15 must-do experiences in Geelong & The Bellarine

This coastal haven has something for every wanderer seeking a unique and unforgettable getaway.

There’s an undeniable allure to the embrace of Geelong and The Bellarine.

A lesser-known secret amongst locals is that this coastal haven flourishes all year round, offering a plethora of captivating experiences that will delight both inquisitive travellers and laid-back locals alike. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or a serene escape, this guide to the must-do experiences in this region during August and September has got you covered.

Ride the Carousel

Wandering the waterfront with the family? A must-experience is a merry-go-round ride that’s more than just a simple whirl.

The Carousel is an Armitage-Herschell portable steam driven, hand-carved wooden carousel which was constructed circa 1892 and is one of only 200 in operation around the world. Geelong’s historic carousel boasts meticulously restored animals, charming music, and an atmosphere that transports you back in time. Gather your friends and family for a spin filled with laughter and nostalgia.

Swim at Eastern Beach

Ready to feel alive? While dipping into the ocean might sound like a chilling feat, the serene beauty of Eastern Beach is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. The invigorating waters will give you the ultimate adrenaline rush and the sweeping views of Corio Bay provide a stunning backdrop for your aquatic escape. Plus there’s a fully fenced children’s pool, art deco boardwalk, floating islands and many magnificent diving towers!

Don’t forget to bring your camera, and if you’re not ready to leave, pop on into the Pavillion for a post-swim coffee.

Surf at 13th Beach

For those chasing a true adrenaline fix, the roaring waves of 13th Beach offer the perfect playground.

A popular destination for surfers in the know, this 4.5-kilometre stretch of picturesque coastline west of Barwon Heads is a must-visit. Readily accessible from the main road and patrolled without massive crowds, the beach provides varied conditions to suit both learners and advanced surfers with a lovely wide stretch of sand spreads between looming sand dunes and crashing waves. Beyond that, Thirteenth is also ideal for a refreshing walk, jog, sandcastle-making or ball play with the dog when you need a break from surfing.

Gather your gear and take on the challenge of conquering the surging waters – a quintessential Aussie adventure.

All aboard The Blues Train

All aboard the rhythmic journey of The Blues Train – where live music meets vintage rail travel.

Providing a unique way to enjoy live music on the Bellarine, Australia’s longest-running blues music venue boasts an experience that combines four carefully selected Australian Blues acts, a Bellarine Railway heritage train, dinner and drinks. An experience like none other, it’s a beauty, to say the least. And we’re not the only ones who think so either. The Teskey Brothers, C W Stoneking, Dallas Frasca and Ash Grunwald are just some of the big names that started their careers ridin’ these rails.

Go on, sip on local brews, sway to soulful tunes, and absorb the charming landscapes passing by your window.

Dive into the ocean with Sea All Dolphin Swims

For those that love sea life, you’d be stoked to know you don’t need to travel far to fulfil your dream of swimming with the dolphins! Located in Queenscliff, the award-winning Sea All Dolphin Swims is a family-owned business that offers a truly unique marine experience on Port Phillip Bay.

It’ll involve you jumping on a boat, taking a trip around the bay, and swimming with some stunning Seals, dolphins and lots more at the world-renown diving and snorkelling site Pope’s Eye (Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park). This’ll be one of the coolest experiences you’ll have.

Encounter playful dolphins and discover the captivating underwater world, making memories that will linger long.

Indulge in a gastronomic railroad journey on The Q Train

Satisfy your palate aboard The Q Train, indulging in gourmet courses while being mesmerised by the region’s ever-changing panorama.

A dining experience like no other, this award-winning restaurant travels along the historic Bellarine Railway between Drysdale and Queenscliff, serving up an iconic degustation menu and showcasing the best that The Bellarine and surrounds have to offer. With experience being equally as important as the food on this three-hour journey, The Q Train really does promise an immersive dining experience like no other.

Dive into a darkened history with the Geelong Gaol Museum

Delve into the eerie history of the Geelong Gaol Museum, where stories of convicts and life behind bars come alive. A spine-tingling experience that provides an insight into the region’s intriguing past.

Since its closure as a gaol in 1991 (it opened in 1853!), this heritage-listed penitentiary has been used as the location of a number of films and television series before transforming into The Geelong Gaol Museum. Visitors can experience the brutal conditions prisoners endured over its 138-year history along with displays telling the history of this three-story bluestone behemoth. Step back in history and view the exhibitions of Colonial Prisons, the Hulks, Stitched Up and Saga Behind the Armour to name a few.

Pedal through picturesque landscapes with the Bellarine Rail Trail

For the explorers on two wheels, the Bellarine Rail Trail offers a picturesque path to pedal along. It’s a 35 kilometre trail that links South Geelong to Queenscliff and is super popular with weekend recreational cyclists as the length one way makes for a decent ride with the added bonus of excellent views of the surrounding farmland and coast.

Starting at the showgrounds on the outskirts of Geelong, the gentle climb towards the half-way point of Drysdale is rewarded with fine views back over Geelong and north to Corio Bay and the You Yangs. From the restored Drysdale railway station, the trail runs alongside the historic Bellarine Peninsula Railway, with vintage trains operating regularly. It’s an easy ride through areas rich in wildflowers and native bird life to Queenscliff.

There’s also plenty of stops for coffee and local fare along the way.

An enchanting all-ages adventure into Fairy Park

Fairytales come to life at Fairy Park, a whimsical wonderland that transcends age. Dedicated to tales, myths and legends, the park features more than 30 scenes housed in awe-inspiring castles, cottages and caves set among beautifully manicured gardens which guests will be able to explore once again.

Stories include all the classics that we know and love, ranging from Red Riding Hood to Rumplestiltskin. Visitors can witness Cinderella at the Grand Ball, see Jack in his beanstalk, join the Teddy Bears at their Picnic and hear the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, among many others. There’s even a medieval Camelot Playground that children can explore secret passages, climb daring towers and meet mythical creatures, and the park features one of Australia’s largest collections of rare Marklin (gauge1) model trains. Even if you’re not into the tales and myths, the breathtaking 360 degree panoramic views of Mt Anakie’s extinct volcano and the rich landscape that can be seen from the summit is reason enough to go check it out.

Visit a Local Market for community vibes and handcrafted delights

Embrace the community spirit and vibrant creativity of the region by visiting one of the local markets. From fresh produce to handmade crafts, these markets offer a sensory feast and a chance to connect with the locals who make the area special.

There’s special monthly markets like the Piccadilly Market, or the many farmers markets worth checking out on Sundays across the region.

Indulge in a fromage fantasy at Splatters Cheese Bar

Splatters are a sushi-train stye cheese venue where you can indulge your taste buds with a unique culinary journey at Geelong’s very own ‘cheese worshipping’ restaurant, bar and Australia’s very first ‘cheese train’.

Like a sushi train, cheese lovers will be able to simply take their pick from a tonne of delicious cheese varieties direct from the 20m conveyor belt, offering a premiere grazing experience like no other. Here the menu also boasts a variety of hot cheese-based dishes and there are a bunch of different offerings of Australian artisan cheese to choose from – and yes, there’s even vegan cheese on offer!

There are also cocktails, local wines and beers available to complement your cheese feast, plus a whole menu dedicated to seasonal cheese delights (think raclette, baked brie, and fondue).

Take in the panoramic views with a hike through You Yangs Regional Park

Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the You Yangs Regional Park – a haven for nature enthusiasts. Situated only 22km North of Geelong the 340-metre high granite peaks of the You Yangs prove themselves to be one of the best winter warming activities in the region.

With magnificent views and birdlife, you’ll find a diverse range of landscape and scenery. Towering with sparse native trees and eucalypts, you may even spot a koala and other wildlife along your voyage. As part of an Aboriginal cultural landscape, ensure to respect the deep connection of the Wadawurrung People and feel the culture of the traditional owners of the land.

Hot tip: the hike is incredible at dawn or dusk so you can see the stunning golden sky over the entire bay. If you’re with the kids, we recommend also checking out this You Yangs Big Rock walk.

Watch a Geelong Cats Game

Immerse yourself in the fervour of AFL and AFLW by catching a Geelong Cats game at the iconic GMHBA Stadium. Join the local crowd as they passionately support their team and revel in the electric atmosphere that only a live match can offer. Don’t forget to pick up some jam donuts!

The AFL season runs from March to September and the AFLW season runs from September to December, so there are games happening nearly all year round.

Explore the city’s Street Art

Geelong is bringing their A-game to street art in recent times. It’s an absolute treasure trove of unique and vibrant street art to explore, whether you’re in the CBD, on Pakington Street or out in North Geelong – there’s something for everyone.

Venture out across the region to marvel at some of the most impressive large-scale murals. We’ve come up with a non-exhaustive list of some stellar works you can see right now. Don’t forget to take some snaps!

Whether you’re seeking adventure, culture, or simply the chance to unwind, Geelong and The Bellarine offer an escape that transcends expectations. From nostalgia-inducing carousels to gastronomic train journeys, this region seamlessly fuses iconic attractions with seasonal charm. So, round up your crew and explore this captivating coastal wonderland.

This article was originally published on Forte Magazine.

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