I'm a Victorian based freelance writer & photographer. If you like this article click the 'Like' button, Facebook it to your friends & family and subscribe to my articles. Like my photos? Checkout my full collection at https://footloose.picfair.com
Published January 14th 2022
Victoria's popular sea change
Barwon Heads is a small coastal township on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula, on the west bank of the Barwon River estuary and close to Geelong.
Families flock to the pristine beaches around Barwon Heads throughout the summer season. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
It's believed the first European in the area was the surveyor John Wedge who explored the Bellarine in August 1835. On 18th June 1853, the Earl of Charlemont, en-route from Liverpool to Port Phillip with 450 passengers and crew, struck a reef (now named Charlemont Reef) off Barwon Heads and sank. One passenger swam ashore with a light rope that was used to secure a lifeline between ship and shore. All but one of the passengers and crew made it safely to the beach.
Barwon Heads Bluff has a number of popular walking tracks and boasts expansive views across town, the Barwon River and Bass Strait. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Several of the Charlemont survivors took up residence in the area, paving the way for an influx of settlers to Ocean Grove in 1854 and to Barwon Heads by 1875.
The original Barwon Heads Bridge was opened in 1912 connecting the town with Ocean Grove. Previously, the only public transport across the river was by rowboat. In the early 2000s plans to replace the now Heritage-Listed bridge were circulating but by 2006 those plans had found the 'too hard basket' and instead it was decided to improve the existing structure. In 2009, it was determined that the state of the bridge was such that it was beyond repair let alone improvement. The decision was taken to demolish the structure. In 2010, work commenced on a new bridge, erected on the same alignment as its predecessor and with a pedestrian footbridge constructed parallel to it.
On the edge of town, opposite the hotel, you'll find the anchor from the EARL OF CHARLEMONT, lost just off-shore from Barwon Heads in 1853. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
In the late 1990s, Barwon Heads was chosen as the principal site for filming the very popular Australian television series Sea Change. First aired in 1998, the series led to a big increase in tourism in the area. Residential and commercial values soared as families sought their own 'sea change'.
Barwon Heads Golf Club and nearby Thirteenth Beach provide an outstanding golfing experience for visitors to the district. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Today Barwon Heads is a much sought after residential address and one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in Victoria. Its attractions range from the family-friendly sandy shores of the estuary to the often wild and windswept nearby surf beaches. The Barwon River provides a safe anchorage for small boats and fishing is a hugely popular pastime. The town centre starts at the bridge, where the Barwon Heads Hotel overlooks the estuary, and extends up Hitchcock Avenue with a variety of specialty shops, cafes and restaurants servicing locals and visitors alike.
Barwon Heads is your classic seaside escape. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The Barwon Heads Hotel is a great spot to enjoy a cold drink while soaking up the views across the bridge and the Barwon River. The hotel provides accommodation, some excellent pub-grub and also boasts a sports bar and function centre.
If waterfront dining is your thing, Barwon Heads offers At The Heads restaurant, literally on the beach and offering a range of Australian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood.
Barwon Heads Caravan Park occupies prime water-front real estate between town and the Barwon Heads Bluff. It offers a variety of accommodation from beach houses, cabins and caravan & campsites. A powered caravan site will cost you $42 per night off-peak or up to $89 per night during peak season.
Thirteenth Beach is one of the regions most popular beaches with great surf in the right conditions. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Barwon Heads Bluff is a limestone headland overlying volcanic lava. It extends from the town past the river estuary and out into the Bass Strait where it forms an extensive reef responsible for the loss of numerous ships throughout the 19th-century. The Bluff has a number of walking tracks, a lookout providing excellent views across town, the Barwon River estuary and over the Bass Strait, and a monument to the loss of the Earl of Charlemont.
On the edge of town and behind the sand dunes, you'll find Barwon Heads Golf Club with its Clubhouse circa 1923 listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The club has been in operation since 1907. It's recognised as being Australia's first Links Course and with completion of the Clubhouse in 1924, it took up the title of Australia's first Country Club Today the club offers a range of accommodation and golfing packages.
A walkway leads from town, past the caravan park towards Barwon Heads Bluff. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Nearby Thirteenth Beach is considered one of Victoria's most scenic surf beaches, extending for about 4.5-kilometres from Barwon Bluff, backed by undulating hills & sand dunes that provide panoramic views across the Bass Strait. Tucked away behind the dunes is the ever-popular Thirteenth Beach Golf Club with its championship course and residential development.
About 8-kilometres out of town you'll find Reedy Lake and the Lake Connewarre State Wildlife Reserve. Here swamps, marshland, lakes & rivers provide an important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. It's popular with fishermen looking for bream and mulloway in particular and has a family-friendly picnic ground at Taits Point.
All in all, Barwon Heads and surrounds offers something for the whole family, perfect for a day visit or an extended stay. With its mix of coastal cliffs, surf and estuary beaches, sporting and natural attractions together with excellent accommodation, sopping and wining & dining, it's little wonder that this Surf Coast hotspot is a firm favourite with Victorian holidaymakers.
Getting there …..
Barwon Heads is on the Bellarine Peninsula 109-kilometres southwest of Melbourne, about a 90-minute drive via the Princes Freeway/M1 and Barwon Heads Road.
The Barwon River Estuary provides a safe anchorage for small boats along with sheltered swimming beaches and some excellent fishing. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Why? Barwon Heads is open for business and keen to attract visitors from around the country. It's the perfect place to set up camp for an extended stay on this magnificent stretch of the Bellarine Peninsula..
When:Barwon Heads popularity is at its peak during the summer months attracting visitors to the beaches and other coastal attractions.
Phone:Bellarine Visitor Information Centre 1800 755 611
Where:Barwon Heads is on the Bellarine Peninsula 109-Kilometres southwest of Melbourne, about a 90-minute drive via the Princes Freeway/M1 and Barwon Heads Road.
Cost:Many of Barwon Heads and districts attractions are FREE. Check the websites of specific businesses and service providers for details on availability, cost, on-line bookings and any restrictions that may apply during the current COVID situation.