Portland was the site of Victoria's first permanent settlement back in 1834, with the town quickly prospering due to fishing, pastoral and agricultural industries. Portland is the only deep-water sea port between Adelaide and Melbourne, making it a major centre for sea transport of goods and produce from the surrounding areas. A large sheltered harbour provides calm waters for a marina, wharves and shipping berths. One of Portland's major industries is the Alcoa aluminium smelter which commenced operations in 1986.
Portland is a place of historic discovery with over 200 buildings within the town classified by the National Trust, many of which are constructed out of bluestone.
Portland's commercial centre is based around Percy Street with a number of retail outlets and eateries spilling over into Bentinck Street which overlooks a grassy foreshore, the town's marina and the expansive sands of Nuns Beach.
The Portland Cable Tram offers visitors a scenic and informative journey through the foreshore, providing views along the coast and passing attractions such as Botanic Gardens, Portland Powerhouse Car Museum, Maritime Discovery Centre, Whalers Bluff Lighthouse, and the World War 2 Memorial Lookout Tower at Anderson Point.
South of Portland is Cape Nelson which includes a 210 hectare state park bordering rugged cliffs with the Cape Nelson Lighthouse located on the coast's southern tip. To the west is Cape Bridgewater, which marks the start of the Discovery Bay Coastal Park that stretches 50 kilometres north-west along the coast to the small town of Nelson, close to the state border with South Australia.