Geelong Waterfront and Botanic Gardens

I posted recently about museums in Geelong. The town has a rich and interesting history, but it’s also a beach town with a lot to see and do. Geelong has a western and eastern beach, divided by Cunningham Pier in the center. If you start from the west in Rippleside Park and walk the length of each beach, plus a stroll through the botanic gardens, you will probably walk about six to seven kilometers, so wear comfortable walking shoes and don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen frequently.

Western beach
Bollards along the waterfront near The Geelong Boat House

The painted bollards, sculpted by artist Jan Mitchell out of reclaimed pier timber and based on historical characters from Geelong’s history, span the entire walk. You can stop and take photos as you go, or do the more deliberate Geelong Bollard Trail Walk. There are over 100 bollards across 48 sites over this approximately two hour walk.

Western Beach

The Esplanade along Western Beach stretches from Rippleside Park east to Cunningham Pier, about thirty minutes on foot, so it is very walkable. You will find accommodations and the restaurant Ripples on the Beach at the western end. It may be a more peaceful area to stay, since there seems to always be more activity and events from Cunningham Pier east to the Botanic Gardens.

Cunningham Pier 

After your walk from Rippleside Park to the pier, you might want to take a break. If you just need to sit for awhile, there are plenty of spots surrounding the Geelong Skate Park and along Cunningham Pier. If you are hungry, you are in luck. There are plenty of options in this area.

resting in park
Sculpture near Geelong Skate Park

The Geelong Boat House serves fish & chips on a refurbished barge. It is really cool looking and I was going to eat there, but the line was really long, which is a good sign that they have good food. If you are in the mood for seafood that is not fried, cross Western Beach Road and eat at King George Fish and Grill. I ate lunch there and tried grilled calamari, which I highly recommend. I had only eaten fried calamari before, and it is awesome grilled! Their fresh fish is also really good. A stroll east down the waterfront will provide additional seafood options at Wharf Shed Café and Fishermen’s Pier.

Not in the mood for seafood? You still have lots of choices, like Le Parisien in Steampacket Gardens, Sailors’ Rest on Western Beach Road, or Wah Wah Gee right along Cunningham Pier, among many others.

cunningham pier
Cunningham Pier

Walk to the end of Cunningham Pier for excellent views of the You Yangs in front of you and downtown Geelong behind you.

Steampacket Gardens

The park east of the pier known as Steampacket Gardens is a great spot for a picnic and often hosts events and performances. It’s also a fun place to take photos, with many colorful bollards based on figures from Geelong’s history, including one of my favorites, the Volunteer Rifle Band. The nearby old-fashioned carousel is a fun stop for kids.

steampacket gardens
Steapacket Gardens near Cunningham Pier

If your feet are getting tired, you can always catch the Eastern Beach Train and take a ride around for a bit. I know it looks like it’s just for kids, but adults who are young at heart will enjoy it, too!

Eastern Beach

This is the primary beach in Geelong and it’s really nice. There is space for playing in the sand, sunbathing, and swimming. If you don’t like swimming in the open water, you can enjoy the Eastern Beach Swimming Enclosure just beyond the beach. There is plenty of grassy area for a picnic and a nice playground. This is a great place to bring kids since the pool is enclosed and supervised, and you still get the great beach views and sunshine.

eastern beach
Eastern Beach, Geelong

Botanic Gardens

I was really impressed with the Geelong Botanic Gardens. It’s less expansive than the Melbourne gardens, but for a city of this size, it is impressive and quite beautiful.

the teahouse
The Teahouse at Geelong Botanic Gardens

Plan to spend 2-3 hours here and definitely stop at The Teahouse. It’s a great stop for an iced mocha on a hot day. You can get ice cream in your mocha and they have nice sweets and sandwiches for a snack or light meal.

bronze cranes from japan
Bronze cranes at Geelong Botanic Gardens

My favorite spot was the Asian garden with the bronze cranes that came from Japan in the 1880s.

White Night Festival

I was lucky enough to be around for White Night Festival the first time they held it in Geelong. It’s a spectacular event inspired by the Nuit Blanche movement that started in Paris. With over 50 performances, films, and art installations spread across more than five blocks from the waterfront south to Geelong Performing Arts Centre, the Geelong White Night Festival transformed the downtown into a mystical wonderland of light and sound for over 100,000 attendees.

Even if you miss White Night, take at least one night time trip to the waterfront. They have a Christmas light display in December and I hear it is beautiful year round.

Geelong is only a couple of hours from Melbourne by train. Check out my Melbourne article to start planning your itinerary!

If you have been to Geelong or plan to go there, please share your recommendations and questions in the comments. 


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