More than a starting point for the Great Ocean Road, Geelong mixes beach with art and even throws in some decent waterfront dining.

DO 

Head straight to the waterfront at Corio Bay, where you can check out the Bayside Bollards – more than 100 timber sculptures painted by local artist Jan Mitchell. All along here are piers and marinas, as well as the historic Carousel Pavilion with a merry-go-round dating back to 1892. Stop at Eastern Beach, with its Art Deco swimming enclosure, for a dip, then let the kids go mad at the nearby playground. Along here you’ll also see the Geelong Helicopters base at Yarra Street Pier. Do a scenic 12-minute flight over the city, the You Yangs and Barwon River.

EAT AND DRINK 

There are lots of restaurants and cafes stretched along Geelong’s waterfront, ranging from the very casual, where a little bit of sand won’t phase anyone, to fine-dining establishments. Wharf Shed Cafe (15 Eastern Beach, +61 3 5221 6645), with its outdoor terrace and water views, does pizza, salad and classic dishes like burgers and fish and chips. Black Salt (13-15 The Esplanade, +61 3 5244 7790) also has views of Corio Bay but the modern Australian menu is worthy of a special occasion. At lunch tuck into chicken terrine, crispy whitebait and risotto verde, all matched to fine local wines.

STAY

If you’re seduced by Geelong’s charms – or perhaps you’re using this as a starting point to start a drive down the Great Ocean Road – book Vue Apartments (6 Bellerine Street, +61 3 5202 1061). A luxury studio or two-bedroom apartments overlook Eastern Beach and there’s a day spa on site.

GET THERE

Catch a V/Line train from Southern Cross Station and you’ll be in Geelong in 55 minutes.

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