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The Bellarine Peninsula
point lonsdale lighthouseSituated to the south-west of Melbourne rests the Bellarine Peninsula, highly regarded as one of Victoria's most picturesque regions. Enclosed between Port Phillip Bay to the north and the Bass Strait to the south, this Peninsula enjoys unique contrasts between hinterland, rugged coastline and smooth bay waters. If diversity and uniqueness is what you are after, then the Bellarine Peninsula well do just the trick. You could fill a thousand touring holidays here, and the hardest part of each one would be deciding where to go and what to see next.

Queenscliff is a popular place to start your exploration of this magnificent area and acts as a great base. This quaint township boasts majestic old buildings that symbolise the intrinsic history of this spectacular place. Connected to the Peninsula by an isthmus, and extending out into Phillip Bay, Queenscliff is literally surrounded by ocean views from every direction. This former fishing village is still home to many original fishermen's cottages which further depict the fascinating history here. If you search further throughout the town you will find solid churches, particularly in the large military fortress guarding the entrance to Port Philip.

To gain local knowledge about the elegant past of this town go on a historic walking tour, which departs from the Queenscliff Visitor Information Centre every Saturday. Whilst visiting, also be sure to indulge in some of the fabulous restaurants that serve only the freshest, award-winning seafood.

To experience some majestic ocean views a visit to Point Lonsdale is essential. As its name suggests, this place rests right on the point of the Bellarine Peninsula. It is home to the lighthouse that overlooks the Rip, the notorious entrance to Port Philip Bay where the wild waters of the Bass Strait meet the calmer waters of the bay creating strong and treacherous currents. Intimate eateries and shops line this town's streets, all enjoying spectacular views of the coastline.You will notice distinct differences between the two sides of the peninsula. On the Bass Strait side the large swells create conditions perfect for surfers, and on the other side of the point the smooth waters of the Lonsdale Bay beach are ideal for swimming. The white sands of the beach are sheltered from the wind, and perfect for lazing away the hours and soaking up the beach atmosphere.

The town of Barwon Heads may ring a bell, especially for those people who watched the Australian series of 'Seachange". This stunning town created the setting for this successful show and this is one of the major reasons people visit here. Nestled on the banks of the Barwon River Mouth, it lies across the estuary from its twin town of Ocean Grove, also popular amongst visitors to the region. Although small, both of these regions offer endless amounts of fun and entertaining things to do. The ever-popular Thirteenth Beach is an ocean beach that has become a mecca for surfers from around the region.

If you head a little north of the town you will come across Reedy Swamp and Lake Connewarre, which are important migratory bird habitats that are home to many species of waterbirds, that flourish in their native habitats. For panoramic views of the ocean and coast head to 'The Bluff', where there is also a monument to those killed in an 1853 shipwreck.

The coastline here is not the only part of this spectacular area that draws in the visitors. The hinterland of the Bellarine Peninsula is lush and fertile, and the unique combination of the climate and soils has made it perfect for the production of wine. In fact, some of the country's finest vintages come out of this region. A tour of the cellar doors is essential, and on this tour be sure to take a look at the Bellarine Estate. The friendly owners, the cosy restaurant and the fine wines epitomise everything about the industry that the Bellarine Peninsula represents. However, if you don't have time to see it all, at least make sure that yo check out The Minya winery, which is close to Barwon Heads. This is an exceptional institution that has been producing fine quality wines for over three decades now and is well worth the visit.

Whether it is stunning coastline or hinterland wonders you are after, you are sure to find it on the Bellarine Peninsula. Fishing is incredibly popular here, as are all other watersports, from sailing to windsurfing. The beautiful coastal setting make the undertaking of these sports that much more special, and if you tire of the coast then there is always the hinterland to immerse yourself in.

Christine Barton

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