Geelong is the second-largest city in Victoria, just one hour away from Melbourne, and the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula. It makes the perfect addition to any Great Ocean Road adventure. In fact, many travelers choose to stop in Geelong to find a car hire before continuing their journey.
The city’s gem is the Geelong waterfront precinct, and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun or to indulge your inner history buff, the Geelong waterfront has got you covered.
It is the perfect place for a stroll, where you can take in the spectacular views of the Southern Ocean year-round. Geelong’s waterfront also boasts scenic piers and several restaurants. It is close to local Geelong accommodation and hotels. The area is also host to grassy knolls that make for the best picnic spots, swimming areas, and playgrounds for families to enjoy.
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The Geelong Waterfront
This recreation area is situated on the north-facing shore of Corio Bay. The main stretch of the Geelong waterfront is located between Cavendish Street to the west and Garden Street to the east. However, there are certain attractions just outside of these streets such as the massive Eastern Park area just beyond Garden Street.
The main strip offers several of Geelong’s most popular attractions including some of the best places to eat in town. Make sure to indulge your taste buds at Wah Wah Gee, a small plates Asian fusion restaurant at the tip of the Cunningham Pier, and Sailor’s Rest, a popular Mediterranean restaurant that’s a block away from the famous National Wool Museum.
If you’re planning a longer visit to see all that the Geelong foreshore has to offer, there are many Geelong accommodation and hotel options near the waterfront or available in the downtown core (also commonly known as Geelong CBD), which is just a short walk away.
Geelong’s waterfront is lined by a paved cement pathway known as the Bob Mcgovan Path. It is perfect for runners and stretches along a 3.3km route from the Eastern beach to Rippleside Park. It is alongside the grassy esplanade and passes by sights like the historic carousel, fishermen’s pier, and views of Corio Bay itself.
History of Geelong’s Waterfront
This northern stretch of coastline was not always the international hub of tourism that it is today. Still, it had charms that attracted people looking for merriment and fun since the mid-1800s.
Originally, this area was comprised of steep cliffs that created a natural boundary between greater Geelong and the waters of Corio Bay.
Public bathing enclosures were originally built on the shoreline in the 1840s and were unofficially segregated by gender — men were to stay on the Western beach while the Eastern beach was reserved for women.
In 1914, the city of Geelong decided to redevelop the area to promote tourism, which included the construction of a sea wall and the flattening of rocky cliffs.
However, redevelopment did not officially begin until 1927. This development was done in stages, with some sections opening in 1929 and the rest in 1939.
The final stage of development was opening a ‘sea bath’ that recalled the area’s original heritage — of course, today it is open to all genders. Also known as a swimming enclosure, it is bordered by an art deco-style boardwalk promenade. This area is also host to several diving platforms, a shallow children’s pool section, and a sandy beach.
However, the area declined in popularity. By the mid-1980s, the Geelong waterfront fell into disrepair and was not considered to be a strong local attraction.
Rejuvenation and Restoration
Once again the city of Geelong was tasked with rejuvenating the Geelong foreshore in 1993.
They completely closed the area to restore it to its original glory and numerous redevelopments were planned, including encouraging locals to buy planks for the new promenade that would be inscribed with their names.
This redevelopment project continues into the modern day. An art installation of 107 bollards by artist Jan Mitchell sits as a tribute to local figures that played a role in the Geelong area. There is also a stunning Giant Sky Wheel that was built in 2007. All these efforts play an important role in the lively nature of the Geelong waterfront area.
Today, the area is once again a bustling hub that offers tourists and locals alike a chance to enjoy spectacular views of the bay.
When Should I Visit the Geelong Foreshore?
Although the Geelong waterfront is open year-round, the timing of your visit will depend on your personal preference.
It is a popular celebratory destination for many locals during the Christmas holidays, where the foreshore can become packed with frolicking families. There is a floating Christmas tree that lights up Corio Bay each year.
Another popular time to visit the Geelong waterfront is during the biennial wooden boat festival that occurs in March. Held by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, this festival is held over the course of three days and offers visitors a chance to see classic wooden boats, boating races, and live musical acts.
Things to Do in Geelong’s Waterfront
From taking a romantic stroll along one of its many scenic piers to jumping off one of the diving boards at the Eastern beach, there is no shortage of fun things to do at the Geelong waterfront.
From discovering historical landmarks like a beautifully restored carousel that dates back to the 19th century to finding all 107 of the Baywalk Bollards, it can feel impossible to pick just one thing. Luckily, you don’t have to with this extensive guide.
Visit Eastern Beach
Located to the east of the esplanade is Eastern Beach and Recreation Area. This white sand beach is an icon in the city. It has an enclosed swimming area with shark-proof netting, floating islands to swim out to and lifeguards on duty in the high seasons. Around the swimming area is a circular walkway.
Back on land, there is a children’s swimming pool, children’s play area and picnic facilities which include public BBQ’s and sheltered tables. If coming with your coming with a picnic blanket, there is plenty of space to spread out on the grass.
Celebrate with the Royal Geelong Yacht Club
The Royal Geelong Yacht Club is a marina and social club, which is host to many popular events in Geelong, like the Festival of Sails, which is the largest sailing regatta in the entire southern hemisphere, and the biennial Wooden Boat Festival.
Their regatta originally ran in 1859 and is now one of the biggest events in Australia. They also host several other smaller events for the community year-round.
This is one of the most iconic structures on the Geelong waterfront. Originally used as part of Geelong’s port system, it is now commonly used as a fishermen’s pier where local anglers can access the waterways.
The pier stretches out into Corio Bay and is 250 meters long. The two-storey whitewashed building upon the pier itself is a visual icon and home to local restaurant Wah Wah Gee and a local function centre.
To the west of the Cunningham Pier is a local skate park popular with the youth. There are more skate parks in Geelong than in any other district in Australia.
Experience the Magic of the Carousel Pavillion
Accessible from Moorabool Street, this modern steel and glass pavilion houses some of the most important heritage pieces in Geelong’s history. Specifically, it is home to an Armitage Herschell Carousel that dates back to 1892. It has been lovingly restored to its original glory and features 36 horses and two chariots.
The carousel tells the tale of King Arthur and Camelot, lending whimsical magic to the whole experience. A pipe organ also plays music to accompany the ride. In line with the restoration efforts, a wheelchair mobility lift was added to the carousel so that it could be enjoyed by everyone.
Explore Local Artwork
As part of the rejuvenation efforts of the city of Geelong, many local artists have contributed work for display along the Geelong foreshore. If you’re simply out for a walk along the waterfront esplanade or waiting for a restaurant reservation, they are situated nearby most attractions.
Yarra Street Pier Baywalk Bollards
These colorful bollards were created by local artist Jan Mitchell, each representing a different Geelong icon from the city’s history. They are crafted from the timbers of the demolished pier, bringing a piece of heritage into the modern artwork.
Some bollards even feature hidden rabbits painted at their base — a perfect way to engage families with children is by getting your kids to try to spot them!
The Buoys of Steampacket Gardens
These former channel buoys have found a new life as a striking piece of art. These six buoys can be found in Steampacket Gardens, a large open green space that is bordered by Steampacket Quay.
Cargo Boxes on the Customs House Lawn
Designed by artists Maggie Fookes and Bill Perrin, these unique glass and brass boxes are known colloquially as the Cargo Boxes. Installed in 2000, these pieces feature items that were imported to Australia through docklands such as the Geelong waterfront. These items include produce, wines, and even rabbits.
Take in the Views on the Giant Sky Wheel
If you’re looking for breathtaking views of the Geelong foreshore, hop on the Giant Sky Wheel. This is the largest traveling Ferris wheel in the southern hemisphere. At night, this attractions illuminates the night sky with a light show. The Giant Sky Wheel is available to ride from December to April.
Whether you are setting out on your Great Ocean Road adventure in Australia or want to enjoy a weekend away from Melbourne, Geelong is a great place to stop. Make the most of your trip by enjoying all the attractions of the waterfront.