Victoria’s second-largest city punches well above its weight.

Geelong has a thriving arts scene and easy access to world-class surf breaks, but you can’t talk about the place without mentioning the Ford Motor Company. The automotive giant set up here in 1925 and for the better part of the century, the city’s fortunes rose and fell in tandem with the company’s. At its peak in 1985, the factory employed more than 4000 people.

The factory closed in 2016, and Geelong has been reinventing itself since. As Melbourne’s small bar legislation of 1994 kicked off a wave of urban renewal, Geelong’s (relatively) affordable real estate and dearth of handsome old Gold Rush-era buildings are driving an influx of new cafes, restaurants and bars. The internationally recognised Igni is the most famous member of this new guard, but there’s much, much more to explore.

Cafes

Eddy and Wills

Cafe

Simple, no-frills food served with a smile.

Little Green Corner

Cafe

The cafe letting local gardens shape the menu.

Bear and Bean

Cafe

An inclusive, comfortable family affair.

Box Office

Cafe

A converted shipping container with a good mix of "naughty and nice" dishes.

63 Degrees Highton

Cafe

A Geelong cafe icon with a second location in the CBD.

63 Degrees Geelong West

Cafe

Colourful, healthy food that’s practically made for Instagram.

Coffee Cartel Brew Bar

Cafe

Cafe by day, coffee classroom by night.

Born & Bread Bakehouse

Cafe

For rustic breads backed by three generations of expertise.

The Geelong West Social Club

Cafe

Simple stuff done right.

The Pickers Union

Cafe

Bringing substance and style to Geelong’s industrial estate.

A Spot for Joe

Cafe

A deliberately hidden gem.

Analogue Academy

Cafe

Coffee, cake, hotdogs and cameras.

Uncle Jack's

Cafe

Relaxed vibes, fresh food and friendly faces make this seaside cafe a winner.

Boom Gallery

Cafe

An artists’ haven in the back streets.

King of the Castle

Cafe

Brunch like a royal in a converted warehouse.

House Iberia

Cafe

A Spanish deli with tapas, pinchos and an all-day breakfast menu.

Restaurants

Mr Umami’s

Restaurant

Asian fusion with a dedication to from-scratch cooking.

Zigfrids

Restaurant

Communal Middle Eastern fare in a spacious warehouse.

Tulip

Restaurant

Versatile dining with a social and environmental conscience.

Wah Wah Gee

Restaurant

Mixes the best of Asian flavours in one loud, colourful package.

Bistrot Plume

Restaurant

A taste of France in residential Geelong.

Igni

Restaurant

Flame licks just about every dish at this tiny 28-seat restaurant, which is among the finest in Australia.

Boss Burger Co Geelong West

Restaurant

Generous American-style burgers, hot dogs and shakes.

The Hot Chicken Project

Restaurant

Roll in for red-hot Nashville-style fried chicken.

House of Jack Rabbit

Cafe

Wine tastings with sweeping ocean views.

Flying Brick Cider House

Restaurant

Take your tasting paddle out on the lawn.

Shops

Frank and Dolly's

Shop

Supplying ethically produced clothes and homewares from around the world.

Bottles & Barrels

Shop

A boutique wine store with a love for local drops.

Goose

Shop

A long-standing pillar of Geelong’s retail landscape.

Uncle Donut

Shop

A pretty doughnut shop from two-thirds of the brains behind Ocean Grove’s Uncle Jack cafe.