Top things to do? Well, who better to ask than the locals!
"Bike ride the whole way around Barwon Heads, bike to The Dunes for coffee. Ride from Drysdale to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Rail Trail and catch the train back. Ride from Point Lonsdale to Queenscliff, bike path the whole way. Snorkel in the rock pools between PL lighthouse and the jetty at low ride, or the huge ones near PL SLSC. Ferry to Sorrento." Sally Corinaldi, November 2014
"So many things.... lying on one of our beautiful beaches reading a book, surfing, walking up to the bluff, dining out, saying hello to the friendly faces down the street, visiting art galleries, learning new things at the Festival of the Sea, going to a local market, visiting Jirrahlinga wildlife sanctuary, paddling a kayak on the river, riding a bike on the beach ... hard to stop at just 10!" Vicki Strachan on behalf of the Barwon Heads Festival of the Sea.
The Bellarine & Surf Coast Region offers some of the best surfing that Australia has to offer. Raffs and 13th Beach are favourite surf spots for locals. Bells Beach, Torquay is a half hour drive and is a world renowned surf spot. Go Ride a Wave in Ocean Grove offers surf lessons. These surf lessons are safe and fun and teach thousands of people to surf each year, from young kids to mature adults and all fitness levels.
Or, you may like to hire a board from Murf’s Surf Shop in Ocean Grove, or from Rasta in Barwon Heads.
The range of beaches caters to endless activities, which ihn itself is a huge asset to any region. Not to mention a river which meanders in such a beautiful way, that at the very least offers propection from almost any wind direction.
The area offers several fishing charter options, but if this isn't your thing, you have the option to bring your boat along. Or simply cast a line off the Barwon Heads bridge or any number of piers.
Barwon Heads Airport
A fest of aviation awaits you at Barwon Heads Airport! Take a local sightseeing flight to get a great view of Barwon Heads, Torquay and the area. Or maybe a flight down to the 12 Apostles - seeing the 12 Apostles from the air is unbeatable.
Skydive The Beach for those wanting heart stopping fun. Warbird Air Adventures for the thrill of an aerobatic warbird flight. Geelong Helicopters for a scenic tour with great visibility from the bubble canopy of a helicopter, or a lift to some of the best restaurants on the Bellarine
- fly in for lunch! There is also flight training available and what many locals think is the worlds greatest fresh fish shop - right at the Barwon Heads Airport.
Where do we start! The Bellarine & Geelong region is filled with kids attractions so you can be sure that there is never a dull moment. The Bellarine is ideal for families, with a terrific range of options for the young and young at heart. Bellarine beaches range from the northern gentle bayside beaches which are perfect for a paddle, fishing or boating through to some of Victoria's best surf beaches with 13th Beach in Barwon Heads a favourite.
Family attractions include Adventure Park Geelong (pic) - It’s all go with H20, home of Victoria’s 1st water theme park. This theme park offers land and water-based rides and activities for all the family. Please allow a full day to take in all that the park has to offer.
A Maze n Games is located 5 kilometres north of Ocean Grove. This activity park features one of Australia's largest timber mazes, an 18 hole mini golf course, a cafe and undercover BBQ facilities. There are several food outlets, BBQ and picnic areas.
Jirrahlinga Koala & Nature Sanctuary, Barwon Heads is a must! A nominal entrance fee allows families to come to this beautiful hands on Barwon Heads attraction. Get up close with the animals, and you can even pat the koalas!
Other Bellarine Attractions include; Vintage Stream Train, Queenscliff, Fort Queenscliff, Surfworld Museum (Torquay), Bellarine Adventure Golf, Warbird Air Adventures, Jet Boat Rides, Marine Discovery Centre, Let ‘Em Loose Play Centre & The Bellarine Indoor Adventure Pool (year round).
The beautiful safe towns on The Bellarine offer a sanctury for kids as they explore open spaces, white sandy beaches and beach rock pools (a favourite for the locals), modern Council playgrounds, and endless paved bike tracks dotted from town to town. Choose your adventure, hidden around every niche of our great region, and costing nothing - early morning beach walks can reveal the most amazing sights and peace that can only be savoured before the rest of the world catch up!
The Great Ocean Road and Bellarine region has some of the world surfing professionals' favourite surf spots. Most famous of all is internationally renowned Bells Beach, home to the annual Rip Curl Pro event as part of the Association of Surfing Professionals world tour.
The coastline from Point Lonsdale to the 12 Apostles has surf spots dotted along it. You get a clue when the surf is pumping when certain car parks along the Great Ocean Road are full of local tradesmen's vans and utes - having downed tools for the day to capitalise on the good conditions.
As well as the pounding surf at beaches like Bells and Johanna, there are some more sheltered coves and bays with gentler waves terrific for beginners or for taking a surfing lesson with a local company.
Many of the beaches are patrolled in Summer, and lifesavers can give advice on local breaks, reefs, tides and currents. Please visit the Beach Safe website for more information by clicking here.
Torquay, at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, was the birthplace of surf culture. The leading surf brands of Rip Curl and Quiksliver were established here more than 30 years ago and are now global market leaders in clothing and equipment for surf, snow and adventure sports. They still have a large presence in town with the Surf City Plaza retail facility on the highway full of surf stores and there are a number of factory outlets nearby offering fashion, accessories and equipment bargains.
Left- Bells Beach Right - Surfing with the dolphins at 13th Beach, Barwon Heads
Food & Wine
The Geelong Wine Region boasts historical roots back to the early 1800's when Geelong was a booming regional centre, hub of the vast Western District trade. The planting of vines by Swiss Settlers saw Geelong and its surrounding areas emerge as the largest grape growing region in Victoria, and one of the largest in Australia.
Guests flock to enjoy the perfect maritime climate of warm days and cool nights. The shelter of Port Phillip Bay is perfect for producing cool climate wines in the rich black basalt soil laid over limestone. Long, slow summers allow for the perfect ripening of the fruit producing rich, lush wines of distinction. Scotchmans Hill is the benchmark winery of the Bellarine and its wines rarely disappoint. The Pinot Noir is always full of ripe fruit and the Sauvignon Blanc is always delicious. Leura Park Winery is situated in the heart of the Bellarine Peninsula - nestled between Bass Strait, Port Phillip Bay and Corio Bay - Leura Park Estate produces premium cool climate wines of a distinctive and delightful French-style subtlety.
The award winning Oakdene Vineyards Restaurant offers a relaxed and memorable experience that you will never forget. An original 1920's homestead, Oakdene has been beautifully restored and boasts an eclectic, lush art garden setting.
The Dunes Restaurant, Ocean Grove (pictured) offers reasonably priced meals for the whole family, and has unbeatable views of the main Ocean Grove surf beach.
At The Heads, Barwon Heads (pictured) sits over the Barwon River, offering magnificent views. And when you visit Barwon Heads, make sure you make some time for some of towns favourite cafe's. Annie's Provedore offers a 'foodie' haven for both locals and holidaymakers who love to soak up the rustic atmosphere. Enjoy baristra-made coffee and hearty home cooked meals, gourmet take away, and food hampers. Barwon Orange has earned its popular reputation for showcasing some of the best local produce the Bellarine has to offer..... the cuisine, powered by the flames of a woodfired oven, is sure to fire up the tastebuds. If you love gourmet pizza and amazing coffee, Barwon Orange is a must!
The Bellarine Peninsula boasts traditional links and tree-lined golf courses which are amongst Australia's best and most challenging. There is something very unique about Barwon Heads - three nationally rated and much layded golf courses. Golfers should make any and every excuse to experience the challenge of true links golf, and visit Barwon Heads Golf Links, Thirteenth Beach Golf Links and a choice of over a dozen other supurb courses across the Bellarine region.
Curlewis Golf Course is ranked in Australia's top 100 golf courses. With a sandy base, a minimum of trees, and naturally undulating couch fairways this Vern Morcom designed links type course has maintained its position as one of the best on the Bellarine Peninsula. With challenging bunkers and firm and fast greens, it is the wind however that often determins the level of playing difficulty.
Photos left to right: Barwon Heads Golf Links, 13th Beach Golf, Curlewis Golf Course.
Spend an hour browsing KYO, Ocean Grove (pic left). With Japanese, Chinese and local antiques, artifacts, interesting and unusual objects, Japanese textiles and so much more, you are sure to find a special gift, or something unusual to treasure yourself.
Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove is also known for it’s fantastic op shops. Rummage through old wares, pre-loved clothing and toys, and grab yourself a bargain.
The Bellarine offers a variety of markets all through the year and which are listed in local papers for you to see upon arrival. From farmers markets, to trash and treasure and holistic services, markets are a popular weekend activity for locals and holiday makers.
Cycling on The Bellarine Taste Trail
The Bellarine Rail Trail follows the historic old railway line between Geelong and Queenscliff. It's 32 kilometres long and suitable for cycling or walking. The return trip will take you around four hours if you cycle all the way to Geelong and back from Queenscliff. It's great for a day trip, but even better with an overnight stay on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Passing through native vegetation and a variety of farmlands, you wil lbe able to indulge in refresments along the way. You can access some of the farmgates and cellar doors of teh region on or near the rail trail, so bring a backpack and allow time for stops along the way. Farmgates offer you the change to indulge in local produce. If interested you can pick your own blueberries at Tuckerberry Hill Blueberries (summer months), see goats that make "Drysdale Cheese" (first Sunday of month), or take a look at the Sea Bounty Mussels.
The trail itself is firm with a gravel top and those in the know recommend wide tyre bikes for the trip. It is maily flat, with some short, steep climbs up from Leopold toward Curlewis and Drysdale. Whatever the season, bike riding or walking these trails is a good way to look around the landscape, spot birdlife and discover some local gems. Also depending on the time of year, you will be able to take advantage of festivals and special seasonal events.
Geelong has all the benefits of a sizeable city but with the relaxed atmosphere of coastal country. Facing north on Corio Bay, Geelong boasts a glorious waterfront precinct, sophisticated dining options and all kinds of entertainment on tap. There is a lively calendar of events and the region is perhaps the Australian wine industry's best-kept secret.
The charming nearby towns and villages of the Bellarine offer a huge range of things to do. The Bellarine Peninsula faces Port Phillip Bay on its northern and eastern shores and Bass Strait on the south, so water activities abound, ranging from gentle bay beaches that are great for families and fishing to sensational surf beaches and world-class scuba diving sites.
The Bellarine has been building a reputation as a food and wine destination and The Bellarine Taste Trail brings together many of the gourmet offerings of the region including wineries, restaurants and cafes and producers of beer, fresh produce, goats cheese, olive oil and seafood.
Museums, History and Heritage
Much of the region's maritime history and heritage is still visible in the lighthouses that dominate the landscape at various points along the road. In Queenscliff the Maritime Museum celebrates the town's background in the marine industry with fantastic displays.
Also in Queenscliff, Fort Queenscliff is an interesting look at a still functioning Australian Defence Force facility that was initially built on the cliff overlooking the Rip to protect ships during the gold rush of the 1800's.
Torquay's position as the capital of the international surf industry makes the local museum 'Surfworld' ideally placed to deliver a historic look at the origins of surfing and the phenomenon it has become.
Geelong grew on the back of the sheep, and the 1800's bluestone building in the centre of town that now houses the National Wool Museum was initially a woolstore facility. The wool industry in Geelong was built around the need for wool grown in the surrounding districts to be processed and shipped internationally from the docks on Corio Bay. Also in Geelong, the Ford Discovery Centre is an interactive museum profiling the history of Ford in Geelong as well as giving a behind the scenes look at the design, engineering and manufacturing processes in the automobile industry.
Across the broader region, there are several National Trust properties open to the public that give an indication of early life in the region. There are also a range of interpretive historic sites, such as the old mill site at Triplet Falls and guided heritage walks in towns such as Queenscliff.
Historic means of transport in the region have been preserved by the Bellarine Railway, with their steam hauled engines still running on weekends and holidays and also powering The Blues Train - a moving, progressive concert on board.