Bellarine Peninsula is a one-hour drive southwest of Melbourne. It's known for its stunning coastline and historic sites and is home to some of Victoria's most spectacular seafood, wineries and food trails.
Here are 10 Bellarine Peninsula must-dos:
1. Portarlington mussels are grown in the waters of Port Phillip Bay, just off the Portarlington shoreline. The mussel farms, which are essentially ropes suspended in the sea, can be seen from most vantage points on the north side of the Bellarine. Pick up fresh mussels in Portarlington or enjoy them at local eateries, such as Bellarine Brewing Co or Angasi Bar and Grill.
2. Vue Grand Hotel is a step back in time to an era of ornately furnished grand seaside hotels. The Grand Dining Room, resembling a set from Downton Abbey, features a decadent menu including poached crayfish with lemon, bacon, radish and chives or poached pear with pistachio mousse and burnt butter cake. Vue Street Bar offers a more casual environment, a great spot to share food, drink craft beer and take in the action of the main street of Queenscliff. The Turret Suite features stunning 180 degree water views - ideal for a romantic getaway.
3. Jack Rabbit Vineyard is perched on a gentle Bellarine hill overlooking Port Phillip Bay with views across the water to the You Yangs, Geelong and Melbourne. Onsite, the House of Jack Rabbit offers wine tasting and casual lunches seven days a week, as well as weekend breakfasts. For food aficionados, Jack Rabbit Restaurant serves up dishes including Roman gnocchi and pepper-crusted local king fish for lunch seven days a week and for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. There is also a smokehouse in the facility, with smoked goods such as smoked pinky snapper and grain-fed smoked duck for sale in the House of Jack Rabbit. Jack Rabbit Vineyard is a spectacular spot for your eyes and mouth alike.
4. The Blues Train is Australia's most unique musical experience. The train journey begins with dinner in Queenscliff, winds along historic railway lines to Drysdale and back again. Some of Australia's best blues musicians perform on board the train's four carriages and feature a range of performers from soloists to full bands. Carriage D is cleared to make way for a dance floor that rocks with the rhythm of the train.
5. Elk Horn Roadhouse was inspired by roadhouses its owners Terri Bitton and Julie Taylor saw on an American road trip in the Nevada desert. Remodelling a tin shed in their horse paddock, Bitton and Taylor have turned the Elk Horn Roadhouse into one of the go-to dining establishments in the Bellarine. With a focus on good coffee, tourists and locals flock to enjoy brunch at Elk Horn Roadhouse. Boasting a menu featuring fresh local, organic produce, the Elk Horn Roadhouse also has an onsite shop with a range of made-on-the-premises products, including its famous peach and vanilla jam.
6. Open between October and April, Adventure Park is a theme park with rides, splash playgrounds and super fun waterslides. Get competitive on the Aqua Racer, a six-lane waterslide with electronic timers to award a winner in each race.
7. Located inside an upside-down house, Oakdene Vineyards Restaurant offers award-winning food and wine. The eclectic, quirky nature of the property is echoed through the artwork and vintage installations adorning both the gardens and interiors with the accommodation featuring an intimate Marilyn Room with an all-glass ensuite.
8. Tuckerberry Hill is a seasonal berry farm and cafe. The team there is available to explain which plots are best for berry picking and provide a quick overview on the best way to pick. If you fancy instant gratification, the cafe serves a range of berry products, snap frozen fruits, light lunches and drinks. Picking season runs between December and March.
9. Rolling Pin Pies and Cakes was officially judged as home to "Australia's Best Pie" in last year's Great Aussie Meat Pie Competition. There are two stores - Queenscliff and Ocean Grove.
10. Lighthouse Olive Grove has 10,000 olive trees, grown in 12 varieties. Oil is extracted on the same day fruit is harvested, settled for three months and bottled on-site. Nestled in the heart of the grove, the Olive Mill shop offers oil tastings as well as a range of table olives, olive oil soaps and other local Bellarine produce.
IF YOU GO