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Geelong region offers coast charm, country comfort and urban delights

There’s a good reason the Australian Masters Games are being held in Geelong. The region has so much on offer – including coastal charm, country comfort, urban delights and outdoor experiences.

Located just one hour from Melbourne, on the picturesque Corio Bay and the flourishing Barwon River, Geelong is the second biggest city in Victoria. It is the gateway to the Great Ocean Road and a central point for accessing some of Australia’s best known beaches, exciting local wineries, gourmet producers, and a lively entertainment scene.

The hub of Geelong is the waterfront precinct, which is a colourful playground for young and old. While it was a thriving shipping port when the city boasted to be the wool capital of Australia, it has since been rejuvenated to be the jewel of Geelong. The foreshore’s easy walking trail not only take in the picturesque bay views, but is lined with restaurants, hotels and leisure areas, and is the venue of the city’s major events from concerts to expos and festivals. Featuring along the trail are more than 100 distinctly decorated bollards painted by local artist Jan Mitchell. These colourful characters are recognised internationally and perfectly captivate Geelong’s personality and vitality.

While Geelong has been able to embrace its historical significance through cultural attractions, public art installations and restored heritage buildings, it is not living in the past. The city has become a tourist’s haven, offering quality venues and some seriously cool places to shop. Pakington Street, or ‘Pako’ as the locals like to call it, is a classic example of this vibrant, cosmopolitan street scene. Here you will find casual coffee shops, pubs and bistros, trendy bars, and fine dining options alongside the latest fashion, giftware and specialty stores.

And, if you are in Geelong for the sport, you couldn’t have landed in a better place. The Australian Masters Games will be played on some of the nation’s most popular and well-kept sporting arenas covering the breadth of options available, from bowls to horse-riding, surfing and soccer. Sports fans can’t go to Geelong without coming across the lifeblood and soul of the city – the might Geelong Cats. As the second-oldest Australian Football club in Victoria, the Cats are also one of the most successful in the league. When the fans sing their club song ‘We are Geelong, the greatest team of all, We are Geelong; we’re always on the ball,’ you can hear it throughout the suburbs.

GATEWAY TO THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Leading south from Geelong is the Great Ocean Road, easily recognised as one of the world’s best tourist drives and great holiday destinations. Iconic landscapes line every twist and turn and the rugged ocean views satisfy the senses. Spanning 243 kilometres, travelers need to prepare for a start-stop journey as the panoramic views from cliff tops and headlands on to beaches, rivers and rainforests are a photographer’s dream. The journey’s true beauty shines between Lorne and Apollo Bay and from there the road turns inland through the Great Otway National Park before returning to the coast at Port Campbell National Park. This is where the wildness of the Great Ocean Road is really appreciated, with the aptly named Shipwreck Cove and the infamous collection of rock formations known as the 12 Apostles carved out of the headland by the ferocious southern ocean.

CAPE OTWAY

Travel to Cape Otway to tackle the climb to the top of mainland Australia’s oldest lighthouse, Cape Otway Lightstation, 90 metres above the wild Southern Ocean where it’s plainly evident why many tragic shipwrecks occurred on this isolated and rugged coastline.

The Cape is also an excellent place to make a base for the region’s national park activities and walks, and the heritage Head Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage makes a wonderful retreat accommodating up 16 people with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, open fires and fully self-contained kitchen and laundry facilities. The Manager’s House is also fully selfcontained and provides all the comforts of home, accommodating up to 15 guests. Both properties have bed and breakfast options for smaller groups or couples.

BELLARINE TASTE TRAIL

The Bellarine Taste Trail is a collection of gourmet delights and foodie experiences all within easy distance of each other. The trail twists around The Bellarine, taking visitors to vineyards and farms that are gaining great recognition and enlivening the local restaurant scene.

Great Ocean Road landscape“Leading south from Geelong is the Great Ocean Road, easily recognised as one of the world’s best tourist drives and great holiday destinations.”

There are breweries using innovative techniques for original flavours and bakeries known for amazing wood-fired bread and multi-award winning pies. Several tour companies run charter operations across the Bellarine, so you can truly indulge in all the Bellarine Taste Trail has to offer and let someone else worry about transport and navigation.

The Bellarine is bounded by Port Phillip Bay to the North and Bass Strait to the South – as such, the seafood on offer is amazing. Portarlington’s mussels are well known locally and feature in a different dish at virtually every restaurant in the region. Places to eat range from those with stunning water views, or nestled in rolling farmland hills to exquisite and grand historic hotel dining rooms. They all offer their unique take on local fare.

WINE ENCOUNTERS

The Geelong Wine Region is a blend of boutique, family-owned winegrowers producing premium quality handcrafted wines. The Bellarine has a maritime climate with bay breezes while the hills and valleys of the Moorabool Valley – Anakie areas have a warm, continental style climate. With each region and winery displaying its own unique characteristics, there’s never a shortage of places to inspire and delight. Before travelling to the region, it’s worth visiting the Geelong Wine website at www.winegeelong.com.au to find out what’s on offer and how to get around.

BEACHES

With its rugged coastline, there are literally hundreds of bays and beaches to explore from Geelong. But while their beauty might entice you, it’s best to ensure the red and yellow beach flags are flying high to indicate they are safe and well patrolled.

All year round, the region’s beaches attract surfers from all over the world. Many come to participate in the famous international pro-circuit competitions such as the Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro. Bells Beach is an amazing spot either in or out of the water and is a landmark worth ticking off your bucket list. To get there, travel along the Great Ocean Road from Geelong, pass Jan Juc and follow the signs from Bells Boulevard.