Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. Especially in Winter. It may be counter-intuitive but even if I won’t be swimming and sunbathing there’s something grounding about crashing waves under grey skies right outside the door. Particularly if there are the cliché (for good reason) fireplaces and goblets of red wine to warm my wind-blasted cheeks. In this frame of mind, I was invited to explore the pretty little coastal area of the Bellarine Peninsula and embrace Winter.
From my home base of a cabin at Big4, the first welcome stop was the charming Jack Rabbit winery. While their fine dining restaurant undertakes an epic make-over; your can lunch within the House of Jack Rabbit cafe. I was very happy sipping their 2012 Sparkling Blanc De Blanc (their strongest wine in my humble, often tipsy opinion) accompanied by panoramic views of the city, mussel farms just off shore and bobbing boats. If you’ve kindly given your chauffeur Jeeves the day of one can conveniently arrive by helicopter; you do have one don’t you?
The Bellarine’s version of high tea? Just add water! The Queenscliff-Sorrento ferry offers the delightfully named ‘High Tea on the High Seas‘. I think this high tea would work best if you can book the whole room and make it a special occasion (which wouldn’t be to tricky; it’s quite cosy). Never before has seafaring been so shabby chic. Finger sandwiches and tiny tarts set sail every second Sunday.
If it’s not raining, I’d recommend stocking up Annie’s Providore in Barwon Heads for a beach picnic. This should set you up for a serene stroll along the main street in town here or heading to Queenscliff or Ocean Grove which are the other main hotspots (and by hotspots I mean happily sleepy by Melbourne standards).
The highlight for me was dinner at the Vue Grand Hotel in Queenscliff within their grand dining room surrounded by chandeliers, portraits and pianos. I think their 5 course Bellarine tasting menu is a gluttonous must-do. It changes seasonally as good produce is wont to do. I still can’t decide whether the scallops with fig and samphire or the gingerbread pudding was my favourite. I found the pacing to be a little languid here, so settle in for long meal and order coffee. More sparkling from Jack Rabbit is also recommended.
And of course there’s the retail therapy; my guide to the best place to shop for fashion, homewares, art and books in the Bellarine can be found here.