Distance – circa 120km, Difficulty – low (wind dependent), Traffic – Moderate/High
Riding the full circuit of the Bellarine Peninsula is pretty much de rigueur for anyone visiting this region. As you can see from the elevation table, it’s a pretty flat route allowing for a reasonably quick time, whilst taking in some lovely country. Your only challenge will always be the wind. Westerly’s are the prevailing wind direction in this area, with an Easterly direction only really being available in Summer to Autumn. If you don’t get the direction right, it can be a pretty miserable ride back to Geelong. But this is definitely one of my favourite spins if I just want to go out and do a tempo ride. Traffic can be heavy at times, especially between Geelong and Portarlington. But there are good shoulders on the road for the majority of the ride.
To break it down…
Starting in Geelong you have a pretty flat route, past the old salt pans at Point Henry, an industry now long gone, and in the distance you will also see the old Alcoa aluminium smelters that are also no longer in use, which really tells a recurring story of Geelong over the past 30 years. The road is coarse, but in reasonably good condition, with good shoulders. There is a small climb in Leopold, and a bit undulating into Drysdale, which is a small town with just one traffic light, and a couple of roundabouts. From Drysdale, the road goes up and down (the collection of climbs in this area are known as the ‘3 Sisters’) into Portarlington, and with that, although not hard, the most difficult climbing is done. Portarlington is a lovely town, with a number of shops for refueling, if that is what you need, or a rest room on the left side of the road to fill up water if required (not that you have traveled that far yet).
From Portarlington, if you want a slightly shorter route, you can head right, just after the hotel, and head straight to Queenscliffe, or, as I always prefer, go along the Esplanade, though Indented Heads and onto St Leonards. The road is pancake flat, and you get a nice view back to Melbourne across Port Phillip Bay. At St Leonards, you can either turn up the main street, or as I do, keep going straight on till you are forced to go right. Either way, you end up on exactly the same road (Murradoc), heading towards a roundabout, where you turn left, towards Swan Bay. The road from St Leonards to the roundabout is bumpy (not one of my favorites) and the shoulder is very narrow, but the road is generally reasonably quiet. Just watch the raised bumps on the road, which make riding a tad unpleasant if you’re not concentrating.
From the roundabout, going past Swan Bay, can be boring, but is one of my favorites for some reason…going south is much better than north (probably mental). Turn left when you hit the Queenscliffe highway, and go onto Queenscliffe, where, if you want, stop off for a coffee or something to eat (you’ve earnt it!). A good place to stop, is the ferry terminal (which you can follow signs to), and there are rest rooms nearby on the beach if you need water.
From Queenscliffe back to Geelong, if you’ve picked a good day (ie/ Easterly), is the pick of the route in my opinion. But if you are riding into a Westerly, well, you have my sympathy…I’ve been there many times.
From Queenscliffe to Ocean Grove is not particularly anything to talk about, but after that you are in for a real treat. Again, the riding is really dead flat, but the scenery is just magnificent. Once you hit Ocean Grove and ride towards Barwon Heads, you go on a 3km road, that is just one of the best riding roads of anywhere I have been. Its smooth, albeit busy, but you can build up a real pace and rhythm. Once you hit the Barwon Heads bridge, chuck a left, and go along 13th beach road, past the golf club, and the magnificent 13th beach on your left, waving to the surfers. The road is not great, its coarse, without a shoulder to speak of, but you will love it. The beach, the views and all the other riders you’ll see out there, make it one of the best places to cycle in this neck of the woods.
Once past 13th Beach, the roads become fairly prosaic and bumpy. You will go through farm land, past the small airport, and make you way back to Geelong.
In all, as I said, if you come to this region, this is just a right of passage ride that you must do. Its not a hard ride, but a great recovery, or long ride to build some endurance, without worrying about climbing. There’s lots of places to fill up water, and shops to buy any food or to stop off for some coffee. Phone coverage is not a problem either. Traffic can be heavy on patches, but in those areas, you also have good room for riding on the side of the road. If you are so inclined, it is also a wine growing region that you can come back to later to try out the local treats.