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TRAVEL & LEISURE

A Weekender's Guide To Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale

Less than two hours from Melbourne, whisky bars, mineral baths, coastal hikes and a huge art festival await.
By Jasmine Crittenden
June 04, 2019
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A Weekender's Guide To Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale

Less than two hours from Melbourne, whisky bars, mineral baths, coastal hikes and a huge art festival await.
By Jasmine Crittenden
June 04, 2019
  shares

in partnership with

Tucked inside the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, just about a 90-minute drive southwest of Melbourne, are the seaside towns of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale. While Queenscliff is home to grand 19th-century architecture, old-fashioned piers, sandy stretches and sweeping water views, Point Lonsdale is where the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay meet the wild Bass Strait. In just one weekend, you can tour one of Australia's few manned lighthouses remaining, stroll along the rocky coast, ride an old steam train (sometimes with live blues music) and see art in a church.

To top it all off, Low Light Festival is back for a second run, taking over the towns. Happening every weekend in May and June, this fringe festival is a gathering of chefs, artists, musicians, poets and speakers from all over Australia — and the world. In between feasting on degustations and sampling whisky, delve into beautiful, startling and thought-provoking creations and ideas. The festival incorporates four independent events: the Queenscliff Literary Festival, Bellarine Lighthouse Film Festival, Sacred Edge Festival and the QMF Winter Concert Series. Whether you visit one or all — or you've stumbled across this a little too late but still like the idea of a trip down south — we've handpicked some of the best spots to eat, stay and play while you're there.

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Cameron Robbins

DO

Let's begin with the Low Light Festival. If you happen to be there on Saturday, June 22, you'll catch Winter Solstice Fire Sculptures — a rather spectacular event that involves transforming three monumental sculptures into a furnace by setting fire to them. Over the same weekend, singer-songwriter Clare Bowditch will play Queenscliff Town Hall as well as Archie Roach, with Dan Sultan performing the weekend prior on Saturday, June 15. There's also a block printing pattern party, a Bordeaux versus Bellarine dinner, a winter yoga workshop for couples and a stack of exhibition openings. Low Light Festival's got something for all with its enormous program, which you can check out here.

In between checking out Low Light, there are several galleries to explore. For contemporary works, visit Salt and Seaview Gallery. If you're feeling inspired to create some art of your own, swing by Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop, housed in an old church. As well as exhibiting the works of artists from around the country, the space also hosts one-on-one and group workshops on print making, painting, solar plate etching and more. There are also plenty of arts, crafts, original creations and local produce at Point Lonsdale Market, held every second Sunday of the month, too.

A trip to Queenscliff without hopping on its old steam train would be remiss. The train chugs its way from Queenscliff to Drysdale and back plus, on occasion, you can catch live blues as you travel which makes for a lively ride. Another place to step back in time is Point Lonsdale Lighthouse — one of the only lighthouses in Australia that still has a light keeper. On a half-hour tour, you'll hear all about its history and climb up the steep, spiral staircase to take in panoramic views.

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EAT AND DRINK

Head to 360Q and start with two of Queenscliff's finest offerings — seafood and water views. Perched on Queenscliff Harbour in a glass-walled building, this one's big with locals and visitors alike. For a winter-friendly breakfast, tuck into the Belgian waffle with berry jam, quinoa flake granola and ice cream. Come dinnertime, the Portarlington mussels with crusty garlic bread are hard to knock back.

Another spot to get some winter sunshine is in Yard 58's quaint garden and nursery. Hidden down an alley, this north-facing cafe serves up comfort food galore, with everything from pumpkin soup and fish pie to house-baked tarts. Later on, settle in at Circa 1902 where you can linger over tapas — think crumbed whiting fish tacos, seafood laksa and flambe ouzo prawns with pomegranate, orange and rocket salad.

When it's time to warm your cockles with a drop or two, make tracks to Queenscliff Brewhouse. Among its 19th century walls, you'll find more than 400 craft beers, plus a dedicated whisky bar, with over 400 whiskies, gins, vodkas and rums. If wine's more your thing, head to Noble Rot Wine Store and Bar where owner Jordan Berry will happily talk you through his extensive selection of local and international vinos.

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Nikola Ramsay

STAY

Ready to dissolve into some chic but cosy bliss? Book in at Lon Retreat and Spa. Atop a coastal hill, Lon Retreat boasts some magnificent views and is set on 200 acres of unspoiled land. There are seven unique, beautifully decorated suites, with earthy colours and immaculate finishings. Plus, there's Lon Spa onsite, where you can soak in a mineral water hot tub while gazing at the ocean. Alternatively, get snug at The Nest, a series of architect-designed, solar-powered pods overlooking the water. Each features a king-sized bed, private deck and an outdoor spa bath. If you're travelling with friends (or want five bedrooms all to yourself), reserve picturesque Clydesville — a luxe waterfront home with polished floorboards, high ceilings, antique furnishings and a claw foot bath.

If you're on a budget, check out Big4 Beacon Resort, which is just a short walk from the beach. Choose from cabins, villas and camping spots, while sharing common facilities, including yoga classes, an indoor pool, a gym and a day spa. Another option is the Queenscliffe Tourist Park. It's right on the waterfront so you can count on some pretty stellar views of Port Phillip Bay.

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Written in partnership with the Borough of Queenscliffe, Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine. To discover even more, head to the Visit Geelong Bellarine website.

Top image: Queenscliff Wharf, courtesy of Visit Victoria.

Published on June 04, 2019 by Jasmine Crittenden

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