Possessing a beautiful surrounding coastline, sophisticated architecture, beautiful gardens and parks, heritage sites, diverse dining scenario, industrial setting and a lively entertainment scene, Geelong is an Australian port city which attracts millions of international tourists. Located on Corio Bay, in the state of Victoria, it is Australia’s second fastest growing city. The city derived its name from the Aboriginal term “Djillong” which means "land" or "cliffs" or "tongue of land or peninsula". Despite being an urban centre, Geelong still preserves the remnants of its historic aboriginal culture. It is also a home to native Austrian wildlife. If you want to have a touring experience that offers both relaxation and exploring activities, Geelong is the go-to place for you. Here’s a list of all the things you can do in this amazing city.
Spend a day at Geelong Waterfront
Considered as one of the best waterfronts in Australia, Geelong Waterfront is filled with restaurants, cafes, bars, pubic art, gardens, piers, hotels and clubs. You’ll also see here abundant ferries, seaplanes and watercrafts. Though each and every corner of Geelong’s main recreation area has something to offer, its primary attractions are Yarra Street Pier which was destroyed by fire in 1988, Cunningham Pier, Eastern Beach and the restored Carousal Pavilion. Originally built in New York and later shipped to Australia, The Carousel still consists of two chariots, 36 horses out of which 24 are original, a 19th century steam engine, a 127 year old steam-driven carousel and a partly original 1898 Gavioli Band Organ. However, nothing can match the experience of a peaceful walk from Rippleside to Limeburners point. The beautiful walkway mostly remains deserted but is lined with Geelong Bollards. These are pieces of art unique to Geelong, made from a damaged city pier’s old timbers and piles and representing the city’s history through indigenous characters and famous explorers. You can click snaps with these bollards. Even more photogenic is the pier at sunset.
Fly high with Geelong Helicopter rides
Geelong presents the most exciting opportunity of witnessing the city’s striking landscapes and seascapes from the air. Geelong’s helicopter rides will render you a magical sightseeing experience and that too without exhausting yourself. The scenic flights to the twelve Apostles come with lunch packages and some flights also head to the Bellarine Peninsula from the Geelong Waterfront. Prices of different rides vary. Nevertheless they are affordable.
Go swimming at Eastern beach
Since Eastern beach adds a special charm to Geelong Waterfront, it deserves a special mention. Built in the first half of the 19th century, it still retains its Arco Deco style. It’s the perfect play for a sunny day out with your family or friends. Entering through the grand staircase lined with palm trees you’ll see a stunning panoramic view of the place featuring a curved boardwalk over the serene ocean, fountains, swimming pools, and the serene Corio Bay. While strolling the beautiful promenade you will find planks consisting of bronze plaques which honours individuals, families or local businesses that funded the promenade’s restoration. There are grassy grounds for picnicking and relaxing. This place is also flooded with food stalls, barbecues and cafes. But people mainly flock here for swimming in its first-class swimming enclosure. You can jump off from the diving towers and then swim to your heart’s content or laze on the floating islands. There’s also a shallow pool for children.
Hop on the Geelong Ferris Wheel
Even if you aren’t fond of rides, this is something you must try. Geelong’s Giant Sky Wheel is the largest Ferris wheel in the Southern Hemisphere which touches the skyline and lets one catch some amazing views of the Corio Bay from above. The ride lasts for thrilling 10 minutes at most. So you can enjoy this ride only from December to April. At night, the wheel illuminates itself with 24 bright light patterns that radiate its rays into the dark sky. The whole spectacle is that of an amazing beachside light show.
Enjoy your exploration of Geelong Library and Heritage Centre
The magnificent colossal dome situated in the heart of Geelong’s cultural precinct is Geelong Library and Heritage Centre. Inspired by the dome-shaped reading rooms in world’s greatest libraries, this geodesic dome made of glass and concrete features diverse collections of print, multimedia and heritage items as well as high-end technology displays. It has five levels for public among which the fifth level serves as the vantage point for seeing fantastic views of the city. An entire floor featuring specific collections is dedicated to children. Participate in the complimentary tours of this library starting from 11 a.m. daily and you’ll be awed by its technologically advanced reading rooms. Adjacent to this is the Library Café overlooking the green spaces of Johnstone Park. It offers delicious contemporary food items and good beverages. You just can’t say no to its warm and inviting ambience.
Praise artworks at Geelong Art Gallery
Highlighting the city’s architectural and cultural side, the Geelong Art Gallery established in 1896 is one of Australia’s oldest regional art galleries. It houses more than 6000 artworks including a vast range of collections of contemporary paintings, prints, sculpture and ceramics of Australia as well as 19th and 20th century Australian and European artworks. Some of its precious displays are Frederick McCubbin’s ‘A bush burial’ (1890), the iconic Eugène von Guérard’s ‘View of Geelong’ and two watercolours of colonial life in Victoria one depicting ‘the wild white man and the other presenting Melbourne’s first newspaper office’s interior. Also, lectures, workshops, activities, learning sessions and special temporary exhibitions frequently take place here.
Unearth the Indigenous People’s history and culture at Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Narana Aboriginal Culture Centre is another major cultural venue of Geelong, comprising many buildings amidst bushy gardens where native Australian animals like emus, kangaroos and wallabies reside and animal feeding experiences take place. It has a gallery, a playground for children, and a café. It hosts Cultural Education Programs which enables the visitors to know more about native Australian culture through the displays of cultural artefacts, indigenous people’s tools and weapons and old Aboriginal songs. The Narana Gallery showcases an assemblage of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal artworks retelling traditional stories. Having visited it, you won’t be surprised to know why it has won awards for being an authentic Aboriginal centre. Before leaving taste some Aussie bush tucker at Narana cafe.
Learn Australian wool’s history at The National Wool Museum
Established in Geelong, Victoria in 1988 the National Wool Museum tells the timeless story of the origin and development of wool, fibre and textile industries in Australia. It occupies an old bluestone wool store and houses four galleries out of which two are dedicated to telling the Australian wool story and the other two host Australian and international touring exhibitions. It tells how the arrival of sheep with the First Fleet in 1788 paved the way for setting up Australia’s wool industry, which flourished when the first woollen mills were opened in Geelong in 1868. Consequently it emerged as the “wool centre of the world”. It also shows how fleece is chosen and converted into textiles.
Taste Geelong Wineries’ handcrafted wines
Being the largest grape-growing region in Victoria, Geelong has more than 60 boutique wineries producing handcrafted wines. Geelong’s wine region encompassing Moorabool Valley, the Surfcoast, and the Bellarine offers the best kinds of regional wines. Each of these areas produces wines that have different regional characteristics. From large branded shops owned by reputed winemakers to small family-owned wine shops, all of Geelong wineries sell world-class wines. In fact, there are so many wineries that it is hardly possible to visit all of them and at the same time it is quite a difficult task to select just a few. To make it easy for you, Geelong wine tours will select the best wineries for you and show you scenic vineyards too.
Embrace the horror of Geelong Gaol Ghost Tour
Geelong Gaol Ghost Tour is going to provide you a very different nightlife experience. The tour will take you to an Australian convict prison that is still sound and intact. Opened in 1853, the three-storey blue stone gaol will shock you with the primitive conditions of its punishment cells, operating theatres, shower blocks, kitchen, infirmary, and exercise yards. Having an appearance of an old and deserted mansion, the building had once been an industrial school for girls, a prison for the ill and a military detention barrack. The eerie ambience that prevails all the way from its different entrances to the interiors of the building, can even make your blood run cold but once it’s over you’ll remember it as a fun experience.
See birds and platypus at The Barwon River
Having derived its name from the Aboriginal word “Parwan” meaning "magpie", the Barwon River flowing through Geelong also adds itself to the city’s list of natural attractions. The river is ideal for water sports and fishing. Many portions of the river bank are covered with lush greenery and facilitated with benches for sitting. Strolling the river bank will literally make you feel like you are in an English countryside. The serenity of the area is also occasionally challenged by the chirping of birds and various noises made by natural wildlife. But you’ll definitely love watching some rare species of birds that lie here including the endangered orange-bellied parrot. Keep walking until you reach Buckley’s Falls to see an Australian duck-billed platypus.
Go hiking at You Yangs
You Yangs National Park is a hill between Geelong and Melbourne with ample opportunities for biking, rock-climbing and walking. It has derived its name from the Wathauraong People which means “big mountain in the middle of a plain”. Its highest point is Flinders Peak which offers breathtaking views. To reach this point you’ll have to climb 450 steps. Representing typical Australian bush land occupied by koalas, wallabies and echidna You Yangs Park also facilitates picnicking and has free barbecues.
Treat yourself Geelong’s eateries
Geelong has plenty of eateries, but there are a few special ones that you must visit. Located in the Western beach, Geelong boat house pleases its visitors with a special snacking experience. No other eatery in the entire city serves such good fish and chips as this boat house does. Here, you can also click some amazing photos of the surrounding scenery or admire the view of the ocean. Have freshly cooked lunch at Mussel Boat which offers mussels, seafood and paella at reasonable prices and that too while observing the waterfront. You’ll get good steak and octopus at Tulip Bar and Restaurant. To have a Melbourne-inspired breakfast head to Box Office Café. Brian is a well-known restaurant specialises in good chicken preparations. You may try here gourmet fried chicken and chips with a selection of wines. For delicious luxurious cakes and desserts with amazing tea and coffee select Armageddon Cake. Another renowned café is Freckleduck which delivers good homemade waffles and prawn tacos, and granola with panna cotta.
Engage in Geelong Festivals and Events
The vibrant spirit of Geelong is brought about by the festivals and the events that this city hosts throughout the year. Based in the Geelong Waterfront, the Festival of Sails occurs every year in January. Considered to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest annual keelboat regatta, it is mainly based on boat racing. Bringing forth street parades, street foods, live performances and workshops to celebrate cultural diversity, Pako Festa takes place in February. Barwon Heads Festival of the Sea, held in March, is a duck race in which yellow plastic ducks are thrown into the river. Royal Geelong Show, hosted in the month of October, is Australia’s biggest agricultural show featuring kids’ activities, show bags, carnival rides, and farm animals. Showcasing works of emerging designers, local producers and talented artisans and performers, the Nightjar Festival finds Johnstone Park as its venue and provides entertainment by musical performances and food, wine, and beer extravaganza.
Shop at Geelong markets
Since Geelong’s markets say a lot about the lifestyle and preferences of the local residents, you’ll definitely get to know a lot more about the city’s local life and at the same time avail the opportunity of buying a variety of things. The Steampacket Market which is a combination of the Geelong Farmers Market and Geelong Waterfront Market sells unique crafts starting from beautiful artworks and handicrafts to fresh local produce. Located beside the waterside and accompanied by live music, it offers a very relaxing shopping experience to the visitors. The Beckley Park Market specialises in selling Manuka honey or home-grown Orange Blossom along with fresh fruit and vegetables. Belmont Market sells flowers and plants, hot food and confectionaries. Other popular local markets are the Geelong Mill Market and Geelong Vintage market selling retro goods and antique items.
Feed kangaroos or koalas at Jirrahlinga
Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary homes sick and rescued Australian animals and treats them. The word Jirrahlinga means “seek a home for kangaroos” but it also provides shelters to other distressed native animals such as koalas, dingoes and joeys. Though it is not a large sanctuary, it gives its visitors the opportunity to have a very intimate encounter with the animals it has rescued.
Enjoy a show at Pivitonian Cinema
If you’re tired of walking around the city, rest your weary legs by watching a movie at Pivitonian Cinema. Hosting Metropolitan Opera and Theatre Live Productions, this independent boutique art-house cinema screens hand-picked global independent films as well as Australian movies. To compliment your cinema experience a fully licensed Candy Bar offers good snacks with local beer and wine.
Explore the Bellarine Peninsula
If you have a lot of time in your hands, then don’t hesitate to head to the vibrant Bellarine Peninsula full of magnificent sights. You’ll be awestruck by the exquisite rocky shores of Barwon Heads and the scenic beauty of the former seaside resort town known as Queenscliff. Bellarine Peninsula hosts seaway ferries which take visitors from Queenscliff to Sorrento in the Mornington Peninsula. Make it to the top of the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse to envision picturesque scenes but be careful while climbing its steep and narrow winding stairs. Also walk along its rocky piers to see some awesome oceanic views.
Smell the fragrances of nature at Geelong Botanic Gardens
Geelong’s botanical gardens lying within Easter Park are one of the city’s most charming natural treasures. Built in 1851 and boasting a vast collection of flora and fauna, these well-maintained immaculate gardens along with its heritage buildings still remain intact. With empty open grassy spaces, the National Trust Significant Tree Register listed trees and nice smelling flowering plants that fill the space with sweet fragrance, these gardens captivate its visitors with its beauty. Its glorious rose garden has a special charm. Consequently it is a popular setting for wedding photography. You can have a cuppa coffee or tea and devour some cakes or snacks at a cute Tea House inside the garden.
And this isn’t the end! Go skating at Geelong Skate Park or Rollerway Newtown, have fun at Geelong Adventure Park which is Victoria’s largest water theme park, observe keenly all the murals and paintings that decorate Geelong’s streets, see some rare bat species at Eastern Gardens, visit the East Geelong Golf Course, explore Geelong’s breweries and attend an Australian Football League match to take in all that the city has to offer.