookery (an amazing migratory story), old whaling station and breathtaking Southern Ocean views.
Q: Best local coffee joint (and is it kid friendly?):
So many good options; Rebecca’s (has ice cream/milkshakes as well) Farmers Wife (a hidden gem) Bank St Co (newest and owned/run by the best surfers in town). When you live in a small town you know all the operators, so don’t ask me to choose.
Q: Family friendly places to eat out:
Coffin Sally (Pizza) for a great u/$20 feed and probably the Star Of The West (pub style). The Victoria Hotel has a kids play gym indoors and ‘The Stump’ is the longest continually-licenced pub in Victoria (it also has a set of Great White Shark jaws above the bar). You have to take the kids to Poko Ice Cream or they will rebel.
Q: Best local places to keep the kids entertained under $20:
The Beach, parks and walks are free. Hire a board or wetsuit or BYO. GO Surf can deliver to the beach or to your accommodation (no transport hassles).
Q: Local park with the best kid facilities:
Lake Pertobe (Warrnambool) has an amazing kids area, flying fox, maze, water buggy rides, duck feeding etc. Plenty of undercover areas and BBQs. In Port Fairy, there’s a park on the river at the entrance to the Lighthouse and Griffith Island walk. It also has BBQ facilities etc and the beach is right opposite.
Q: And finally, best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever been given:
Two is company. Three is a crowd!