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A person walks through a bushwalk track in the You Yangs at sunset.
Photograph: Supplied/ You Yangs Regional Park

Things you can only do in Geelong and Bellarine

From a degustation aboard a train to the best pie in Australia, find out what makes this evolving waterside region so special

By Time Out in association with Visit Victoria
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An excellent holiday is all about the details. We plan our relaxation and sightseeing around what makes an area shine and the evolving cosmopolitan heart of Geelong and its surrounding Bellarine communities have shine in abundance. Get set for a closer look at what makes this region – the traditional lands of the Wadawurrung people – an exceptional place to visit.

Think you know everything there is to see and do in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula? We've teamed up with Visit Victoria for their 'Stay close, go further' campaign to bring you a fresh guide to what makes the region stand out. Here are the things that drive visitors to return every year and experiences you too could be having with a roam of the region. 

Natural wonders
Photograph: Supplied/ You Yangs Regional Park

Natural wonders

The waterways and bushland of this environmentally diverse area lies in the country of the Wadawurrung people who have protected and lived in the region over a thousand generations. Marvel at the natural beauty of You Yangs National Park, land made distinct by its smattering of granite peaks, wildllife and epic views. The You Yangs has over 50 kilometres of mountain bike trails for a range of abilities to explore or you can take a rejuvenating walk through the boulder-dotted parkland to Flinders Peak. For some top-notch wildflower spotting head to Brisbane Ranges National Park – where the special rocky habitat has preserved flora you won't see anywhere else. More of a salty sea person? Discover the wonders of Port Phillip's 16 bays, you'll find seals, dolphins (more on that later) and pristine swimming options galore.

Boutique shops
Photograph: Matt Dunne/ Kiitos Living by Design

Boutique shops

Geelong and the Bellarine has its fair share of tastemakers who call the area home. The quirky shops and locally-owned businesses of Victoria's second-largest city and the waterside communities that surround it are a major part of why visitors return. The owners of the homewares and textile store Kiitos have had a connection to Barwon Heads since the '70s and now bring beautiful objects from around the world to locals and curious visitors. In Ocean Grove you'll find Wish Fish a hub for fashion, on-trend hair accessories and sustainable goodies. And be sure to pop in to Jade and May in Geelong for their lush linen sleepwear, colourful tote bags and curated gifts.

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One-of-a-kind experiences
Photograph: Supplied/ Sea All Dolphin Swims

One-of-a-kind experiences

Every area has its must-do list, but if you really want to get to know Geelong and the Bellarine add these three local experiences. You can't go past the unique pleasure of sampling the best bites of the Bellarine on board a moving train. The Q Train (you might know it from a particularly thrilling Masterchef episode) gives guests a taste of the area with a six-course degustation menu served aboard a heritage train that puffs its way between Drysdale and Queenscliff. Or take a dive into the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park off the coast of Queenscliff with the fantastically named Sea All Dolphin Swims. Your go-to for mindblowing wildlife experiences, Sea All gets you up close with seals and dolphins with guided snorkelling or specialised sightseeing boats. And finally, make sure you head underground to the Queenscliff Distillery for a make your own gin masterclass – a hands-on experience that guides you through delicious botanicals and lets you take home a bottled product of your very own creation.

Country bakeries
Photograph: Supplied/ Ket Baker

Country bakeries

Geelong and the Bellarine has an ever-evolving dining scene packed with hip eateries and waterside al fresco options all very much worth your time. However, we at Time Out can't look past an opportunity to sing the praises of a regional bakery and the area has some corkers. What kind of a lifestyle publication would we be if we didn't make sure you knew that Ocean Grove was home to Australia's best pie? Rolling Pin Pies and Cakes have many awards under their flour-dusted belts and you should make a beeline for the celebrated lamb and rosemary pie or sample the breakfast pie – a memorable mix of eggs, baked beans, sausage and bacon. Ket Baker in Wallington is your go-to for sourdough, a culture they stretch beyond the usual loaves into sourdough pastries and croissants too. And for versatile baked goods and local treats hit up Inverleigh Bakehouse, where you'll find meatloaf toasties beyond the beaded door hanging.

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Bodies of water
Photograph: Supplied/ Barwon River

Bodies of water

If you don't feel quite right about a holiday unless you've dipped your toes in the water (honestly, same) then you're in luck. Starting with the Barwon River system that you can visit from the stunning Buckley Falls at Fyansford, where it flows through Geelong and eventually out to sea at Barwon Heads. Take in the freshwater splendour on a walking trail or cycling track and explore the wetlands and reserves along the way. For a family-friendly trip to the beach you can't go past the protected surf of the Ocean Grove main beach with its surf breaks and refreshing swimming area. And for a major cool off in an urban setting Eastern Beach is your Geelong must-do. The reserve originated in the '30s and carries the boardwalk charm through its diving towers, sea bath, kid's pool, floating islands and cute kiosks.

 

Memorable accommodation
Photograph: Nikole Ramsay/ Lon Retreat and Spa

Memorable accommodation

After all that Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula exploring you're going to want a comfortable and cool place to rest your weary bod. Look no further than Lon Retreat and Spa  in Point Lonsdale. Featuring seven sandstone luxury suites and a mineral spa, Lon Retreat is designed for pure relaxation and exploring surrounding nature. If you're more of a bush baby The Woods in Ocean Grove offers beautiful studio cabins under peaceful gum trees just five minutes drive to the shops and beach. Or watch the sun set over the coast from a hot-tub on your own private deck at The Nest.

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