Seeking a sunny coast and salty breezes? Here's our guide to Queenscliff.
On first look you might think the stunning seaside villages of the Bellarine Peninsula are just sleepy, beautiful places to do a whole lot of nothing. A handful of charming old lighthouses dot the shores of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale, and grand heritage buildings sit next to 1960s bungalows. While the area is imbued with a relaxed sense thanks to its calming coastal setting, it is anything but quiet on a things-to-do front.
For a relatively small patch of the state, this cool-climate pocket is rich with wine-passionate people. Throughout the peninsula there are boutique wineries, avid brewers of cider and beer, dairy farmers, cheesemakers and bakers.
There’s a strong sense of support-thy-neighbour; many cafes and restaurants source from local growers and producers (and sometimes the literal next-door-neighbour’s backyard fruit tree) to shape their menus. The Bellarine is home to a tight-knit community of friendly, passionate folk, many of whom came for a holiday and stayed to start something of their own.
Food aside, there are art galleries, vintage stores and bookshops to explore in Queenscliff. Or if you’re more nature-minded, set aside a couple of hours for a stroll along the shoreline from Queenscliff to Point Lonsdale and on to Barwon Heads, or swim with the seals and dolphins in the bay.
Welcome to Queenscliff
You could stay a week and still not visit all the cafes and restaurants this peaceful coastal pocket has to offer.
From a country bar with a bulging beer list, to a moody cocktail lounge, and wine and cider in-between, Queenscliff definitely has drinks covered.
Bookend a life-drawing class with a farm visit and some snorkelling.
Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop
Soula and Theo Mantalvanos ran a graphic-design studio in Collingwood for 17 years. After a short stint on the east coast of Tasmania they decided to stick to a slower-paced life, so they opened Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop in an old church in December 2015. Here they exhibit new and existing works by Australian printmakers or those with a printmaking element to their art practice. There's a new exhibition each month, and they run workshops in printmaking, life drawing and iconography.
Lonsdale Tomato Farm
Established in 1997, Lonsdale Tomato Farm is a farmgate and a providore specialising in locally grown fresh produce and artisan fare. Farmers James and Angela Moran grow 6000 tomato plants in their sizeable hydroponic greenhouse. Truss, round, roma and cherry varietals join lettuce and herbs in the hot house, which are sold freshly picked and in chutney and sauce form. The farm gate is a must-stop for collecting fruit and vegetables from other growers in the region, too, as well as Victorian cheeses, preserves and cured meats for a seaside picnic.
Queenscliff Vintage Market
Antiques, collectables, memorabilia and bric-a-brac come together at this Queenscliff offshoot to the Geelong Vintage Market. The crackle of music on vinyl fills the space and sets the mood for exploring the eclectic jumble of objects from eras past. Secondhand books, vinyl and DVDs can be found among retro kitchenware, embroidered doilies and vintage garden tools. The building was originally Eddies Emporium – a variety shop that stocked just about anything. The theme continues today with the original branding still intact on the shop’s front.
Sea All Dolphin Swims
This family-run eco-tourism business lets visitors explore a side of the Bellarine not visible from the shoreline. Blending a sense of adventure with a dash of sea-life education, a tour commences in the shallow protected waters of Pope’s Eye in Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. Here you’ll view vibrant reef fish, starfish and sea sponges while becoming accustomed to your snorkelling gear. Then it’s out to Chinaman’s Hat – a wooden fort that acts as a sun deck for around 40 seals – before swimming with the dolphins that inhabit the bay. Tours leave Queenscliff twice daily in warmer months.
Sleep in the highest turret of a grand old hotel, or retreat to a secluded loft at the back of an art gallery.
A relaxing day by the seaside
There’s a lot to do around this seaside town but you can just as easily keep the pace decidedly chill. Punctuate comforting meals and wine tastings with strolls along the shoreline and through the town’s galleries.