Blink and you might bypass this jewel of the surf coast nestled amongst the bushlands of the spectacular Great Ocean Road. Locals are quite happy for visitors to pass through on their way to Lorne because the magic of this place lies in its relaxed, unspoiled atmosphere.
The 90-minute trip from Melbourne is well worth the drive. Unlike many of its counterparts, Aireys has been built into, and not onto, its natural surrounds. The town is burrowed in dense eucalyptus forest, which forms part of the Otway Ranges. Mighty cliffs, expansive, pristine beaches and a picturesque river valley are all timely reminders of why our Ocean Road is so great.
If you’re thirsty from the drive, grab a fresh, cold-pressed juice from Two Brothers Juice Co. Its owners frequent the local produce markets during the winter season. Delicious, healthy concoctions, such as the Green Juice, made of kale, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger, are pressed daily.
Mr. T and Me boasts a bright, colourful interior that compliments its Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine. Open for breakfast and lunch, the organic quinoa granola trifle with yoghurt and fresh fruit, as well as Mr T’s breaky roll with Istra bacon, free range Kossie eggs and house made beetroot relish will provide plenty of fuel for the day.
Before hitting the beach, be sure to stop by Eagles Nest Fine Art Gallery. Architecturally designed to reflect the ocean’s waves, the gallery exhibits an impressive range of locally produced artworks. Vibrant landscape paintings, studio glass, sculptures and jewellery fill the space. Aireys is home to the largest number of local artists along the “Artists Trail” spanning from Torquay to Cape Otway.
The iconic Aireys Inlet General Store remains humble and unassuming in its country charm, its corrugated-iron awning showing no sign of modernising since its Vance Joy video-clip stardom. Be lulled by its weatherboard exterior and old-fashioned petrol pumps and venture inside to stock up on carefully selected gourmet local produce, including Irrewarra sourdough, Gundowring ice cream, Cunliffe & Waters preserves, and Lethebridge wines. Consult owner Peter Kambouris’ impeccable local knowledge for the most scenic location for your picnic.
Stretching 6km, Fairhaven Beach is the longest on the Great Ocean Road and its waters can range between inviting and ferocious. Fairhaven is a surfer’s dream with great swell at Moggs Creek, The Spot, Eastern View and Spout Creek.
Keen fishermen also have easy access to numerous rips and breaks for uncrowded beach fishing. Swimmers immersing their toes in the bright blue waters should swim in patrolled areas, as the waves here can be large and unpredictable. With stunning views across Bass Strait towards the Otways, a scenic Surf Coast Walk along the silky white sands is a must.
After a day at the beach, head to the iconic Aireys Pub for a sunset beer. Established in 1904, Aireys Pub is so adored by its locals that nine of them chipped in to buy it when its doors closed in 2011. Recently revamped with a beer garden overlooking the ocean, there’s live music every Friday and Saturday during summer. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy an ‘Aireys Draught’ brewed in the Otway Ranges, or a Bellarine wine chosen from the extensive regional wine list.
The pub’s unpretentious, hearty lunch and dinner menu includes a spicy salmon and shitake filo, chicken and haloumi salad served with roasted pumpkin, red onion and cucumber, as well classic pub fare.
Another Aireys favourite is modern Greek restaurant, A La Grecque. Sourcing the freshest fish and seafood ingredients, A La Grecque’s philosophy is to serve simple dishes that are enhanced by high quality produce. It’s a tough decision, but you can’t go past the seared scallops, peas, snow peas, caper and dill vinaigrette, or the fried calamari with almond skordalia and spicy lamb bourek with mint yoghurt and salsa verde.
Set among beautiful native hinterland and surrounded by bush and coastal walks, the rustic Cimarron Bed & Breakfast tucks itself unassumingly into the landscape. The wrap-around verandah offers panoramic coastal views from Point Roadknight to Arthur’s Seat, and local wildlife roams the grounds – which truly reminds you you’re in a countryside oasis.
During the summer months, Aireys Inlet Community and Farmers’ Market is the Sunday morning mecca for those looking to shop sustainably. The market stalls of the Community Hall showcase a large selection of regional produce, small goods and handmade, recycled and vintage arts and crafts.
Located next door to Aireys Inlet’s iconic Split Point Lighthouse (the one from Round the Twist), Willows Tea House is a charming little cafe famous for its delicious fluffy, scones. Sip on a leisurely coffee and soak up the magnificent views of the lighthouse while lounging on the cosy couches.
Aireys Inlet Getaway Resort offers 4-star boutique accommodation set amongst 2.5 acres of native flora and fauna. A meandering walk along the landscaped gardens will cap off your visit to the coastal hamlet of Aireys. In addition, Airbnb offers up a plentitude of rustic residential opportunities, from coastal cabins to stilted weatherboard homes that blend into the gumtree-lined hillsides.
Mr. T and Me
42 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 6047
Eagles Nest Fine Art Gallery
48 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 7366
Two Brothers Juice Co
Various market locations
Aireys Inlet General Store
40 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 6221
Aireys Inlet Community and Farmers’ Market
Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
(Next market Sunday 11 October, 2015)
Surf Coast Walks
3 Camp Road, Anglesea
(03) 5263 1528
Willows Tea House
7 Federal Street, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 6830
45 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 6804
105 Gilbert Street, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 7044
A La Grecque
60 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 6922
Aireys Inlet Getaway Resort
2 Barton Court, Aireys Inlet
(03) 5289 7021
By the Sea Beach House
Updated as of June 2015.
This article is presented by V/Line.