By Rachel Wagner
November 23, 2020 | 6 minute read
Torquay has long been a summer resort for Melbournians looking to flee the city for some sun and sanctuary in the surf capital of Australia. A little over an hour from Melbourne, it’s also the gateway to the Great Ocean Road.
Unfortunately, that means it can be tricky to escape the throngs of beach goers and travellers but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the chilled out holiday vibes that this little beach town is known for. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite haunts as well as some out of the way places to explore if you want to avoid the crowds and find little pockets of calm on your surf coast getaway.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Spend a day at the beach
Torquay has two gorgeous beaches right here in town but if it’s a beautiful summer day, don’t even try to find a patch of sand - it’s seriously hectic. Instead, follow the waves down to Point Impossible, an impossibly beautiful stretch of sand dunes and vegetation that is popular with nature lovers. Sit and listen to the bird sounds from the nearby Karaaf wetlands or grab your longboard and surf the break. What’s the catch, you ask? Point Impossible is a clothing optional beach, so if you’re not comfortable with nudity you might want to skip this one.
Head the other way out of town (past the iconic Bells Beach - be sure to stop and watch the pros carving up those waves!) and you’ll hit Point Addis. A secluded area between Torquay and Anglesea, it has a slew of beaches to explore and at low tide you can clamber over rocks and discover hidden beaches and coves carved into the limestone cliffs. The sunset here is also picture perfect.
Be sure to pack your hiking boots, Point Addis Marine National Park is part of the 44km Surf Coast Walk that hugs the coastline all the way from Torquay to Airey’s Inlet. Walk the whole thing or pick a scenic slither, either way you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of wild ocean and rocky reefs below.
If you’re feeling adventurous, hire a stand up paddle board or take a surf lesson. You are in the surf capital of Australia, so when in Rome, eh? Torquay Surf Academy is a certified eco tourism company and you’ll be in excellent hands.
Encounter adorable animals and Aboriginal art
Head to Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre to learn about the world’s oldest culture. Located on the Surf Coast Highway just before Geelong, it comprises a gallery, cafe and native wildlife garden that is a brilliant day out for the whole family. It’s free to visit and the kids will adore meeting the emus, kangaroos and wallabies and learning to throw a boomerang.
The Indigenous art gallery features modern paintings and photography from local and internationally acclaimed Indigenous artists. If you’re in the market for some new wall art, all works are for sale. The cafe serves an all day breakfast and lunch menu featuring native ingredients. If you get inspired by the flavours, you can pick up some bush herbs from the gift shop to cook with back at home.
Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Taste the local flavours
Ask any local and you’ll discover that the best spots in Torquay are hidden away in little back streets, far from the Esplanade. The bustling strip of bars and restaurants may be great but these local secrets are worth the straying from the tourist path for.
Saturday mornings in Torquay are best spent at the Farmer’s Market at the Surf Coast Shire offices. No frills, just a proper farmer’s market slinging local produce. Pick up some freshly baked artisan bread, small-batch local honey, flavour-filled preserves and fill your basket with fruit and veg.
On the way back into town, get your caffeine hit at Ocean Grind. It may be out in the industrial district but it’s the best cup of coffee in Torquay. Housed in a huge warehouse, they roast all their coffee onsite and you’ll find their beans in coffee shops all over town. These micro-roasters boast excellent coffee with zero pretension (plus they’ll let you use your keep cup once again!)
Getting thirsty? Nothing tastes as good as a beer after a surf and the surf coast is known for its breweries. The solar powered Bells Beach Brewery on Baines Crescent is a favourite for a cold beer on a hot day. Fuel up with burgers from the food truck then taste your way through a paddle of their craft beers.
For dinner, it may be on the Esplanade but it’s hard to go past Fishos for your classic summer holiday fish and chips on the beach. An elevated version of the classic takeaway, Fishos has all your favourite fresh, local seafood plus gamechangers like fish tacos, fried corn and sauerkraut. Grab a share box and a bottle of local wine and head straight to the beach to enjoy it.
If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, Samesyn is a new project from the award-winning restaurateurs at Tulip in Geelong. The name Samesyn means ‘togetherness’ and with only ten people per sitting, it’s perfect for a romantic night out. With an emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients, this contemporary restaurant has an ever-changing menu that is made to be shared.
Shop for unique finds
While the famed surf outlets are undoubtedly great if you need to pick up a cheap wetsuit, there are far better gems to be found in Torquay to get your shopping fix. Venture a little further down Baines Crescent and you’ll find the Torquay Merchant. A burst of sweet smelling candles and oils draws you into this boutique and inside is a gorgeous array of curated fashion, homewares and gifts. Sip some St Ali goodness from the in store coffee bar while you browse.
A few doors down is Surf Coast Vintage, although you might have to do some searching for this one - it’s a bit hard to find. Tucked away among the storages sheds is this pint sized parlour of vintage gold. You’ll find racks stuffed full of denim jackets and Levis jeans, perfectly worn-in tshirts and dreamy summer dresses. The prices are a bit unpredictable but if you have a rummage you can score a one of a kind bargain.
If you’re in town over the summer, pop into the Nerida Hansen pop-up shop on Bristol Road. A cacophony of colour and quirky prints, this fabric store is a must visit, even if you don’t sew. The prints are all created by indie designers and you can buy ready-to-wear fashion or commission your own outfit from any fabric that catches your eye.
We think you should know
The Weekender's travel guides are independently written by real travellers.
We do not receive any money from, or have a sponsorship arrangement with,
any of the entities listed in or referred to in this article.