Torquay, including Bellbrae and Jan Juc is one of Victoria’s most popular day tripper seaside destinations and is situated on the Surf Coast.
Located 95km south-west of Melbourne and 22km south of Geelong at the eastern end of the magnificent Great Ocean Road, Torquay is known as the 'Surf Capital of Australia'.
Torquay is also the official start of the Great Ocean Road - one of Australia's most spectacular coastal drives which covers over 200 kilometres of the south-western Victorian coast, passing through areas such as the scenic Otway Ranges and the rugged Shipwreck Coast west of Cape Otway.
It is thought that the Wathaurung Aborigines occupied the area prior to European settlement. Picnickers began to frequent the spot from the 1860’s. When the first land was sold in the mid-1880’s the locality was known to Europeans as Spring Creek, after the rivulet which demarcates its south-western edge. It soon became a popular holiday spot for residents of Geelong and Melbourne who initially travelled here by Cobb & Co coach. The seaside resort associations, coupled with the English-orientated demographics, saw the settlement renamed Torquay in 1892 after the holiday resort in Devonshire.
The Canadian clipper, the Joseph H Scammel, ran aground 400 metres offshore in 1891. The pine deckhouse was used to build the lower portion of Scammel House which can still be seen in Pride St. It was the hearing into the wreck that led to the construction of a lighthouse at Aireys Inlet.
Torquay's beaches are, of course, its raison d'etre. As Torquay has been a holiday resort since the late 19th century its beaches are modelled on English seaside resorts with immaculate grassed areas and shady trees for a post-paddling promenade.
Scenic walking tracks extend through much of the town's foreshore, and good views can be enjoyed from Yellow Bluff and at Point Danger with its Anzac Memorial perched high above the ocean on the headland.
The settlement is mostly sandwiched between Deep Creek to the north-east and Spring Creek to the south-west. Both empty into the ocean. The beach-walker heading south-west from Deep Creek will find themselves on a stretch of Zeally Bay which is known locally as Fishermans Beach or Fisho's. As the name suggests it is a noted fishing, as well as a sailing spot. There is a boat ramp and sailing club. To the rear is a neat lawned area for picnics with electric barbecues provided.
At the western end of Fisho's is Yellow Bluff where there are cypress trees and more picnic grounds. On the other side is Front Beach (aka Cosy Corner), which is a family bathing beach with lawns and an esplanade that is flood-lit at night. It is delimited to the south-west by the rock-strewn extremity of Point Danger from whence there are views north-east to Point Impossible (thought to be an ancient Aboriginal burial place) and south-west to Bells Beach.
On the foreshore near Deep Creek, behind Fisherman's Beach, is an impressive large-scale sundial with ceramic tiles featuring Aboriginal motifs.
The Surf Coast Walk extends for 27km from Jan Juc to Angahook Lorne State Park near Aireys Inlet, passing through coastal bushland, and along beaches and cliff-tops. There are subsections for those with more modest ambitions.
In nearby Bellbrae, six kilometres to the west, there is an interesting museum with a fine collection of horse-drawn carriages.
There are a couple of local wineries, producing red, white and sparking wines, open for tastings and cellar door sales.
If you’re into a round, then the Torquay Golf Club is not to be missed with its panoramic views and a challenging 18 hole layout.
Another must-do in this area is to see if from the air. You’ll be awe-inspired by the amazing views so a sightseeing flight or tandem skydive will provide lasting memories.
And, of course, there’s Bells Beach, one of the world’s most notorious surfing beaches, famous for its world-renowned Easter Surfing Classic. Torquay is a major centre for the manufacture of surfing gear and many claim it has the best waves west of Hawaii. The Surfworld Surfing Museum includes displays from historic memorabilia to interactive videos.
Nearby Angelsea is also a lovely spot to stop for a round of golf because you’ll share the course with grazing kangaroos.
The 13000 hectare Otway National Park, with its towering rainforest trees, straddles the Great Ocean Road as it nips inland west of Apollo Bay.
A gentle 45 minute walk from Maits Rest wanders through ferns, mossy gullies, and beech and myrtle trees, some 300 years old. The old Cape Otway Lighthouse is at the end of a short track, which runs south from the main road 4 kilometres beyond Maits Rest.
One of the most spectacular stretches of coastline is the 27 kilometre stretch of the Port Campbell National Park. This area is home to the postcard-pretty Twelve Apostles, which jut out of the sea near the limestone cliffs to which they once belonged.
Port Campbell is small and friendly; Warrnambool is big and friendly. For some hard-to-decide eating choices in Warrnambool, head down Liebig Street to Timor Street for Mexican, Japanese, seafood, family - even Scottish. Lady Bay Beach and the adjacent, award-winning adventure playground is a popular picnic spot, and nearby protected Stingray Bay is extremely safe for young kids.
Warnambool is also a breeding ground for the rare Southern Right whales (May to September). These giants grow to 15 metres and 60 tonnes. An observation platform overlooking the shallow water of nearby Logans Beach provides good views of the mothers with their calves.
The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum presents the way an early-fortified coastal town may have looked, incorporating 1887 fortifications, and old and re-created buildings. It has two working lighthouses and a collection of vessels from bygone days, including a small passenger steamer.
Winter or summer, the area is one of Australia’s priceless treasures and has all the ingredients for a superb family holiday.