Top 10 Things to Do in Geelong and the Bellarine, VIC inner banner

Top 10 Things to Do in Geelong and the Bellarine, VIC

Geelong's reinvention from industrial heartland to creative, cultural, and culinary hub is all but complete. Hit the ground running with this handy holiday to-do list.
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong. Image: Visit Victoria

Top Oz Tours offers a Bellarine Peninsula wine tour from Melbourne. You can book the tour here.

While Victoria’s better known tourist hotspots tend to attract most of the accolades, Geelong’s star is on the rise.

With an enviable position on Corio Bay in Port Phillip (just an hour by road or train from Melbourne), a beautiful foreshore precinct, and a revamped civic centre, there’s plenty happening inside this bustling regional city. Outside, Geelong is the gateway to the magnificent Bellarine Peninsula — home to charming holiday towns, stunning beaches, and a quickly evolving gourmet food scene. Cool climate wines do well here, and several craft brewers have set up shop.

Here are ten of the best things to do in Geelong and the Bellarine.


Melbourne

Victoria Tours, Activities & Attractions


1. Explore the Waterfront and Bollard Trail

Geelong and the Bellarine have similar weather patterns to Melbourne, although the region generally receives more rain. It’s worth packing for every eventuality, as Melbourne’s infamous ‘four seasons in one day’ adage also applies here! A bright sunny day is your cue to get out and enjoy everything the splendid Geelong Waterfront has to offer. This vibrant recreational precinct just goes from strength to strength. Here you’ll find restaurants and cafes, stunning parks and gardens, plenty of public art, and of course, fabulous views of Corio Bay.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Geelong Waterfront. Image: Andrew Stevenson

One of the icons of Geelong — and a giant art installation in its own right — is the collection of colourfully painted bollards lining the foreshore. They were created in the 1990s by local artist Jan Mitchell (1940-2008), who repurposed the timber piles from a demolished pier. Each one depicts a person of note from Geelong’s history. There are more than one hundred of the bollards positioned along the Geelong waterfront (stretching from Limeburners Point to Rippleside Beach), and following the Bollard Trail is a must-do.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong: Follow the Bollard Trail. Image: Alamy

2. See an art exhibition

The centre of Geelong has undergone a major transformation in recent years — including the creation of a cultural precinct. At its heart is the state-of-the-art Geelong Gallery, which holds works by many of Australia’s most renowned artists. Look for pieces by Sidney Nolan, Margaret Olley, Russell Drysdale, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, and famed Indigenous artist Albert Namatjira. Geelong Gallery also hosts top-level touring exhibitions, such as the prestigious Archibald Prize.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong: Boom Gallery. Image: Andrew Stevenson

Art lovers should also swing by the excellent Boom Gallery, which stages exhibitions predominantly by local creatives. In a second venue across the road, it’s possible to watch resident artists at work.

Situated on McKillop Street — just a few blocks south of Geelong Gallery — young travellers will love MoPA: the Museum of Play and Art. Housed in what is one of the city’s oldest buildings, this acclaimed children’s museum features a wide range of immersive exhibits and experiences — all of which will keep your tribe busy colour coding for hours.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Image: Museum of Play and Art

3. Learn some local history

Geelong was established in the mid 1800s at the head of Victoria’s fast-growing farming country. The city grew to become the indisputable wool capital of Australia, and later a manufacturing hub. Discover how the wool industry shaped the city by paying a visit to the National Wool Museum, which is housed in an original 1870s woolstore and auction house. From here, railway tracks once led straight to the end of Cunningham Pier — where fast clipper ships waited to rush the wool to Europe’s clamorous markets.

The work involved in getting wool from the sheep’s back to market was laborious and backbreaking, and the museum’s two permanent galleries are dedicated to the growing and production of wool. The museum also boasts one of only two remaining Axminster carpet looms in the world. This fascinating contraption revolutionised the carpet industry. It utilised a card system to create patterns — a very early example of the principles of applied computing!

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong. Image: The Bellarine Railway

A short drive from Geelong, the historic borough of Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula became a popular seaside resort in the nineteenth century. Its position at the top of Port Phillip Bay meant Queenscliff was seen as critical to Victoria’s defences. Fort Queenscliff was built and a railway constructed to connect the fort to Geelong. Today Fort Queenscliff is a museum and The Bellarine Railway operates heritage train rides between Queenscliff and Drysdale. Regular visits from Thomas the Tank Engine delight children.

4. Delve into the diverse dining scene

There’s a buzz across the region about food and wine, and Geelong has plenty of great places to eat. Head for Caruggi — a trattoria-style eatery serving delicious northern Italian fare. The extensive menu includes pizzas, pastas, and steaks. The service is friendly and fast, which makes Caruggi a great option for a quick bite to eat.

Celebrated Alma offers contemporary Australian dining inspired by South American flavours, and is another must-try. Everything on the menu is designed to be shared. While South American cuisine isn’t known for being vegetarian friendly, there are some very memorable meat-free menu options, including the roast potatoes and baked pumpkin with goat curd, chick peas and chilli jam. The comprehensive wine list features South American drops (such as Argentinian malbecs), and local options — including a pinot gris from Baie Wines on the Bellarine.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong: Dine at Wah Wah Gee. Image: Visit Victoria

Located on the Cunningham Pier, Wah Wah Gee does a fresh, feisty, and fun Asian-inspired menu that everyone will love. Relax on the pier and enjoy delicious dishes from all corners of Asia. What’s not to love?

5. Dine on board The Q Train

There are plenty of ‘wow’ culinary moments to be had outside the city, and The Q Train — the Bellarine Peninsula’s fine dining restaurant on rails — is certainly one of them. The train is operated under charter by The Bellarine Railway and the carriages were formerly part of Queensland’s Sunlander service (which ran between Brisbane and Cairns). During the standard three-hour return trip from Drysdale to Queenscliff, you’ll enjoy a sumptuous five-course degustation lunch or dinner — all the while soaking up gorgeous views of the aptly named Swan Bay (with its population of black swans). Upgrade to First Class to dine in a private cabin and sip on wines matched with your meal.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong: The Q Train. Image: Andrew Stevenson

6. Do a wine tour

The Bellarine Taste Trail is a great resource for navigating your way around the more than fifty wineries, breweries, distilleries, and providores in operation across the Bellarine Peninsula. But with all that liquid temptation, it’s a good idea to let someone else do the driving. Andy’s Trails is one of the region’s newest tour operators and their small-group wine, craft beer, and gin tour is a lot of fun. We tagged along for the ride to Basils Farm, Oakdene Winery, Flying Brick Cider CompanyYes said the Seal Wines, and Jack Rabbit Vineyard. Tastings at each venue are included in the cost of the tour.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Image: Oakdene Winery

7. Taste a range of top local drops and flavours

It’s also possible to taste-test the best of the Bellarine in one convenient location. The Queenscliff Brewhouse showcases a wide range of local libations in their recently renovated tasting room, while the bistro offers tasty pub-style meals.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Image: Queenscliff Brewhouse

8. Get caffeinated

With Aussie coffee-capital Melbourne just up the road, it comes as no surprise that Geelong and the Bellarine have enough great cafes to support a month-long brekky binge. Start in Queenscliff at Piknik — located in a converted petrol station. It has quickly become a favourite with locals. On the lovely harbour, a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal, 360 Q serves up great food with a view. Barwon Heads’ At the Heads juts out over the water and occupies probably the pick of Peninsula cafe locations. Back in Geelong, Wharf Shed Cafe on the foreshore has a lovely outlook over the bay from its al fresco tables.

9. Enjoy some me-time

Take some time out between attractions to kick back and relax. Some of the loveliest spots for a quiet stroll include the Geelong foreshore and the Victorian-era Geelong Botanic Gardens — where several trees are listed on the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Register of Significant Trees. Other tranquil options are the foreshore between Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff, and the edge of Swan Bay. The more energetic visitor might like to cycle the Bellarine Rail Trail.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Ten of the best things to do in Geelong: Point Lonsdale

If you need to cool off, head for the enclosed sea baths at Geelong’s Eastern Beach (which are framed by an Art Deco-era boardwalk). Relaxing on the beach with a good book is the done thing at Point Lonsdale, Barwon Heads, and Thirteenth Beach.

10. Shop for antiques and bric-a-brac

Geelong offers plenty of standard shopping opportunities, but there are some much more entertaining retail experiences to be had. Anyone with a passion for vintage fashion (or homewares just like nana used to own) will love the Amazing Mill Markets. With thousands of retro items on offer, the market certainly lives up to its ‘amazing’ moniker.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Geelong Vintage Markets. Image: Visit Victoria

And the rummaging doesn’t end there! Geelong Vintage Market also stocks an extraordinary array of collectables — spread throughout its 3,500-square-metre showroom.

Where to stay in Geelong

Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong

Positioned just metres from the Geelong Waterfront and Bollard Trail, Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong makes an ideal base for exploring everything the region has to offer — and is a lovely spot to return to each day to soak up the foreshore’s glowing afternoon ambience. There are 68 spacious rooms and suites, including a selection of apartments (which make self-catering a breeze). Many have magnificent bay views.

Ten of the best things to do in Geelong
Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong. Image: Choice Hotels

The hotel has a heated outdoor pool and sauna, and offers complimentary bike hire. Breakfast is served daily, and can be enjoyed overlooking the water.

The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Greater Geelong and Choice Hotels.

For more travel inspiration, visit www.visitgeelongbellarine.com.au.

Browse our range of Geelong tours and experiences here.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Geelong? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Louise Reynolds

About the writer

Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love for France, its language, and pretty much all things French. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America, and New Zealand. She also has a passion for her home state of Victoria and loves exploring its diverse regions.

 

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