Uncover Bellarine Peninsula’s Hidden Gems

Point Lonsdale Bellarine Peninsula

There are many ways to spend a weekend visiting Bellarine Peninsula, an 85-minute drive southwest of Melbourne and 40 minutes from Avalon. You can tuck into mussels in Portarlington, snorkel at St Leonards Pier and watch boats pass through The Heads, a narrow waterway connecting the Bass Strait to the bay of Port Phillip.

Or you can spend your time in the area doing as I did, walking along the beach to Point Lonsdale Lighthouse, one of three lighthouses on the peninsula, dining at winery restaurants and browsing boutiques and antique shops on Hesse Street.

However you choose to spend your time in Bellarine Peninsula, you’ll no doubt experience its one-main-drag seaside villages, towns with a rich maritime history dating from the 1800s and wineries specialising in cool-climate drops.

The Bellarine Peninsula covers an area that starts at Geelong and runs to Torquay, encompassing Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads, Portarlington, Indented Heads, St Leonards and Clifton Springs.

Bellarine Peninsula Victoria
Image: Getty Images

I spent the weekend in Queenscliff, staying at the luxury holiday house Sagres Queenscliff. Ahead is an overview of what we did, alongside a few suggestions for other things to do and see, and where to stay in the area.

This guide is not exhaustive — you could spend a month in Bellarine Peninsula doing a different thing or trying a new restaurant each day — but the suggestions below should give you a good feel of the area in just 48 hours.

What to Do in Bellarine Peninsula

Visit Wineries and Cellar Doors

In the 1880s, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula was the largest grape-growing region in Victoria. Since then it’s been reinvented, with winemakers taking advantage of its soil similar to the area between France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, thanks to its cool maritime climate.

Today, the area has 40-odd cellar doors open for tastings, many with water views, including Basils Farm, Jack Rabbit Vineyard and Scotchmans Hill. If you’re not keen on drinking, many of the wineries have cafés and restaurants you can dine at, while looking out at the vineyards.

Basils Farm Bellarine Peninsula
Image: Basils Farm

Do a Coastal Walk

The Bellarine Peninsula has no less than three lighthouses, Point Lonsdale Lighthouse at one top of the peninsula and a 5km walk away, Queenscliff Black Lighthouse and Queenscliff White Lighthouse at another tip. Do as the locals do and walk to the lighthouses, on the beach or on coastal pathways like the Point Lonsdale Coastal Trail.

Browse Boutique Shops and Vintage Stores

You won’t find hardly any, if at all, big brand fashion or home shops in the Bellarine Peninsula. The area has a dozen or so boutique shops and op-shops, and on weekends, you can shop for produce and locally-made goods at markets, including Belmont Sunday Market, Portarlington Sunday Market and Piccadilly Market.

The main shopping street in Queenscliff, where I stayed, is Hesse Street, with shops including Frankie Say Relax, The Bookshop at Queenscliff and Vintage and Collectables On Hesse.

Where to Eat in Bellarine Peninsula

Arlo Wine Bar

Opened in late 2023, Arlo Wine Bar in Portarlington has the same owners as Pier Street Café, also in the area. It serves seasonal dishes, designed to be shared, alongside wines from the local area and the world. Dine inside at one of a handful of tables or outside, sitting on a stool facing the ocean.

Queenscliff General Store

A former milk bar, Queenscliff General Store Café reopened as a café in July 2015. It serves a seasonal breakfast and lunch menu and freshly baked goods you can dine on streetside, under a blue-and-white striped umbrella, or inside at one of five-odd tables. Expect housemade granola, brekkie burger and smashed avo on the menu.

Queenscliff General Store
Image: Instagram @queenscliff_generalstore

PikNik Café

PikNik Café is housed in a converted roadhouse café, the only establishment on its stretch of Queenscliff Road. It serves breakfast and lunch, made mostly with ingredients from local producers and suppliers, and coffee from Allpress Espresso. All its sourdough, pastries and cakes are made on-site.

Basils Farm

Basils Farm is a restaurant and wedding venue in Swan Bay. Dine on a modern Australian menu inside or, in winter, at a table next to a firepit, overlooking the property’s vineyards and gardens. Menu highlights include a Farmer’s Lunch of charcuterie meats with bread from Alchemy Bakehouse, slow-cooked pork belly and beef tenderloin.

Where to Stay in Bellarine Peninsula

Bellarine Peninsula has two-person and group home B&Bs and holiday homes, campgrounds and caravan parks, and boutique hotels, including Portarlington Grand Hotel, The Pines Barwon Heads and Lon Retreat and Spa.

I stayed at holiday home Sagres Queenscliff, which sleeps up to 10 people in five bedrooms and has Nuns Beach on its doorstep. The home was renovated in 2022 and the Mediterranean coastline inspired its décor. It features three floors, a master bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the sea, and two outdoor decks.

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