See and do
Start your trip in Geelong, a one-hour drive from Melbourne’s CBD down the M1. Wander the waterfront, past public artworks, landscaped gardens, ice-cream parlours and eateries before continuing on to explore the Bellarine Peninsula’s bay and ocean beaches. Portarlington, St Leonards and Indented Head have views across the bay to Melbourne and the gentle waters are ideal for fishing, boating and snorkelling. Ocean Grove is popular for its wide surf beach; 13th Beach offers some of the best surf in Victoria.
Historic seaside villages are a delight to visit. In Barwon Heads swing by At the Heads restaurant, Kiitos Living by Design store and Moss Grotto Homewares. Wander down Hesse Street to find art galleries, shops and great places to dine. In Queenscliff, you’ll find Victorian-era hotels, a military fortress guarding the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, old churches and quaint fishermen’s cottages. Port Phillip Bay offers reef and shipwreck diving, including the dive site of the former HMAS Canberra.
Eat and drink
Enjoy acclaimed dining and views (yep, that’s Melbourne you can see) at Jack Rabbit winery. Order the pepper-crusted local kingfish and wash it down with pinot noir. At Oakdene winery, alongside a well rounded shiraz, the fare on offer is among the best in the region. In Geelong, Le Parisien is the spot for fine dining – think local fare, French-style – in what is the city’s top location right on the water.
Craft brewery Little Creatures has an outpost in Geelong and it’s top of the list for late-afternoon beers. It’s all about tapas and cocktails at Mrs Hyde in Geelong, where you could be forgiven for thinking you’re back in the CBD. Our picks are the Honey Badger and the Cuban Siesta. For a great morning piccolo, swing by Fuel in Geelong before a day exploring the region’s wineries.
The Four Points by Sheraton Geelong is a waterfront hotel with world-class service, modern rooms, indoor heated pool and steam room, as well as the in-house Waterfront Restaurant. Barwon Heads Resort at 13th Beach has self-contained apartments and access to two highly regarded golf courses, set among spectacular coastline vistas. For a laidback stay on a budget, try the charming cottages at Seahaven Village.
The best Bellarine Peninsula wineries
1. Leura Park Estate
A premium producer of cool maritime climate wines that exhibit French-style subtlety, Leura Park Estate has a rustic cellar door where you can stock up on the acclaimed pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and their great range of sparklings.
2. Scotchman’s Hill
Scotchman’s Hill wines are found in many of Melbourne’s top restaurants for good reason – they’re one of Victoria’s finest producers of pinot noir. The chardonnay is also outstanding.
3. Jack Rabbit Vineyard
Winemaker Nyall Condon is well known for producing quality pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon – also try his merlot and rosé.
Inside the award-winning cellar door, find top chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz courtesy of winemakers Ray Nadeson and Robin Brockett.