If you have even a cursory interest in weekend activities in Melbourne then you'll no doubt have heard of going "Round the Bay in a Day". This classic ride involves participants circumnavigating Port Philip bay – from Melbourne down with the Mornington or Bellarine Peninsula, across on the ferry and then back up the alternate peninsula to finish in Melbourne. It is a beautiful ride, and a wonderful sense of achievement but let's not forget it is around 200 KMs - even the fittest person won't have a lot of time to stop and enjoy the multitude of treats they are passing: the views, the food, the wineries, the beaches ... I think you know where I'm coming from?
If you fancy riding around the bay, but in a more relaxed way, why not create your own weekend "round the bay" adventure? There really is no limit to things you can do: the below is simply to whet your appetite. Using the general ideas in this article, you'll be able to create a fantastic itinerary for yourself
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My relaxed round the bay adventure starts with catching the V-Line train to Geelong. Arrive about 15 minutes early as you'll need to put your bike in the luggage car at the back of the train. On arrival in Geelong, hop on your bike and follow the road signs towards Ocean Grove and Drysdale. As you get to the outskirts of Geelong, you will see the beginning of the Bellarine Rail Trail, join the trail and almost immediately you will feel more relaxed as the only "traffic" you'll now have to worry about is the occasional walker, cyclist or horse rider.
Being a rail trail, the ride is flat and in no time at all you'll find yourself nearing Leopold where you'll have a decision to make: At Leopold you can either join the highway to complete your ride to Queenscliff. If you do go this way, then stop at the Purple Duck café. It has lovely coffee and cake, and can make you something more substantial if you arrive around lunch time. Moreover, food can be enjoyed in their pretty, garden setting.
A better option is to continue on the rail trail to Drysdale. It's nicer riding than along highway and going to Drysdale will give you the option of packing more into your "relaxed" adventure.
If it is lunch time when you reach Drysdale, then you may like to consider getting a meal at the Drysdale hotel which is well known for its posh, pub fare. If it's still too early for lunch then follow the signs to the Bellarine Railway.
The Bellarine Railway is a historic train that now is a tourist attraction. It runs between Drysdale and Queenscliff. It doesn't run that regularly, so I strongly recommend investigating the time table for the train before you depart on your adventure. If you do opt for the train, you shouldn't have any problem having your bike stored in the guard's van.
If you miss the train, or are just having way too much fun riding, then the Bellarine Rail Trail follows the path of the railway line into Queenscliff. This is a very pretty path with lovely views over Swan Bay as you draw into Queenscliff.
Queenscliff is an absolutely charming coastal town which has retained much of its heritage architecture. It has all the things in it that great beach side towns should have: good coffee, good wine, bookshops, art galleries – and nice places to swim! It really would be inexcusable not to stop and have a look around Queenscliff if you've not been here before. A highlight is the beautiful Queenscliff Hotel Staying or dining in the formal dining room costs a bomb, but you can still get a sense of the grandeur of the hotel by eating at the delicious (and reasonably priced) courtyard bistro.
The first day of your "round the bay in a relaxed way" adventure is over. You can stay in Queenscliff for the evening or catch the ferry to Sorrento and stay there. Both towns have accommodation options from camping to 4 and 5 but - be warned: both Queenscliff and Sorrento are extremely popular in summer, so it is advisable to book ahead.
Sorrento is a pretty, little town that bursts at the seams during summer. People are attracted by great surf at the back beaches and pleasant, bay beach swimming along the bay. You'll have no problem finding somewhere to have a well deserved treat for dinner, or breakfast the next day.
Sorrento to Frankston is a longer, more undulating ride than Geelong to Queenscliff. The first stages of the ride offer plenty of pretty beaches to stop and wade or swim in, as well as a myriad of cafes for a brunch, or coffee, on the go.
Keep following the road along the beach (do not follow the signs to Melbourne via freeway). A climb over Mt Martha will bring you to Mornington where you can have a well deserved swim and some lunch. It is worth making the trip to Mornington's Mothers beach nestled in the bay along with Mornington's picturesque yacht club. There are a couple of cafes on the pier which offer standard, café food, fish and chips, etc. making mothers beach an ideal spot for a picnic after you've had a swim to cool down.
Once you are ready to move on, follow the signs to Mornington's town centre and go down the main street to the Nepean Hwy. Turn left, towards Melbourne. The ride from here on isn't as pleasant as it is beside the highway, but there is a dedicated bike path for most of the way. You'll pass several wineries, which may tempt you. Soon, you will be at the crest of Oliver's Hill, 1km outside of Frankston. You'll have amazing views across the bay to the sky scrapers of Melbourne.
The descent into Frankston down Oliver's Hill is an adrenalin filled end to a great two days' riding and exploring. Do be careful though, you can pick up very fast speeds and there is no dedicated bike path. Keep your eye out for car doors opening, kids' balls rolling onto the street and so forth as you get to the bottom of the hill and enter Frankston proper.
Despite the bad press that Frankston gets, it has some lovely beaches and you may feel like a swim is just the thing to finish off you relaxed adventure. When ready, make your way to the Frankston train station and catch a train back to Melbourne. Although it's only been a weekend, I'm sure you'll feel you've been on a fabulous and exciting holiday!