May 10, 2023
6 mins Read
Despite being Victoria’s second largest city, incredible Geelong experiences can sometimes get lost in Melbourne’s shadow. Yet this chameleon of a city is too cool to care. From world-class galleries and Art Deco architecture to wide open beaches, raw coastline and edgy gourmet food, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula have come of age as some of the most exciting weekend destinations in Australia.
If you’re after a bit of culture, rooftop bars and “dress up for” fine dining, Little Malop Street precinct is the melting pot of flavours you’re looking for. Here you’ll find the award-winning Geelong Gallery – as one of the largest and oldest regional galleries in Australia, its over 6000 works of art are well worth a visit. The incredible new Geelong Arts Centre is scheduled to open later this year.
While you’ll find some amazing global dishes nearby (for example, steamed dumplings at Drunken Dumpling Bar, moussaka at Mavs Greek Restaurant and truffle ramen at Sober Ramen), don’t miss the stunning new rooftop bar at The Arborist for an evening cocktail.
For more dining, head to the Geelong Waterfront, which runs along the north-facing shores of Corio Bay. Explore the historic wharf, a restored 19th-century carousel and the 1930s swimming baths, then check out the huge choice of restaurants.
The busy Sailors’ Rest is kid-friendly and open for brunch and dinner, while Wharf Shed showcases the bay in its oversized windows as it serves up family favourites such as fresh Pacific oysters. For something a little more relaxed, Edge Geelong has stunning views, live music and a pub-style seasonally inspired menu, and you’ll find Asian fusion in the Art Deco Pavilion Geelong at Eastern Beach.
The city is also a convenient place to stay, with bars, cafes and cultural institutions easily reached on foot. Apart from the soon-to-open Quest Geelong Central, which will offer premium self-contained apartments, and Holiday Inn & Suites Geelong, where kids eat free, other options include the luxury boutique R Hotel Geelong, with expansive views of Austin Park, Corio Bay and the CBD, and the popular Novotel Geelong, which overlooks the bay.
Just a short drive from Geelong’s busy cafes is Barwon Heads and the surf side of the Bellarine Peninsula. Bring your stand-up paddleboard, surfboard or sandboard to the 4.5-kilometre-long Thirteenth Beach (named after the 13th hole at the nearby Barwon Heads Golf Club) and enjoy the shallows, waves and sand dunes.
Afterwards, head to Hitchcock Avenue for a bite at Annie’s Provedore & Produce Store (try the grazing box), or drop into the former fire station at BeachHouse Barwon Heads for a BeachHouse burger.
Nearby, beautifully preserved Queenscliff has been a seaside destination for over 100 years. Now, you’ll find work from local artists at Salt Contemporary Art, a history of the area at Queenscliffe Maritime Museum, and dolphin swimming and fishing charters leaving from Queenscliff Harbour. Searoad Ferries run return services to the Mornington Peninsula, and train enthusiasts will enjoy the wonderful heritage Bellarine Railway, as well as the rolling, progressive live music party The Blues Train.
Don’t miss Queenscliff Brewhouse, which has been serving up strong liquids since 1878 (they also brew beer and distil gin on site), and the upmarket 360Q, which serves fresh seafood with a side of coastal views.
On the other side of the Bellarine lies relaxing Portarlington, with views across to the Melbourne skyline on a clear day. You’ll find great coffee on the main street but most people come to try the fresh Australian blue mussels; book with Portarlington Mussel Tours to harvest your own before learning the best way to cook and eat them.
Stop by the well-preserved Portarlington Grand Hotel, built in 1888, for luxe accommodation and gourmet meals (try the signature lambs fry), or wander down to family-friendly Pier Street, alongside the Portarlington Harbour, for fresh seafood.
The Bellarine Peninsula is home to some of the state’s best wineries. Luckily, with local favourites Terindah Estate, Scotchmans Hill, Bellarine Estate, Bennetts on Bellarine and Jack Rabbit Vineyard all within a couple of minutes of each other, a day exploring the wineries is easily enjoyed from Geelong (though have a designated driver!).
For sweeping views over the Moorabool Valley (on the other side of Geelong), as well as award-winning wines and wood-fired pizzas, you can’t go past Clyde Park Vineyard. Nearby Lethbridge Wines offers organic drops created from vineyards originally planted in 1874.
Pull up a picnic rug or grab an outdoor table at Austin’s Wines, then try the wine and build your own cheese boards (try the Le Conquerant camembert from Normandy). Local chefs take over the kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights, so you can dine as the sun sets on the vineyards.
If clear spirits are more your style, visit The Whiskery, where they handcraft their own gin, including the signature small-batch Teddy & the Fox Bellarine Gin.
Over in Wallington, Oakdene Winery features art throughout the grounds, as well as luxury accommodation, and a cellar door that is in an (almost) upside down house. Nearby, award-winning McGlashan’s Wallington Estate has gorgeously designed eco villas overlooking the vines, and you’ll find boutique gin and craft beer onsite at FarmDog Brewing.
Get your gourmet on with tasty offerings from Lonsdale Tomato Farm, 100 per cent sourdough baked goods (including melt-in-one-bite croissants) from Ket Baker, and fresh blueberries and strawberries from Tuckerberry Hill, where you can go berry picking and then relax in their cafe with a fresh Brew Berry Beer.
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Wow, I didn’t know Geelong had all this going on.
Really impressed. I’m visiting ASAP.