18 August, 2022

Seven-day Great Ocean Road & Bellarine Peninsula road trip

Explore Victoria’s most scenic drive, plus Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, on this week-long itinerary.

A Great Ocean Road journey isn’t only about its most famous attraction, The 12 Apostles. They are joined by other dramatic coastal rock formations, plus heritage lighthouses, cruisy seaside towns, mighty forest and unexpected volcanic landscape. There and back, dive into two neighbouring coastal regions’ adventure and sophisticated pleasures.

Queenscliff Brewhouse. Photo: Geelong & The Bellarine.

Day 1: Bellarine Peninsula

Begin your journey on the right track with a Bellarine Peninsula highlight: lunch on The Q Train. Australia’s only restaurant train departs from either Queenscliff or Drysdale, both less than 40 kilometres’ drive from Geelong and Spirit of Tasmania Quay – Spirit of Tasmania’s new Victorian home opening 23 October. The Q Train offers a sophisticated five-course degustation menu featuring quality ingredients and wines from the region. Its refurbished mid-20th century carriages include sleeper cars converted to first class private dining compartments for two.

Spend the rest of the day strolling around Queenscliff, whose grand Victorian-era hotels recall the time when holidaymakers arrived by paddlesteamer en masse from Melbourne. Now its more quiet charms make this town an ideal place to slow down, perhaps visiting the Maritime Museum or galleries including Salt and Seaview. Ponder yummy things at Saltbush Fine Foods and Rolling Pin Pies & Cakes before dinner at Queenscliff Brewhouse. This old pub has seriously raised its game with everything from a whisky lounge and local produce store to beer and gin made on site.

Bellarine Peninsula. Photo: Ben Savage

Day 2: Bellarine Peninsula & coast

Get out and about on the peninsula this morning. Will you head to the beach at Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove or Barwon Heads? Take the plunge with Sea All Dolphin Swims? Go scuba diving, preview the Great Ocean Road from on high with Skydive Australia, or stay grounded at one of the region’s many golf courses? Psst! The secluded Queenscliff Golf Club has magnificent sea views, especially from the sixth hole.

Pop into some of the Bellarine region’s cellar doors, including a relaxed, scenic lunch at Scotchmans Hill or Basils Farm, and other tasty places like Bellarine Distillery, Wildings Pantry Essentials and Annie’s Providore. Leave room for dinner though. On long, sunny days, watch boats come and go while enjoying the seafood-leaning menu at Queenscliff Harbour’s stylish 360Q restaurant. On shorter, cooler days, dine at Queenscliff’s Victorian-era hotel still operating as such, Vue Grand.

Cape Otway Lighthouse. Photo: Great Ocean Road Tourism

Day 3: Great Ocean Road

From Queenscliff it’s 40 kilometres west to Torquay, the place where surfing was born in Australia and the Great Ocean Road begins. Surf at legendary Bells Beach or hit the Surf Coast Walk, which also starts in this laidback village. Enjoy an easy section such as the three-kilometre clifftop walk overlooking the ocean surf breaks between Point Danger and Bird Rock. Get beautiful, breezy lifestyle inspiration at shops like Torquay Merchant and Jarvis + Jarvis, and have lunch at Pholklore or Bomboras.

There are several villages along the 243-kilometre Great Ocean Road you’ll want to stop at for wild ocean views, beach walks and bites. Especially the first half: try Anglesea’s 4 Kings cafe; MoVida’s tapas or The Bottle of Milk’s burgers in Lorne; and Aireys Inlet’s pub. In Apollo Bay, drinks and dinner are sorted at Great Ocean Road Brewhouse.

Great Otway Park. Photo: Robert Blackburn

Day 4: Great Otway National Park

Great Otway National Park starts way back near Torquay (a town all about beginnings!), but just past Apollo Bay this wilderness forces the Great Ocean Road inland for a while. That’s your cue to take a walk among untouched coastline, ferny gullies, towering trees and waterfalls. Shorter walks range from 35 minutes to 3.5 hours, plus there are picnic areas and Cape Otway lighthouse, built in 1848. Feel the need for speed? Otway Fly Treetop Adventures is just outside the park.

Soon after the Great Ocean Road rejoins the sea, the dramatic coastal rock formations you’ve been waiting for start to appear: Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto, Gibson Steps, Bay of Islands and London Arch. Most famous of all is that iconic group of limestone stacks just off shore, The 12 Apostles. They’re an amazing sight, especially at sunset, so get ready for some Instagram gold. If you’re keen, check out the various scenic flight options.

Continue along the Great Ocean Road to Warnambool, about 70 kilometres from The 12 Apostles. The largest town on what’s called the Shipwreck Coast, its main attraction is Flagstaff Hill open-air maritime museum, centred around the 1858 lighthouse. History comes alive during the night-time sound and light show, which highlights some among hundreds of shipwrecks along this notorious coastline.

Budj Bim. Photo: Michael Turtle

Day 5: Budj Bim National Park

Head inland to a vast region of volcanic plains dotted with crater lakes and conical peaks. Start with Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, which is nestled in an extinct volcano (15 kilometres from Warnambool), or Budj Bim National Park (80 kilometres). Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its Aboriginal cultural values, this area of lava canals and caves, a crater lake and lush bushland reveals the Gunditjmara people’s long history of eel farming.

Drive east along the Princes Highway, pausing in towns built on 19th century agricultural prosperity such as Camperdown, Colac and Winchelsea. Foodies should prioritise a long lunch in Birregurra at Brae, one of Australia’s most acclaimed restaurants.

In Geelong (about three hours’ drive from Budj Bim), toast Victoria’s second city at the Little Creatures or White Rabbit brewpubs, before dinner at Asian-inspired Sumi or The Continental, whose menu leans toward Europe.

Geelong Art Gallery. Photo: Geelong & The Bellarine.

Day 6: Geelong

Explore Geelong’s waterfront, starting with breakfast at The Beach House who do café classics right with seaside views to boot. Then stroll among the precinct’s popular public art, including Barcode Fountain and more than 100 colourful sculpted bollards. Representing local figures from the past including a footy player and 1930s bathing beauties, some of the bollards come alive with the Activate Geelong augmented reality app. Other waterfront attractions include Geelong Botanic Gardens and The Carousel, an 1890s hand-carved wooden wonder little kids adore.

At Geelong Art Gallery, established in 1896, works by Australian artists including Frederick McCubbin, Russell Drysdale and Fred Williams are among the highlights. You can’t miss the gallery’s architecturally astonishing young next-door neighbour: Geelong Library and Heritage Centre has a partially deconstructed dome and soaring pleated-glass façade.

Be tempted at shops like Wen & Ware Living and Eclectica, which offers whimsical gifts, homewares and fashion, and Moorabool Antique Galleries. Then indulge in pre-dinner cocktails at The 18th Amendment Bar before indulging a whole lot more at Geelong’s most celebrated restaurant, Igni.

Geelong and the Bellarine. Photo: Geelong and the Bellarine

Day 7: Geelong

Explore Geelong’s industrial heritage and how it’s being reborn, starting at the National Wool Museum. Housed in an 1872 woolstore, it includes a huge, rare 1910 Axminster loom that makes runner carpet to order for visitors. What a stunning souvenir from this UNESCO City of Design! At the redeveloped Federal Mills site, check out Anther distillery for tastings, tipples and sales, Popcultcha Collector Gallery, and Federal Woollen Mill Emporium’s vintage and antique treasures.

On Geelong’s outskirts, overlooking the Barwon River, the Fyansford Paper Mills is a 19th century industrial site recently transformed into a picturesque cultural precinct. Stroll the grounds, explore artists’ studios and galleries like The Papermill Gallery, and raise a glass to your travelling companions over a long lunch at The Door Gallery Cafe or Provenance winery’s cellar door-restaurant.

Find out more about Spirit of Tasmania's new Victorian home, Spirit of Tasmania Quay, opening 23 October.


Information included in this blog is correct at the time of publishing. Please contact individual operators for further information.

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