I'm a Melbourne based freelance writer with a diverse portfolio including performing arts articles and reviews, human interest stories, and social comment. Visit my blog for an overview lucy-mattersoflife.blogspot.com
Published June 25th 2013
Something for everyone in your family group and mostly free
Barwon Heads. Home of Sea Change, Cadel Evans, and where the Barwon River meets the ocean. But don't be fooled, hidden beneath its charm and village persona, Barwon Heads has something to offer people of all ages. Here is a selection of the best the town has to offer your family, making it an ideal location for a summer holiday, weekend break, or mid-winter retreat.
You know you're alive when you take a cliff-walk on the top of the bluff, or at beach level at low tide. Better still you can combine the two in the Barwon Heads Bluff Circuit Walk. Access to the cliff walk begins at the car park a short way up the hill on Ewing Blyth Drive. Alternatively park in the 'At the Heads' carpark and proceed on the pier around the outside of that establishment, and towards the bluff by walkway, or on the sand.
At low tide you can walk right around the bluff to the next beach
It is possible to get right around the bluff at low tide, by weaving around the rocks to a completely new beach. There is a good environmental handout about the Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary by Parks Victoria.
Cyclists' Paradise When he's not competing on the international stage, Barwon Heads is home to Cadel Evans. And it's not hard to see why. This is a cyclist's paradise with easy and vigorous options up for grabs.
For a strenuous work-out, make your way up Ewing Blyth Drive towards 13th beach and pedal along the coast road against the south-westerlies until you've had your fill. For the return trip you can either bear right along Blackrock and Bluestone School roads to return on the Barwon Heads Road, or about-turn and catch the tail wind all the way home. This option is not suitable for other than older, experienced cyclists as it involves a single lane road, and no dedicated bike lane.
For sedate riding, Barwon Heads' streets are a relatively flat affair, unlike Ocean Grove across the river which is quite a climb. Barwon Heads has the advantage of very little traffic, except in the summer peak. You can mosey across the bridge, especially providing for bikes and pedestrians, into Ocean Grove territory.
Further afield there is a wonderful trail from Point Lonsdale to Queenscliff. It begins along the water's edge - a particularly spectacular ride when the ships are entering Port Phillip Bay. Towards the end of Point Lonsdale leg, you can cut in up the cliff and join the road to Queenscliff which includes a separate cycling track.
Walk along Barwon River Walk or cycle the paths on the River Walk at Sheepwash Drive. Away from the bustle of the beach, this area offers quite of different perspective on the town.
The river walk adds a tranquil dimension to the town
There are always fishers here to chat to, plenty of bird life, and occasionally a seal doing the fishers out of a catch. Plenty of information boards about the river estuary, migratory birdlife, and mangroves will wizen up those prepared to pause for a gander.
There is a market on the Bellarine Peninsula most weekends (more often over summer). Barwon Heads has a Saturday morning market in the Community Hall on the 4th Saturday in each month, and there are Sunday markets in Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove, Drysdale, and Queenscliff. As well as craft, jams, art, books, leather, baked goods, music, clothes, fresh flowers and plants, markets often offer fresh fruit and vegetables for sale. Ocean Grove market sometimes offers camel rides. Barwon Heads Primary School's fair and fun run is held on Easter Saturday most years.
Visit the Barwon Heads Estuary Heritage centre
For a spot of local history and a hands-on experience with sea creatures this place is worth a visit. Sandwiched at The Lobster Pot, between the caravan park, and 'At the Heads' restaurant, it's run by volunteers. You seem to have to catch it when it is open, so phone to check opening hours beforehand on 5254 1118.
Visit the Wildlife Sanctuary (Jirralinga)
Walk/cycle along Taits Road for a short while to reach Jirralinga. It's a pretty small area to walk around, and although some of the enclosures are very basic, it makes a pleasant and eminently do-able outing for small ones. When we visited one of the keepers let us pat a koala, and we saw kangaroos, echidna, dingos, wombats, possums, and fabulous birds.
Sun, Sand, Surf and River Swimming
There really is something for everyone in the swimming department at Barwon Heads. For fast and furious surf, head for 13th Beach. It's a patrolled beach, but at peak times parking can be difficult. The 'facilities' are all situated in the lower car park, and you have to cross the main road from the car park to reach the beach, so be sure to watch the little 'uns carefully.
Ocean Grove beach is one of Victoria's most popular
For steady, even surf with rather less ferocity, Ocean Grove Beach is your best bet, and like '13th' it's also patrolled. The Dunes Café, right by the beach, is good for ice creams and coffee to go. Toilets, showers and even some picnic table atop the dune make this beach a pleasure to bring the family to. The sand is not so steep here, so beach cricket is a popular past-time. Dogs are permitted beyond the patrolled area to the west, and surf lessons are held regularly.
If surf-free swimming is your bag, the river beach is for you. Join the other families to frolic by the famous Barwon Heads bridge. From here you'll be able to engage in rock-rambling up towards the bluff at low tide. You'll also have access to a playground with toilet facilities on the Flinders Road stretch, and the local shops whenever hunger strikes.
Skate Park, Sporting Facilities and Playgrounds
Situated on the recreation reserve at the corner of Barwon Heads Road and Sheepwash Drive, the skate park is well frequented by locals. Add to this a playground with wooden maze, barbecues, and walking track through ti-trees, and you've got yourself a family friendly locale. Nearby the bowls club sometimes offers community access, and the tennis courts are available when there is no competition scheduled. Further on several sporting fields are perfect for kite flying, or for those needing even more space to spread their wings.
Fish n' Chips on the River
Its an oldie, but a perennial favourite. Fish 'n chips can be bought half way up Hitchcock Avenue (of the wrapped in butcher's paper variety), or on the corner of Bridge Road (box in a white paper bag). When it is busy you need to be prepared to wait a while. Try phoning ahead at peak times.
While it can hardly be described as quiet over summer, Barwon Heads is certainly less frantic than many other beachside towns, with all the essential services to hand. In town there is a decent selection of shops including a newsagent, chemist and GP (limited hours), two bakeries, petrol station, deli, butcher, IGA supermarket and Bendigo bank. There are plenty of eating-out options, top-notch golf course, day spa, clothes and homewares shops, and a vibrant cafe culture. Add to this easy access to Geelong and Ocean Grove, and you have all the services you could require within 15 minutes. All up, Barwon Heads can offer all families an easy and varied holiday break.