December is always jam-packed full of events, Christmas parties, family gatherings, Christmas shopping and late nights. That’s why January is the perfect time to escape down the coast for a relaxing long weekend, and there’s no better place than Portarlington on the Bellarine Peninsula.
If it’s your first time down on the Bellarine Peninsula, we’ve put together the perfect itinerary for the ultimate weekend escape in Portarlington.
Catch the Port Phillip ferry directly from the Docklands and you’ll arrive at Portarlington pier in just 90 minutes, or jump on the freeway from Melbourne and you’ll be here in less than two hours if the traffic is nice. A short walk will get you to all the local accommodation, so drop your luggage at your hotel, AirBnB or try glamping at Bellarine Bayside parks. Book early to lock in your room for the mussel festival as it’s a very busy weekend as the small town reaches capacity quickly.
Then it’s time to enjoy a local’s night out at the historic Grand Hotel, right in the centre of town. With a menu of local Portarlington mussels, fish and seafood paella, you’ll be well fed and ready for a big weekend. There’s often live music in the huge beer garden in summer, and it’s a great place to watch the sunset over the bay while chatting some the locals.
If it’s festival weekend, then head down early (we open at 9:30am) and check out the market stalls and some local music before the crowds. With four different stages, you’ll struggle to see everyone, so after you’ve grabbed some mussels for lunch, grab a chair or a shady spot under the tree and enjoy the tunes on one of main stages.
If you’re interested in learning about how the Portarlington Mussel festival has grown to be Australia’s booming mussel supplier, take a cruise on a mussel boat from the pier. A local mussel farmer will explain the industry and show you where the farms are located.
For the cooks, check out Rie’s hourly cooking demonstrations, and why not buy a box of fresh mussels directly off the boat, and head back to your accommodation and cook up your very own feast!
If you’re visiting outside of the festival, now is your chance to explore some of the local wineries. Jack Rabbit Vineyard and Terindah Estate are situated across the road from each other with incredible views over the bay to match their delicious wines. Our recommendation: visit both!
Art lovers will fall in love with Oakdene with it’s sculpture gardens, quirky architecture and delicious cafe and restaurant. You can spend hours here enjoying the gardens, the wine and the food.
Or, for something a little different, the new gin distillery Teddy and The Fox is a welcoming spot to sample their award-winning botanical gin on the deck. Nearby, Flying Brick Cider Co has a range of natural ciders that you have to try, and it’s the perfect place to catch up with friends or let the kids play on the expansive lawns.
The mussel van at the Portarlington Pier is there throughout Summer, so stop by on your way home and cook up mussels for dinner. Rie’s Tomato and Chorizo recipe is a crowd pleaser!
No lazy Sunday’s here. It’s time to get active and explore the coast. A leisurely walk along the coast will take you to the nearby town of Indented Head, or keep going further to St Leonards, the original setting for the classic TV show Seachange. Portarlington is a calm bay that’s perfect swimming conditions for families. At nearby Indented Head, you can also rent a SUP and paddle out and around the wold ship wreck laying just off the coast. They also have tinny’s and rods for hire, if you’re looking to drop a line in.
If you’re into cycling, the Bellarine Rail Trail is a 35km one-way trail stretching from Queenscliff to Geelong. You can catch the steam train back from Queenscliff after a lunch stop.
When it’s time to jump on the ferry back home or hit the freeway, you will have had a perfect taste of the region where the country meets the sea, where the pace is slow and the seafood is fresh. Hopefully it’s left you wanting more, as there’s plenty more to explore on the Bellarine Peninsula.