Portsea is a popular holiday spot, located near the end of the Mornington Peninsula between the calm waters of Port Phillip and the wild surf of Bass Strait.
Shelley Beach and the Foreshore are spectacular places to swim with the family, particularly because they face the bay and their waters are calmer. Portsea Back Beach is a big attraction due to its great surfing conditions and long stretch of sand. Portsea Surf Life Saving Club patrols the popular surf beach, as patrols are always needed during the summer period given the large waves and strong tides that are often present. All of Portsea’s beaches tend to be inundated with visitors during the summer months.
Portsea is considered by many to be the hub of Melbourne’s recreational scuba diving activities. Dive boats travel to sites both inside Port Phillip and outside Port Phillip Heads, also known as The Rip and the Portsea Pier is the home to the spectacular weedy sea dragon, as well as many other fish species, including numerous pufferfish.
The Portsea Hotel, a highly popular restaurant and pub, marks the middle of town. Along Point Nepean Road specialty stores and cafes look out at the Portsea Pier, which is popular with fishermen and visitors soaking up the scenery.
The Point Nepean National Park lines the edge of the town, and it is filled with old army barracks established to prevent invasion back in the 1880s. Many walks through the area explore these historic remnants.In the 1920s, Portsea was established as a home to Victoria’s elite. Many of the original clifftop mansions remain there today. The suburb is still known as the most affluent postcode in Australia, outperforming other upper class Victorian suburbs, including Toorak and Hawthorn, and many of Melbourne’s wealthiest residents are beginning to retire there. As recently as last year several properties in Portsea have broken the Victorian price record.
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Portsea is named after Portsea Island which is an island incorporated by Portsmouth England. Portsmouth is where the first settlers to Australia set sail from.Portsea Post Office opened on 10 February 1877 and closed in 1987.
The Officer Cadet School, Portsea (sometimes referred to as OCS Portsea) was an officer training establishment of the Australian Army located just outside the town. Established in Portsea in 1951 to provide training to officer cadets prior to commissioning, for many years OCS provided the Australian Regular Army with the bulk of its junior officers. However, following a review of military training establishments in Australia in the mid-1980s, the school was eventually closed in 1985, as the Royal Military College, Duntroon, assumed sole responsibility for training Army officers.
The historic reserve became famous when Prime Minister of Australia Harold Holt disappeared while swimming inside the facility at Cheviot Beach on 17 December 1967 and was officially presumed dead two days later, although a formal inquest into his death did not take place until 2005.