Victoria – Geelong – Peninsula pleasures

Rediscover Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula

By Winsor Dobbin
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Bellarine Estate on the Bellarine Peninsula

Bellarine Estate on the Bellarine Peninsula

The Bollard Trail along the Geelong waterfront
Pettavel, near Geelong, Victoria
Loam restaurant on the Bellarine Peninsula
Clyde Park vineyard, Moorabool Valley, near Geelong

 

Geelong has reinvented itself. The gateway to the Great Ocean Road is an unashamedly working class city that has soared into the new decade with a sparkling waterfront area dotted with restaurants, cafés and hotels.

Victoria’s second city also boasts a thriving café strip and is surrounded by the vineyards of the Surf Coast, the Moorabool Valley and the Bellarine Peninsula. There are also several friendly little beach resorts on its doorstep.

Names like Bannockburn, Scotchmans Hill and Lethbridge are known to wine lovers around the country, while smaller wineries like Curlewis, Austins, Brown Magpie, Clyde Park, Leura Park Estate, Bellarine Estate, Oakdene, Ponda Estate and St Regis all have growing reputations.

Pettavel is home to one of Victoria’s most popular winery eateries, while Shadowfax, back towards Werribee, has a terrific cellar door.

Some pre-planning might pay dividends as several of the best wineries, including By Farr, Curlewis and Bannockburn, are open by appointment only.

 

Stop 1 – Breakfast at Fuel Coffee + Food

A couple of blocks back from Western Beach in a post-industrial space, Fuel has built a reputation for serving the best coffee in Geelong. The menu is small, but the toasted panninis and many pastries are sure to find favour.

Open: Monday-Friday 7.30am-4pm
Shed 2, Gore Place, Geelong
Phone 0423 224 808

 

Stop 2 – Wine tasting in the Moorabool Valley

Situated to the north and west of Geelong, the Moorabool Valley wineries range from Shadowfax outside Werribee, across to Lethbridge, Moorabool Ridge and Del Rios of Mount Anakie to the north of Bannockburn. Clyde Park is open seven days and has a popular bistro open weekends and public holidays, while Lethbridge is open Wednesday-Sunday. Austins is only open on the first Sunday of each month.

You must taste: Lethbridge makes outstanding chardonnays and rieslings; Shadowfax has a range of wines from both the Geelong region and Heathcote while Austins make very good pinot noirs.

 

Stop 3 – Lunch at Loam

This newcomer at Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula has attracted a lot of attention; thanks largely to the talent of young chef Aaron Turner, who specialises in local produce and heirloom vegetables grown on site. Turner has worked in top restaurants in Europe and is surrounded by a keen young team producing exciting, inventive cuisine using goats' cheese from Drysdale, free-range eggs from Geelong and organic Port Phillip mussels. With views over the olive groves to Corio Bay this is a great spot to kick back and relax. There is no menu - diners are invited to look over a list of ingredients, advise if there if there is anything they would prefer not to eat, and then sit back and enjoy however many courses they have selected. Two-courses cost $35 and seven courses $90 with dishes on offer depending entirely on what is fresh on any given day. There’s also an impressive wine list.

Open: Lunch: Thursday-Sunday noon-3pm. Dinner: Friday-Saturday from 6:30pm
650 Andersons Road, Drysdale
Phone (03) 5251 1101

 

Stop 4 – Walk around Portarlington

Visiting this little seaside resort is a delightful step back in time. If you wander down to the small harbour, you can buy bags of mussels direct from a trawler before enjoying a beer or glass of wine on the deck at the Ol’ Duke, a beautifully refurbished pub dating to 1855. Indulge on Harding is a small, friendly café/restaurant overlooking Portarlington Pier that serves fresh local produce at very reasonable prices.

 

Stop 5 – Wine tasting on the Bellarine Peninsula

This lush Geelong sub-region was not planted with grapes until 1979 but now more than 140 hectares are under vine and the Bellarine has come of age. Scotchmans Hill cellar door, open daily, overlooks a vineyard and is a great spot for tastings, along with Bellarine Estate, where you can taste both wine and Bellarine Brewing Co. beers, and Oakdene, one of the region’s rising stars with an impressive cellar door. Smaller wineries worth visiting (at weekends only), include Leura Park Estate and Ponda Estate. The former Kilgour Estate is now owned by David and Lyndsay Sharp, who also own Leura Park, and has been renamed Jack Rabbit Vineyard. It’s a great spot for lunch and has fantastic views.

You must taste: Scotchmans Hill makes noteworthy chardonnays and pinots; Oakdene sauvignon blancs and shirazes are reliably good. Check out Leura Park’s whites and the very good range at Bellarine Estate.

 

Stop 6 – Pre-dinner drink at The Edge

The busy, buzzy Edge bar and restaurant in the Edgewater building is hugely popular with locals and is part-owned by Geelong AFL star Cameron Ling. There is live music every Thursday and Friday 5pm-8pm and Sunday evenings 4pm-7pm.

Open: Daily
6-8 Eastern Beach, Geelong
Phone (03) 5222 2666

 

Stop 7 – Dinner at Baveras

There is a real buzz about this new restaurant at Cunningham Pier on the Geelong foreshore. A fine diner with views across Corio Bay, it benefits from the presence of chef Matt Dempsey – who earned a hat at Pettavel and is a former Electrolux Young Chef of the Year. The food is seasonal, regional and modern – ticking all the right boxes. With two courses for $55 and three for $65 you won’t break the budget – and you’ll also find a savvy wine list with a good mix of local and Old World offerings.

Open: Lunch: Wednesday-Friday and Sunday noon-3pm. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday from 6pm
Cunningham Pier, 10 Western Beach Foreshore Road
Phone (03) 5222 6377

 

Stop 8 – Overnight at Aaron Lee Apartments

These luxury waterfront apartments are part of a refurbished 1880s mansion, overlooking Geelong’s Western Beach and are just a short stroll from all the major attractions, including Cunningham Pier, the Wool Museum and top-notch restaurants. Large one- or two-bedroom apartments in the main house are well equipped and suitable for long stays, while there are several studio apartments in a newer wing. Stylish but affordable.

Open: Daily
30 Western Beach, Geelong
Phone (03) 5222 7733

 

Stop Nine – Torquay and the Great Ocean Road

Head out of town via a couple of the Surf Coast wineries; Pettavel and tiny St Regis are both open seven days, while Bellbrae Estate and Brown Magpie are open weekends and public holidays but daily over the summer period. The Great Ocean Road then takes you out past Torquay, Bells Beach and Anglesea to one of the world’s great ocean drives and the spectacular Otway Ranges.

 

Don’t miss:

  • A leisurely lunch at Jack Rabbit Vineyard, which is open seven days and also does dinner on Friday and Saturdays
  • The 11th annual Toast to the Coast food and wine festival to be held over the weekend of November 3rd and 4th (Melbourne Cup Weekend)
  • A walk along the Geelong waterfront with its renovated carousel and decorated Bollard Trail
  • The Geelong Art Gallery, which contains works by Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts
  • A beer at the Forrest Brewing Company microbrewery inland from the Great Ocean Road
  • Visiting Queenscliff and browsing through its many gourmet food and antique stores
  • Enjoying a seafood platter and great views at At The Heads restaurant in Barwon Heads
  • Visiting the historic Old Geelong Gaol
  • Pizzas, platters, salt and pepper calamari (and often live music) on weekends at Leura Park Estate
  • Dining in a converted church at Apostle in Queenscliff

 

 

Regions

  • Bellarine Peninsula (VIC)
  • Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula (VIC)
  • Great Ocean Road (VIC)
  • Otways (VIC)

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