Australia is a destination of many natural gifts; from dramatic coastlines with jutting mountains that plummet into the sea, to calm waters on sandy beaches, and of course, the arid and majestic beauty of the Outback. An hour and a half drive south of Melbourne is where you’ll find a unique treasure; the Bellarine Peninsula.
Here you’ll find quaint coastal towns built at the turn of the century, sweeping farmland and livestock grazing on wide-open pastures, and vineyards as far as the eye can see. There are no big shopping malls, discos, or megahotels.
This is the place to go for peace and tranquility and to escapes life’s manic pace. An ideal respite to explore the area or for a romantic getaway in its only eco luxury B&B, The Nest.
Most visitors to Melbourne would have heard of the Mornington Peninsula; it is a well-travelled destination of lovely beaches, farmlands and great wineries. The Bellarine Peninsula is its lesser known sibling just on the other side of the bay and a short 50-minute ferry ride away.
The Bellarine Peninsula is an ideal place for those looking to escape the crowds and get off the beaten path. There’s a certain serenity in the Bellarine Peninsula; farmlands with all manner of crop and livestock as well as vast stretches of coastlines with lovely beaches and a historic lighthouse.
There are also plenty of rustic mining towns and seaside villages to explore along the coast, from Portarlington to Ocean Grove. Queenscliff is the area’s most renowned place to visit which is just a short distance from The Nest.
This a former 1880’s seaside resort town now known for its Victorian era heritage and a popular place to visit for its restaurants, historical sights, hikes and bike rides and the coastal beauty of Point Nepean National Park.
The Bellarine Peninsula is most notably a culinary fantasy land which produces some of Australia’s top wines and of course mussels. There are a few fancy cellar doors as well as some more rustic ones where the winemaker or his family will be the one pouring for your pleasure.
On the outskirts of the quaint village of Point Lonsdale is where you’ll find The Nest. For those looking for long lines to check in with an indifferent reception, big breakfast buffets with cues at the omelette station, or kids running and screaming around the pool, this is not the place.
The Nest is all about getting close to your loved one as well as appreciating the natural surroundings and nature’s gifts that abound. The eco-luxury bed and breakfast offers a bespoke getaway perfect for romantic couples celebrating a special occasion or just looking to reconnect.
It’s quite intimate and with only three units on a hill overlooking the 40-acre grounds and marshlands of the proprietor’s estate. Nash and Angela are your hosts who have mastered the art of being friendly and available without being in the way.
They know that you are there to share time with each other and never interfere yet seem to always be accessible when guests may have a need especially about where to go and what to see in the area.
The three “pods” as they are referred to are stand-alone self-contained accommodations. These futuristic dwellings have everything a couple or solo traveller needs for an enjoyable stay with ultra-modern furnishings and the uber comfortable king-size beds which will beg you to hit the snooze button. There is a wet bar with tea and espresso maker and refrigerator that comes stocked with complimentary drinks and local artisan snacks.
Breakfast is served each day with a basket left at your door at a pre-arranged time. Inside is filled with all kinds of goodies to start the day from a yummy fresh fruit salad, yogurt, just out of the oven croissants and pastries, and Angela’s unforgettably good homemade apricot preserves.
The views of the coastline and southern skies are exquisite from the deck or through the floor to ceiling sliding glass doors that run the length of the pod. The pods have an extensive deck area with a cosy nook and couch, ideal for a bottle of wine while watching the sun paint the sky its brilliant oranges, reds and purples as it sets over the bay.
The late-night sky provides a blanket of stars and moonshine and another opportunity to canoodle with your loved one. An exquisite feature of the deck is an oversized Jacuzzi which is heated and has all types of lights, jets, and areas to spread out or get close. The pods are completely private and posited to only take in the incredible views of only the outdoors or each other.
Nash and Angela had a vision to create a private sanctuary for couples to get close to each other and nature. Around the property there are bird sanctuaries of replanted indigenous trees which use recycled grey water to feed the trees and native gardens.
Nash’s respect for the environment goes much deeper than that as he sought out to make The Nest as sustainable and environmentally responsible as possible. Solar panels provide power during the day for the pods and 100% of the water used on the property is from filtrated rain water. Many of the material to construct the pods were locally sourced or recycled such as the plastics used for the large outdoor decks.
At some point after your scrumptious breakfast at The Nest, you’ll want to explore the foodie fun to be had all along the Bellarine Peninsula. There’s an abundance of restaurants, farmgates and wineries and other culinary experiences a short taxi ride away from The Nest.
The tourism community has created an organized way to eat your way thought the peninsula with recommended wineries, eateries and foodie experiences. Its’ called the Bellarine Tasting Trail and has all types of information tips and recommendations on where to plunk down for the region’s best.
The Bellarine has the climate and terroir that makes it the ideal for good wine. It has many of the same soil and weather qualities of Burgundy and Bordeaux with a cool maritime climate and moderate to low rainfall which causes long, slow ripening periods.
This climate and conditions causes a relatively low yielding but high-quality fruit. The oenophile will love this region for its cool-climate wines with a varied offering of pinot gris, pinot noirs, chardonnays, Rieslings, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, viognier, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Beyond the wonderful wines it’s the tasting experience itself with options that range from large and fancy corporate cellar doors to quaint and rustic mom-and-pop operations.
The wine lover will want to spend a few hours visiting Jamison Bennet at Bennet’s Winery at his family run winery. Jamie, often with his young son in tow, will be happy to walk the vineyards with you pointing out his grape varieties talking about last years’ harvest and the outlook for this crop or just pointing out the You Yang mountains on the horizon just beyond the sheep paddocks.
Don’t expect white linen and fine crystal. This is a fun and rustic open-air bolt hole with old couches and hodgepodge furniture under sugar gum trees on a hundred-year-old dairy farm.
The weekends get pretty busy as locals and tourists stop in. Jamie is often bending the elbow with guests talking about wine or his experiences on the peninsula. The genuine hospitality is what most will remember and on weekends they fire up a wood-burning oven for some delicious pizza rustico.
There’s also a serving of live music on Sunday from the area’s top performers who belt out some much-loved classics and folk music. If you’re in the mood for their award-winning wines, live music and wood fire pizza under the open skies, stop in Bennet’s on the weekend and say hello. Jamie will be waiting for you.
Just down the gravel lane from Bennet’s is one of the area’s most revered cellar doors, Jack Rabbit. On any day of the week, especially at the weekend, international travellers as well as lovers of the grape from nearby Melbourne descend on this spot to have a leisurely lunch while overlooking Port Phillip bay.
The House of Jack Rabbit is their casual café and cellar door. It is a beautiful scene as families come out with children running barefoot on the soft green grass as the adults settle down for some serious foodie time and a delicious lunch. Next door is the Jack Rabbit Restaurant which is one of the top in Australia and serves modern Australian gourmet dishes of local products prepared by talented chefs.
The wine is the centrepiece of the day and the Jack Rabbit Vineyards are most well known for their award-winning, sophisticated wines such as their Sparkling Blanc de Blanc Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Shiraz Cabernet. The cellar door is often bustling with visitors who will take away a case to add to their collection and the brand is also exported worldwide.
The Bellarine Peninsula has an abundance of wineries offering exceptional cellar door and culinary experiences. Be sure to also check out Leura Park, Bellarine Estates and the other fine wineries and cellar doors on the peninsula. For something a bit different try out the recently opened Cobb and Co which serves up some inventive cocktails from their artisanal gin and whiskey from their own copper still.
Australia and the Bellarine Peninsula in particular is all about eating local as well as supporting its community farmers and artisanal food producers such as the handcrafted goat cheeses at Dysdale Farms. Port Phillip Bay’s other noteworthy bounty is of course seafood and their fish, oysters and mussels. The Little Mussel Cafe is another great stop where you can taste mussels prepared in numerous exotic ways such as their smoked mussels.
During your visit you’ll also want to make time for the Bellarine Smoked Fish Company. A great way to spend an afternoon is to picnic with farmers market fresh produce, cheese and sour dough bread to accompany your smoked fish and pâtés. A beach side picnic with a chilled bottle of local chardonnay is what vacation memories are made of.
The Bellarine Peninsula has miles and miles of coastline on either side with plenty to do in the water, on shore or inland. After all that gorging, you’ll definitely want to balance it out with a bit of sport at their idyllic beaches, golf courses of Barwon Heads, diving or enjoying Australian’s favourite pastime, surfing.
Australians also love walking so there are plenty of well laid out paths for long calorie burning walks along spectacular coast paths. You may also want to explore the You Yangs mountains where you’ll see a variety of wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas and all types of indigenous vegetation.
The Bellarine Peninsula is a wonderful experience and excellent side trip from Melbourne. It’s a foodie paradise with wonderful wines and artisanal dishes galore. The Nest is the ideal place from which to explore the region and come back to its tranquil and natural setting for some much-needed rest and alone time.
Address: 2140 Bellarine Hwy, Point Lonsdale VIC 3225, Australia
Phone: +61 419 329 090