Speak to any local about Torquay and they’ll mist up. It may not be as picturesque as Lorne or have the twee charm of Port Fairy, but it’s the longstanding epicentre for Victoria’s surf scene, and – for anyone not bitten by the surfing bug – it’s the closest scenic town on the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne, at just an hour away.
About the surfing, though. Hollywood flick Point Break was set here at Bells Beach; while along the Surf Coast Highway you’ll find the Surf Museum and Surf Village (with massive Rip Curl, Billabong and other surf outlets); and the epic Rip Curl Pro – the longest running surf carnival in the world – is held here each Easter.
The Wyndham Resort is settled on a prime spot of real estate right on Zeally Bay. Given their commitment to surfy culture – Layne Beachley is an ambassador for the hotel, while Stephanie Gilmour’s board hangs pride of place in the Sand Bar – they’re the right people to fill you in on where to find surfing lessons, as well as where to fish or try your hand parasailing, sea kayaking, or paddle-boarding.
Arrive any time in autumn or winter and you’re guaranteed fantastic waves, while if you’re after a romantic break, a girly trip away or a base to explore the Great Ocean Road, the Wyndham also comes up trumps. Comprised of one- and two-bedroom apartments and studios ranging from $190-$300 depending on the season, it’s decked out in warm chocolate hues and situated around a generous pool area with barbecue facilities, an outdoor spa pool and a playground for kids. The restaurant, with its stunning sea views, has a superior menu with an emphasis on seafood and a wine list cultivated to profile local producers like Bellbrae Estate, Oakdene, Scotchmans Hill. You can work off a hefty meal in the indoor lap pool or, if that seems a bit too strenuous, head to the day spa for massages and beauty treatments.
With that taken care of, locals recommend an evening visit to local institution Growlers – a bar that also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is a focal point for locals and out-of-towners alike. It’s a good-looking, cosy joint, co-owned by Lara Bingle and paparazzi king/ Geelong-boy-done-good, Darryn Lyons.
Still got space in your itinerary? Every Saturday there’s a farmers’ market in town, with a craft and entertainment market every third Sunday of the month, while foodies should go for a drive along the Otway Harvest Trail and pick up some fresh produce from farms and cellar doors. For the more adventurous, head to Torquay airport for skydiving, a trip in a Tiger Moth open-cockpit biplane – while scenic helicopter rides leave from Barwon Airport.
Time Out opts to immortalise our trip with a surfing lesson, courtesy of Great Ocean Road Surf Tours, with whom we roam the beaches, looking for the perfect waves. Offering packages from two hours ($60) to five days up and down the coast ($690) that includes accommodation, a spot of sightseeing, and transport to and from Melbourne. They’ve got something for everybody in between, and Time Out is pleased to report that our coach, Josh, is nothing but encouraging – and almost as ecstatic as us when we manage to spend a full five seconds upright.