Explore The Bellarine
Vineyards, boutique distilleries and breweries, fine dining and great beaches: the Bellarine Peninsula has the lot. All that, and it’s just an 80-minute drive or bracing ferry ride from Melbourne.
TrueBlue Magazine - June/July 2019
Words: Winsor Dobbin
The Bellarine is surrounded by Port Phillip, Corio Bay and Bass Strait. It’s home to around 55,000 people and is a burgeoning tourism region. Most of the peninsula is part of the City of Greater Geelong.
Australian TV series SeaChange was filmed at various locations along the peninsula, particularly at Barwon Heads, and the region is a popular weekend destination for Melburnians, many of whom catch the ferry across to the picturesque small town of Portarlington, where you can still buy mussels from the fishermen on the wharf.
With uninterrupted bay views across to the You Yangs, Portarlington is a great base for those looking to escape the city hustle and bustle – and there are plenty of dining options including cafés and a classic old country hotel.
The booming seaside towns of Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads and Point Lonsdale are all popular in summer. The Bellarine is also home to one of Australia’s great walks: the Bellarine Rail Trail, and to a few of the top 100 public access golf courses in the country.
1. Popular Spots
Merne at Lighthouse, in the former Loam premises at Drysdale, is a popular venue serving share plates, while BeachHouse Barwon Heads is an eatery with a local focus in what was previously the old fire station.
2. Winery Luncheon
Several of the local wineries provide vineyard lunches. Terindah Estate features excellent seasonal and regional food, local wines and top-notch service with sweeping views from the terrace.
3. Fine Dining with a View
Oakdene Vineyards at Wallington offers tastings, two dining experiences (Marty and Mr Grubb) and on-site accommodation, while Jack Rabbit Vineyard also has fine dining and casual lunch experiences, and can be packed to the rafters at peak times thanks to its amazing views.
4. Beer & Pizza Joints
Leura Park Estate at Curlewis features pizzas and platters as well as wine tastings, while beer lovers can head to the Queenscliff Brewhouse in one of the region’s cutest seaside villages.
5. Local Seafood
A favourite with locals and visitors alike is to take a stroll along the Portarlington pier and seawall and take in the spectacular bay views. Buy some fresh mussels from local fishermen if the boats are in port.
6. Fish & Chips
Head for the township of St Leonards to pick up some delicious freshly cooked fish and chips from The Golden Flake, and enjoy them while overlooking the bay.
7. Casual Dining
The Bungalow Restaurant in Drysdale is a casual eatery serving hearty meals, which is popular with both locals and visitors.
8. The Big Smoke
Alternatively, take a trip into the ’big smoke’ of Victoria’s second-largest city Geelong for a pre-dinner drink at the Geelong Cellar Door Wine Bar & Store, and the possibility of trying some local boutique wines before you buy. For gourmets, some inventive food at Igni is a must.
9. Pack a Picnic
If you fancy a picnic, pop into the Bellarine Smoked Fish Co for a tasty range of smoked seafood and pâtés.
1. Food & Wine Trail
The Bellarine Taste Trail is helping to reinforce the region’s reputation as a top destination for avid foodies and wine lovers, providing almost 50 locations where visitors can discover various epicurean delights. Download the Bellarine Taste Trail map at thebellarinetastetrail.com.au
2. Spirits Galore
Enjoy a picnic or pizza along with an alfresco gin tasting at The Whiskery – a brand new distillery complex just down the road from historic Scotchmans Hill winery. Be sure to try their outstanding Teddy & the Fox artisan gin.
3. Winery Wanderings
Other fantastic wineries well set up for visitors include Leura Park Estate, Bellarine Estate – home to French restaurant Bouchon – and Curlewis Winery.
4. Cider Lovers
Several other smaller wineries request appointments for visits, but cider lovers are well catered for at the Flying Brick Cider Co, which is open seven days a week.
5. Caffeine Hit
Serious coffee lovers will want to head for Geelong, where the passion for caffeine approaches that of Melbourne. Alternatively, seek out The Driftwood Café in Ocean Grove.
1. Keep it Simple
Most visitors to the Bellarine tend to stay in campsites, rental cottages or motels. For those who prefer to camp, the Dylene Caravan Park is a short walk from Portarlington Beach.
2. The Humble Cottage
A short drive out of Portarlington, the Bungalino is a quaint cottage on Airbnb, perfect for a couple on a budget. It is also dog-friendly, should you want to bring a furry friend.
3. Stunning Vistas
The most luxurious option is Lon Retreat & Spa at Point Lonsdale, which opened last October. Previously known as Lonsdale Views, it sits perched on a hill on the edge of Point Lonsdale with 360-degree views of The Heads (the entry to Port Phillip Bay), the lighthouse and Ocean Grove. Set on 200 acres of rural and conservation land, Lon features seven luxurious suites and a mineral spa.
4. Waterfront Luxury
Nestled above Lake Connewarre is luxurious waterfront estate Campbell Point House. Accommodating only up to 30 guests at a time, the private property is a sought after wedding destination.
The Bellarine Community Farmers’ Market is held on the third Saturday of each month at Ocean Grove.
Queenscliff is a historic seaside village with heritage streetscapes, Victorian-era hotels and quaint fishermen’s cottages.
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