Portaferry is situated on the eastern shores of Strangford Lough's narrows, a ferry runs from the town to Strangford on the opposite shore. Ferries has existed here in one form or another since the medieval period, the ferry saves a land journey of about (50 Miles) The town and surrounding land came into the possession of the Anglo Norman family Savage after the Norman conquest in the late 12th century. It is said that sometime in the families history they became disenchanted with the name Savage and changed it to Newgent.
In the past the town had a thriving shipbuilding industry, coal, timber and other goods were imported to the port. The salvage company McCauslands were based in the town and performed many successful operations both in the Strangford Lough and the Irish sea.
Today the town hosts a traditional boat rally which attracts people and vessels from all over Britain and Ireland.
Located in the town is the Exploris Aquarium where visitors can see and find out about the marine life of Strangford Lough and the Irish sea
On a hill overlooking the town is the stump of a windmill, once used to grind corn for the locality. Windmills were once a prominent feature of eastern County Down, where the absence of sizeable rivers and streams, forced people to build windmills, it is thought that there were once as many as one hundred windmills in County Down.
If you would like to see a working windmill you only have to travel about fifteen miles from Portaferry to Ballycopeland Windmill near Millisle.
A maritime wreck dating from the Second World War can be seen from The Lough Shore Road at Portaferry in Ballyhenry Bay
The ship which is best viewed at low tide has an interesting story.It was a Liberty Ship known as S.S. Empire Tana, built in 1923 as 2Carso” in Trieste, Italy it was captured by the Allies in 1943 and renamed.
The ship was used as part of the Goosberry Breakwater on the British “Sword” Beach in Normandy on D-day 6th June 1944.
After the war the ship was purchased by the John Lee Breakers Yard at when being delivered to the breakers yard it struck a rock, sank and broke into 2 pieces where it lies today
Read about The Territory of the Ards, By James O'Laverty. published in 1878.