Portarlington on the Bellarine is best explored at a leisurely pace. Being a seaside village, it’s all about a relaxed vibe, effortless pleasures and the delicious charm of life done simple.
It’s my favourite way to really get to know a place: wander the streets and pier, poke your nose into local haunts and unravel the day-to-day doings.
For Portarlington, start with these five laid-back get-to-know-you pursuits. Take your time – leave a few stones unturned for your come-back visit.
1. Poke around Portarlington Mill
This 4-storey sandstone relic was once a steam flour mill, built in 1857 to help process grain crops grown on the Bellarine Peninsula to feed the hordes of folk flocking to the gold fields. Its sandstone blocks were carved from nearby seacliffs. Listed by the National Trust, the mill houses displays and a collection of historic memorabilia. It’s just 300 metres from the beach but easily missed unless you’re looking for it. Trust me: it’s well worth seeking out just to clap your eyes on its old-world elegance.
2. Get mussel-bound
Portarlington mussels are the stuff of legends. Amble out the Portarlington Pier to ogle the mussel boat fleet up close. If you’re lucky, you might spy the team harvesting mussels just off shore. What a satisfying thing it is to see where your food originates and understand how it gets from there to your dinner plate. Of course, you’ll want to try out the local produce for yourself. Head to Advance Mussel Supply in town or Sea Bounty in St Leonards to grab fresh-from-the-sea-farm mussels by the kilo, ready to go.
3. Get spa-spangled
Exploit the delightfully slower pace in town by heading to Bellarine Day Spa and Retreat. How does a relaxing massage using aromatherapy oils and best quality locally grown olive oil sound? Maybe pair it with a detox sauna or spa, or a full body cocoon wrap treatment. You can’t help but leave feeling rested and recharged.
4. Take The Esplanade to the beer garden
OK, so this isn’t technically IN Portarlington, but it’s so close and do-able, it rates a spot here. Touring The Esplanade is a lazy little road trip with a seaside village vibe all the way. Take the 10km coastal route from Portarlington to St Leonards, weaving almost at sea level between the bay on one-side and the view-stealing beach homes on the other. Look for the Ozone Shipwreck just off shore at Indented Head. At St Leonards, wander the pier and the foreshore before settling into the pub’s beer garden for a bevie or two with the locals. Sigh.
5. Relax into al fresco wine tasting
Bennetts on Bellarine is a family-run winery that’s so mellow, you’ll feel like you’ve found your long lost relatives. They’ll welcome you with old-fashioned hospitality and a fresh-air venue set against a rustic century-old dairy. It’s all hands-on and heavy-on-the-charm here, from the keeping of the vines to the serving up of superb vinos and cheese platters for you to enjoy while taking in rural views to the You Yangs.
Loads of cool things in a neat bundle. And Port Phillip Ferries can get you there, direct from Melbourne Docklands, every day.