Go for a Drive on the Bellarine Peninsula
The coastline of Port Phillip Bay stretches over 260 kilometres, and encapsulates a large number of the states premier holiday destinations. Busy beaches, secluded inlets, islands, marine reserves, and rich natural habitats add to the colour and attraction of this coast- a coast that is home to a lifetime of holiday opportunities. The Bellarine Peninsula forms the western bank of the Bay, and historically has been a playground for the city folk from Melbourne or Geelong. For years they have kept coming back to the cosy, attractive towns and villages that all lie in relatively close proximity to each other, and to the stunning natural features of the Peninsula. Its the perfect region to take a driving holiday through, as short and stress free stints behind the wheel are rewarded with relaxing bouts of idleness and indulgence in the different resort towns.

When driving there from Melbourne you will reach the second largest city in the state, Geelong, after 74 kilometres. As a large commercial centre, Geelong has all the modern amenities you would expect of a big city, refreshingly combined with a charming seaside vibe that arises from the close proximity of the city to the foreshore. Eastern Beach has a popular swimming enclosure, but even more popular is the newly revamped waterfront there, where you can enjoy a meal and a drink in one of the fine restaurants, or simply go for a saunter along the boardwalk. Other attractions in Geelong include the National Wool Museum, the Old Geelong Gaol and the Ford Discovery Centre. Meandering through the town is the Barwon River, a base for many recreational activities and centrepiece of a number of green and grassy parks.

Geelong is seen as the gateway to the Bellarine, so is a good place to kick off your tour from. When you move on from there you will likely head to Drysdale, the nearest town which is just 21 kilometres away. This is a charming old world settlement with plenty to see and do despite its small size. Departing from here is the Bellarine Peninsula Railway, which takes passengers on scenic trips to Queenscliff in a vintage steam locomotive. This 90 minute round trip takes in some spectacular views, including ones of Swan Bay, the Bellarine Hills and Phillip Bay. Right next door to Drysdale is Clifton Springs, which were named after mineral springs found nearby. Believed to have healing powers, these springs made the town a huge attraction in the old days. However the springs were closed down for fear of landslides for a while, but after extensive construction they are now safe again and opened to the public in 2007.

Possibly the most famous town on the Peninsula, and definitely one of the most interesting, is Queenscliff. Despite its popularity as a seaside resort, Queenscliff has managed to retain a sense of sophistication and style. Its characterised by impressive Victorian-style architecture and its two military style fortresses that guard the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. Wandering through the tree-lined streets and past the old churches and quaint fisherman's cottages is like stepping back in time, and a visit to the 125 year old Vue Grand Hotel only serves to heighten this feeling. Queenscliff seamlessly blends the past and the present, and is a thriving centre of live music performances. One of the most popular outings here is the 'Blues Train', a live blues party held in one of the vintage trains that go down the Bellarine Peninsula Railway. Party with 200 other people to the soulful sounds of a blues band while rhythmically making your way past some of the most beautiful sights in Australia!

Another popular seaside resort that has maintained a peaceful and serene atmosphere is Point Lonsdale. Just around the corner from Queenscliff, its situated on the outcrop which forms the western head of Port Phillip Bay. Its ideal location means it is close to a sheltered beach on the Bay side, Front Beach, which is ideal for swimming and fishing, and a surf beach, Back Beach, which is exposed to the waves on the ocean side. It thus has more variety in available activities than some of the other towns, which has added to its popularity. Its also a beautiful spot with some amazing sights - The Point Lonsdale Lighthouse provides panoramic views of the area, including those of the surrounding towns. The rocks below the lighthouse are also popular amongst fishermen, with salmon, barracouta and mullet regularly caught there.

So as you can see there are no shortage of destinations for your touring holiday around the Bellarine Peninsula. Along the way be sure to stop in at some of the cellar doors in the region- it has a solid wine producing reputation. Accommodation options abound, ranging from cosy cottages to farmstay to caravan parks, so pick according to your taste and budget. In the summer months advance booking is advisable however. A rental car is the ideal way to explore the Peninsula in comfort and style!

Gavin Wyatt