For someone that loves the sun as much as I do, winter in Melbourne can be rather depressing. We tend not to do as much in winter, fearing that the bad weather will ruin our plans. But sometimes we just need to escape no matter what. So recently, we booked a weekend away to the Bellarine Peninsula, a popular summer destination for Melbournians.
We knew that going there in winter was taking a risk, especially because we love to spend time outdoors. Inevitably as we drove down there on a Friday night, the rain was pounding on the windscreen, the traffic was horrendous and we thought that we’d made a big mistake.
But Melbourne being Melbourne, the next day we woke up to a beautiful sunny day and the sun hung around for most of the weekend. We had a thoroughly enjoyable stay on the peninsula and it turned out to be the perfect winter escape. Here’s why:
It’s so quiet
In winter, the Bellarine Peninsula is sleepy. Without the sun-seekers who flock there during summer, the peninsula is fairly quiet in the colder months. The prices are lower and you can find decent accommodation at the last minute without spending a fortune. We never had any problems with finding a carpark and if we wanted to eat out without a reservation it was easily done.
The beaches are wild and beautiful
No, you certainly won’t want to go for a swim. The surf is rough in winter and I’m guessing the water is incredibly cold (I wasn’t crazy enough to try). But the beaches remain beautiful and are the best place to head for a nice long walk without a soul in sight. If you’re a surfer, you’ll have a great time there in winter too!
You can spend time visiting the small seaside towns
The Bellarine Peninsula is full of cute seaside towns that are just waiting to be explored. They are all quite close to each other but each has its own unique character.
First, a fishing village and then an important defence post during the first world war, the historical seaside town of Queenscliff is a great place to begin your trip to the Bellarine Peninsula. Queenscliff is famous for its Victorian heritage and its streets are lined with beautiful old buildings such as the Vue Grand Hotel, the library and the post office. It’s also home to many galleries, cafes, vintage shops and some interesting museums.
To learn more about the town’s history, take a guided tour of the Queenscliff fort. You’ll walk around the interior grounds, peep inside the haunted keep, and see many historical artefacts such as the incredible disappearing gun. The fort offers an excellent view out over the very dangerous channel known locally as “The Rip”. You might even get to see a pilot boat heading out to help a visiting container ship navigate one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world.
The only way to visit the fort is to take a tour and it’s also the only way to get up close to the only black lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere and the only working black lighthouse in the world!
To see a more modern side to Queenscliff, head down to the marina. There you can visit the forty-two-metre high observation tower that offers stunning views over Queenscliff, Port Philip, The Rip, Swan Bay and the Mornington Peninsula.
The tiny town of Point Lonsdale is only a short five-minute drive from Queenscliff. It was my favourite place on the peninsula because it’s so pretty. As you can see below, it’s definitely a photographer’s paradise.
Point Lonsdale might be all about the beach but it’s also enjoyable in winter. Take a walk out along the pier and at low tide, walk along the beach to check out the rock pools and the impressive rock formations beneath the lighthouse. You can also take a tour of the lighthouse to learn about the local history.
Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove
Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove are separated by the Barwon River and both have high streets that are full of cafes, restaurants and speciality shops.
If you’re into surfing, grab your board and tackle some of the waves at one of the many beautiful beaches that are nearby.
Clifton Springs is a very sleepy town. Its main attractions are its beautiful coastal views, its steep cliffs and its sandy beaches. Its old pier (or what remains of it) is also a great spot for sunset photos.
You can go on the Bellarine Taste Trail
If you’re a foodie then this is totally worth doing; it involves a lot of eating and drinking! Pick up a Bellarine Taste Trail map from any of the visitor centres on the Peninsula or from your hotel. The trail takes you to forty-seven places that sell local produce. You’ll discover cheeses, olives, chocolates, mussels, wines, ciders and much more. Enjoy!
You can enjoy wine tasting at the many wineries
The Bellarine Peninsula is perfect for growing cool climate wines and it’s one of the largest wine regions in Victoria. There are many wineries to head to for tasting on the Peninsula. One not to be missed is Jack Rabbits Vineyard because not only is their wine fabulous but the views across to Melbourne from above the vines are spectacular.
With its eclectic decor and award-winning wines, Oakdene vineyards is another favourite of ours. At Oakdene, the cellar door is an upside-down house! Their wine is pretty tasty and very affordable too, so be sure to stock up on a few bottles for later!
Or there are breweries and distilleries…
If beer or cider is more your thing, don’t worry, there are many options for you too. Head to the Flying Brick Cider co. for a cider tasting paddle or to the Queenscliff Brewhouse for some craft beer tasting. With over two hundred to choose from, it’s a really tough decision!
The Whiskery in Bellarine is worth checking out for a taste of their very own gin called Teddy & The Fox. What’s better than a Gin and Tonic after a long day of exploring!
Tip: If you are going to try a few wineries, breweries and the distillery, be sure to organise a designated driver. Don’t drink and drive!
Where is the Bellarine Peninsula?
The Bellarine Peninsula is halfway between Melbourne and the world famous Great Ocean Road. It takes an hour and a half to drive there from the CBD but you can also get there by V-line train. We recommend driving if possible so that you can explore every corner of the peninsula at your own pace.
Where to eat on the Bellarine Peninsula?
The best way to start your day is by having an awesome breakfast at the rustic Annie’s Provedore in Barwon Heads. It’s seriously one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had! They also make pretty good coffee too, which for us Melburnians is super important. If you want to purchase some local produce then this is also the place to do it.
Noble Rot Wine Store and bar
Noble Rot Wine Store and Bar sells a great selection of local and imported wines which you can pair with their grazing tapas menu or their platters. The atmosphere is casual and the Noble Rot is extremely popular with locals.
Jack Rabbit vineyard
Jack Rabbit Vineyard offers two dining options, their more casual cafe or their contemporary a la carte restaurant. Both serve amazing food and the best part is that they both offer incredible views across the bay.
Where to stay on the Bellarine Peninsula?
The old Point Lonsdale Guest House is a stone’s throw from the Point Lonsdale lighthouse and its pier. In operation since 1884, this guesthouse offers warm and cosy accommodation, either in the guest house or in the motel right behind. It’s nothing fancy but being able to get out of bed and stroll across the road to watch the sunrise from the pier was a real plus for us. Prices start from $125. Click here for the latest prices.
Use the search box below to find alternative accommodation on the peninsula: