Geelong Cruise Port

Port of Geelong: An Overview

Victoria's second largest city is many decades away from its industrial past of woollen mills and Ford car manufacturing. Whimsically decorated bollards along the waterfront offer a glimpse of what this bayside place now offers its visitors.

Geelong was founded in the 1850s as a centre for the nearby goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo, and a port to transport the inland's wheat and wool. It has grown up to become a cosmopolitan city well placed between Melbourne to the north and the scenic Great Ocean Road to the west. From its location on Corio Bay, it's only 45 minutes to the Bellarine Peninsula where you may taste local wines and olive oils or relax at cafes and restaurants.

Hanging Around

The pier is well located for enjoying the waterfront, shopping, or visiting sights in the town. The Visitor Information Centre on Moorabool St, (Freecall within Australia: 1800-755-611, +61 352 831 735). Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. next to the National Wool Museum is just over a block away, and the staff can answer all your questions about what to see and do. Across the road from this is a massive Westfield shopping centre with shops, eateries, ATMs and banks.

There is much to keep you occupied at the end of the pier, too. In the Steampacket Gardens, at Eastern Beach, to the left as you leave the pier, there is an eye-catching 1892 steam-driven carousel housed in a modern building. At the far end of the gardens there is a cafe and another place to eat, adjacent, on Fishermen's Pier. To the right, as you exit, there is The Geelong Boat House (+61 352 223 642) serving fish and chips on a restored barge, and open daily for lunch. Baveras Brasserie (+61 352 226 377) also shares the water views and is open for lunch daily, from noon.

Don't Miss

The Carousel Pavilion: The pavilion houses a c.1892 Armitage-Herschell steam-driven carousel with its c.1888 steam engine and a part-original, part replica 1898 Gavioli Band organ in a modern glass and steel building. Entry to the Pavilion is free, but there is a fee for rides.

(1 Eastern Beach Rd, Geelong; +61 352 241 547; open, April to September, Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday to Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., October to March, Monday to Friday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The Geelong Waterfront: This promenade stretches for around four kilometres and is a busy maritime area that works well for yachties, strollers, tourists and those simply looking for a coffee with a side-serve of water views.

Geelong Museum of Motoring: This museum makes perfect sense for a city so closely linked to car manufacturing for many decades. Starting with the collection from the now closed Ford Discovery Centre, the Geelong Museum of Motoring and Industry has amassed an impressive collection of vehicles and artifacts for a display that is regularly updated and changed. Motoring enthusiasts will love this. Admission: $10 adults, $8 children, $25 family ticket. (Federal Mills, 13-35 Mackey St, North Geelong; +61 352 734 777; open Thursday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

National Wool Museum: Allow 90 minutes for a self-guided tour that includes the history of the wool industry in Australia, carpet weaving and shearing. Volunteers are available to answer questions. The shop sells high quality woollen articles, linens and local arts and crafts, as well as general souvenirs such as miniature bollards. $8.25 adult, $6.50 concession, $4.50 child. (26 Moorabool St, Geelong; +61 352 724 701; open Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Adventure Park Geelong; This is Victoria's biggest water theme park and it is very much a family venue. The water rides are popular and your ticket is for all rides without any conditions, so you can go on your favourite rides as many times as you like. There are 16 rides, six of which include water. Height decides your entry fee: general admission is $39.50 for anyone over 1.2 metres; junior admission, for those under 1.2 metres, is $29.50. Seniors (over 60) are $25. Note: The park closes during winter and reopens in October. (1249 Bellarine Hwy (B110), Wallington, Geelong; +61 352 507 200; opening times vary depending on the season but operating dates are usually 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the height of summer. Check adventurepark.com.au for more details)

You Yangs Regional Park: There are four main walks that traverse this park, which is located 22 km north of Geelong and has access from Lara. The walk to Flinders Peak (348 m) is 3.2 km and takes 90 minutes and offers good views, while the longest track is the three-hour Branding Yard Track. (+61 13 19 63; open year-round 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on weekends and public holidays. Opening times during Daylight Savings are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Geelong Botanical Gardens: Established more than 150 years ago, these gardens have a recognised heritage value. The 80-hectare site, with bay frontage and little vegetation, was set aside by the government in 1851 and has been transformed during that time into a lovely, relaxing place to visit. Admission is free. There is also a teahouse in the gardens (+61 412 778 652). (Corner Podbury and Eastern Park Drive (within Eastern Park), +61 352 724 379. Open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Oakdene Vineyards: Perhaps the zaniest cellar door, you'll ever see. The 'Upside-Down House' offers a unique tasting room experience. Designed by owner Elizabeth Hooley, it looks as if an A-frame timber house has been blown over in the wind. Once inside the wines will hold your interest, too. Taste them here or with a meal at Oakdene Restaurant, located a short walk away. (255 Grubb Road, Wallington, Geelong; +61 352 563 886; Cellar door is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre: Totally authentic, this place will expand your understanding of Australian indigenous people. In a stunning building with soaring roofline, there is a cultural education centre, cafe, shop and art gallery showcasing internationally acclaimed and emerging indigenous artists from across Australia. Cafe is open: Tuesday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (410 Torquay Rd, Grovedale, Geelong; +61 352 415 700; open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Geelong Cats Game: See a game of Aussie Rules at Simonds Stadium. This is the home of the Geelong Cats, the local Australian Football League team. They are somewhat of a local institution. About half a dozen home games are played here each year from April to August. Geelong's other games are played in Melbourne. Expect to pay about $20 for an adult, $12 concession and $5 for a child. (370 Moorabool Street, South Geelong, +61 352 249 111.)

Bellarine Rail Trail: This ride starts from near South Geelong Station and is a 35km cycling track to Queenscliff making it a great day or weekend destination close to Geelong. The scenery ranges from suburban to rolling farmland and includes picturesque Swan Bay. From Drysdale to Queenscliff the trail runs beside the Bellarine Peninsula Tourist Railway. If you don't want to ride in one (or both!) directions of this section, the tourist railway is happy for passengers to take bicycles on their trains.

Getting Around

By bike: Bicycles may be hired from Geelong Bike Hire; +61 401 217 877

By bus: Geelong buses use the myki card, a reusable Smartcard that you can buy and top up at more than 800 retailers including: all 7-Eleven Stores; the ticket office window at Premium Stations and staffed V/Line commuter stations; from a myki machine (full-fare myki cards only) located at all train stations and major tram and bus interchanges; on the website and by calling, in Australia, 1800 800 007.

By car: All the major rental car companies are represented in the city so get details from the Visitor Information Centre. If you are hiring a car, it is good to know that metered parking in the city is available during weekdays with free parking during weekends and public holidays, and is often time limited.

By helicopter: If you would like to see Geelong and the bay and beaches from the air without getting wet, Geelong Helicopters (+61 422 515 151) are on the waterfront at Yarra Street Pier.

Beaches

Eastern Beach: This is one of those do-anything beaches: you can barbecue, picnic, relax on the sand, go for a swim or simply promenade past the painted bollards. Anything is possible, and then of course there is a cafe and ice creams ... you will never want to go home.

Lunching

Recent years have seen an explosion of places to eat good food and drink good coffee, and enjoy a drink or two later in Geelong. With the vibrant example of Melbourne, there is much to live up to, but this has always been a town that strives to excel.

So much so, that many of the new and trendy cafes that have opened in Geelong have a distinctly 'Melbourne;' feel about them. Suggestions by locals are: Pakington Pantry (Pakington St, Newtown), King of the Castle (Pakington St) and Coffee Cartel Roasters (Leather St, Breakwater).

The Barking Dog: Relaxed place where dishes come ready to share, service is good and meals -- such as open lamb souvlaki and open steak sandwich or a burger anchored to a board by a steak knife -- go down a treat. (126 Pakington St, Geelong West; +61 352 292 889; open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight)

Flying Brick Cider Co: This could be useful if you are out of town, near Wallington, at lunchtime. Especially if you like a good cider. The menu is crammed with little tastes to share and big platters -- also to share. Overlooking water and near Adventure Park. Lunch daily

(1251 Bellarine Hwy, Wallington, Geelong; +61 352 506 577; open daily, Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.)

Telegraph Hotel: If you're in a hurry, there's an express lunch available for $19.90, served with a complimentary drink. Otherwise, enjoy the relaxed vibe and order comfort food such as such as sticky BBQ chicken wings, duck spring rolls, or a good-value 350g Black Angus porterhouse steak. (2 Pakington St, Geelong West; +61 352 222 471; lunch daily from 11 a.m.)

Tulip Bar & Restaurant: There is a cosmopolitan feel to the menu at this pretty little eatery that popped up on the north end of the street, amid the boutique shops and restaurants. Great as a place to take a break from shopping, then try some fried baby prawns with smoked garlic mayonnaise or a grilled grass-fed flank steak.

(Shop 9, 111 Pakington Street, Geelong; +61 352 296 953; lunch Monday to Friday noon to 2.30 p.m.)

Cunningham Pier: Drinks and lunch, from noon, is also available at two places on the bay: at the end of Cunningham Pier -- at City Quarter Bar (+61 352 226 233) dishes such as pulled pork sliders, chicken spare ribs or dips with flatbread, make great sharing and relaxed dining. Baveras Brasserie (+61 352 226 377) also shares the water views and is open for lunch daily from noon serving contemporary cuisine (Asian-inspired oysters, slow-cooked lamb, that sort of thing) in a sleek environment.

Where You're Docked

The Port of Geelong is a busy working port, the largest regional port in Victoria. Large cruise ships anchor in Corio Bay off Central Geelong, and passengers are tendered ashore to Cunningham Pier just a couple of blocks from the city centre. There are plans for appropriate berth arrangements in the future with the construction of a new Yarra Street Pier.

Watch Out For

Those brightly painted and quirkily decorated Baywalk Bollards are the work of local artist Jan Mitchell. She created these in the mid-1990s, painting more than 100 timber bollards that had once been a vital part of the port. They are worth looking at carefully as they reflect local history and identities. You won't miss seeing them as they are dotted all around the waterfront between Rippleside Park and Limeburners Point and the Botanic Gardens.

Not all beaches are patrolled or have flags so do watch out for 'rips' (strong currents) when there is a big swell. If bushwalking, be alert for snakes, and wear a hat and use sunscreen when outdoors.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

ATMs and currency exchanges may be found throughout the town at banks and also in shopping centres as well as many hotels. Withdrawals will be in Australian currency, usually in $50 and $20 notes. For current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. U.S. dollars are not acceptable when shopping, but major credit cards are generally welcome.

Language

English is spoken in Geelong. Listen closely, though, and you may detect a slightly different vowel use in Victoria. For instance, Melbourne becomes Malbourne, and television is talevision.

Best Souvenir

Most visitors fall in love with the decorated bollards along Geelong's waterfront and can't resist stocking up on miniature ones. Easy to find, you'll see them in many gift shops, as they have become the iconic symbols of this town.

Head to the National Wool Museum for woollen goods, linen, and beautiful handmade local arts and crafts. Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre is the best place to go for authentic Aboriginal artifacts such as didgeridoos and boomerangs as well as handmade indigenous items such as clothing and ceramics.

For More Information

On the Web: Visit Geelong
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Australia & New Zealand
IndependentTraveler.com: Australia & New Zealand Travel Guide

--By Sally Hammond, Cruise Critic contributor

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