The best natural attractions in Geelong and The Bellarine

Less than an hour from Melbourne, discover mountain peaks to gin-clear waters and the wildlife of Geelong and The Bellarine.

From swimming with dolphins to three-day hikes amongst the wildflowers, we’ve five locations filled with natural attractions to add to your Victoria travel list.

Portarlington to St Leonard’s

For an outing that rivals even the most idyllic seaside drives, head to The Esplanade on The Bellarine Peninsula. Beginning in Portarlington, this dedicated 15-kilometre track hugs the coastline, meandering to St Leonard’s.

While you can drive the short distance to St Leonard’s, the best way to take in the scenery is on foot or by bicycle. Bella E-bike Hire supplies quality electric bikes with all the gear – ideal for those seeking a minimum-effort, maximum-enjoyment ride. 

You’ll feel as if you’re traversing the islands of Sicily as you take in dazzling views across the turquoise-hued waters of Port Phillip Bay. There are picnic facilities and barbecues at various intervals along the path, so stock up on gourmet treats to make the most of them. Or before setting off, sample fresh mussels at the The Little Mussel Cafe – Portarlington is famous for them.

Keep an eye out for the Ozone Shipwreck at Indented Head © Visit Geelong and the Bellarine

If the weather is warm, stop at Indented Head to soak in the gin-clear water. Or, hire a glass-bottom canoe or stand-up paddle board at Beachlea Boat Hire, located right on the shore. As you float, keep an eye out for the Ozone Shipwreck. All that remains of the sunken Scottish paddle steamer is her hull, which now doubles as a diving platform for locals. The final stretch to St Leonard’s is around an hour’s walk, so reward yourself with coffee and cake at the rustic Salty Cow Cafe. 

Discover Brisbane Ranges National Park

Little more than an hour’s drive from Melbourne, you can experience the Aussie bush at the You Yangs or imagine 19th-century life at the historic township of Steiglitz. The Brisbane Ranges offers abundant outdoor activities, from family-friendly bush walks to intense uphill hikes, all within Victoria’s rich wildflower habitat. 

A low range of mountains dissected by rocky gullies, Brisbane Ranges is a fantastic day trip from the city or ideal for a more extended adventure – with multiple camping sites to three-day hikes, its also famous for picnics, scenic drives and birdwatching.

Geelong The Bellarines Brisbane NP
The Brisbane Ranges offers an abundance of outdoor activities © Visit Geelong and the Bellarine

Burchell Trail is a three-day walking trail through Victoria’s richest wildflower habitat, with spectacular views across Wadawurrung Country. 40km with point-to-point trail directions along orange track markers with two campsites to set up along the journey at Old Mill and Fridays Campgrounds.

While the You Yangs are ideal for mountain biking, with 50km of trails for all levels through their picturesque granite peaks. Tracks and paths lead to incredible viewpoints – Flinders Peak is a popular photo spot.

Swim with dolphins in Queenscliff

Swimming with wild dolphins is on many people’s bucket lists. And Sea All Dolphin Swims hosts day trips within Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. Snorkel at one of Australia’s world-renowned diving sites, Pope’s Eye Marine Park, amongst colourful reef fish, sea stars and sponges. Then swim with wild dolphins and seals, all on one cruise. 

Interact and learn about the sea creatures habits and environment with experienced guides. Then relax at the end of the cruise with a hot chocolate. Or, if still craving watery frolics, take the ritual jump from the boat’s roof into the sea. Before the crew makes its way back to dry land.

And fear not if you prefer staying dry. These sightseeing tours take you close to the marine action without having to dive into the waters. The option is yours.

Pope’s Eye Marine Park (R) is part of Sea All Dolphin Swims tour © Visit Geelong and The Bellarine

If wanting to dive a little deeper, literally, Scubabo Dive Victoria focuses on the underwater world. Taking in the historical delights, including the shipwrecks in Port Phillip Bay. Scubabo’s SSI Instructors have over 30 years’ combined experience catering to all levels for a scuba diving adventure in Victoria’s choppy waters.

Queenscliff is a stone’s throw away from the east side start of the Great Ocean Road. Making it an ideal spot to enjoy a sea adventure en route on your journey.

Geelong: Connecting nature and the city © Visit Geelong and The Bellarine

Johnstone Park in Geelong 

Johnstone Park is a beloved Geelong destination, connecting nature and the city in a picturesque garden setting. Right by the Geelong Gallery, Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, and the historic City Hall. 

The Park sits between the Geelong Railway Station and the Art precinct. Making it an ideal pit stop after getting your art critic cap on inside the Gallery, with its collection of 19th to 21st-century Australian and European paintings. Throw a blanket down on the lush lawns or under a leafy tree. It’s a perfect picnic spot to bask in the sun or curl up with a good book.

Public at the Dome, a contemporary-cool cafe, in the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre will satisfy any caffeine cravings or soothe hunger pangs. If you’re feeling extra zesty, the licensed cafe can offer you a cheeky wine to wile away the afternoon. 

River Red Gum Walk in Buckley Falls

On the outskirts of Geelong, Buckley Falls is a nearby city escape with hiking trails and waterfalls. And, depending on recent rainfall, the Barwon River either rushing or tricking around a bend and over a rocky fall. Ideal for biking, too, the River Red Gum Walk leads right up to a stunning waterfall lookout where you can spot the local wildlife. From tawny frogmouths, gang-gang cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and even a swamp wallaby at the water’s edge.

Cross the bridge at the Barwon Aqueduct River Trail and make your way to the Fyansford Hotel or Provenance Wines for a pit stop over the finest food and drink in the precinct. If you are keen on a challenging day out, a continuous 20-kilometre loop of the Barwon River Trail will take you on a scenic journey along the banks of the river through Fyansford, where you can explore the old Paper Mills and onto South Geelong.

Geelong and The Bellarine are filled with incredible natural attractions and worth exploring before hitting the Great Ocean Road. Make the most of your journey and discover all there is there see, eat and explore…

Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine and Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism are giving away two unforgettable Victorian escapes. 

Head to Visit Geelong and The Bellarine. Or Visit Great Ocean Road and answer a few simple questions to be entered into the draw.

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