Michellina van Loder is a freelance writer living on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia. She’s passionate about wildlife, native bonsais, reading and writing. You can visit her LinkedIn page here: www.linkedin.com/pub/michellina-van-loder/4
St Leonards is a seaside town on the Bellarine Peninsula. Cruising down the freeway, past Geelong, it's a pleasant ninety-minute drive from Melbourne. During summer, the population swells up to five times its modicum size of just two thousand. Yet, during winter, it's the perfect place for a quiet day-trip getaway.
Explore St Edwards Point Nature Conservation Reserve National Park
Activities include: bird watching, bushwalking, beach-walking, watching gorgeous sunsets and admiring the views across the bay to Queenscliff, Red Hill, Portsea, and right around back to the city of Melbourne.
Where: park in the carpark on Beach Road then walk along the shore to the lookout.
A tasting centre where shoppers can try homemade condiments made from locally sourced ingredients. Try their breakfast, antipasto or the condiments and relishes ranges. Also available: organic olive and rosemary bread, locally farmed goat cheese, and naturally fermented hot or mild salamis!
Spend the day fishing off the jetty with the kids! Finish it with dinner, eating hot chips at the local Fish and Chip shop or around the corner at St Leonards By The Sea Hotel (once featured in the popular TV series Seachange), feasting on local fresh seafood and salty fries.
Where: St Leonards by the Sea: 496 The Esplanade, St Leonards.
Walk the back track through Edwards Point Nature Conservation Reserve, keeping a lookout for local wildlife (like kangaroos), while getting the kids to watch out for the rare Orange-bellied Parrot, which spends winter in the region. Take binoculars and head to Charlie's Hole for some fascinating bird watching through the reeds over to the protected Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and Swan Bay.
For a small seaside village that really only wakes up over the Christmas, Easter and warmer-month school holidays, there is an ample amount of good coffee to choose from. By far and most surprisingly, the best coffee, at the least cost, comes from the local newsagent/Post Office, Scoops. Next, there are two rival coffee houses next door to each other—Café Ink and Lola's Bistro and Wine Bar—that serve the usual café fare: think caramel slices, chicken wraps (Gluten-free snacks are available); and, across the road and up towards the bay, the Blue Seas Pizzeria and Takeaway serves coffee in the late afternoon and early evening. (Oh, and don't forget Wildings serve wonderful coffee too!)
Where: Shopping precinct, Murradoc Road, St Leonards.
Take the kids, or your favourite New Age relative, into Bazzar on the Bay.
Enter into the crystal-and-all-things-spiritual laid shop, head down the back into an Aladdin's cave of hanging silks and comfy cushions, while a woman, bare foot, head wrapped in a purple turban, wearing harem pants in flowing shades of colour, caters to all your spiritual shopping needs: crystals, incense and Fiona Williams 'Feral Designs' handcrafted jewelry.