The Bellarine Peninsula – 5 Reasons You Should Visit Victoria’s Hidden Gem
Looking for a secret hideaway where you can get away from it all?
Do you like gourmet food, wineries, fishing villages and vintage markets?
Then head down to the Bellarine Peninsula in southern Victoria. Just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, and part of the fabulous Geelong Region, it’s an easy add-on to a trip along the Great Ocean Road.
But you’d better get here soon.
The world is starting to catch on, and we weren’t surprised to see it listed as one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Value Destinations of 2017.
Living on the doorstep of the Bellarine, as it’s simply called, we’ve long known of the delights it has to offer, and we’ve spent countless hours and days exploring it all.
Dotted with historical seaside towns and fishing villages, the peninsula has a lazy laid back vibe. But it’s not just a beautiful sleepy place where people come to laze around soaking up the atmosphere.
Although you can do that too!
Come at any time of year and you’ll find sporting events, farmers markets and festivals where you can spoil yourself with the finest gourmet food and wine.
There are many reasons to visit this charming part of the world, but here are our top 5 reasons to visit the Bellarine Peninsula.
1) You Can Stay In Seaside Villages
The towns along the peninsula are within easy reach of each other and are quite individual in character, with each having their own attractions and heritage.
The historical seaside town of Queenscliff was once a defence post with the most heavily armed fort in the Southern Hemisphere. With its grand Victorian heritage, the town is arguably one of the most beautiful in the state.
Its wide streets are lined with galleries, cafes, vintage shops and museums. Spend a couple of nights in an elegant grand old hotel, quaint B&B or a heritage listed inn.
There’s a forty metre Observation Tower that provides spectacular 360-degree views of the bay’s natural beauty. You get a great overview of the area and can watch the pilot boats returning from their trips through the heads.
This is where you catch the 40-minute car and passenger ferry to Sorrento. Make a day trip of it and enjoy views of lighthouses, cliff top mansions and marine life such as dolphins, seabirds and, occasionally, whales.
Point Lonsdale, the sister town of Queenscliff, is a coastal hideaway popular with day trippers and families. It overlooks the Rip, one of the most dangerous strips of water in the world.
Be sure to stop off at the lookout for glorious views and panoramic photo opportunities.
Have a swim at the front beach before taking a walk along the cliff path to the lighthouse. The path circles down to the back beach – a favourite with surfers – where you can explore the rock pools at low tide.
A must do is to take a walk out to the end of the pier, chat with the local fishermen and be rewarded with sublime views of the lighthouse and surrounding coastline.
With the roar of the surf, coastal town vibe, and ocean breezes, Ocean Grove has been a favourite with families for generations.
And it’s not hard to understand why.
Situated on the southern coast of the Bellarine Peninsula, the town is surrounded by wineries, pristine beaches, and golf courses. There’s a wide selection of shopping facilities to choose from including major supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and speciality shops.
Grab your surfboard and hit the beach, or if that’s not your thing go for a walk and watch the surfers, joggers and ocean wildlife. There are several walking tracks offering good views along the beach and, if you’re interested, surf schools to get you up on that board.
2) You Can Treat Yourself At Wineries and Breweries
You won’t go thirsty on the Bellarine Peninsula where you’ll be spoiled for choice with locally made beers, ciders, and speciality wines.
The shelter of Port Phillip Bay is perfect for producing cold climate wines, and the area has emerged as one of the largest grape growing regions in Victoria.
Flying Brick Cider House
Named for the yellow-tailed black cockatoo – a local bird with the nickname “Flying Brick” – the Flying Brick Cider House’s retro-inspired venue is popular with locals.
All Flying Brick ciders are produced naturally using traditional methods, pressing and fermenting local Victorian apples and Packham Pears. The range comprises three core ciders – Original, Draught and Pear.
Sit outside on the lawn under a shady umbrella, share a tasting plate with your friends while enjoying live music, and a refreshing cider by one of the fastest growing brands around.
Enjoy informative wine tasting at the unique and colourful Oakdene Vineyards, where the cellar door looks like an upside-down house that’s blown over in the wind.
Hello, Dorothy welcome to Oz!
The quirky décor is a huge drawcard, but the vineyard offers some of the best value wines on the peninsula and specialises in varieties best suited to the region – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sauvignon, Blanc and Pinot Gris.
The cellar door is manned by a team of friendly locals who’ll help you make your selection and show you around the unique property.
Jack Rabbit Vineyard
When only a spectacular regional experience will do, Jack Rabbit is outstanding.
If you only visit one winery on the Bellarine, make it this one. Perched high on coastal cliffs with panoramic views of the bay Jack Rabbit is an essential stop on any itinerary.
The vineyard produces a diverse range of sophisticated cool climate wines and a tasting at the cellar door is sensational.
There’s a restaurant offering fine dining, but we prefer the more casual laid back café, the House of Jack Rabbit. There’s a large deck area and a fabulous sprawling lawn where you can kick off your shoes, watch the passing boats and mussel farmers, or gaze across the bay to Melbourne and the You Yangs as you sip on a glass of wine.
3) It’s A Coffee Lover’s Delight
Melbourne’s café culture has trickled down to the Bellarine and no matter where you are, you’re never far from sublime coffee and mouth-watering treats.
Pomegranate uses local seasonal ingredients to make their yummy homemade food. The tiny café specialises in fresh and healthy food with an emphasis on vegetarian cuisine.
Found in Queenscliff’s main street, the bright and cheery vibe lifts your spirits the minute you walk inside. We enjoyed sitting outside with an almond milk fruit smoothie while watching the world go by on a lovely sunny afternoon.
Make your way to Barwon Heads and start your day with a hearty breakfast at Annie’s Provedore. The shelves of this popular café positively grown under the weight of local produce, gourmet treats, and speciality wines. Soak up the rustic atmosphere while enjoying a touch of Europe with a barista-made coffee.
Part of the Oakdene Estate, Mr Grubb is possibly our favourite café on the Bellarine. We love sitting outside in the fresh country air relaxing amongst the silver birch trees with a coffee or hot chocolate – served with the biggest marshmallow we’ve ever seen!
The food and service are always superb and for lunch, on Sundays, there’s live music to add to the ambience.
Don’t forget to take a stroll in the garden and check out the quirky artefacts and sculptures scattered around the grounds.
The more you look the more you’ll find!
4) It’s Never Boring
The region is brimming with activities that can satisfy any visitor – you’ll never be bored on The Bellarine.
Bring your clubs and play a round.
13th Beach Golf Links hosts the Victorian Open Championship and is rated one of the best public access courses in Australia. The challenging natural links style 36-hole course is positioned on true links land and offers a rare genuine links golf experience.
There are courses all along the peninsula including Curlewis, Clifton Springs, Portarlington and St Leonards.
With its ocean beaches, bays and rivers the Bellarine is a slice of heaven for lovers of water sports.
Grab your board and hit the beach.
As the area is fairly unpopulated you can surf world class waves without much competition. In winter you might even have the waves all to yourself.
Check out Ocean Grove and Point Lonsdale for the best surf.
There are great opportunities for diving with over 50 reef dives, various shore dives and over 40 ship and boat wrecks to explore. Andrew was delighted to discover seahorses and stingrays on his first dive down here.
Or you could swim with dolphins and seals in unique marine national parks.
Of course with all this water about, there are ample piers, jetties, rocks and shorelines where you can cast a line in and catch your dinner.
Museums, Music and Festivals
Wander down historic streetscapes and explore a countryside dotted with farm-gates, producers, and provedores. Discover another side to the area and learn about its history while visiting historical buildings and museums.
A good place to start is Fort Queenscliff, built to defend the entrance to Port Phillip Bay it’s reminiscent of a medieval fortress with muzzle-loading cannons, walls, a dry moat and a keep.
Also popular with visitors, and wedding photographers is Point Lonsdale Lighthouse. Keeping vigil over the Rip the lighthouse is staffed 24 hours a day making it unique in Australia as most lighthouses are now unmanned.
During heavy fog, the foghorn still gives a warning blast to ships passing through.
Festivals are held throughout the year and usually involve either food or music – and of course lots of fun. Take your pick from the National Celtic Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, Festival of the Sea, or the Wallington Strawberry Fair, just to name a few.
A fun way to end your day is to have a night of live entertainment aboard the Blues Train. Enjoy a meal at the historic Queenscliff Railway Station, then hop on board and dance the night away as the steam train moves through the night.
5) It’s Fun For The Kids
Gather the kids together for days of endless fun and adventure, swim, paddle and boogie board at bay and ocean beaches.
Need a break from the beach?
Have some family fun at Amaze n Games, get lost in the giant maze or play a round of miniature golf. If you really want to wear them out then head to Adventure Park, Victoria’s biggest theme park and home to the coolest water slides.
Or get up close to some wildlife at Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary a haven for sick and rescued koalas, kangaroos, dingoes and other unique Australian animals. It’s a great place to bring the kids to learn about Australian wildlife and the chance to touch or hold a koala or baby joey.
That’s about it.
Now you know about Victoria’s hidden gem, the Bellarine Peninsula.
When will you visit?
Have you already been?
Tell us all about it in the comments below and, as always, email us if you have any questions.