As a fresh sea breeze caresses your face and you wake up to uninterrupted views of beautiful blue water, you know you’re in the beautiful bayside town of Portarlington. Having never been here before I was immediately seduced by the sea as we drove into town and up the rolling hills to our Airbnb accommodation for the weekend. A family weekend getaway was underway with the inlaws, cousins, aunties, Snoopy and new addition to the family Biggie Smalls, the kitten.
Where is Portarlington?
Only 90 mins drive from Melbourne, or just 30mins drive from Geelong, Portarlington is situated on the north east point of the Bellarine Peninsula. We’ve been to Geelong so many times, I have no idea why we’ve never ventured out that extra bit to visit this place. Now that it’s on our radar we’ll definitely be back for more.
Things To Do in Port Arlington
1. Wander along the pier
Down the main area of town is a long wide pier where you could happily spend quite some time wandering up and down with kids. Our 4yo was enthralled by the stingray, starfish, and little fishies swimming in the water and he got super curious after seeing a puffer looking fish stranded on the rocks. There were people fishing and others simply enjoying the sun and sea breeze. A sense of calm and appreciation comes over you as you take in the views. The curvy shape of the You Yangs and Melbourne’s skyline are both visible from here.
2. Eat Mussels, plenty of them!
It was the call of the famous Australian Blue mussels that led us to Portarlington. My mother in law loves mussels and seafood and she picked Portarlington as the go to destination for our family getaway. Good call! We ate our way through bowlfuls of them for both lunch and dinner, at both cafes and at the holiday house where we cooked them simply with ginger, garlic and onion. There’s a mussel truck at the pier and another place along the main road that you drive past as you come into town where you can buy fresh mussels at $5kg but I recommend visiting and enjoying your mussels at The Little Mussel Café.
3. Enjoy lunch at the Little Mussel Café
There was a big sign on the main pier showing the address of this place so the hubby put it into his phone and off we went. We arrived at 11:30am and there was no one there but as soon as we had placed our orders, people started coming just in time for lunch. What a gem of a place! As you drive away from the sea and up into the hills, the open fields welcome you and only a few minutes up Queenscliff road on the right side of the road are some signs inviting you in. A big shed is accompanied by a little shop front selling glorious seafood both fresh and smoked, and scallop and mussel pies – I always look out for pies I can take home because my dad loves a good, well made pie! If this wasn’t enticing enough, as soon as we walked around to the outdoor dining area, we were greeted by a charming little set up. A huge communal table stood at the far end of the little courtyard, shaded by a sale and surrounded by big, sturdy benches. There was a little veggie patch (oh how I love veggie patches!) with bright red roma and cherry tomatoes looking so juicy on the vine. There were interesting arty garden structures made from old farm tools and bits and bobs and underneath the main marquee area where more tables and chairs were waiting for their customers, long garlands of mussel shells decorated the roof line. To top it off the sun was shining, the kids were smiling and everyone was just happy to be together looking through a menu filled with sensational seafood options. Everything was a hit from the mussels to the super friendly and down to earth staff, to the oh so creamy homemade vanilla slice we had for dessert!
4. Go berry picking at Tuckerberry Hill Berry Farm and Café
After having a squiz at the tourist map, my father in law saw that just around the corner a few minutes away was a place called Tuckerberry Hill farm and cafe where we could pick some blueberries and strawberries. We decided after being so full from lunch, walking around and stretching our legs would be a good idea! Being the end of the berry season, the blueberry bushes weren’t overflowing with berries but we still managed to pick quite a few! – it just required a little bit more effort. It was my first time going blueberry picking – we normally go strawberry and apple picking down in Baccus Marsh. The kids loved it and Daniel and his cousins had plenty of space to run, explore and play. I like taking them to places like this because it’s good for him to know where food comes from and to just spend time running free in the great outdoors. There were a few handfuls of ripe red strawberries for the picking but most of the good ones had all been taken. A lot of half eaten strawberries we left. Those damn slugs! We had some milkshakes and coffee at the café and got straight into our berries – they were so juicy and sweet. Nothing like fresh fruit! They also sell fresh farm produce and we came home with some extra veggies in hand.
5. Sit back and enjoy the view from your cozy abode
My sis in law booked a comfortable place via Airbnb for all 14 of us to stay and with a huge verandah wrapped around the house, a table tennis and fusball table, fireplace (not that we used it), big backyard and a short walk to the main town area, we were in total holiday mode. It was nice to just sit back on the balcony looking out into the distance. So quiet and peaceful.
6. A visit to St Patrick’s church
Just a couple of blocks up from the main town area of Portarlington on Harding street is St Patrick’s Catholic church. Whilst everyone was slowly waking up on the Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but get out into the morning sun to take Hannah for a walk and check out the local parish. As soon as I walked up to the front door I was greeted with a smile and “Welcome!”. This beautiful hospitality continued as I walked inside and sat down on my own with little Hannah – a lady came up to us bearing gifts of a maraca and some books to keep Hannah occupied. She made us feel welcomed and at ease not having to worry if Hannah made too much noise – luckily Hannah sat down quietly for most of the mass and I was able to listen to this week’s readings and homily about money and anxiety – topics that I really think a lot of people today would relate to. A reminder to not worry about yesterday and not stress about tomorrow and just live in the moment. They had pancakes in the hall after mass which everyone was welcome to share but I headed back to the house just in case my 4yo had gotten up from his sleep in. Leaving the church I felt happy and grateful to have shared a beautiful morning with such a nice community.
7. Fun time, beach time
As you look at the shoreline from the pier, you can see a gorgeous stretch of sandy beach with clear blue green waters lapping its shores. Both our kids love the water and blessed with gorgeous sunny weather on the Sunday as well as on Saturday, they went for a quick dip in the ocean before we started heading back home. I could see further out from the town an area on the beach where caravans were stationed. Note to self, book a weekend away at that camp spot!
8. A big fat almond croissant from The Portarlington Bakehouse
Needing some sustenance before the drive home, we took a walk along the little shopping strip and headed to the Portarlington Bakehouse. Again this place was like the Little Mussel Café where there was an absolutely gorgeous outdoor courtyard round the back. A sloping landscape led to dining table areas spread about the place in between trees and plants and garden ornaments. Towards the back end of the courtyard stood some playground equipment complete with a slide, swings, rockclimbing wall and some chalk supplied for kids to draw on the fence walls! Rustic and cozy, we devoured our pastries while the kids played happily. My almond croissant was huge and so scrumptious! The hubby had a cream bun and strong cappuccino. What a gorgeous little spot!
We arrived in Portalington on the Friday night and drove back home on Sunday afternoon and I felt like there was still so much more to do and see!
Take a ride on the Portarlington miniature railway
Stroll through the weekend market along Newcombe street in WG Little Reserve
Visit the fully restored original steam-powered flour mill which was built in 1857, includes displays of local history
Sit back and enjoy the quiet surroundings
With its mouthwatering mussels, calm beaches and rolling hills with fresh local produce, Portarlington has that village charm that will make you feel at home and keep you coming back. Lots of family friendly activities at this destination that is an easy weekend roadtrip away. What do you love about Portarlington?