Day-tripping the Bellarine Peninsula

The Bellarine Peninsula is probably the Great Ocean Road’s less well-known cousin and highly achievable in a day trip without a niggling regret that you likely should have stayed a night or 2 just to enjoy the damn place. It’s an hour and a half away from Melbourne and a small chunk of a long stretch of brilliant coastline that’s world-famous and slightly quieter—the way I love it.

Like Geelong, it wears its settlement-era heritage proudly but is quick to assure people that it’s got its feet firmly in this century too: a mix of old facades but swanky interiors, holiday beach-town feels, gourmet produce, lively strip malls and hipster cafés that vie for the better blend of barista-snooty type coffees.

Fitting parts of the Bellarine Taste Trail and helpful guiding from Seegeelong, going through the townships (hopefully not at record speed) and some beach walks was exactly what I wanted to do for the day I had. The final itinerary however, ended up as a haphazard mix of walking, eating and then trying to make the food shops while they were still open…and still get back to Melbourne in time before it got dark.

The Travel Companion and I started off at Torquay (the dramatically beautiful Surf Coast simply needed more time but we had to leave that for another day), then backtracked into Barwon Heads to watch some kite-surfing and look pathetically at the fine sand beaches, ate a harried lunch at an extremely crowded pie-place at Ocean Grove, carried onto Point Lonsdale for another walk and onto the quaintly historic Queenscliff. Then we thought we could still squeeze more things in, and so headed ‘inland’ to Drysdale, Wallington and Mannerim to look at some wineries and chocolate.

The good things never did go to plan, anyway.

The commute between Melbourne and the Bellarine isn’t a new one; in fact, Queenscliff was the port where paddlesteamers came and went, leaving fanciful imaginings of the ‘good ol’ days’ with the same windswept views.

Rushing through the townships might not have been the wisest idea especially after we returned to Melbourne an exhausted mess, but it’s silly to visit every wine shop in the area simply because these things are listed as attractive and colourful squares on the tourist map. Mark the stuff that appeals around the area and connect the dots with a pen – a rough route will eventually appear, pointing the way into and out of the peninsula…more so if the focus of the trip is on food over walks or hikes and be led by the opening and closing hours of the shops as well.

We drove off through Geelong’s city centre thinking however, that the beachy bits were more to our liking despite the fact that we’re the furthest people from surfers. There is something mesmerising about watching rough waves crashing into rock and wandering the meandering cliff walks while watching tiny figures of surfers searching for the perfect curl that it’s enough to plan a return trip…this time further west, to the surf coast.