Marketing and Communications Officer - Tourism Geelong and Bellarine
One Stop Adventures caught up with Narelle to find out all the reasons you should consider escaping Melbourne for a visit to the Bellarine.
Where is the Bellarine Peninsula located, and how can you get there?
Most people travel down the M1/Princes Highway to The Bellarine. it's a 90 minute trip to the furthest point on the Bellarine. There are numerous other ways to get to the Bellarine. V-Line trains leave from Southern Cross Station on a regular basis to Geelong's main station, you can then pick up a bus with McHarry’s bus lines to numerous points on The Bellarine.
We also have two ferries that access the Bellarine. One is Searoad Ferries that travels from Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula, to Queenscliff on The Bellarine. It is a car and passenger ferry and only takes 40 minutes to make this crossing, Searoad Ferries travel on the hour every hour from 7 am until 6 pm, making a 7 pm crossing in summer.
Port Phillip Ferries now travels between the Docklands in Melbourne to Portarlington on the Bellarine. The region’s lucky enough to have Avalon Airport. Jetstar services Avalon from Hobart, Adelaide, Sydney and the Gold Coast. You can pick up a hire car to get to the Bellarine, it’s around 40 minutes travel time.
What makes the Bellarine special and unique?
Our tasty local produce, the breathtaking natural scenery, the charming little coastal villages, and lots of adventures for the whole family. We've got a great calendar of events, as well as some outstanding public golf courses and amazing beaches for people to enjoy.
What do people find surprising about the Bellarine?
How close a place like this is to Melbourne. People journey down here for the first time and they think, "Wow, I didn't realise it was so close." It's so undiscovered, Lots of people come down and they are totally surprised by the fact there's not hordes of people here, and it’s so nice and easy to access. There's also so much to do and see in just a small place.
How long should someone spend in the area?
I would say two to three days, if not more. If you have the time, I would spend three days here, but if you only have the two you're still going to see some of the main highlights of the region.
Tasty local produce, the breathtaking natural scenery, the charming little coastal villages, and heaps of adventures for the whole family.
Is that how long most people would spend there?
I would say definitely, at least three days. There's families that have been coming annually for many years and spending a whole week here. But if you're just staying to capture some of the main highlights, three days would be great.
What do most people consider a highlight of their visit?
I would say the main highlight would be the food and wine which is accentuated by a fantastic little food and wine trail that we've got called the Bellarine Taste Trail. It’s an initiative that promotes some of the great food and wine producers on the Bellarine. There's over 40 that are listed on the Bellarine Taste Trail map, and you can find the Bellarine Taste Trail at www.thebellarinetastetrail.com.au or on Facebook.
We have some really unique producers such as goat's cheese producers, mussel suppliers, berry farmers at Tuckerberry Hill. We've got fresh produce at Lonsdale Tomato farm and Farmer's Harvest. There’s also olive oil producers, and we have a monthly farmers market as well.
Most of the cafes and the restaurants in the region also serve up the fabulous food and wine, and we've got some fantastic wine growers in the region too.
What other highlights can be found in the area?
Staying at one of the coastal villages and soaking up the village atmosphere. Barwon Heads is famous for its trendy main street with gourmet cafes and designer shops.
Queenscliff is home to grand hotels, beautiful architecture, fascinating maritime museums and boutique shopping.
There’s Point Lonsdale which is enviably located right at the entrance of Port Phillip bay with its stunning lighthouse.
Ocean Grove is the largest town on the Bellarine and has one of the longest and most safest beaches in Australia.
Portarlington is another which sits right on a flat bay overlooking Melbourne and is very family friendly.
The Bellarine has great family adventures like Adventure Park, which is the largest theme park in Victoria. You can go swimming with dolphins in Port Phillip Bay and there’s eco tours with South Bay Eco Adventures. You can learn to surf and paddle board, go mini golfing and we've got the Blues Train which runs out of Queenscliff and has done for the last 24 years. It's a heritage train that has four blues artists that perform every Saturday night from August until May, which is a very unique experience.
There are some major events that happen in the region as well, such as the Portarlington Mussel Festival, Toast to the Coast which is all about the wineries in the region, the Winter Shiraz Festival, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the National Celtic Festival, and the Queenscliff Music Festival.
We've got five golf courses that are in the top 100 public golf courses in Australia on the Bellarine as well, which as fabulous.
What are the must-visit wineries or breweries that you have?
We have a plethora of wineries that specialise in cool climate wines. The main wines that they specialise in are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. Some of those well-known wineries are Scotchman’s Hill, the spectacular scenery at Jack Rabbit Vineyard, Terindah Estate and Basils Farm. We've got the eclectic and award-winning wineries of Oakdene and McGlashan's, and Leura Park is also famous for its wine tasting as well.
We don't have a brewery on the Bellarine but we have our very own cidery. It's called Flying Brick Cider, which is where our main visitor information centre is. Flying Brick has pear, original and draught cider. And it also has a specialty cider that it produces as well.
We also have coming in the next couple of months our very own whiskery- The Whiskery.It's located on the corner of Portarlington and Scotchmans Road and will bring even more strength and credit to the food and wine scene.
Are there good opportunities for seeing wildlife?
Out on the bay, they've got fabulous wildlife and you can access that by Sea all Dolphins Swim or South Bay Eco Adventures. If they are around, you can see dolphins and you can swim with them as well. You can see seals out on Chinaman’s Hat too and we've got the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary.
What's the must-try food?
You must-try the Portarlington mussels. The Bellarine is famous for its mussels. We've got two big mussel distributors on the Bellarine. One is Advanced Mussel Supply, and they've also got a shop, which is part of the Bellarine Taste Trail, and it's on Portarlington-Queenscliff Road.
We've got a one day festival in January that is dedicated to the mussels - Portarlington Mussel Festival. The festival attracts around 30 thousand people for the one day event.
I’d probably say Flying Brick cider as well. If you visit the region, you must try our cider.
Are there some good hikes, walks or lookouts in the area?
For someone who loves walking and also loves a great view, I would say the Rip view lookout in Queenscliff. There's also the lighthouse in Point Lonsdale, which is stunning and it's right at the entry to Port Phillip Bay.
There's also the bluff at Barwon Heads that looks out over Ocean Grove and Point Lonsdale.
Portarlington is great on a clear day to look out to Melbourne city and the wineries of Terindah Estate and Jack Rabbit have stunning views over to the You Yang’s, the mussel farms on the bay and also to Geelong and Melbourne. Basils Farm has spectacular views across SwanBay to Queenscliff.
In terms of walks, there's fabulous walks on the Bellarine Rail Trail that runs from South Geelong's train station to Queenscliff station and is about 32 kilometres in length. You can always ride your bike or walk along that track. There's great walking from Queenscliff to Point Lonsdale, Point Lonsdale to Ocean Grove along the beach, or Ocean Grove to Barwon Heads along the beach or an inland trail.
What accommodation is available for those wanting to stay overnight?
Some other regions in Victoria might have some really large-scale hotels but the Bellarine is very "boutique” with small-scale and apartment-style, Bed and Breakfasts and cabins. The largest accommodation we have on the Bellarine is the View Grand, which has around 32 rooms in all.
Is there any backpacker accommodation available?
I would suggest the camping and cabins that are at the campsites in the region. We don't have a designated backpackers on the Bellarine. There is a backpackers in Geelong, which is Irish Murphy's. People could stay at Irish Murphy's in Geelong and then travel out, whether they've hired a camper van or a car, or they go out on public buses. In that sort of budget level, I would probably stay in a cabin or a campsite at one of the caravan parks.
So there are good camping facilities available?
The Bellarine/Geleong region has the most prolific caravan/camping parks in the one area than any other region in Australia. All of the coastal towns, such as Ocean Grove, Portarlington, Barwon Heads, Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, they all have their own camping facilities.
There is the Barwon Heads Holiday Park and Bellarine Bayside Holiday Park in Portarlington to name a few. We have two BIG4 Holiday Parks on the Bellarine – BIG4 Beacon and BIG4 Bellarine.. BIG4 Beacon Resort in Queenscliff, made Hall of Fame at the Victoria Tourism Awards for their outstanding efforts in the camping facilities category in 2016.
Where do people usually head after the Bellarine?
Starting in Melbourne and travelling to the Bellarine, they may follow on to the world famous Great Ocean Road. The other option is to take the car on Searoad Ferries and make their way across to Sorrento and to the Mornington Peninsula. It's either to the west to Great Ocean Road, or to the east across on the ferry to Mornington or Phillip island.