Find the original version of this article here on Forte Magazine.
Words by Director Steve McKeag
For some unknowing Melbournians, tucked no further than an hour’s drive or ferry ride away from the CBD, is the Bellarine Peninsula – an underrated gem for the perfect day-trip getaway.
Teaming with diverse hospitality and cultural offerings, a vibrant community heart, and unrivalled connectivity to some of Victoria’s best beaches, my frequent work trips to and from Geelong unsurprisingly encouraged my eventual move to the Bellarine Peninsula.
Hand-picked and heartfelt by locals, we’ve gathered an ensemble of jewels for a modest peek into the offerings of the Bellarine Peninsula the next time you’re looking for an activity to appease your weekend restlessness.
Check out the best wineries, distilleries, breweries and hot spots to visit on the Bellarine here.
Initiate your voyage into the Bellarine by cruising into lunch at some of the region’s most iconic pubs. Offering a rustic ambience, the Sawyers Arms Tavern — known endearingly by locals as ‘Clats’ — is one of Geelong’s oldest and most-loved. For $65, indulge in a refreshing cocktail and three courses from a menu comprising modern Aussie pub meals, underpinned by fresh seasonal and local produce.
Similarly a local’s favourite is ‘The Diggers’ or Gold Diggers Arms, well known for its delicious meals, welcoming atmosphere and warm service.
Walk off the pub feast with a stroll along the sandy shores and enjoy a pick-me-up coffee with some of the most stunning vistas afforded by our location on the peninsula. Take in panoramic views of the Bass Strait at Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club or look out towards the Surf Coast on the foreshore of Torquay at Third Wave Kiosk.
Immerse in the heart of Geelong’s vibrant cultural district at the Little Malop Street precinct. Anchored by striking architecture and public art installations, wander through the futuristic Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, trawl over Geelong Gallery’s significant collection of over 6,000 Australian and international works, or grab tickets for a show at the award-winning Geelong Arts Centre.
Aperitivo o’clock means exploring the evolving food and beverage scene at West End Precinct. Enjoy a sophisticated and carefully curated wine list at The Arborist, a wine bar built around a grand European Ash Tree, or enjoy a range of cocktails at the Chicago speakeasy-inspired 18th Amendment Bar.
Cap off the day with another taste of the Bellarine’s culinary delights and fine wines while soaking in the breathtaking sunset views. At the distinguished Jack Rabbit Restaurant with beautiful views of the bay and the You Yang ranges, indulge in an experimental yet thoughtful blend of flavours paired with award-winning favourites from its vineyard. Osteria Fiorenza in Geelong offers a cosy and intimate option for authentic Italian cuisine, duly accompanied by a considered list of imported wines from all over Italy.
Though it’s not an option for spontaneous dining, Moonah’s uniquely authentic rural Australian cuisine, farm-to-table approach, and picturesque setting makes booking ahead worth a mention! Serving a modern interpretation of French classics, the 12-seat fine dining restaurant is nestled between Barwon Heads and Torquay, overlooking a natural billabong and the lush Minya Winery.
Staying the night
Ahead of a day spent enjoying the food, wine and sights of the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula, you may consider booking a night’s stay at Portarlington Grand Hotel. Layered with restored historical and vintage elements, alongside contemporary twists and elegant references to the beachside locale, our recent refurbishment of the hotel has restored the Grand Lady to modern standards of comfort and spaciousness. Sink into the grand elegance of its 18 boutique rooms and marvel at the finer details carefully restored by our team of collaborators. In the morning, you’ll be feeling bright and refreshed for the short journey back to the big smoke.
The guide was written by new local resident Steve McKeag with the help of Bellarine locals.
Director at Technē Architecture + Interior Design, Steve’s role extends from business development and building client relationships to the management of culture within the tight-knit practice. Having led the works on significant hospitality projects like The Graham Hotel and the Prahran Hotel, Steve highly values the power of aligned purpose, coordinated collaboration, and clear communication to create the right design solutions and best possible design outcomes.