Pack your appetite and settle for nothing less than the best. It's time for a Geelong and Bellarine gastro adventure, a journey that takes in big names and as-yet-unknowns, gritty urban back streets, historic edifices and ocean vistas. And then there's the food – so local and so fresh you can practically have a conversation with it.
Dining scene on fire
Ignite the appetite in the back streets of Geelong. Igni has set the city's dining scene alight since opening in early 2016, and the sparks have quickly blown further afield. The Age Good Food Guide awarded Igni Victoria's best regional restaurant, and chef Aaron Turner was crowned Chef of the Year. Get a reservation while you still can and savour the taste of the region in the creative vegetable-driven tasting menu.
Over in West Geelong, Tulip provides a floral interlude in Pakington Stree's café society. Sown from the same seed as the Great Ocean Road's Gladioli, Tulip is as bright, elegant and yes, pretty, as the name suggests. The kitchen team works wonders with the region's bountiful produce, and the wine list spans Victoria.
Queenscliff is the destination of choice for those who love a meal to be an occasion. The 1880s Vue Grand Hotel has a dining room fit for royalty, and a menu featuring the freshest local produce that would impress most monarchs.
Food and wine sublime amid landscapes so fine
Leave the big smoke behind and wander into winery country. This part of your foodscapade is best tackled at a leisurely pace to allow for maximum grazing and generous watering. Or is that just the livestock? Not content with making impeccable wines, the wineries have also pulled out all stops when it comes to food. Book some fabulous local accommodation, select a designated driver and go to town. Or country.
Hop on over to Jack Rabbit Vineyard, where the ocean views vie with the wine and of course the food for hero status. Oakdene Vineyards Restaurant and Cellar Door is unapologetically eclectic, but the wines and food are elegant and complex – and undeniably moreish.
Detour to the Bellarine Taste Trail and treat your tastebuds to the best of the Bellarine Peninsula. Pack an Esky and load up on fresh seafood, gourmet cheese, farm-fresh vegetables and succulent seasonal berries for perishable souvenirs of your stay.
Digestifs, should they be required, can be sourced from the cafes and bars sprouting up in Geelong's burgeoning laneway scene. And if your idea of the perfect end to a meal is a refreshing ale, Geelong's craft breweries have you covered.