If you’re travelling to Australia, then the chances are you’ve heard of the world-famous Great Ocean Road. But have you heard of its delightful neighbour the Bellarine Peninsula?
This secret gem on the Victorian coastline has been a favourite getaway for people wanting some seaside fun for decades.
It’s relatively unknown outside of the state, so it doesn’t attract hordes of tour coaches like the Great Ocean Road does.
Instead, visitors will find a much more relaxed pace, seaside villages, farmers markets, and a smorgasbord of boutique wineries.
Our hometown Geelong, known as ‘The gateway to the Peninsula’, is located right on the Bellarine’s doorstep.
And one of our favourite things to do is to jump in the car and head out on a road trip along its winding roads. At just about every turn there’s an epic view, cute farmhouse, or a country laneway to explore.
It’s possible to visit the region on a day trip, but we recommend staying at least one night to really get the most from your visit.
Bellarine Peninsula accommodation is as cute as its villages, and you can choose from majestic old hotels, quaint B&Bs, and heritage-listed inns.
So, take your time, relax, and breathe in the salty air and tranquil atmosphere.
Things To See And Do Around Bellarine Peninsula
This tiny region has an abundance of attractions, and it really packs a punch no matter how you like to spend your holiday. Be as active or lazy as you like!
Explore Historic Seaside Villages
Speckled throughout the peninsula are some of the most charming towns and villages Australia has to offer. Each town has its own individual character and attractions, and they’re all located within easy reach of each other. Here are a few of our personal favourites.
Queenscliff: With its wide boulevards and heritage-listed buildings, Queenscliff takes you back to a more genteel time. Visitors can explore galleries, local markets and antique stores, a fort, museums and one of the world’s only black lighthouses.
Barwon Heads: Soak up the beach town vibes at Barwon Heads. Located at the mouth of the Barwon River, where you can swim in the river estuary, surf at ocean beaches, or snorkel at a national marine park. Barwon Heads as awesome cafes too.
Portarlington: Located on the other side of the peninsula, Portarlington has panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay and the Melbourne skyline.
This gorgeous old fishing village is famous for the succulent Australian Blue Mussels that are grown just offshore. But recently it’s the town’s new Daniel’s Donuts store that’s been all the rage!
Treat Your Taste Buds To Top-Notch Tipples
Bellarine Peninsula visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to locally made beers, wines, and ciders. And a visit wouldn’t be complete without taste testing a tipple or two.
Lauded for its award-winning cold climate wines the Bellarine is home to spectacular boutique wineries. Each vineyard has its own unique growing environment and distinctive cellar door. From quirky artworks to panoramic views and sustainable farming, no two wineries are the same.
With its clear water, fertile soils and unique microclimate, the region also produces unique blends of craft beer, cider and whiskey. If you’d like to try them all in one place pull up a chair at the Queenscliff Brewhouse where you can experience the best of all things local – craft beer, divine wine, wicked whiskey and great gin.
For a truly unique experience head to Oakdene Vineyard where the cellar door looks like a house that has been blown over in the wind. It has a relaxed, artsy environment and a garden full of weirdly winsome sculptures.
Once a Cobb & Co watering hole, Bellarine Distillery is the first distillery on the peninsula. Its cellar door, The Whiskery occupies an old tin shed and is the perfect setting for taste testing their Teddy And The Fox gin. The distillery’s own single malt whiskey will be available in 2021 depending on maturation.
The Flying Brick Cider House
The Flying Brick produces tasty craft cider using fresh local fruit and traditional methods. There are three core ciders, Original, Draught, and Pear and speciality batches for those wanting a more unique cider. Visit on a sunny afternoon and relax on the lush lawn with a refreshing glass of pear cider.
Dive, Swim, Surf, Or Snorkel
Australia is known for its fantastic beaches, and with its magnificent coastline, the Bellarine Peninsula lives up to its reputation.
Visitors have the best of both worlds on The Bellarine with epic surf beaches on one side and the calm blue waters of Port Phillip Bay on the other.
So, no matter whether you want to practice your surfing skills, make a splash in crystal clear water, or laze on golden sands there’s a beach to suit everyone’s needs.
Ocean Grove is a family-friendly surf beach with slightly smaller waves.
13th Beach is said to be for the ‘true surfer’ with a solid swell that’s suitable for both beginner and advanced surfers.
Point Lonsdale has a protected bay beach that’s great for swimming and sunbathing.
Portarlington has a long wide beach with glass-like water that’s perfect for beginner stand-up paddleboarders.
The waters that surround the Bellarine Peninsula are teeming with colourful fish, dolphins and seals, and other unique marine life including enchanting sea horses. The ocean floor is littered with 19th-century shipwrecks, and there are four sunken submarines.
Join an organised tour with a dive operator and explore the HMAS Canberra, Victoria’s first artificial reef. Created for the sole purpose of diving, divers can explore the flight decks, the bridge, engine rooms, and the galley.
Attend A Fab Festival
The Bellarine Peninsula plays host to a multitude of fun festivals and community events. From world-class sporting events, cultural and music festivals, to more intimate local festivities, and food celebrations, there’s a Bellarine festival to suit all tastes.
Held throughout the year, it’s a good idea to time your visit to coincide with one of these fantastic events.
Queenscliff Music Festival: Established to fill a void in the region’s tourist season, the Queenscliff Music Festival has won several tourism awards. Virtually the whole town is turned into a concert hall, and the vibe is unbeatable.
National Celtic Festival: Considered Australia’s premiere Celtic folk festival, this event his held over three jam-packed days and nights in the seaside town of Portarlington. Celebrating all things Celtic the festival features traditional delicacies, market stalls, and performers from across the globe.
Strawberry Fair: Who doesn’t love a juicy plump strawberry? This community event entices thousands of visitors to the Wallington hills to gorge on chocolate-dipped strawberries, pancakes topped with strawberries, strawberry ice cream, pavlovas, and even strawberry wine!
Meet Australian Wildlife At Jirrahlinga
Australia is home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife, and at Jirrahlinga Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary you get to experience it firsthand for yourself.
Jirrahlinga is Aboriginal for “seek a home for a kangaroo”, and this superb sanctuary is home to koalas, kangaroos, and other wildlife. Please note Jirrahlinga is not a zoo. But rather a place for lost or injured native animals to be cared for, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
The park supports an animal rescue service and three specialist hospitals including separate bird and koala hospitals. Jirrahlinga also boasts an outstanding track record in rehabilitating many koalas and hand-raised orphans back into their natural environment.
Run by volunteers, the sanctuary’s knowledgeable staff hold information sessions featuring koalas, wombats, and other native wildlife. These “Daily Encounter” sessions provide visitors with the chance to see the animals in a closed environment. In fact, it’s so close you can even pat them!
Jirrahlinga cares for a wide range of animals, but at any time you are likely to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, emus, snakes and lizards.
A visit usually lasts around two hours; you can bring drinks and snacks or grab a coffee and something to eat at the onsite café.
How To Get To The Bellarine Peninsula.
From Melbourne, the Bellarine Peninsula is an easy 90-minute drive along the Princes Hwy via the city of Geelong. If you don’t have a car, the Port Phillip Ferries offer daily services between the Melbourne Docklands and Portarlington.
The ferry has plenty of seating, outside areas, and a licensed café. It’s also possible to arrange tours across the Peninsula through Port Phillip Ferries.
Alternatively, Searoad Ferries operate car and passenger ferries between Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula and Queenscliff on the Bellarine.
The ferries are a great way to arrive, and you can usually spot dolphins playing in the bay.
With its rolling plains, delightful seaside villages, boutique wineries and incredible beaches, the Bellarine Peninsula is one of Australia’s best unknown destinations. Add it to your list of must-see places.
Audrey grew up in Geelong the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula. Together with her husband Andrew, she’s travelled the world for 30 years, always returning with a new appreciation for her home.
Now she helps others discover the city by the bay with her blog, See Geelong.