If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd be hanging out for a weekend away in Geelong, I would've laughed. "But why? What's there to see and do in Geelong, that I can't just do here?", my pre-Geelong self would've asked.
Turns out – a helluva lot.
A few years back when I was working in Geelong, I got to see first hand what a beautiful, vibrant city Melbourne's little sister has become. Located a mere hour from the CBD, Geelong has certainly 'grown up' and is now a trendy waterfront destination offering delicious eats, mouth-watering treats and plenty of sights and sounds to keep you entertained.
With over 180 restaurants, cafes and bars to dine at, plenty of shops, and attractions aplenty – plus, THAT view of the water – it can be a little hard deciding where to start.
Luckily for you Urban Listers, we've put together an itinerary of all the best things to do in Geelong. Next time you're considering a weekend away, forget the torturous drive (especially if there are kids involved…we all know, the less time on the road, the better) and opt for a mini-break in Geelong instead.
Let's start by answering the most important question (well to us, anyway) – where should you be eating when you visit Geelong? Where do we start?!
With beautiful bay views and a super chill vibe, the Geelong waterfront is a popular option for both locals and travellers. Housed in a historical bluestone building, Customs House has you covered from breakfast right through until dinner. While their meals are delish, it's the homemade cakes that we'll be writing home about. Yuuuuumm! Waterfront Kitchen and The Edge are two more great restaurants to try – the former offering a yummy bistro menu (perfect for devouring under the yellow umbrellas) and the latter serving a killer steak sandwich. The Edge is also pumping on a Saturday night and one of our fave spots in Geelong for a drink.
If it's more the café scene you're after, then we strongly suggest Down the Alley – new to Geelong, this quirky café is famous for its all day brekkie menu, plus they've got lots of gluten free choices for those who ain't no friend of the G word. Tucked away in a little laneway, like so many great foodie finds are, this is one not to miss! We also love Café Go – as much for their food, as for their cosy open fire. And we can't go past James Street Bakery either – this French bakery has the most droolworthy baked goods! Grab a baguette (or two) before you head out to discover the many and varied things to do in Geelong.
Moorabool Street is another dining hotspot, with Black Bull and Mojo Mama regularly drawing crowds thanks to their tapas menu and Mexican eats respectively. Jack & Jill can also be found on Moorabool, and trust us when we say you don't want to miss this one – chef Leonie Mills' signature miniature meal is delicious, not to mention super cute! You'll also love Ebony & Ivory, an award-winning café and restaurant whose tortellini is some of the best pasta in Geelong – it's served with goat's cheese mascarpone, parmesan, grilled prawns, pinenuts, sage and sultanas (go on…drool…we did!). Oh and the shawarmas at Sam's Café (206 Moorabool Street) are a Geelong tradition for a reason – they are so, so good!
For those who have a hankering for meat, glorious meat, you will LOVE There There. Sure, the Malop Street restaurant has lots of yummy share plates, but it's the Korean BBQ pork ribs served with cabbage and chilli, along with the 24-hour (read: suuuuper tender) beef cheek, that will have you salivating. Parkers Steakhouse, another laneway restaurant, are famous for their meats too – they do a damn fine chargrilled steak!
Finally, Empire Grill's degustation menu makes for one of the most memorable meals you'll have in Geelong. For $100, you'll be treated to the chef's selection of five courses, all served with matching wines. Too good! There's also à la carte available, but surely by now Urban Listers would know we're suckers for a good degustation…and Empire Grill certainly delivers!
After you've chowed down, you're going to need something to wash it down!
We love a good cocktail and they don't come much better than at Mrs Hyde. The Hyde Street venue is not only the place to see and be seen in Geelong, but also to indulge in one of the ahhhmazing cocktails. The menu changes seasonally and currently includes drinks like the Smokey Scotsman Sour (Glenfiddich whiskey, citrus and egg white), Honey Badger (Bison Grass vodka, honey liquer, lemon and sparkling wine), and the oh-so-naughty Spanked Pear Sling (G'Vine gin, fresh pear, Pimms and citrus).
Union Street Wine is another one of Geelong's best watering holes, a sweet little wine bar offering plenty of top local drops. We suggest sampling a few and then taking a bottle (or two…yeah, definitely go for two) home.
If it's a morning beverage of the caffeinated variety you're after (or maybe just the morning after the night before), Fuel is the place to, ummm, refuel – two words: GREAT COFFEE. Fuel's seasonal menu is also worth visiting for, however their coffee is glorious. A Spot for Joe also do a great cup of joe (you should order their quinoa porridge and a green juice too while you're there!), as do John Doe – a place famous for its 'pretentiously made coffee service in an unpretentious manner'.
Whether you're looking for something right in the heart of Geelong city or something a little smaller and more boutique, travellers of all budgets and tastes are catered for when it comes to Geelong accommodation options.
With amazing views of Corio Bay, the Four Points by Sheraton is one of the most popular hotels in Geelong thanks to their super comfortable rooms and studios, friendly staff and proximity to all of Geelong's best cafes, restaurants and shopping. Four Points also offer five different function spaces, so whether it's a meeting, celebration or something else altogether, the team here have got you covered.
If it's more serviced apartments you're after (but you still want bay views), the Waterfront Apartments are just the ticket. Located on the corner of Eastern Beach Road and Yarra Street, Waterfront Apartments offer all the convenience of other Geelong accommodation options plus clean and comfortable rooms to boot.
Prefer something closer to the heart of the CBD? The Mercure Geelong is right up your alley, with its central location right on the corner of Gheringhap and Myers Streets. Perfect for families, business travellers and long-weekenders alike, the Mercure is also home to Zenith Restaurant and Bar – a great spot to dine before you head out for the day (or night!).
Perhaps you're looking for something more private…and if you are, then book yourself into The Haymarket Boutique Hotel. Our pick for a romantic weekend away (it's just as close to all the Geelong sites, sounds, eats and treats as the others), the Haymarket offers six individual suites, all decorated with antique furniture and their own little quirky touches.
There's no shortage of fun things to do in Geelong – no sir! From foodies and shopaholics, to nature lovers and those seeking some pampering, there's something for everyone.
Get ready to shop until you drop at the Brougham St Markets – with plenty of vintage items and used goods for you to trawl through, you're sure to find a gem. For homewares, furniture and gifts that you'll probably want to keep for yourself, Townhouse Living is unmissable. Last time we visited, we walked out wanting half the store! Crafty types will love Ballyhoo Art – amazing artworks, colourful jewellery and plenty of unique handmade pieces.
Speaking of arts, the Geelong Performing Arts Centre (or GPAC as it's known to locals) has a jam-packed program that's sure to entertain. Vibrant musicals, hilarious comedies, and thought provoking theatre shows – GPAC's got it all. Make sure you stop by the Geelong Gallery too; the collections of 19th and 20th century European paintings, along with the contemporary Australian pieces, are truly stunning.
If it's Geelong's natural beauty you want to admire, then head straight for Eastern Beach. Park yourself at one of the great waterfront cafes or restaurants and admire the picturesque view or, when the weather is warmer of course, have a dip at the Art Deco swimming enclosure.
The Geelong waterfront is also home to the famous Carousel, an old-school wooden carousel that was originally constructed in 1982 and carefully restored. It's one of only 200 currently operating around the world, and something that both big kids and little kids will enjoy.
After all that sightseeing, we think a well-deserved pamper session is in order! Located on Bellerine Street, Vue Day Spa will have you feeling relaaaaaaxed in an instant, courtesy of their massages, facials and body treatments. They also use the plant-based Aveda range in their treatments – the smell is intoxicating! Eulung Day Spa is another Geelong beauty hub to visit – the Aqua Salt Glow body treatment is something we'll definitely come back again for – as is Katika Beauty, the best place in Geelong to get your nails done, whether you're wanting something classic chic or a little more bold.
Keen to discover more? The Central Geelong website is your guide to the region – the ultimate tool for planning your weekend away in Geelong.
Image Credit: The Carousel Facebook
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