Geelong is the gateway to the sweeping coastal beauty of Barwon Heads, the vineyards on the rolling hills of the Bellarine Peninsula and the pleasures that await along the Great Ocean Road. But Victoria’s second largest city isn’t just a place to base yourself to enjoy its surroundings, it has its own treasure trove of natural beauty, culture and culinary delights to reveal. Discover all that’s waiting for you in this city by the bay.
Drive just over an hour southwest of Melbourne via the Princes Highway to reach Geelong by car. For train travel, take the V/Line service from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to Geelong. If you’re arriving into Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne you can catch the Skybus from the terminal to Southern Cross Station to connect with the V/Line service to Geelong. There is also the Port Phillip Ferries service that runs from Melbourne Docklands to Geelong twice daily.
Take in the beauty of a tangerine-painted sky over the Geelong Waterfront as you relax on the grass at Steampacket Gardens near the Geelong Pier and the Geelong Yacht Club.
The scene at Eastern Beach is reminiscent of the picturesque lakeside swimming spots found throughout Europe. Walk the length of the promenade around the half-moon ocean bath that juts out into the bay, let the kids take turns swimming to the elegant fountain in the centre of the children’s pool, or make use of the diving platform. The beach is also patrolled by lifeguards throughout the summer months.
North Shore Beach (also known as Moorpanyal Beach) is a well kept local secret and a top notch spot to swim, enjoy fish and chips or walk the clifftop trail above it. Enjoy the uncrowded sand and calm waters of Rippleside Beach. There is also a floating marina and small jetty for fishing and swimming off.
One of the best surfing spots in Victoria can be found nearby in Barwon Heads at 13th Beach. The many beaches of the Bellarine are also within easy driving distance from Geelong, or you could make a day trip to any of the beaches along the Great Ocean Road.
Traverse the trails within the You Yangs Regional Park past towering eucalypts, native shrubs, birds flittering in the trees and native wildlife. Set on nearly 2000 hectares of volcanic plains between Geelong and Werribee, the park is home to several majestic granite peaks that rise from the plains. Don’t miss Flinders Peak, which is an impressive 350 metres high.
Cycle or walk the Rail Trails from Geelong South to Drysdale and along the Bellarine Peninsula Tourist Railway all the way to Queenscliff. The 32.5km track will take you through the full scope of the region’s breathtaking scenery – from coast to bushland, past wheat fields and along the edge of Swan Bay.
Learn about Australia’s wool industry from its inception in the 1840s until today at the Geelong National Wool Museum inside the 1872 bluestone wool store. Pick up a woollen gift at the store on your way out or stay awhile and dine at the licensed restaurant.
Walk through the gardens of Barwon Grange past the fountain and take in the beauty of the century-old trees leading down to Barwon River. Inside the 1850s Gothic Revival home, you’ll find early Victorian furniture and fittings to admire. Once the home of merchant and banker Jonathon Porter O’Brien and his wife Ann, it is now the only remaining residence of the many built along the river during this period of Geelong’s history.
Gain an understanding of Geelong’s indigenous culture and purchase Aboriginal arts and crafts at the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Visit the city’s cultural precinct at the west end of Little Malop Street and spend a few hours viewing the Geelong Gallery’s outstanding collection of 19th and 20th century Australian art, spot the street art murals in the area and catch a performance at the Geelong Arts Centre.
Head to the Geelong Waterfront to walk along the famous Bollard Trail, meeting bathing ladies from the 1930s, a Koori family and many more iconic characters from Geelong’s past painted on the bollards dotted along the trail which extends into the Geelong Botanic Gardens.
Peruse over 60 stalls selling books, jewellery, furniture, antiques, vintage clothing and footwear, vinyl records and everything in between at the Geelong Vintage Market. The Mill Markets are just as good for antiques, collectibles and retro finds. Both markets are indoors, which means you won’t have to worry about the weather.
The Geelong and Bellarine wine region, which is home to over 40 regional cellar doors, is best known for producing cool-climate pinot noir. Make your way along the wine trail, stop by for a tasting, and enjoy a meal at the many wineries with adjoining cafes and restaurants (including the award-winning Jack Rabbit Vineyard), and leave with a bag stocked with your favourite drops to enjoy later.
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Spend a night in the height of luxury at Campbell Point House. The private estate on the Bellarine Peninsula was originally built as a family home before it was transformed into a multi-million dollar luxury boutique hotel and restaurant. The waterfront estate accommodates a maximum of 30 guests at any one time, so you can be assured your stay will be as peaceful as it is private.
Make the Rydges Geelong your base and you’ll be within walking distance to Eastern Beach, the Corio Bay esplanade, galleries, and the dining and bar scene. Many of the guest rooms, apartments and luxury suites deliver sweeping views of Corio Bay and there is a pool and spa on site.
The Novotel Geelong is also in the perfect position on the Geelong Waterfront to enjoy all the main attractions – and views – the area affords. All rooms include a balcony and the hotel has a 24 hour fitness centre and heated pool and steam room.
Discovery Parks Geelong is located five minutes from the centre of the city and set alongside the Barwon River. It’s the perfect base for exploring the Great Ocean Road and the nearby beaches. Facilities include a heated indoor pool, BBQ, camp kitchen, laundry, restaurant and playground. Geelong Adventure Park and Fairy Park are also nearby for the kids to enjoy.
Family-owned Riverglen Holiday Park offers a mix of deluxe cottages, powered sites and private ensuites for caravans and tents on the banks of the Barwon River. There are two swimming pools and a jumping pillow for kids, as well as a TV and games room, camp kitchens, and BBQ areas.
For a romantic stay that is as luxurious as it is sustainable, book a weekend at The Nest. The bed and breakfast self-contained “pods” are located on the Bellarine Peninsula set up high above Point Lonsdale with wide-reaching views of the coast in both directions. You’ll feel a million miles from anywhere, but in reality you’re only a few minutes’ drive from the region’s best wineries, distilleries, restaurants and beaches.
In need of a digital detox? The Shearers Quarters is the accommodation for you. Located 30 minutes from Geelong and surrounded in bushland, this rural farm stay is set within a 1920s bluestone shearer’s quarters and caters to large groups of up to 30 people. It is also a completely screen-free zone.
Stay in the Clubhouse at Barwon Heads Golf Club to experience one of the most picturesque golf course locations in the state. There are 19 ensuite rooms available in single, twin or double bedding configuration and while you don’t have to be a golfer to stay here it is the main drawcard for most guests.
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Begin your culinary journey through Geelong at the strip of cafes, delis and restaurants on Pakington Street in Geelong West, followed by the laneway eateries and bars of Malop Street.
King of the Castle is set inside a large warehouse-style dining hall on Pakington Street, serving some of the best coffee in the region with a food menu to match. Try the Thai eggs with roti bread, bacon and halloumi topped with roasted sesame, mint, chilli jam and crispy shallots. They also have a number of vegan and vegetarian options – and a great kids menu.
Soft pastels, neutral tones and timber features work together at 63 Degrees to create a warm and inviting space to serve a bountiful variety of healthy and organic dishes. The Mexican pulled chicken and super grains ‘clean bowl’ kale with herb salad is a great place to start or choose from the extensive vegan menu – including smoothies.
Pistol Pete’s Food n Blues brings a taste of America’s Deep South to Geelong with gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys and Southern Fried chicken on the menu and plenty of live music.
Geelong’s lively Asian-inspired restaurant, Wah Wah Gee, puts the spotlight on community dining. Everything on the menu is designed to share, think platters of bao buns, dumplings, curries and roasted duck. Make your way upstairs to the rooftop bar, Wah Bah, for cocktails overlooking the waterfront on Cunningham Pier.
For a brewery experience that is self-described as a “Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory for beer”, make your way to Little Creatures Geelong. Enjoy a meal inside or outside the converted old mill, take a behind the scenes brewery tour, or time your visit to coincide with their list of annual events.
Pakington Street is home to Geelong’s award-winning Tulip Bar and Restaurant. You’ll find a seasonal menu full of dishes designed to be shared and paired with your choice of wine from the all-Victorian wine list.
Indulge in a five-or eight-course degustation at one of Victoria’s most acclaimed regional restaurants, Igni. The produce-driven menu is constantly changing, dictated by the local produce sourced each day.
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With a plentiful supply of wineries to visit in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, booking a Geelong winery tour is the easiest way to ensure you visit the best in the region. For the Love of Grape offers private group tours, half day tours, or you can book a bus and driver for the day and build your own itinerary. Bellarine Winery Tours will not only deliver you to the best wineries, but also incorporate breweries and a cider house into the tour.
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