Itinerary: Connie Trathen Images Supplied
The Bellarine Peninsula – with its panoramic ocean views, white sandy beaches, locally-sourced food and wine, and salt-soaked surroundings. Little wonder the region is a lodestone for those who seek relaxation and rejuvenation.
Connie Trathen made the move to the Bellarine over 10 years ago. Currently residing in Point Lonsdale, the travel guru lived in Portarlington for 11 years and works as the marketing and business development coordinator at Grand Hotel Portarlington – which is set to receive a multi-million dollar renovation.
Easily accessible from all sides, Connie says the Bellarine is a mystery to be unearthed. “It’s still a bit of a secret and people like to say that they’ve discovered a new place!” she says.
Here are some insider tips on how to make the most of your Bellarine discovery.
Since opening its doors in 2004, Annie’s Provedore & Produce has made a name for itself for its gourmet food and incredible customer service. A local favourite and foodie hotspot, the store serves up a stellar brekky, lunch and dinner menu along with a range of pantry staples. “I don’t mind a wander down the main street for a good retail window shop and it’s always tempting to stop in Annie’s for a treat,” Connie says.
For a family day out
While Connie doesn’t have kids of her own, she says she can easily keep her nieces and nephews occupied when they visit, particularly in Portarlington. “Our time is often full of swimming at Portarlington Beach, a safe and calm north facing bay beach, as well as berry picking at Tuckerberry Hill, ice-cream shops including Pier View Lolly Shop in Portarlington which sells ice cream as well, the Miniature Railway and the great new park in Portarlington!”
For baked goodness
A favourite amongst locals and visitors alike, the Ketbaker Shed Bakery is renowned as home to the finest sourdough pastries in Geelong and the Bellarine. Think croissants of all sorts, pain au chocolats and escargots, and the most heartwarming sourdough loaves. “Stop in for artisan small batch sourdough breads and treats,” Connie says. “It’s worth the short detour.”
Relaxed and friendly, The Paddock Café is an ambient and insta-worthy destination where good flavours and good vibes merge to enhance the dining experience. “I always choose to drive down Wallington Road if I can, and my hot tip is to stop at The Paddock Café for a chicken congee with kimchi,” Connie explains.
For the best fish and chips in the region, Connie says you can’t go past the Barwon Heads Fish and Chip Shop. “It’s a classic. Old school, and I have fond memories going there in my teenage years when I used to come to Ocean Grove. I went there recently and they had some beautiful battered prawns, sweet potato cakes and huge homemade dim sims. And yes, delicious chips!”
At the end of Wallington Road, Connie recommends you veer right and hit up the local cidery Flying Brick Cider House. “This is a venue that caters for all with beautiful food and brews and ambling grassed areas if you have kids who want to let off some steam,” she says.
For fab dining
Connie recommends Merne at Lighthouse for its “views across to Queenscliff, great food, amazing craft beer list, and great banter with hospitality professional Caleb Fleet”. Situated in the middle of the Peninsula, the idyllic restaurant is nestled amidst a thriving olive grove and emerging vineyards, boasting panoramic views of the surrounding farms, dairies, orchards and growers. Explains the inspired paddock-to-plate dining experience.
For a well-deserved tipple
For award-winning wines in the heart of the Bellarine Peninsula, head down Swan Road (often bypassed) and stop at McGlashan’s Winery. “Their rosé is delicious and for those looking for somewhere to stay in the region, their new Eco Villas overlooking the vines are pretty special,” Connie says.
Connie also notes the Curlewis Winery as another favourite spot to peruse. Located off the beaten track and managed by a husband-and-wife team, the cool-climate winery boasts “great wines, vinyl, and good food”. “It might be a discreet and understated cellar door, but the wines sit proudly at many fine dining restaurants around Australia,” Connie says.
For panoramic views
Driving back from Curlewis Winery, Connie and her husband love to stop in at Clifton Springs for world-class views at the Dell lookout looking across to the You Yangs, Avalon Airport, Mount Macedon and even spying Melbourne city.
Living only minutes away from wineries, eateries and natural wonders, Connie says the Bellarine is the perfect merging of country and sea. “It fits our lifestyle of having water and fishing and is full of great food and wine,” she proclaims. “Being close to the ocean provides this bounty, but the region also provides the perfect climate for the wineries and what they grow.”
Follow Connie on all her Bellarine adventures via Instagram