If you’re visiting Victoria or just looking for a great day or weekend away from Melbourne there’s plenty of places to visit just a stone’s throw from the city. Here’s our collection to tackle with your Melbourne Car Rental from the Bellarine Peninsula to the Great Ocean Road…..
Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale
How Far: 105km south-west of Melbourne (90 minutes)
Getting there: Across the West Gate Bridge on the Geelong freeway and continue down the B110 Bellarine Peninsula Highway
Point Lonsdale sits at the head of Port Philip bay on the edge of the Rip, the Bay’s narrow entrance. This quiet unassuming seaside town, has family friendly bayside beaches whilst on the surf back beaches there are amazing rock pools to swim and explore in and miles of empty beach to get lost on. Off-beach there’s plenty to do including tennis courts and a shopping strip with cafes, super-market, surf shop and restaurants.
2 Holiday parks in Point Lonsdale offer casual visitor accommodation. The Royal Caravan Park sits snugly beside the bayside beach and offers powered sites and camping facilities. The Beacon is listed as a Queenscliff Caravan Park despite sitting beside the roundabout immediately adjacent to Point Lonsdale. This multi-awarding winning park is superbly equipped to keep the kids occupied and parents amused. Accommodation on offer includes 2-3 bedroom chalets, powered sites and camping areas. Campervans are very welcome.
A mere 3km further down the road is Queenscliff. The ultimate holiday destination for the well heeled of early Melbourne society, Queenscliff grew up first as a military and fishing centre into an favourite Edwardian summer retreat with it’s wide streets and ferry connecting directly with Melbourne. Today Queenscliff offers fine cuisine, arts and crafts and a newly modernised marina located close to the cross-bay ferry terminal that takes you to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. A 60 metre tower offers commanding views of not only the Rip, the bay and on a clear day across to Melbourne.
Visit the marina when the fishermen return and you’ll likely see 2 giant sting-rays that cruise beneath the boats to pick as the catch is gutted and boxed. Enjoy a coffee or lunch at 360 Restaurant at the base of the tower or browse through the growing number of shops located around the marina.
How Far: 110km south-West of Melbourne (95 minutes)
Getting there: Across the West Gate Bridge down to Geelong on the M1 freeway, follow signage for the C123 Portarlington road.
Sticking with the Bellarine Peninsula another great seaside town with a vibrant working harbour is Portarlington. Home of the Port Philip Bay Mussel industry Portarlington hosts one of Australia’s largest Sea food festivals each January with the Mussel fair. This food fest is supported by a range of food varieties, live music, street performers and amusement fair ensuring that there’s fun for the entire family. Wander down to the harbour and purchase the freshest mussels in Australia straight off the boats.
Come winter time Portarlington turns its attention to music with the National Celtic Festival, Australia’s largest Celtic celebration that’s turning 11 in 2013. With Celtic music talent from around Australia and international acts from Ireland, Scotland and Canada the Portarlington National Festival has grown into the biggest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Check out the Iron Duke Hotel for some great food.
Great Ocean Road
How Far: 125km south-West of Melbourne (105 minutes)
Getting there: Across the West Gate Bridge on the Geelong freeway, jump on the recently opened Geelong by-pass and on to Torquay and Anglesea
There’s so much to take in on a journey down the Great Ocean Road that the only true way to explore and give it justice is over a long weekend. Pickup a rental car in Melbourne and head out across the West Gate bridge on the M1 freeway to Geelong and on to Anglesea and Aireys Inlet, the official gateway and start of the road.
Much has been written on the Great Ocean Road, this 243km journey carved into the cliff tops by returned World War I soldiers that snakes its way from Aireys Inlet down to Port Campbell and on to Warrnambool along some of the most stunning coastline in Australia. So popular is this road with overseas visitors that signs regularly remind drivers to keep to the left along the road.
There’s plenty to see and do. Lorne is one of Victoria’s most popular holiday destinations and for those looking for a quieter Ocean Road adventure it’d best to avoid visiting this seaside resort at Christmas, January and over Easter.
Lorne offers a feast of eateries, for us it’s breakfast at the Arab café with plenty to keep the kids occupied on the sea front with trampolines, whilst 10kms inland there’s the 30 metre Erskine Falls surrounded by a beautiful fern tree filled gully.
Don’t go past Cape Otway lighthouse without a visit. 14kms off the Great Ocean Road beyond Apollo Bay where it cuts inland through the Otway Forest the lighthouse is worth a visit on its own with the added bonus of kolas aplenty sitting in road side trees particularly around the cattle grid close to the lighthouse entrance.
Of course the star attraction along the Great Ocean Road is the 12 Apostles. Set in the Port Campbell National Park these sandstone stacks continue to be one of Australia’s most popular tourist destination despite having suffered much in the way of erosion, the most recent being London Bridge falling down leaving a couple of lucky and surprised New Zealand tourists stranded on the wrong side of the collapse. Whilst there may no longer be 12 Stacks, the 12 Apostles are a photographer’s delight and helicopter rides available at the rear of the visitors centre provide a whole new aspect to shot from. What are less well known are the Fairy Penguins living at the base of the 200 feet cliffs that front the stacks, Arrive at sunset or first light to view these uniquely Australian little creatures and the opportunity to photograph the Apostles in amazing Light.
Port Campbell is just a few kilometres up the road. There’s motel accommodation and holiday parks for those with caravans or who have rented a campervan (check out DriveNow’s latest Melbourne Campervan Hire deals). The local pub serves a great ‘catch of the day’ and sea food platter – hot or cold.
Continue down the coast to Peterborough through the Bay of Island coast Park to Warrnambool or cut inland up to the Princess Highway for your return leg back to Melbourne.