Bellarine Peninsula

Just over an hour from Melbourne and with the townships generally not more than ten kilometres apart, there is plenty to see on the Bellarine Peninsula, be it on a day tour or to stop in one place for the perfect short break. For many years, this coastal strip on the western shores of Port Phillip has been a popular destination for families taking their annual holidays. Seeing the caravan parks squeezed between the main roads and the beach, the general stores that carry anything and everything, all surrounded by clusters of permanent holidays homes conjures up images of mum and dad arriving with a car full of kids and spending a week or too lazing around on the beach or enjoying a spot of fishing. Some new trendy shops, restaurants and accommodation places have been thrown into the mix of late, as have complete estates of predominantly retirement homes, but the simple laid back feel of the towns and villages hasn't been lost.

In recent times, the Bellarine has been building a reputation as a food and wine destination and The Bellarine Taste Trail brings together many of the gourmet offerings of the region including wineries, restaurants and cafes and producers of beer, fresh produce, goats cheese, olive oil and seafood.

Bellarine Peninsula faces Port Phillip Bay on its northern and eastern shores and Bass Strait on the south, so water activities abound. These include snorkelling, jet-skiing, swimming with dolphins, surfing, kayaking, fishing, marine sanctuaries, sailing and more. World class wineries are peppered throughout the area, as are superb restaurants, quaint cafes, fresh local seafood and Sunday markets.

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Towns on the Peninsula

Queenscliff


Located at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, Queenscliff has been a major commercial fishing centre since the 1850s. The town and its twin settlement, Point Lonsdale, which is 5km to the west, are busy tourist resorts. Queenscliff is connected by two car and passenger ferries to Sorrento.

Fort Queenscliff is a superb example of the defences that existed around the coastline of Australia from colonial times through to the end of the Second World War. Queenscliff's famous black lighthouse, one of only three in the world built from unpainted black stone and the only one in the southern hemisphere, is located inside the historic Fort Queenscliff. The town itself has a striking streetscape of predominantly Federation era stone buildings.

Queenscliff has safe, sandy bayside beaches that are popular with families. Its wide treed foreshore reserves have excellent picnic, barbecue and play facilities. The 'Narrows' dog exercise beach is nearby.
Point Lonsdale


Point Lonsdale is both a coastal township and one of the headlands which frame the entrance to Port Phillip, the other being Point Nepean on the opposite shore. The headland is dominated by the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse (1902) and The Rip lookout. Back from the point is the township, with its tempting array of shops and cafes.



Point Lonsdale has both ocean and bay beaches, the latter being safe and protected, making them ideal for families. Near the point are wide grassed and treed foreshore reserves. The surf beach is patrolled by lifesavers during summer.


William Buckley's Cave

William Buckley's Cave is located in the cliffs under Point Lonsdale lighthouse. Buckley was a convict who escaped the prison near Sorrento in 1803, just two months after arriving from England. He made his way around the Bay (Melbourne didn't exist until the 1830's) and evaded capture for the next 30 years, living in this cave and others like it along the coast, and befriending the local Wathaurung people. In 1835 he decided to re-emerge from hiding and walked into Melbourne, told his story, and was soon pardoned by the Governor. Buckley then worked as an Aboriginal interpreter and spent his last 19 years in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), married, and seemed to live contentedly to the age of 75.
Drysdale


Drysadle, in the central north of the Bellarine, is a centre for much of the produce and fine wines which come from the area. Surrounding the town are the cider houses, vinyards, dairies and berry farms for wgicdh the region is known. br>
St Leonards


The coastal township of St Leonards is found at the eastern end of the Bellarine Peninsula and the northern end of Swan Bay. Situated 33 kilometres east of Geelong, St Leonards was a filming location for the popular Australian television series SeaChange, about a high-flying city lawyer who moves to a small coastal town to escape the pressures of her life and career. A number of streets in the St Leonards Sea Change Estate have since been named to acknowledge some of the characters of the series.



St Leonards has a safe sandy beach and camping ground on the shores of Port Phillip Bay. A popular spot for swimming and a range of watersports, St Leonards has extensive shaded foreshore reserves with picnic and play facilities.

St Edwards Point Nature Conservation Reserve is a good spot for a short bushwalk, as well as some bird watching. Take binoculars and head to Charlie's Hole for some fascinating bird watching through the reeds over to the protected Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and Swan Bay. Park in the carpark on Beach Road then walk along the shore to the lookout.

Portarlington


A popular bayside resort on the Bellarine Peninsula that is known for its good fishing and safe beaches. At one time the town claimed the largest caravan park in the Southern Hemisphere. One of the larger towns of the Bellarine, Portarlington sits on the peninsula's northern side. Portarlington is the quintessential family holiday camping resort with a safe, sandy beach on Port Phillip Bay. It boasts extensive shaded foreshore areas with a kiosk, picnic, barbecue and play facilities. On a clear day, Portarlington offers views over the bay of the Melbourne skyline.
Barwon Heads


Barwon Heads and its twin Ocean Grove are located on the southern shores of the peninsula and on the mouth of the Barwon River. Barwon Heads has transformed and grown over the last decade from a sleepy seaside town to a vibrant and exciting township with a great selection of cafes restaurants and boutiques along its main street. The giant bluff at the mouth of the Barwon River is just as well known as the bridge across the mouth of the river. This limestone cliff face offers shelter to the river mouth and protects the sandy shores.



On the south side of the bluff their is surf beach the long sandy beaches - 13th beach is one of the best surf beaches in the region. Barwon Heads has numerous sandy river estuary beaches. All round, it's an excellent place for swimming and wind-surfing. Its picnic and barbecue facilities and boat ramp are also drawcards, particularly on weekends, school and public holidays.
Ocean Grove


Ocean Grove is the most built up of the peninsula's townships, and has become a popular place to build a retirement home. Ocean Grove's 10 km beache, which stretches from Barwon Heads to Point Lonsdale, is popular with families and surfers alike. The beach has a cafe, kiosk and plenty of parking.

Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club's lifeguards patrol the beach from the end of November to Easter (daily from December 26-January 26. Weekends and public holidays at other times). The Ocean Grove Nature Reserve protects the Bellarine's largest area of remnant vegetation. It is home to over 130 bird species, wallabies and koalas.

Indented Head


This little township takes its somewhat contradictory name from its location at the head of the peninsula. The geographical feature of Indented Head was named by British explorer Matthew Flinders in April 1802 when he observed the shape of the Bellarine Peninsula coastline from the summit of Arthurs Seat, across Port Phillip. For many years the name Indented Head was applied to the whole of the Bellarine Peninsula. The small settlement's population fluctuates throughout the year, increasing drastically during the summer months, and is very much seasonal. Its beaches attract fisherman, boaters and families to the area.

About Bellarine Peninsula


The Bellarine Peninsula is located south-west of Melbourne, Victoria, and is surrounded by Port Phillip, Corio Bay and Bass Strait. The peninsula is a growing tourist region with a variety of beaches and seaside resorts and wineries, much of the area is now regarded as a part of greater Geelong. The Barwon River meets Bass Strait at Barwon Heads. A vehicle/passenger Searoad ferry service operates travelling from Queenscliff to Sorrento between the heads of Port Phillip.

The Bellarine Peninsula is dotted with many villages and holiday resorts. One of the best ways to get a feel for them is with a driving tour. The Peninsula's compact nature and excellent roads make it easy to get around. These towns include Barwon Heads, Clifton Springs, Drysdale, Indented Head, Ocean Grove, Portarlington, Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff, St Leonards and Wallington.

The Borough of Queenscliffe, situated on the peninsula is the last remaining borough left in Victoria, and was the only Local Government Area to escape change in the mass Victorian munincipality reorganisation of the early 1990s. This was enacted by Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett. If the rules applied everywhere else in the state were applied here, the Borough of Queenscliffe would have become part of the City of Greater Geelong.

The Peninsula enjoys a long and colourful history that took a radically different course with the start of white exploration and the subsequent colonisation and development that ensued. Today there is ample evidence of the early days of white settlement with many historic buildings dotted around the Peninsula's villages. Remnants of Aboriginal civilisation are much harder to find.



Indigenous Australians lived in the Bellarine Peninsula region for tens of thousands of years before white exploration and settlement eventually displaced them. The original inhabitants were from the Bengalat Balug clan of the Wathaurong tribe. They had many camps across the Bellarine Peninsula and moved around in search of food.

Dozens of bird species, native wildlife and rare and endangered flora populate the Bellarine Peninsula. Nature reserves, bays, lagoons and wetlands provide the habitat for birds and other animals. Most sites are easily accessed, and some have facilities, including bird hides and picnic areas. At Barwon Heads, Jirrahlinga Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary allows visitors a close-up look at native animals.

One of the arms that form Swan Bay, Edwards Point State Reserve is a popular bird-watching area, especially for rare species like the orange-bellied parrot. Access to the reserve is off Bluff Road, St Leonards. There are dozens of species that inhabit and forage in the area, including wrens, goshawks and wading birds.

The bay's ecosystem is based on seagrass, intertidal mudflats and salt marshes, and is one of the healthiest of its kind in Port Phillip. In summer and autumn, black swans feed on seagrass while pelicans, cormorants and other water birds can be identified. The rare and endangered orange-bellied parrot uses the saltmarshes as a winter refuge and feeding ground.



In The Region

Geelong


Geelong is the second largest city in the state of Victoria, and is the largest regional centre in the state. A major industrial centre and port, Geelong is the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria's Surf Coast and the Great Ocean Road. Geelong has all the benefits of a sizeable city but with the relaxed atmosphere of coastal country.

Facing north on Corio Bay, Geelong boasts a glorious waterfront precinct, sophisticated dining options and all kinds of entertainment on tap. There is a lively calendar of events and the region is perhaps the Australian wine industry's best-kept secret.
Werribee


As a day trip destination, the outer Melbourne suburb of Werribee has plenty to offer. Located on the Princes Highway (and railway line) midway between Geelong and Melbourne (the latter is 32 km away via the westgate Bridge), Werribee was established as an agricultural settlement in the 1850s. Of the attractions to which most visitors come to see, the former estate of wealthy pastoralist Thomas Chirnside, known as Werribee Park, and the Werribee Open Range Zoo, are the most well known. Werribee Park Shuttle Service operates daily return trips from central Melbourne to Werribee Park, Werribee Open Range Zoo, Point Cook RAAF Museum and Point Cook Homestead.
The Surf Coast


Located South east of Melbourne beyond the Bellarine Peninsula, the Surf Coast is a 55km stretch of coastline from Torquay to Anglesea. The Surf Coast is one of Melbourne s most popular recreational playgrounds. Besides world famous surf beaches and sophisticated beach culture, the region boasts natural beauty, both on the coast and the hinterland. The beaches of the Surf Coast are the centre and focus of Victoria s surfing and beach culture. Surfing brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver started in here, and names like Bells Beach, Torquay and Jan Juc are synomimous with surfing in Australia.
Geelong and Bellarine Wine Region


Geelong was officially pronounced a town in 1838 with a grand population of 545 inhabitants and the standard infrastructure of a hotel, church, general store and wool store. Only four years later the first Geelong, Victoria vineyards were planted by Swiss and German settlers in Barrabool Hills. Though the district supported 116 vineyards by 1869, many collapsed after an outbreak of phylloxera vine aphid in 1875. Today, the Geelong wine region boasts over 50 vineyards growing a strong, diverse range from pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and shiraz, with over 20 open to the public for cellar-door tastings. Once, Geelong hotels catered mostly to sailors. Now, the historic docks and hotels are transformed into up-market restaurants and cafes and luxury accommodation.
Bellarine Taste Trail


The Bellarine Taste Trail is a collection of gourmet delights and foodie experiences all within 20 minutes of each other. The trail twists a scenic path around The Bellarine, taking visitors to vineyards that are receiving some of Australia s highest accolades for their wine and farms that have changed the local restaurant scene with their amazing produce.

There are breweries using innovative techniques for original flavours and bakeries known for amazing wood-fired bread and multi-award winning pies. Several tour companies run charter operations across the Bellarine, so you can truly indulge in all the Bellarine Taste Trail has to offer and let someone else worry about transport and navigation.
You Yangs


The granite peaks of the You Yangs rise dramatically from the surrounding volcanic plains between Melbourne and Geelong. Although only 340 metres high, they dominate the landscape, and are clearly visible from as far away as the bay side of Melbourne and beyond. The main ridge runs roughly north south for about 9 km, with a lower extension running for about 15 km to the west. Much of the southern parts of the ranges are protected by the You Yangs Regional Park.





Portarlington Mill


Fort Queenscliff


Bellarine Railway

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