When a region has a map of places to eat, drink and get merry, you know you are all set for an epic weekend. Just a short drive from the city, the Bellarine Peninsula wineries, craft beer breweries and home made produce shops are an epic day trip from Melbourne though I’d recommend making it at least a weekend, so you don’t have to worry about sipping all the goodness.
The Bellarine Taste Trail highlights some of the best boozy and culinary treats that this region of Victoria, Australia has to offer. I’m usually up for any excuse to drink and eat my way through a new destination so this was the perfect excuse to grab a mate, a camper and do what Aussies do best – enjoy the weekend. While Australia may seem like a huge county to cover, there are so many awesome short getaways in Australia and the Bellarine is just one of these.
While managing to visit, and indeed stuff down, everything that the Bellarine Peninsula has to offer might be a struggle in just a couple of days; these were some of my favourite stops to drink up in the name of ‘learning’.
Still not convinced? They even have a cider festival!
White Rabbit Brewery
Kick off the weekend in Geelong, the central city of the region and gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula wineries. Melbourne is famous for its craft beer scene and this city just over an hour south holds its own.
The White Rabbit Brewery is just outside the city centre and with its small shop, and cosy fireplace is an excellent ease into your Bellarine visit. The main attraction though (other than the drinking) is learning how to make craft beer. Within this old wool mill, another thing the region is famous for producing, sits an uber cool microbrewery. Once you’ve seen it in action, find a space at the bar and work your way through the different beers on tap.
Little Creatures Brewery
Even if the Bellarine Peninsula wineries are not your thing (you crazy fool) you are in luck, just next door to White Rabbit is the Instagram-worthy and trendy Little Creatures brewery.
Originating in Western Australia and listed in the new Lonely Planet global beer guide, this newer microbrewery offers tours of its small, but perfectly pouring brewery. It doesn’t just look good though; it tastes even better. With a bar stocking its consistent range as well as the breweries seasonal pours, you can settle into the lantern lit open space, or the colourful beer garden and taste your way through the eight to ten different beers on tap.
Hot chicken project
If you head to Little Malop Street in Geelong, you’ll find a creative new hub in the city. These laneways with their street art, funky bars, and on-trend restaurants are fast being redeveloped to get a slice of the slick Melbourne booze and food scene.
One of the most famous and well-known joints in town is Hot Chicken Project which serves up chicken in any form, American basket style, and with five different shades of hotness. The ‘Evil Chicken’ offers the most mouth burning option, although be warned it takes a few bites before you know what you are in for. While the Bellarine Peninsula wineries are one of the most famous exports of the region, Geelong looks keen to keep developing itself into a foodie hub.
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Bellarine Peninsula Wineries must visit: Jack Rabbit Vineyard
With impressive views across the bay to Melbourne and surrounded by nature and vines, Jack Rabbit Vineyard is one of the many Bellarine Peninsula wineries you can visit. What makes this one so special though, is the striking architecture of the building against the stunning backdrop of the region.
After taking a stroll through the vines and admiring the views, head back to the bar to sample the wines on offer. A tasting here only costs $5, and you can pick which wines you want to try. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two of the most famous produced in the Bellarine Peninsula wineries, but the lightly sparkling red and unique, semi-dessert wine like Audacia offer something a bit different. After working your way through the tasting notes grab a table in the restaurant or bar for some inspired food with a view.
Just down the road from Jack Rabbit is Drysdale cheese farm (check opening times in advance) where you can even take a class on how to make the good stuff from scratch.
Being a specialist in Goats cheese the little cuties are all onsite, so you can not only meet them but also get an excellent idea of how small farms work which can be fascinating, especially if you have kids in tow.
Ever stayed in a holiday park with a cinema room?!
The Big4 Bellarine resort is ideally located in the middle of the Bellarine Peninsula and offers camper, tent and cabin accommodation. With heated pool, a gym, zip wires and a whole host of kids activities it’s an ideal base for exploring the region.
One of the most famous products on the Bellarine Peninsula are the mussels of Portarlington. Even though this small town was my least favourite on the Bellarine, it’s still worth a stop early to see the daily catch coming in from the busy and working pier. You don’t have to go far to try the fresh local seafood as most restaurants in the Bellarine Peninsula are stocked up. The Little Mussel Cafe in Portarlington (Queenscliff Road) is one of the most popular places to try this local staple on the taste trail.
Flying Brick Cider
The good thing about a Bellarine Peninsula wineries weekend is that even if grapes aren’t your go-to tipple, you are covered.
In Wallington, you’ll find Flying Brick Cider, another family-run producer of great booze. These guys don’t mess around and only make 100pc fruit cider meaning no artificial crap added to it. I was lucky enough to be in town for world cider day in June when these guys host their annual cider festival (yep, a cider festival!). The main building and surrounding lawns are taken over with bands, food stands and so many ciders – it’s apple heaven.
If you’re a cider nut like me, you are going to appreciate this place. They make their berry cider by adding real berries to the batch, and their unique spin with options such as ginger and chilli cider are so damn tasty. Make sure you allow time to take the short but interesting cider tour and then grab a seat on the lawn or at the bird themed contemporary designed restaurant to pair this apple goodness with some of their locally famous food.
Quite easily my favourite pub in the whole of Australia. With a fireplace in the middle of the bar room, pool table and beer tasting notes plastering the wall it’s a great spot to settle into for an evening in this historic town.
Queenscliff Brewhouse has over 100 different craft beers, and although their main brewery is off site, they are currently installing a micro-brewery at the back of the dining room, so you see the production methods and taste the small batch beers as made in the Bellarine Peninsula. Work your way the sometimes stupidly high brews while enjoying one of the local produce platters – these guys even bring the Bellarine Taste Trail to you on a plate.
What else is on the Bellarine Taste Trail?
With over forty different options on the handy map, I’d advise choosing carefully what you want to see in the region. There are plenty of Bellarine Peninsula wineries to tour, but the area is also famed for its Olive Oil production, great restaurants and also its local cured meats.
It’s not just about the booze in the Bellarine!
During my long weekend in the Bellarine Peninsula it wasn’t all food and drink, but this chilled Melbourne city break also has plenty of beaches and activities to explore too…