The suburb is bordered by the shores of Hobsons Bay and the lower reaches of the Yarra River. Port Melbourne covers a large area, which includes the distinct localities of Fishermans Bend, Garden City and Beacon Cove.
Historically it was known as Sandridge and developed as the City's second port, linked to the nearby Melbourne CBD.
The formerly industrial Port Melbourne has been subject to intense urban renewal over the past two decades. As a result, Port Melbourne is a diverse and historic area, featuring industrial and port areas along the Yarra, to open parklands, bayside beaches, exclusive apartments and Bay Street's restaurants and cafes. The suburb also forms a major transport link from east to west, home to one end of the West Gate Bridge.
Houses in Port Melbourne range from single-fronted Victorian timber worker's cottages to new apartments and housing developments. Port Melbourne has undergone a major demographic shift in the past twenty years, from one of the cheapest and poorest suburbs in the City to one of the most expensive and wealthiest. Many large apartment developments in Port Melbourne occupy large blocks of land, taking over large factories and warehouses, such as [email protected] project in Beach Street, ID Apartments in Pickles and Rouse Streets, and Bayshore and Bayview Apartments in Bay Street. Each of these developments comprise multiple buildings, and many of the redevelopments have preserved the heritage buildings. The Port Melbourne population now combines significant numbers of wealthy people, with those who live in public housing and other "old Port" locales. The area has many residents whose families came from Greece in the 1950s, as well as more recent arrivals from Africa and Asia.
Two major freeways run through Port Melbourne; the West Gate Freeway, which runs east-west from the West Gate Bridge and CityLink, which runs north toward the Bolte Bridge. Other main roads include Bay Street, Williamstown Road, Lorimer Street (which runs along the Yarra River), Graham Street, Salmon Street, Inglis Street and Beach Street (which runs toward Beaconsfield Parade and St Kilda). Port Melbourne's roads are a mix of planning styles and as a result can be difficult to navigate.
Port Melbourne is serviced by an extensive bus network operated by CDC Melbourne which connects it to Melbourne CBD and surrounding suburbs. Port Melbourne is serviced by Melbourne tram route 109, which has been run as a high patronage high frequency light rail service since the heavy rail line was converted to light rail in 1987. While there are several disused freight rail links, the light rail is the only used rail connection to Port Melbourne.
Today, Port Melbourne still serves as a transport hub for passenger and cargo vessels. Many luxury liners, naval vessels and ferries arrive at Station Pier, including the daily ferry service, the Spirit of Tasmania, operated by TT-Line, to Tasmania. Cargo traffic takes place further west, near the mouth of the Yarra River, principally at Webb Dock.