Boasting calm beaches, parklands, sea baths, restaurants and iconic street art, the Geelong Foreshore is an absolute gem. It helps draw five million visitors a year to Victoria’s second city – and with plenty to appeal to the whole family, the waterfront is a great spot for a weekend getaway.
The undisputed highlight of the waterfront, and a must-see for any visitor to Geelong, are the iconic bay walk bollards. More than 100 of these brightly painted pieces of art (somewhat resembling giant wooden clothes pegs!) dot the foreshore.
Artist Jan Mitchell created the bollards in the 1990s using piles salvaged from a demolished pier. Each bollard depicts a real person or event that shaped Geelong’s history. Let these whimsical waymakers be your guides as you explore the best the Geelong Waterfront has to offer.
Start at Limeburners Point, where you’ll meet a limeburner who worked the locals kilns burning limestone to create cement during the 1800s. It was hot and dirty work. Close by, Matthew Flinders and his famous cat Trim watch over Corio Bay. Flinders is credited with discovering the bay.
It is rare for an Australian city to have a north-facing waterfront, and this enviable aspect means you’ll enjoy sunshine nearly all day as you explore the foreshore and meet its characters.
But first, it’s well worth a short detour inland to take in the lovely Victorian-era Geelong Botanic Gardens. The gardens were laid out more than 150 years ago and display a wonderful collection of exotic trees, including black walnut, copper beech and cork oak. The pretty rose beds at the centre of the gardens are maintained by enthusiastic green-thumbed volunteers. Bollards at the entrance to the gardens depict their first curator – Daniel Bunce – and a female visitor to the gardens.
Back on the Geelong foreshore, the ever popular enclosed swimming area at Eastern Beach is the perfect place to take a refreshing dip on a warm day. The complex has floating islands and a diving tower, all enclosed by a circular art deco style boardwalk. The sea baths were the brainchild of Geelong city surveyor Ian Macdonald, who designed the site in 1936. He is still surveying the site in bollard form.
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A separate children’s wading pool ensures the little ones can splash about in comfort and safety, away from the ‘bombs’ dropping from the diving tower!
Neighbouring Eastern Beach Reserve has plenty of picnic and barbecue facilities. The reserve is watched over by a group of swimmer bollards that illustrate the changing styles of swimming costumes from the 1890s to the 1950s.
Another must-see highlight of the foreshore is the stunningly restored Armitage-Herschell carousel – a big favourite with the children and the young at heart. The carousel – complete with 36 hand carved horses and two chariots – was originally built in 1892. It was purchased for Geelong in 1996 as part of the foreshore’s redevelopment. Restoring each steed to its original glory took an incredible 300 hours and the project took three years to complete. The carousel is now a treasured Geelong landmark and one of only 200 of its kind still operating in the world.
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Where to eat in Geelong
If all that sunshine, sea air and strolling has left you hungry, head out to the end of Cunningham Pier to Asian-inspired restaurant Wah Wah Gee. The restaurant offers a fabulous outlook over Corio Bay to go with its sharing-style menu. You can quench your thirst with a cocktail upstairs at the City Quarter Bar. They also offer gourmet pizzas and tapas.
As you continue your exploration of the Geelong foreshore from Cunningham Pier to Rippleside Beach and Park, you will discover around 20 more bollards representing the families, churches, education groups and sporting clubs that have enjoyed using this picturesque part of the foreshore over many years.
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Your ideal base for exploring the foreshore is Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong. The hotel is situated right on the Esplanade, and within easy reach of all of the waterfront attractions mentioned here. The hotel offers complimentary bicycle hire to guests, another great way to explore the amazing waterfront.
Words and images by Louise Reynolds, a Melbourne based freelance travel writer with a passion for exploring her home state of Victoria.