We had given ourselves an entire month to discover the best things to do on the Bellarine Peninsula. We were curious because we had heard that this area was an attractive holiday destination for Melbournians as well as for the residents of Geelong.
From our base in Clifton Springs, we explored the small, charming towns of the peninsula. Barwon Heads, Point Lonsdale, and Queenscliff were just a few of the coastal towns on our list. But was there enough to see? What did we want to do for a month if the weather was bad? Were there enough good cafés? And beautiful towns with unique shops? Or had we landed in a deserted and isolated wasteland? We spent much of our Australian winter of 2021 on the Bellarine Peninsula, and would find out!
Getting to the Bellarine Peninsula
Located in the Australian state of Victoria, the Bellarine Peninsula is 90 km southwest of Melbourne. With little traffic, it is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive on the M1 from Melbourne. There is also the possibility to arrive via train and bus, or by ferry from Melbourne. Since we were traveling with Putu, our campervan, the drive over the highway was our best choice. But the ferry is certainly a very good alternative to bring your car in a relaxed way from the Mornington Peninsula to the Bellarine Peninsula.
The Ferry from Melbourne to the Bellarine Peninsula
Port Phillip Ferries offers daily passenger (and bicycle) transport from the Melbourne Docklands to both Geelong and Portarlington. Please note that the Port Phillip Ferries is a passenger-only transport, and unfortunately, pets are not allowed.
Prices and time schedules can be found here.
Another ferry runs daily from Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. Searoad Ferries carries both passengers and vehicles. The crossing takes about 40 minutes, and you should arrive at the terminal at least 40 minutes before departure.
Prices and time schedules can be found here.
The Train and Bus from Melbourne to the Bellarine Peninsula
Another way to get to the Bellarine Peninsula is via train with Public Transport Victoria. The train runs from the Southern Cross Railway Station in Melbourne to the Geelong Railway Station, and the 10 stops take about an hour.
Then from Geelong Station, you walk one minute to bus line 56, which will take you to Queenscliff, for example. If you have chosen Queenscliff Harbour, the bus takes an hour to get to the Bay Wharf Station. But other places such as Portarlington are also served from Geelong Station.
Tip: The Peninsula offers many different great places, all of which you should definitely see. If you arrive by train and bus, or by ferry without a vehicle, a rental car is highly recommended. This way you can see more and get the most out of your time on the Bellarine Peninsula.
How long should you stay on the Bellarine Peninsula?
It is possible to explore the highlights of the Bellarine Peninsula in a day. There are tours from Melbourne* which include a tour guide, a ferry ticket, and the following stops: Geelong Waterfront, Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Point Lonsdale Lighthouse, a 2-hour cruise on board the ferry around the bay with a picnic that includes local produce, Tuckerberry Hill to pick seasonal fruit, and the Jack Rabbit Vineyard with a wine tasting.
Book your tour here: Bellarine Peninsula Sightseeing & Ferry Ride*
But, to see more of the beautiful coastal scenery, however, you should plan on a few days. Depending on how much time you have, we would recommend 4-7 days. This way you can enjoy more of the local specialties, such as the mussels in Portarlington, or the cheese in Drysdale. Plus, you’re going to need time to check out all the wineries, as well as the whiskey and gin distilleries. You should also include a few hikes along the magnificent coast in your holiday. The landscape is very beautiful, and it’s not as crowded as the Mornington Peninsula.
Highlights of the Bellarine Peninsula
During our one-month stay, we had enough time to slowly discover the entire peninsula. We found crystal-clear waters of the ocean, lush-hiking trails, charming small towns full of vibrant cafés, and world-class golf courses. And we can say with certainty that the Bellarine Peninsula has it all!
Here are our best things to do on the Bellarine Peninsula.
We start our tour of the Bellarine Peninsula in Clifton Springs. Honestly, there’s not too much to see here, but because of our housesit, it’s our home for the next few weeks and the perfect base for our explorations. Right outside our doorstep is the Adrian Mannix Reserve, where we can take small walks and watch the most beautiful sunsets in the evenings. In the distance, the Melbourne skyline is visible on a clear day. A big plus: we have the best wineries around us, and can enjoy wine, whisky, and gin tastings.
We make a small detour to Geelong, the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula. Due to its proximity, Geelong is perfect for a day trip from Clifton Springs.
We only visit a shopping mall in the city itself, but then continue to the waterfront (but came to see the famous Waterfront). The waterfront is very impressive with a Ferris wheel, the Poppy Kettle Playground, and numerous cafes and restaurants. There is even a pool at the Esplanade.
However, the biggest or perhaps most famous attraction is the colorfully painted bollards that we see along the promenade. Bollards are the thick posts that are used to moor ships. It starts to rain shortly after we arrive, so we only see a few of the 104 sculptures. If you want to see them all, you’ll pass by 48 locations. You will need about two hours for the path that goes to Rippleside Park.
Portarlington is just a few minutes drive from Clifton Springs. This small village of 3000 residents is located on the northeast corner of the Peninsula. Portarlington is known for its fresh mussels, which are caught just off the coast. The Mussel Festival takes place every year in January. Here on the peninsula, and especially in Portarlington, time moves slowly. We surrender to Portarlington’s pace and slowly stroll down the main street. We treat ourselves with goodies and then take a short walk along the shore. And we end our Portarlington excursion with a visit to a winery.
Our first stop is Daniel’s Donuts, a well-known donut chain in Victoria. The choice is overwhelming, and we can’t resist the deal of 6 donuts for $15 (instead of 1 donut for $3.50).
And yes… we ate all of the donuts ourselves. They were so fluffy and delicious that they didn’t survive the afternoon.
address: 64 Newcombe Street, Portarlington Victoria 3223
Phone +61 352 592 845
Website: Daniel’s Donuts
The Portarlington Bakehouse
A few steps further you will find the Portarlington Bakehouse, which has very good and good valued pies and other treats.
Edina Waterfront Café
You know us- we don’t miss an opportunity when it comes to a nice café. We found the Edina Waterfront Café, which, in addition to good coffee, offered us fantastic views of the sea and Portarlington Pier.
The Portarlington Pier was unfortunately under construction when we were on the Bellarine Peninsula. But from here you can take walks along the bay. Not far from the pier is a beautifully landscaped park, complete with a children’s playground. If you want to take a day trip to Melbourne, this is the right address. The passenger ferry departs here on its way to the Docklands in Melbourne.
One of the most famous wineries in the Peninsula is Jack Rabbit. Jack Rabbit has a restaurant and a café, both side by side, and fantastic views of Port Phillip. In addition to dining and wine tasting, you can also buy their wines directly at the cellar door. Their selection includes ranges of Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet, Merlot, and much more!
Jack Rabbit also supports the organization Feed me Bellarine with its wine sales. If you would like to know more about Feed me Bellarine, and how locals Lana Purcell and Anthony Woodbury save food and help people in need, you should definitely check out their website.
Address: 85 McAdams Lane, Bellarine Victoria 3221
Phone: +61 352 512 223
Website: Jack Rabbit Vineyard
Other wineries include Terindah Estate, Bennets on Bellarine, and Lethbridge.
A leisurely drive down the Esplanade from Portarlington leads to Indented Head. The highlight here is the Ozone Shipwreck! Despite there being an Ozone Memorial, we, unfortunately, didn’t find anything about the story of the shipwreck itself. Nevertheless, it is a must to see the shipwreck and combine it with a short walk by the sea. In good weather, you can see the skyline of Melbourne from here. And for those who like to snorkel, Indented Head is paradise!
St Leonards has such a beautiful long jetty that we just had to stop here! The Pier at St Leonards has a very picturesque boathouse, the Sirens Boathouse, and Kiosk. What a perfect and beautiful background for a selfie! The city center is, as expected, small, but appealing. We visited a small shop, that doubles as a café, and really liked the ambiance.
In the small village of Swan Bay, there is another winery, the Basils Farm. It looks very cozy and inviting. You can taste wine for $5, which will be refunded if you buy wine. The accompanying café offers food and unspeakably beautiful views of Swan Bay.
Address: 43-53 Nye Road, Swan Bay, Vic, 3225
Phone: +61 352 584 280
Website: Basils Farm
Queenscliff, along with Barwon Heads and Lonsdale, was the most visited place of ours on the Bellarine Peninsula. On the one hand, we found Queenscliff to be very beautiful. And on the other hand, because there was a lot to see here.
If you walk from town down towards the Queenscliff Harbour, you will find The Bellarine Railway.
The trains run regularly and offer many fun experiences. Cruising along Swan Bay, A Day Out With Thomas is the perfect family event. The Q Train is a moving restaurant that offers upscale dining. While feasting on local delicacies, the Q Train stops at Swan Bay during sunset. And finally, The Blues Train is a unique musical experience in a steam locomotive.
The Queenscliff South Pier was originally north of its current location. It was built in 1860, but the pier we see now is from the 1880s. It was also known as the “Steamer Pier” because of the many steamships that used to dock here. The orange-colored Waiting Shed and Lifeboat Shed found on Queenscliff South Pier is outstanding.
A good stop for lunch is the Queenscliff Brewhouse. In 2020, it was awarded silver and bronze medals by the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards. With over 400 craft beer varieties, beer lovers are spoilt for choice! Cheers!
Address: 2 Gellibrand St, Queenscliff 3225
Phone: +61 352 581 717
Website: Queenscliff Brewhouse
We found the café Bricktown via our app Happy Cow. Bricktown is a vegan café that offers toasties and regularly changing dishes. The vegan sourdough toasties were so good, and the coffee was also excellent. Thumbs up for Bricktown!
Address: 10 Hobson Street, Queenscliff Victoria 3225
Phone: +61 466 504 704
The Lighthouses of Queenscliff
Empowered by lunch at Bricktown, we first strolled along Hesse Street, the shopping mile of Queenscliff. We admired the beautiful boutique shops before continuing. Queenscliff has two beautiful lighthouses that we were eager to see: the Queenscliff High Light and Queenscliff Low Lighthouse.
The Queenscliff High Light is also known as the Black Lighthouse, Fort Queenscliff Lighthouse, or Shortland Bluff. The special thing about the Shortland Bluff is that the black-colored lighthouse is one of the few lighthouses in the world that has never been painted. And, of course, it is the only black lighthouse in the southern hemisphere! It is located within the Fort Queenscliff Museum, which we only admired from the outside. Admission to Fort Queenscliff is currently $17.00 p.p. and is one of the most important historical sites in Victoria!
The Queenscliff Low Lighthouse is white and is located very close to the black lighthouse.
We found that the Queenscliff Lookout looked like a lighthouse. From a distance, you can already see the eye-catching architecture, which reminded me of a corkscrew or bottle opener. The ascent is free, and you will be rewarded with sensational 360° views.
We visited Point Lonsdale several times, as we had found a great golf course named Lonsdale Links. But Lonsdale has so much more to offer than just a golf course. On a sunny day, you must putter around the short main road. A few cute boutique shops and cafés are lined up one after another.
Even if it isn’t a long stroll, we found this section of town great. We treated ourselves to a coffee at GROW and could see the ocean glittering in the sun from our table.
Across the street on the cute promenade, we watched the busy seagulls flying up and down, hoping to snatch a piece of pie from unsuspecting pedestrians.
We have noticed in our travels throughout Australia, that the surf lifesaving clubs are often very chic. That, and the fact that they are always located on great beaches, is why we often visit them. Even though the Point Lonsdale Surf Life Saving Club is not located directly on the beach, we again weren’t disappointed in Lonsdale. You have to cross a dune to get to the beach, but the building looked fantastic.
Point Lonsdale Jetty
The Bellarine Peninsula is a dream come true for those who love jetties. And the 200-meter-long Point Lonsdale Jetty is one of the best! From the jetty, you can see the tip of the Mornington Peninsula, just 3 kilometers to the east. But with no bridge or tunnel, the Mornington Peninsula is a 200 km drive! So close, and yet so far away. We talked to locals who told us that the current here is so strong, that if captured, could supply all of Melbourne with electricity.
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse
One of our favorite places! Just a stone’s throw from the boardwalk, you can get to the Rip View Lookout and the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse.
The Rip View Lookout offers stunning views of the fantastic bay, the jetty, and the lighthouse. From here, you can also head down to the beach full which is of unique rock formations and emerald-green shimmering rock pools. However, these can only be seen at low tide. The ocean was way too cold for us to jump in, even if it looked extremely inviting. If you stay here for a while, you can see huge cargo ships on the horizon that have probably just started their journey.
Ocean Grove is the second-largest city after Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula. The long beach is very nice, and the BrewiColo Brewing Co is definitely worth a visit.
If you drive a bit further to Wallington, you will find a small inconspicuous driveway. But this driveway leads to pastry heaven! The Ket Baker bakes fresh sourdough bread, and the most delicious pastries from his shed daily. Make sure to try the croissants!
The entrance to this coastal town is simply spectacular! Two landmarks can be seen right away: the Barwon Heads Bridge and the William Buckley Bridge. The Barwon Heads Bridge is for vehicles and parallel to it is the pedestrian William Buckley Bridge. The bridges are architecturally a feast for the eyes! In summer you see many fishermen and joggers at the William Buckley Bridge.
The bridges are the gateway to the cool and hip town of Barwon Heads.
From the bridge, you have a fantastic view of the sea and the restaurant At the Heads.
Immediately over the bridge is the Barwon Ebb & Flow Café. Here we meet with friends for a coffee and snack. The café is always quite busy, especially on weekends.
It’s a good idea to reserve a table if you want to visit on a Saturday or Sunday. After our café visit, we wanted to show our friends The Barwon Scoop. This ice cream parlor offers so many flavors that the decision is extremely difficult. I absolutely adored the vegan dark chocolate ice cream.
Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary
Jirrahlinga is an Aboriginal word that translates as “seek a home for a kangaroo”. Mrs. Tehree Gordon opened the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary for injured animals in 1975. Jirrahlinga is, however, not only a place for animals but also helps people in need. People with special needs, the elderly, and the fragile are given a meaningful time at Jirrahlinga through their interactions with the animals. They receive unmatched therapy. And, if we’ve learned anything in our travels, it’s how precious, memorable, and healing animals are.
The Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary holds a very special place in our hearts. In the course of our house sits, we had an opportunity to work as volunteers. The homeowners work there and asked if we would like to help out while they were away. What an incredible chance it was to learn about Australia’s native animals, and to be close to them! Of course, we said YES, and had an incredible time at Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Read here about our time as volunteers at the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary!
Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary
Address: 170-200 Taits Rd, Barwon Heads 3227, Victoria
Phone: +61 352 542 484
Golf in Barwon Heads
There are two outstanding golf courses in Barwon Heads: The Barwon Heads Golf Club and 13th Beach Golf Links. We joined our friend Hamish at Barwon Heads Golf Club and had an excellent day. Both courses are highly recommended and a must if you are a golfer! Barwon Heads is one of only seven true links golf courses in Australia! And 13th Beach is home to the Victoria Open. Two world-class seaside golf courses lie side by side on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Another happy place was the Thirteenth Beach Road. We often had picnic lunches there. From Thirteenth Beach Road we could see both the ocean with surfers on one side and the golf course with golfers on the other. Can it get any better?
While the town of Drysdale may not have much to offer, it is a great place to go for foodies! There are many places that can easily fill a delicious day.
Start with a good coffee and breakfast at Ground Zero Café. It is in an industrial area and was a local recommendation. The interior is very modern, and cozy, and there is WIFI.
Ground Zero Café
Address: 1 / 34 Murradoc Rd, Drysdale Victoria 3222
Phone: +61 352 515 100
Website: Ground Zero Cafe
After a hearty breakfast, be sure to go to Tuckerberry Hill farm, where you can pick delicious seasonal fruits, get a little exercise in the fresh air, and reward yourself afterward with a healthy snack!
Address: 35 Becks Road, Drysdale Victoria 3222
Phone: +61 352 513 468
Website: Tuckerberry Hill
If you are looking for a souvenir, visit Lighthouse Olive Oil. This olive farm is an all-in-one experience. From the shop to the oil processing to a restaurant and accommodation, you’ll find everything here!
Lighthouse Olive Oil
Address: 648 Andersons Road, Drysdale Vic 3222
Phone: +61 352 511 100
Website: Lighthouse Olive Oil
We rounded off our food tour with a visit to a cozy winery that lies hidden amongst large trees and has breathtaking views of the vineyards.
Address: 190 Scotchmans Road, Drysdale Victoria 3222
Phone: +61 352 513 176
Website: Scotchman’s Hill
Conveniently located opposite Scotchman’s Hill is Drysdale Cheeses, which is a great stop if you like goat cheese and the perfect ending to your food tour!
Address: 1-19 SCOTCHMANS ROAD, Bellarine Victoria 3223
Phone: +61 437 816 374
Website: Drysdale Cheeses
We really enjoyed our time in the Bellarine Peninsula and would return. The region has so much to offer, and we found plenty to do during our month-long stay. The nature is stunning, the food so delicious, and the relaxing pace was something that we could get used to! A wonderful spot for slowing down and recharging your batteries.
In our opinion, a holiday on the peninsula is highly recommended, and we can say with certainty, that the Bellarine Peninsula is not a wasteland!
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