The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival left us buzzing, and not just because we spent the weekend gorging on bulk-inspiration on the big screen. This festival had a tasty vibe – let Tim dish you up a plate. 

I’ve been to a bunch of adventure film festival tours now and they’re all pretty much the same. You tear home from work, struggle to coordinate your mates, shovel down some kind of mediocre dinner and flop into your seat in the cinema. Once you’ve absorbed the films it’s time to make a jump on the exit and beat the rush in the carpark.

I’d always come home pretty stoked, but two things were missing:

  1. Time to catch up with mates, and chat with the other legends in attendance. (Interval doesn’t cut it, I’m trying to pee ‘cause I didn’t have time before the show.)
  2. Australian films, mate.
What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by Pat Corden, surfing

Dustin Hollick in ‘One Day at Shipsterns’ – a film about the iconic Aussie wave

Most of the adventure film festivals going around at the moment are touring from overseas. Banff, Mountainfilm, Reel Rock, the European Outdoor Film Tour, they’re all shows-on-the-road. But many of them have a base. 

Banff Mountain Film Festival, for instance, is held in the town of Banff, Alberta in Canada. Over an action-packed week attendees watch films, hang out and get involved in all kinds of rad events. Like campfire conversations and adventure photography workshops.

What gives? Where are our sweet stokey hangs?

What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by Pat Corden, WEAREEXPLORERS CREW

The We Are Explorers crew engaging in ‘sweet stokey hangs’

Australia’s First Independent International Adventure Film Festival

Leon Morton had the idea to start the Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival, a home-grown adventure festy, based in a lush seaside Victorian town, and bring the stokey hangs downunder. The idea only grew stronger when he attended 5Point Adventure Film Festival in Carbondale with his crew from The Bikes Of Wrath.

While their film, The Bikes of Wrath, was enjoying huge success overseas, it was barely a blip on the radar in Aus. A film by Aussies, about a bunch of Aussies doing a rad thing (cycling the route of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath as a way to connect with a largely forgotten part of America) wasn’t being watched in its home country. What a stitch up.

Luckily, Leon’s married to a rad woman named Athena, who promptly quit her job to make it happen (and then organised the entire festival while pregnant with their first kid). Yewww!

So why’s the festival so special?

The We Are Explorers crew was pretty stoked on the ideas driving PFAFF. We were finally going to see Aussie adventure films getting the recognition they deserved. We took Friday off and cruised the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, checking out waterfalls and diving into the ocean along the way.

Check out the falls: 8 Ridiculously Beautiful Victorian Waterfalls To Chase This Summer

What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by The Tan Trap, Erskine falls, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Photo by Jono Tan | @thetantrap

As we turn into the town of Port Fairy we’re struck by the quaintness of the place. ‘It’s bloody cute!’ Amy exclaims, and she’s not wrong. Over 50 buildings in the town have Heritage status and a sign on the way in proudly states ‘one of the world’s most liveable towns!’ Apparently they took out the international prize for towns under 20,000 people back in 2012. Wild huh?

Pretty soon we’re in the thick of it at the Reardon Theatre, and we’re fast realising that we’re city folk. Even when you move aside, people still ask to pass you out of politeness. They’re saying hi in the street, at the bar, at the urinal. Damn, is everyone here my friend?

The films are predictably good. Run the Line by Beau Miles is a hit (and eventual People’s Choice) and our film LIMITLESS gets the biggest cheer of the night. Nice one. (It also goes on to win Best Film, woopah!)

What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by Pat Corden, jezza, winner!

Jezza Williams accepts the award for Best Film – LIMITLESS

The cheering’s a bit of a relief actually. Far from the burnt-out, working-week audiences of your standard festival, this crowd has taken proper time off to be here – and they’re getting into it! To be fair, two intermissions per session and a bar stocked with Pirate Life beers and wines from Dhiaga have probably helped things along.

The next morning Blarney Books and Art is live on air with ABC Radio, and the place packs out, at 8:30 in the morning! A crowd of excited frothers watch on as filmmakers and stars share their stories. That’s another perk of having the festival in one spot. Heaps of personalities are in attendance and MC Lisa Skerrett breaks up the films with intriguing couchside interviews that add another dimension to the films.

What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by Pat Corden, radio interview, henry, jezza

Jezza and Henry live on air from Blarney Books and Art

Fast forward to lunchtime and I’m on the couch, alongside Beau Miles, Laura Waters and Anthi Emmanouil-Playne as We Are Explorers founder Henry leads us through a How To Live More Adventurously talk panel. I straight-up forget that I’m supposed to be scared of public speaking, as the conversation flows from tips on adventure therapy to the benefits of the microadventure, and how to creatively incorporate explorer philosophies into our everyday lives.

What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by Pat Corden, talk panel

Beau Miles explains how he keeps his creativity flowing

Another thing’s becoming apparent. There are rugrats everywhere, and it’s brilliant. I’m not gonna get too clucky on you, but it was incredible to see so many parents out with their kids, watching films and getting stoked. Athena even presents to the crowd with her new baby strapped to her chest at one point, and our microadventure out to the Port Fairy Lighthouse on Griffiths Island was flush with kidlets, despite the rain and wind. I reckon it’d be a bit hard to mope around inside after a few films about crossing Iceland for a good time.

What Makes The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival So Special?, photo by The Tan Trap, lighthouse

We were lucky enough to get a key to the lighthouse – good spot to check the swell! Photo by Jono Tan | @thetantrap

See ya there next year?

Athena, Leon and the whole crew of volunteers down in Port Fairy have created something truly special with this adventure film festival. In the car on the way back to Melbourne we were excitedly drawing up plans for next year. Road trippin’ Sydney to Melbourne? Smashing out the Great Ocean Walk? Camping out around Adelaide?

Yo Henry, can we get a week off?


Photos by Pat Corden

More from some of the legends at the festival

Our Staff Picks For The Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival

BeWILDered // An Interview With Laura Waters

Meet Jezza Williams – The Man Behind LIMITLESS

Why This Bloke Walked 90km To Work