No Great Ocean Road itinerary is complete without a stop at Bells Beach, an international icon of Australian surfing culture. Just 100km southwest of Melbourne on the Southern Ocean, Bells Beach Australia is famous for its stunning viewpoint and incredible surf, attracting locals and visitors every year.
Where is Bells Beach?
Bells Beach is just a quick 10-minute drive from Torquay in Australia’s southern state of Victoria. Nestled into the coastline, it offers stunning views and incredible surf.
From Melbourne, you can drive southward the drive along the stunning Great Ocean Road. Most visitors stay in the nearby town of Torquay, a hip surf town with tons of beaches, outdoor activities as well as trendy cafes and restaurants.
Torquay to Bells Beach, Victoria
The drive from Torquay to Bells Beach is an easy one. From the town centre, head south on Geelong Road/Surf Coast Highway towards Price Street. At the roundabout, take the second exit onto Geelong Road/Great Ocean Road and continue along for 2.8 km until you reach Bells Boulevarde. Turn left on Bells Boulevarde and continue for another 3.6 kms until you see signs for Bells Beach. Take another left and you’re there!
If you don’t have a car, you can also take a bus from Torquay to Bells Beach. There is a direct bus leaving every 4-hours from Torquay Holiday Resort/Surf Coast Hwy that arrives at Jarosite Rd/Great Ocean Rd which only takes 10-minutes. Keep in mind however that you’ll have to walk roughly another hour from the stop down to the Bells.
Read Next: Things to Do in Torquay, Australia
History of Bells Beach
The long stretch of golden limestone and golden sand today known as Bells Beach has hosted the local Wadawurrung people for thousands of years. Traditionally, this Indigenous Australian group hunted for crayfish and abalone, as well as using Bells as both a meeting place and trading site.
The community was hit hard by the arrival of European settlers in the area who later named the beach after an English family by the name of Bell. They were the first family to take up a pastoral run in the area.
It wasn’t until 1939 that the beach became was discovered for surfing. A group of locals from the Torquay Surf Lifesaving Club found the hidden gem, clearing their way through the bush down to the beach. Over the next two decades, word spread of the outstanding surf conditions that Bells had to offer and more surfers began to visit the area.
In 1962, locals held the first official Bells Beach surfing competition, which became known as the Easter Classic. Over the years, the competition became a world-class event and is now known as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the world’s longest continuous running surf competition. In 1973, the Australian government even recognized Bells as a Surfing Recreation Reserve, the first of its kind in the world.
Just as the beach attracted surfers, it also drew in major surf brands and manufacturing companies. Major surf companies such as Rip Curl started off in nearby Torquay and used Bells Beach to test the development of surfboard and wetsuit technology.
In 1981, professional surfer Simon Anderson won the Bells Beach Pro competition on a new, three-finned surfboard. This style of board has since become the global standard for high-performance boards. Today, Torquay has become a hub for surf company headquarters as well as the multi-million manufacturing industry.
Things to Do at Bells Beach, Australia
Whether you’re looking to spend the day unwinding at the beach, stopping over along the Great Ocean Road or want to ride some serious waves, Bells Beach Victoria has got you covered. It’s one of the Great Ocean Road’s top attractions.
Swimming at Bells Beach, Victoria
Swimming is possible during low waves when the beach is relatively safe close inshore. However, the waves often breaking right on the beach and the water gets deep very quickly, so its best to be careful or avoid it if you’re not a strong swimmer.
Sightseeing at Bells Beach, Victoria
Bells Beach is a must-stop destination for nearly any Great Ocean Road itinerary. The views from the cliff-top car park are stunning and make a great spot to watch the locals and pros alike catch a wave.
The high vantage point provides a remarkable backdrop to the natural amphitheatre of the beach below. From there, you can follow the steps down to the sand, knowing that you’re walking the same path as surf legends from around the world.
Surfing at Bells Beach, Australia
Whether you’re a novice or a more experienced surfer, you’ll love to surf at Bells Beach. The ocean floor provides the perfect contour for big, legendary swells from the Southern Ocean, protected by the large cliffs surrounding the beach.
The beach is an exposed reef famous for its consistent right point that breaks on almost any tide, any wind, and any decent swell from the SE-SW. Bells has two important breaks: Rincon and The Bowl. When conditions are right, the wave can start out at Rincon and break all the way through Outside Bells into The Bowl.
While the waves can be spectacular to look at, they can be very difficult to master, and are known for requiring power and precision. Bells is best suited for experienced surfers, who know how to manage tough conditions, though beginners can start off in the more shallow waters while honing their skills. Be prepared for a gruelling paddle out and the possibility of a flogging of an outside set on the head.
For the best waves, visit between October and March when the storms from the Southern Ocean deliver the best surf. If you’re an avid surfer, be sure not to leave Victoria without coming to surf Bells Beach.
Bells Beach Surf Cam
Unfortunately, there is no surf cam at Bells Beach, but you can check out the surf report Bells Beach. You can also check out the Torquay surf cam here which is the closest thing there is to a Bells Beach surf cam.
Bells Beach Surf Comp
Every year, the best surfers from around the world have the chance to ride their wave to victory at Bells Beach. The beach is home to the longest-running surf competition of the modern era, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, an iconic Australian event. For surfers around the world, the prestigious Bell trophy is one of the highest levels of achievement in the sport. In fact, it’s even been referred to as “the Wimbleton of surfing”.
The first Bells Beach surfing competition took place in 1962 as an event for the World Surfing League (WSL). Traditionally, the Rip Curl Pro has taken place every year around Easter, giving visitors from around the country the chance to take time off to visit the small town of Torquay and watch some of the world’s best surfers at Bells Beach Pro.
A free shuttle bus usually runs between Torquay, Jan Juc, and Bells Beach, allowing attendees to move conveniently between the different locations. This is a waste-wise event, meaning that it is entirely plastic-free, an initiative which helped divert 73% of waste from landfills in 2019. For updated information on event costs and schedules, visit Rip Curl or the World Surf League’s websites.
Bells Beach Accommodation
Though there are no accommodations directly at the Bells. However, you’ll find plenty of options for Bells Beach accommodation for any budget in the nearby town for Torquay.
Deśa Retreat Ecovillas
This stunning Bells Beach accommodation option is the perfect place to unwind and reconnect with nature. Desa Retreat is conveniently located just 30-minute from Bells Beach by foot.
Each villa features a kitchenette, private bathroom, dining and seating area as well as a deck overlooking the retreat’s orchard garden. Plus, you’ll have the chance to explore Jan Juc and Torquay, explore the bush, not to mention access to a private garden, fire pit, outdoor shower, and barbecue. Learn more about Desa Retreat here.
Chianti Cottages is located just a 4-minute drive from Bells Beach and a 10-minute walk from Jan Juc beach. There are two cottages – a studio with a balcony which includes a toaster, refrigerator, and private bathroom, the other is a beautiful, brick house featuring a fully equipped kitchen and washing machine.
Situated in a bush setting, there’s lots of room to run around or enjoy the garden, making it the perfect place Bells Beach accommodation to stay with the family or loved one. Learn more about Chianti Cottages here.
Bells Beach Backpackers
For a more affordable Bells Beach accommodation option, check out this awesome hostel in Torquay. Bells Beach Backpackers has got options ranging from dorm beds to private rooms, as well as shared bathrooms and a large kitchen to prepare meals.
Conveniently located in central Torquay close to many cafes and bars, the friendly atmosphere here is a sure way to meet new people to join you in a Bells Beach surf. From the hostel, it’s just a quick 10-minute drive to Bells Beach. Guests can even rent surfboards from the hostel or store their own at the hostel! Learn more about Bells Beach Backpackers here.
Whether you’re an avid surfer, looking for a fun activity near Torquay, or are simply searching for a place to stop along the Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach won’t disappoint.