The Bellarine Peninsula - What to See and Do.

For the Bellarine Peninsula, think lush farmlands, beautiful beaches, nature walks and views over the ocean. In addition, long lunches at wine estates, luxury accommodation and quaint coastal towns all add to the atmosphere.  There is so much to see and do, it’s no wonder it’s become a getaway destination for people from all over Victoria.  

Is Geelong considered part of the Bellarine Peninsula ?

Consider Geelong as the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula.  The Bellarine starts on the outskirts of Geelong.

Which are the main towns on the Bellarine ?

The Bellarine is an area that includes :

  • Clifton Springs,
  • Drysdale,
  • Bellarine,
  • Portarlington,
  • Indented Head,
  • St Leonards,
  • Queenscliff,
  • Point Lonsdale,
  • Ocean Grove,
  • Barwon Heads, and
  • Wallington.

How did the Bellarine get it's name ?

Named after the Aboriginal word ‘balla’, the Bellarine Peninsula is rich in heritage. ‘Balla’ means elbow or resting the elbow. The indigenous Wathaurong tribe lived here long before European settlement began in the mid 1800’s.

What makes the Bellarine so special ?

Surrounded by Port Philip, Corio Bay and the Bass Strait, the Bellarine is a Peninsula south west of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. Top restaurants, wine estates, cafes, clean beaches, nature walks and all types of accommodation are available. Particularly, day trippers and longer term visitors have so much to choose from.  In addition, every one of it’s coastal towns has its own personality.  This makes for interesting visits. 

How do you access the Bellarine Peninsula ?

The Bellarine is approximately an hour’s drive from Melbourne by car or by train. Conveniently, it can also be accessed by ferry from the Mornington Peninsula.

Where does the Bellarine Rail Trail start and finish ?

The Bellarine Rail Trail is a recreational trail of 35 km’s.  Geelong to Queenscliff and return, is about 70km’s and on a bike approximately 4-5 hours to finish (depending on how often you stop). Don’t forget to leave time either in Drysdale or Queenscliff to relax with a meal and rehydrate. It’s a great trail – we loved it.  In any event, take it in stages if you feel 35kms one way is too much.  With a few uphills, downhills, and lots of straight parts with gorgeous views, it’s a diverse and interesting ride.

South Geelong Station - Start of the Rail Trail

This cycling trail stards at the South Geelong Station.  It then weaves through the eastern suburbs of Geelong and onto the Bellarine Peninsula.  Following that, it continues through Leopold and Drysdale, terminating at the Queenscliff Railway Station.  Overall, it’s a glorious ride.  Some steep inclines, mostly flat and with a wide trail to ride, it is suitable for all types of fitness levels and ages. Walk it with family, friends and your pets, or you can jog or cycle it or even ride your horses along parts of it.  We saw all types on the day we took to the trail. 
Leaving Geelong, there are quite a few roads to cross over, but as it is sign-posted, we didn’t have any problems finding our way.  Further out of course, you will cycle through farm lands.  The Canola flowers were smiling for us in the sunshine in September, bright yellow fields as far as the eye can see.  In addition, you will also pass a chicken farm, with Maremma dogs as guard dogs, keeping the foxes and any other intruders at bay.  Cycling into Queenscliff along the waters edge is magical.  

Queenscliff Station - Finish of the Rail Trail

The trail finishes at the Queenscliff station.  You can either return the same way via Drysdale or take the train back to Geelong South Station. Alternatively, you can hop on the ferry at Queenscliff and visit Sorrento and Portsea.

History of the Bellarine Rail Trail

Constructed to service the new fort at Queenscliff, the original railway opened in 1879.  Shortly afterwards, the local business community saw the advantages of moving supplies via rail. It closed in 1976, a few years short of its centenary. Which is a pity, however the upgraded rail trail is an excellent tourism outcome for both residents and visitors to the area.
Bellarine Rail Trail - cycling, running, horse riding, walking - Geelong, Drysdale, Queenscliff

Canola flowers along the Bellarine Rail Trail in September – Spectacular

Clifton Springs

Clifton Springs is growing in popularity as it benefits from it’s proximity to Geelong. In 1870, the discovery of mineral springs close to the beach was significant, and installation of a bottling plant took place in1875.  Further infrastructure included a railway built from Geelong to Queenscliff.  In addition, a jetty in 1890 to welcome passengers from bay steamers.

Recently, there has been an increase in demand for properties in this Bellarine town.


Curlewis is a new suburb, that has taken off for young families looking for a laid-back lifestyle. Based on the Bellarine, it’s so close to Geelong and the Great Ocean Road. Overall, the population is mostly made up of couples with children, who can enjoy the close proximity to the beautiful beaches nearby. Torquay Beaches are not too far away plus all the other wonderful aspects of possible day trips along the Great Ocean Road


Drysdale is a rural town between Geelong and Torquay.  It’s a bustling area that is growing fast.  It is particularly attractive for young families.  New housing estates are being developed, thereby creating many new opportunities.

On the 3rd Sunday of the month from October through until May each year, is the Drysdale Community Market. Find it at the Recreation Reserve next to the Drysdale Football Ground in Duke Street.

Chicken Farm - local eggs - Maremma Guard Dog - Drysdale - Bellarine Rail Trail

Hens looking content, while being watched on by Maremma Guard Dogs – outside Drysdale


Bellarine is a rural expanse, with beautiful wine estates and restaurants to match.  It’s also a well known horse breeding and training area.


Portarlington is an historical coastal town on the Bellarine. In the mid 1800’s, Portarlington was a major player in the wheat industry.  Supporting this industry, was a steam powered flour mill built in 1857.  Later a brickworks factory was built in 1870, showing other industries that were dominant at that time.

A popular spot for a day trip from either Geelong (31 km’s) or the Surf Coast, Portarlington is a beautiful bayside town.  Shops line the main street called Newcombe Street, and the view is out over Port Philip Bay and  towards the You Yangs mountains. In addition, the Port Phillip Ferries are very active and can take you through to the Melbourne Docklands every day.  Sheltered swimming beaches make it ideal conditions to swim with younger members of the family.  The Portarlington Pier is a popular walk – but the day we were there it was very windy and cold, so take jackets just in case. There are plenty of grassy areas for picnics.  Nearer the Pier, is a playground to ensure the younger members of the family keep active and entertained.

Portarlington - Festivals and Markets

Portarlington’s Lion Club runs a popular market where you can find products made on the Bellarine.


In addition, the Portarlington Mussel Festival opens in January, every year.  Known for their locally grown Australian Blue Mussels, the farmers harvest their catch daily to serve the local community. 


 The Portarlington Celtic Festival welcomes over 18,000 visitors to it’s 4 day event in June, held in different venues around the town.  It’s a celebration of the Celtic culture offering food and drink, workshops, courses, exhibitions etc to all.

The Portarlington Esplanade provides a beautiful tourist drive.  It runs alongside the Portarlington foreshore.  Then it continues to the neighbouring beach towns of Indented Head and St Leonards.

Portarlington on the Bellarine Peninsula - walking along the Pier with the Ferry in the background.

Portarlington on the Bellarine Peninsula – walking along the Pier with the Ferry in the background.

Indented Head

Indented Head is a quiet coastal town. It’s population increases over the summer holidays.  Visitors seek opportunities to fish, boat, camp, watch birds and go on nature and coastal walks.  Overall, the town is very flat. The highest point is ‘The Esplanade’ corner with beautiful views over Half Moon Bay. Back in 1925, the retired Port Phillip paddle steamer, Ozone, was sunk at Indented Head to form a breakwater.  Visible from the main beach is the wreck of the Ozone paddle wheel.  Consequently, it is regularly the subject of many beautiful photos on annual Calendars. 

St Leonards

Looking for a restful and relaxing holiday and time out from busy schedules ?  St Leanards is a quiet beach front town.  It is picturesque, with local hotels, restaurants, grassy areas to picnic and a pier to walk along. Furthermore, fishing, boating and swimming are all options available along the shoreline.


Queenscliff (also known as Queenscliffe) is an historic maritime community.  It’s perched on a small spit of land in the south-eastern most corner of the Bellarine Peninsula.  In this town, history is being preserved beautifully. Settled in the 1853, and established as the main street of the town, is Hesse Street. Heritage homes line the wide streets, with many of the buildings and houses boasting turrets and endless iron work. Historically, the town changed from a humble fishing village into a holiday destination when the railway was extended into the Bellarine in 1879.  This enabled many from Melbourne to arrive by train and enjoy annual holidays on the Peninsula. 


Wander along the streets, window shop, eat ice-cream or have a light lunch alfresco. Experience local galleries and interesting shopping boutiques. Afterwards, relax with a drink at one of the many local pubs available, and don’t forget there is also a microbrewery.  



The Queenscliff Market is a popular one, and operates on the last Sunday of the month from September through to May each year. Overall, as Queenscliff is only a 90 minute drive from Melbourne, it’s an easy drive for a day trip and perfect for visitors. 

Cycling into Queenscliff from the Bellarine Rail Trail.

Cycling into Queenscliff from the Bellarine Rail Trail.

Point Lonsdale

On the south eastern side of the Bellarine Peninsula, sits the town of Point Lonsdale. This is where the calm waters of Port Philip Bay meet the choppy waves of Bass Strait. The other side of the Bay entrance is Portsea, on the Mornington Peninsula. Cruise ships and Tankers need to manoeuvre their way through this entrance to the Bay, which can be very tricky at times.  At the tip of Point Lonsdale, is a lighthouse that was built in 1902. 


For locals and visitors, a walking and cycling track extends all the way along the foreshore from Point Lonsdale to Queenscliff. And the Point Lonsdale Pier is a popular spot for fishing.

Ocean Grove

Ocean Grove is the largest town on the Bellarine.  In the early 1950’s, many post war European migrants settled there – a mix of Dutch, Polish, German and Yugoslavian residents set up home.  It continues to be a sought after area, so new real estate areas are being developed all the time. 

Ocean Grove is a holiday town, with a huge influx of visitors during school holidays and long weekends, although more and more visitors are becoming permanent residents.  Christmas time is busy.  It has a mix of shops that you can wander through – surf lifestyle options as well as those shops for home and family.  Restaurants and cafes are everywhere and well frequented. Ocean Grove is separated from another coastal town, Barwon Heads by the meandering Barwon River. The Ocean Grove surf beach is popular, and it has an active surf lifesaving community. Blue Waters Lake and the Begola Wetlands offer great birdlife viewing, with walking tracks enabling you to get up close and personal.

Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads are important coastal areas where the endangered bird species, the Hooded Plover, breeds. The newly born chicks are very vulnerable to dogs, cats, gulls and horses as they don’t fly until they are 5 weeks old. In addition, these birds need plenty of space to live and breed, so please make sure your dog is on a lead when walking on the beaches (unless it’s an off lead beach). These beach-nesting birds lay their eggs in shallow sand from August to March, so you are asked to look out for them, steer clear of any nests and ensure you follow local dog regulations.

In 2009, an artificial dive reef was opened to divers a few kilometres off Ocean Grove.  It is the former HMAS Canberra that was scuttled, and now available for all to enjoy. 

Barwon Heads

The town of Barwon Heads resides alongside the Barwon River. Walkers, cyclists, families with prams and dogs, visit the Barwon bridge.  In addition, you can swim in the river, paddle, kayak, paddle board (SUP) and fish.

Barwon Heads and Horse Racing

This area is well known within the horse racing establishment. It offers many opportunities for experienced thoroughbred horse trainers.  Thirteenth Beach is a dedicated horse beach and is west of Barwon Heads.  This beach is a very long stretch, making it ideal for horses to train on. Its sandy surface is perfect for horses recovering from injuries and for those who need a softer surface, as opposed to the usual racing on a hard race track.  The effects of the salty water on injuries plus the lull of the waves, tend to relax the horses.

Golf Course at Barwon Heads

Barwon Heads is a well known area for golfing enthusiasts.  The name of Thirteenth Beach comes from the close proximity of the beach to the thirteenth hole of the Barwon Heads Golf Course.

The Local Environment

Lake Connewarre Wildlife Reserve is on the lower reaches of the Barwon River, on the Bellarine Peninsula.  It’s approximately 8km south east of Geelong.  You can fish, canoe, windsurf and take nature walks at the Lake.  It is home to many diverse bird species, including the orange-bellied parrot and cormorants.

Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary is near the mouth of the Barwon River. It protects 17 hectares of marine and reef sea life. It’s a destination perfect for walking and swimming, snorkelling, diving, and surfing.


Wallington is inland on the Bellarine Peninsula.  This means that there is lush farm lands and undulating hills, as far as the eye can see. Boutique vineyards and cellar doors attract many visitors.  There are award winning Bellarine Peninsula wines, luxury accommodation and restaurants. Lomas Orchards is open almost daily for you to pick your own strawberries. They also offer home delivery of both fruit and vegies.


The Wallington Strawberry Fair opens in May each year.  It is an important fundraiser for the local primary school.

Your feedback

There is so much to see and do as a local, along the Great Ocean Road. Do you have any additional info to provide on events you want to attend or you’ve participated in ?  We also would love any feedback on the info we have provided.  Constructive feedback is always welcome. 

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