Bellarine Peninsula and The Great Ocean Road

Last week, we had another few days away before Christmas, this time at the RACV Resort at Torquay on the southern coast of Victoria.

Torquay is just one and a half hours drive from Melbourne on the Southern Ocean coast by the western entrance to Port Phillip Bay. It, and nearby towns, are currently booing and are unrecognisable from the small rural townships that they were a few decades ago.

We made a day out of our travel to Torquay by driving down the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay to Sorrento where we caught the ferry across to Queenscliff. These, and other nearby local towns, were given their names in colonial days from original English place names with similar locations and styles. The ferry passes many of the large opulent houses and properties near Portsea at the southern point of the Bay. All of these homes have direct access to the beach, although unlike other countries, the beach is actually public property up to the high tide mark.

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Once the ferry had arrived in Queenstown we stopped at the local bakery for one of their famous scallop pies and looked around this charming old town that has many large buildings that were once boutique hotels and guest houses.
In the early to mid 1900s these were favourite honeymoon and holiday destinations because they were easily accessible by train and steamer. At the entrance to Port Phillip Bay there is a large fortress that once guarded the heads. In the 1960s it was an officer cadet training centre and now houses Australia’s army personnel records (including mine). I have a copy of my records which was provided to me on a CDROM unlike my grandfather’s and father’s records which were still provided on paper.

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The ‘Rip’ or the entrance to Port Phillip Bay is only a little over a kilometre in width. Because such a large area of the Bay is drained through this narrow area every time the tide changes there are very strong currents and a large standing wave across the entrance. (Hence the name ‘The Rip’.) This keeps the pilot service very busy as Melbourne is Australia’s busiest port. At Point Lonsdale, we watched one vessel, a car carrier, leave the heads to head back to Japan for another load of Toyotas. The pilots navigate the ships down the Port Phillip Channel and are picked up by the pilot cutter once they are out to sea. Of course, pilots are taken out to the ships before they enter the bay to be guided up the channel to Port Melbourne.


The RACV resort is open to both members and public guests. It is a very modern building that overlooks the golf course.It is a very ‘spiffy’ place to stay! We had three nights there.

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On one day of our stay, we drove around the Bellarine Peninsular to see some of the places that we hadn’t seem for many years. We have spent a good deal of time overseas in recent years but Covid has forced us to stay home and see some of the interesting places that we have neglected.

Back at Point Lonsdale, I visited the local pier which was built in the 1890s. It was used to rescue people if their boats were wrecked while entering the entrance to the bay. Is now a very popular place for local fishermen. Behind the pier is the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse which has been operating from its position since the late 1800s. The lighthouse structure that exists today was built in 1902 and is positioned 37 metres above sea level. Originally powered by kerosene, the lighthouse now operates by electricity and has been doing so since the mid-1930s.


Another interesting place on the northern side of the Bellarine Peninsula is the little town of Clifton Springs.

Mineral springs were discovered here in 1870 and found to have medical value. It became a popular place for people to come and ‘take the waters’. In the following year, a pleasure ground was established, and Clifton Springs boomed. A pier was built, along with salt water and sulphur baths. Steamers ran excursions from Geelong and other places, and regular coach services were provided by Cobb & Co. from nearby Portarlington and Drysdale. Other buildings, including a boiler house, mineral water bottling plant, kiosk, and manager’s cottage were built. The remains of this entrepreneurial project what became known as ‘Fairy Dell’  can still be seen from a nearby lookout.


The nearby town of St Leonards  is surrounded by salt marsh wildlife reserves which provide habitat for hundreds of birds, including the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot of which there are less than 200 in the wild. Salt marshes are one of the most biologically productive habitats on the planet, rivalling tropical rainforests. I found a pelican that had ‘escaped’ the marsh to the local jetty.It was sitting placidly on a railing and allowed me to get very close to photograph it,


On our second day at Torquay, we drove around the Great Ocean Road to Lorne. This is one of the most scenic coastal rives in the world. The road was first planned towards the end of World War I, when funds were provided for returned soldiers to work on roads in sparsely populated areas in various parts of the state. At that time, the rugged south-west coast of Victoria was accessible only by sea or rough bush track. Construction began on 19 September 1919. It was built by approximately 3,000 returned servicemen as a war memorial for fellow servicemen who had been killed in World War I. An advance survey team progressed through dense wilderness at approximately 3 kilometres a month. Construction was done by hand; using explosives, pick and shovel, wheelbarrows, and some small machinery,



We stopped at many scenic spots along the way.

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We arrived in Lorne at lunch time and found a nice boutique brewery as a placebo eat.  We then drove up into the forest behind the town to see the Erskine falls. The Otway Ranges are infamous for their high rainfall – but the benefit of all that rain is that it provides lush green fern gullies carved out by rivers and waterfalls. Erskine Falls is particularly popular among the waterfalls of the Otways, plunging (or trickling, depending on recent rainfall levels) down a 30-metre drop. 

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We returned back home on the fourth day of this little trip, stopping at the very splendid Geelong Botanic Gardens on the way. They are nicely laid out with garden beds interspersed with areas of lawn. Many of the garden beds were planted with very colourful annual plants. There were dozens of orange and brown butterflies fluttering around some of the yellow flowering ones.



Two of Geelongs famous bollards have been placed near the entrance to the gardens. They are made made from old timber pylons from the demolished Yarra Street pier.


We wanted to visit the waterfront to see some more of these artistic pieces of work. There are over 100 of them, each telling a story about notable people who played a part in Geelong’s history. However on a lovely sunny day, the entire area was busy with people and not a parking spot was to be found. We will just have to go back to Geelong on another day to see these interesting work of art.

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