9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions of Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula
On the western side of Port Phillip Bay, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula sit opposite the Mornington Peninsula. Equally as gentrified, but much quieter, the Bellarine Peninsula is a blend of history with a modern twist. As the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, several days are recommended to take in the hidden gems of the region.
As Victoria's second largest city, Geelong is a bustling port, a hub of industry, and a peaceful home to more than 150,000 residents. Settled in the early 1800s, like other Victorian towns, Geelong has city streets dominated by grand architecture. Of particular note is the beautiful Christ Church, the oldest Anglican Church in Victoria, St. Peter's and St. Paul's Catholic Church, and Customs House. The Town Hall is Victoria's oldest surviving wooden building, and the magnificent National Wool Museum traces the history of Australia riding on the "sheep's back". In its heyday, wool was auctioned in the historic wool stores before being shipped all over the world. Geelong's waterfront is a myriad of color and movement with the ever popular Eastern Beach Swimming Enclosure, excellent seafood restaurants, and the beautiful Promenade walk.
2 Geelong Carousel
One for the kids and kids at heart is the meticulously restored steam-driven Carousel centrally located on Geelong's waterfront. Originally built in 1892, this hand-crafted wooden carousel is a rare sight. More than 40 layers of paint was scraped off each horse to reveal the original color scheme, and it's said that more than 300 hours of work went into restoring every horse. Large glass windows offer a spectacular sea view whilst riding one of the well-loved steeds to the sound of carnival music. With free entry to the Carousel building (tickets to ride are $3.50), it's an opportunity to relax and reminisce.
Address: 1 Eastern Beach Rd, Geelong
3 Bayside Bollards
Fun-filled and whimsical, the walk along the waterfront precinct is punctuated by local characters and the history of Geelong carved out of wood. Once the pylons of one of Geelong's piers, local artist, Jan Mitchell, painstakingly created an entire exhibition that spans the length of the Promenade. From a depiction of a group of lifesavers reeling in a buoy to a military brass band pumping out a tune, each installation brings a smile to people of all ages. The bollard people have become the signature of Geelong as one of the top tourist attractions in the area.
4 Barwon Heads
As the setting for the popular Australian long-running television series, Sea Change, Barwon Heads constantly welcomes new residents and visitors. The sweeping 13th Beach is renowned for its surf, and the Barwon Heads Golf Club offers visitors a memorable round among the sand dunes overlooking the rolling waves. The mouth of the Barwon River is sheltered and a great spot for a picnic, and the small charming town is full of atmosphere. Across the bridge spanning the Barwon River lies Ocean Grove, an equally popular holiday destination, particularly during the summer months.
5 Geelong Vintage Market
With more than 60 stalls and 2,000 square meters of undercover space, the Geelong Vintage Market is carving out a name for quality antiques and just plain quirky stuff. This trip down memory lane is just as good for window shopping as it is for serious collectors. The café makes for an easy lunch stop, and there are also several other second hand dealers and other shops in the immediate area.
Address: 287/301 Melbourne Road Geelong
Handsome old hotels reminiscent of past grandeur dominate the elegant township of Queenscliff. Although not as popular as Sorrento, its counterpart on the opposite side of Port Phillip Bay, this small Victorian town offers something even more appealing. Filled with art galleries, classy restaurants, and excellent shops, it's easy to while away the hours. Queenscliff Fort dates back to 1860 and was instrumental in the defense of the Victorian coastline.
Today, it serves as an excellent museum and is considered one of the best preserved forts in Australia. The black lighthouse at the fort is one of only a few unpainted in the entire world. Full of mystique, in the same area, Buckley's Cave is where escaped convict, William Buckley, lived for many years among the local indigenous people. This is where the local phrase "you have Buckley's chance" comes from.
7 Queenscliff Vintage Trains
Both steam and diesel trains operate from the Bellarine Railway station in Queenscliff on most weekends. With experiences such as The Blues Train, Heritage Rides, and A Day out with Thomas, there is something for all train enthusiasts. There is even an opportunity to experience driving one of the locomotives. In addition to riding the trains, the station houses a unique collection of rolling stock.
8 Point Lonsdale
A few kilometers along from Queenscliff, the sleepy township of Point Lonsdale is a world within a world. Many Melburnians escape for weekends to this quiet paradise. The lighthouse provides a perfect spot to watch vessels negotiate the Rip, the two-kilometer stretch of water through the Port Phillip Bay Heads. Every pleasure and industrial ship has to pass through this narrow crossing, and Point Lonsdale provides the best view. The old pier is also regarded as a prime vantage point for photographers, especially at dawn.
9 Bellarine Surf Beaches
Catching waves at one of the many beaches on the Bellarine Peninsula, gateway to the Great Ocean Road, is a wonderful way to enjoy a favorite sport of the locals. Kilometers of pristine sand and perfect waves extend from Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove onto Torquay, the official start of the Great Ocean Road. Pack a picnic, take a coastal walk, or do a spot of bird watching, the scenery will take your breath away.
Where to Stay in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula for Sightseeing
We recommend these unique hotels, apartments, and guesthouses in Geelong and the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula:
- Starhaven Retreat: luxury bed-and-breakfast, wonderful hosts, bay views, stylish design, floor-to-ceiling windows, jet-stream swim spa and sauna, private cinema.
- Novotel Geelong: 4-star Geelong hotel, Eastern Beach views, comfortable rooms, waterfront restaurant, lovely indoor pool.
- BIG4 Beacon Resort: affordable Queenscliff resort, apartments with kitchenettes, games room, kids' club, indoor pool, day spa.
- Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong: budget-friendly Geelong hotel, city center, water views, modern decor, small outdoor pool.