We’ve been holidaying in the pretty seaside hamlet of Barwon Heads on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula since our kids were babies and toddlers.
It’s been a great option for an off peak vacay with the grandparents or a short stay in the school holidays, and not too far away either, at around two hours drive away from our side of town.
With its village feel, safe and protected swimming options, coastal walks and plenty on offer for foodies and shoppers, Barwon Heads has always ticked a lot of boxes for us.
Whenever we go, we always try to book a house that is within walking distance to the action i.e. Hitchcock Avenue, so we use the car (and have to find a park) as infrequently as possible.
Most recently we visited in the July school holidays, just before Lockdown 2.0. At the time, our boys were aged 14, 12 and 9 and we still happily found plenty to keep us occupied and entertained over our four night stay. In fact we enjoyed it so much, we’ve booked a longer stay over the January school holidays in the neighbouring town of Queenscliff (fingers crossed we can go and there are no further restrictions).
So what do we love about Barwon Heads? I’m glad you asked.
What to Do and Where to Play
1. Foreshore beach and playground
This is a great spot to let the kids play while you have your morning coffee, or later in the day to dry off after a swim.
We spent a couple of hours here one morning catching up with my sister and nephews, with the kids moving between playing on the play equipment, in the scrub to build cubbies, on the sand, and in the water. A bacon and egg roll from Ebb & Flow (across the road) and a coffee from The Barwon Heads Greengrocer iced the cake.
There is parking, public toilets and BBQ here as well, making it a popular place to visit.
2. Walk up to Barwon Heads Bluff
Our G-Town mate Tez told us this is a great walk to do with the kids and he was right on the money.
Beginning behind the Jetty Road Kiosk, follow the path along the water. It’s flat until you reach a steep set of stairs which takes you higher on to the bluff and around to 13th Beach.
The views were glorious on the day we walked, and we saw surfers out by the bluff as well as lots of green coastal vegetation.
3. Walk to Ocean Grove from Barwon Heads
This is an easy half hour or so walk (each way) along a flat path which takes you over the bridge and through the scrub to the Ocean Grove Surf Club. We had plenty of bikes overtaking us along the way too.
We had a coffee/milkshake stop at the kiosk and then walked back along the beach at low tide, rounding the beach and crossing again at the bridge.
While the kids don’t always love “family walks”, the incentive of a treat halfway and different scenery each way made this a mostly enjoyable activity for everyone. Our pooch Roxy loved it too.
4. Wander the shops – I’ll elaborate further below but there are lots of fab shops in Barwon Heads to browse including plenty of boutiques as well as a local bookshop, butcher and gelato shop.
5. Beach or park hop – there is plenty of coastline and places to swim in and around Barwon Heads, or a short drive or bike ride away. As well as the river, check out the surf beach, 13th Beach in Barwon Heads, the ocean beach at Ocean Grove, Santa Casa at Queenscliff or the family friendly inlet at Point Lonsdale.
There are also great playgrounds next to the beach in Queenscliff and and Point Lonsdale to keep the kids entertained.
6. Visit a neighbouring town – We visited Queenscliff one afternoon to catch up with my sister and nephews. After lunch in town, we wandered through the shops (including a stop at bookshop and the old fashioned lolly shop for the kids), before heading down to the old train station. When the kids were little, we took the old fashioned train from Queenscliff.
We then wandered back through town and across to the foreshore park where the kids played for ages on the basket swing.
Where to Eat
1. Barwon Heads Greengrocer
We tried a few spots for coffee, but the Barwon Heads Greengrocer was my pick. They also stock Le Madre bread and pre-made meals as well as various fresh food and groceries if you need to stock up.
2. Ebb & Flow
Situated at the roundabout and opposite the bridge, you can pick up a coffee and egg and bacon roll to go here or get a table inside or alfresco.
For great fish and chips and burgers, you can’t go past Mangroves. We had some excellent burgers here one night – the kids rated them highly too.
4. Starfish Bakery
A Barwon Heads institution, Starfish Bakery is a one stop shop with everything you need – coffee, bread, pre made rolls, meals, soups and pastries – it has it all. It’s also very reasonably priced and the service is friendly which is always a happy discovery when you’re on holidays with hungry kids.
5. Confetti Gelato
A more recent arrival, Confetti Gelato is a welcome addition to Hitchcock Avenue, especially in the warmer months. You can pick up a good takeaway coffee here from the takeaway window too.
6. At the Heads – you can’t go past this Barwon Heads favourite for it’s prime location on the river. We haven’t eaten here yet, but it is high on my list of Must Do’s for our next visit.
7. Mr Grubb at Oakdene Winery
If you’re happy to venture out of town, the kooky Oakdene Winery is well worth a visit.
Unfortunately CoVid prevented us from wine tasting, but we did enjoy our lunch at Mr Grubb very much.
The kids rated their burgers while we were happy with the $15 kids meal option which included a generous burger and fries, soft drink and dairy cup for dessert. Mr SnS rated his Portarlington mussels while I enjoyed a delicious potato pizza and salad with Mr 14.
Where to Shop
There are several beautiful clothing and homewares shops in Hitchcock Avenue and from the intersection of Bridge Rd and Hitchcock Avenue, down to the river.
I like to start at one end – say near the Starfish Bakery – and mosey my way down one side, before turning around at Ebb and Flow and walking back down the other side, with perhaps a coffee stop or lunch break en route.
Kiitos (above), Ginger & Blondie and Kinko (pictured below) are all located on Bridge Rd
My favourites are Rigby Homewares, a fab double fronted shop choccas full of eclectic homewares including Project Ten and Bonnie and Neil. They also stock a great range of kids’ toys, puzzles and homewares if you need to stock up.
A little further up is Because of Johnny who stock local art and homewares.
I always find something fab at Red Dog 3, just next to Mangroves, who stock well-priced clothing, accessories and footwear.
I also love to browse the beautiful Moss which stocks beautiful higher end clothing, lifestyle books and homewares.
Where to Stay
There are loads of places to stay in Barwon Heads, as any search of accommodation sites like Air BnB will show you. If you want to save on service fees, try local accommodation sites like Getaways Barwon Heads.
Most recently we stayed here (pictured above and below), which was a comfortable, pet friendly house, and a ten minute walk into town.
Comprising three bedrooms and two (adjacent) living areas, it was perfectly comfortable for our short stay but I’m not sure how we would have gone in summer, with two air con units servicing the whole house and a tiny ensuite for the master bedroom.
So over to you – have you visited Barwon Heads or Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula before? What would you add to my list?