I'm a freelance writer who lives on the Bellarine Peninsula. I enjoy finding new things to see and do in the beautiful area that I live in.
Like most Australians, I'm no stranger to the obligatory Australia Day barbecue scene. I'm very familiar with sitting around in a friend's backyard with a cold beverage in hand, and thongs on my feet, while the relentless sun beats down on our heads.
I have watched my friends' kids playing around in the blow-up wading pool and listened to Triple J's Hottest 100 count down some of the best music of the year, while eating perfectly cooked sausages from the barbecue.
I have spoken to countless people regarding Australia Day festivities, and this appears to be the norm for celebrating our national holiday.
But believe it or not, there are other options for things that you can do on Australia Day around Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula- Here are a few of them:
Watch the yachts at Geelong's Festival Of Sails
Every year in the week surrounding Australia Day, the Geelong waterfront comes alive as hundreds of seafaring vessels take to the water for this popular keel boat regatta. As one of Victoria's oldest sporting events, the Festival Of Sails attracts thousands of visitors to the Geelong region, and is one of the largest events of this kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Festival of Sails is a popular boating event
While the event is primarily for yacht owners and boat enthusiasts, the organisers have ensured that everybody has something to keep them entertained throughout the Australia Day long weekend. There will be roving performers, gourmet food and wine vendors, market stalls and kid's activities aplenty, as well as dedicated marine and boat exhibitions. There will also be a fireworks display, weather permitting, to highlight an already exciting weekend on Geelong's waterfront.
Take the kids to Rippleside Park for A Free Fun Day
Everybody knows that keeping the kids entertained can be an expensive business, so when an opportunity comes along to entertain them for free, why not take it? Rippleside Park, located in Drumcondra, will be the site of the Australia Day Children's Free Fun Day, and will have plenty to keep the young ones (and maybe some of the 'older' ones) amused. From 11am to 4pm, there will be countless activities, including various childrens' rides, a jumping castle, roving entertainers, pony rides, and displays from Victoria Police, Girl Guides and Scouts, Werribee Zoo and the CFA (amongst others).
There will also be an animal farm, Geelong Scottish dancers and various art and craft activities. At 1pm, there will be an official flag-raising and Australia Day address so that the importance of the day is not lost amongst all of the fun. Attendees are invited to bring a picnic lunch, or can purchase food from various vendors at the park.
Spend the day with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
If you'd prefer to avoid the bustle of Geelong on Australia Day but would still like to do something a little bit different, it's as easy as driving for half an hour up the Bellarine Highway to Queenscliff. The Bellarine Railway is once again holding its Day Out With Thomas event, where families have the opportunity to spend a day with Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. There are plenty of activities for fans of Thomas, including a return train ride from the Queenscliff Station to Lakers Siding (although bookings are required), and live re-enactments with Thomas, Sir Topham Hatt (formerly known as 'The Fat Controller' to all those who grew up with the show before it became politically correct) and other characters.
You also have the opportunity to visit Henry and toot his horn, ride with the Troublesome Trucks, and see Bulgy the double decker bus. There will be a jumping castle and various Thomas-themed games, competitions and merchandise available, as well as plenty of photo opportunities. Food will also be available to purchase on the day. Tickets for the event are a little bit pricey, but well-worth it if you're a fan of the franchise. You can pre-book tickets or simply view the prices at bellarinerailway.com.au/day-out-with-thomas.
Hang out with the Drysdale locals for a sausage sizzle
Here's one for people who want to enjoy a barbecue but don't particularly want to spend their time at home or someone else's house. The small township of Drysdale is putting on a free sausage sizzle at the Village Green (which is located just outside Safeway) and everybody is invited to attend. Hosted by the Lions Club, Rotary, the CFA and SES chapters of Drysdale and Clifton Springs, the event will feature local bands and school choirs, a jumping castle, face painting and free food and music from 10.30am to 1pm.
The CFA and SES will also have some of their trucks on display, so that you can see them up close. In recognition of the day, an Australia Day Ceremony will be held at 11.30am, featuring a guest speaker from the Australia Day Council. In comparison to some of the other events, this one is likely to be quite small, but it will still be a fun day out with a strong sense of community spirit.