Queenscliff and Pt. Lonsdale’s timeless appeal lies in its variety of seascapes from the wild expanse of the southern ocean and raw force of the rip, to the contrasting calm of Port Phillip and SwanBay. Experience the charm and natural beauty of a unique part of Australia.
A 90 minute drive from Melbourne via Geelong or a 40 minute ferry ride from Sorrento on the MorningtonPeninsula, Queenscliff is a heritage township known for its grand Victorian hotels and colonial buildings, home to guest houses, galleries, speciality shops and restaurants.
From rugged ocean surf to tranquil bayside beaches, sand dunes and ti tree to grand 19th Century hotels, Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale are the ideal getaway locations for all tastes. Enjoy an enormous array of sports and leisure activities, including golf courses, boating facilities, scuba diving, picturesque walks and bike trails. The area has some fantastic lookouts from which to take in the spectacular ocean views and watch the ships go by.
In 1852 the Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, La Trobe, commissioned a surveyor to lay out a town at Shortland Bluff. The settlement was proclaimed Queenscliff on 1 May 1853 in honour of Queen Victoria. Queenscliff remains a showpiece of the Victorian era with many of its buildings and streetscapes depicting the charm of bygone times.
Queenscliff started as a fishing village. The fishermen would take to sea in locally designed and built sailing vessels to fish for barracouta (not to be confused with the larger and more dangerous tropical barracuda). The vessels became known as “Couta boats. With the decline of the fishery most of them fell into disrepair. Over recent years these boats have become very popular again and many beautifully restored examples can be found in the boat harbour or seen racing offshore.
The first moves towards constructing a military fort began in 1860 in response to the perceived threat of invasion during the gold rush years. Construction continued over the years with most of the fort being built during the 1880s. By the late 1800’s Queenscliff had become the fashionable holiday destination for Melbourne’s elite who would travel down the bay by paddle steamer.
Neighbouring Point Lonsdale overlooks The Rip, the treacherous entrance to Port Phillip. Many ships have been wrecked attempting to traverse The Rip. The entrance to Port Phillip is regarded as one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world. Vast quantities of water need to enter and exit the bay through a very narrow entrance, causing the treacherous Rip.
Queenscliff has two lighthouses which are placed to guide ships safely through the Heads. The Black Lighthouse is located within the Fort grounds, while the White Lighthouse can be viewed from the Ocean View Lookout at the Southern end of Hesse Street. A ship entering the Heads from sea will line the Black Lighthouse over the White Lighthouse to ensure it stays in the channel.
Queenscliff is one of Victoria’s most popular destinations. Many enjoyable hours can be spent walking around the boat harbour where the fishing fleet shelter. Walking west along the creek that separates Queenscliff from SwanIsland you will see the wonderful birdlife of SwanBay. Queenscliff is blessed with many pleasant walks encompassing the town’s natural beauty. The Bellarine Rail Trail begins in Queenscliff near the Railway station and meanders around the shores of SwanBay, gently rising up to the hills before coming into Drysdale. Many keen cyclists have made the 32km trip from Geelong to Queenscliff via the trail. SwanBay is part of the PortPhillipHeadsMarineNational Park and RAMSAR listed wetlands area. Hire a bicycle and head for the hills!
Queenscliff boasts a sheltered bayside swimming beach to the east, and ocean beach to the south. Visitors can delight in strolling down the historic Queenscliff Main Pier, with the historic boat shed from where the lifeboats were launched and the waiting shed where ladies and gentlemen waited for the paddle steamers to arrive. The lifeboat service was involved in many maritime rescues, and visitors can now see the lifeboat on display at the QueenscliffMaritimeMuseum. From the end of the pier the shoreline offers the delightful vista of historic buildings above the treetops of Princess and Citizens’ Parks.
Perched atop Shortland Bluff is Australia’s largest and best preserved military fortress. FortQueenscliff was constructed during the 1800s, and together with the other installations at the Heads, was built to guard against enemy vessels entering Port Phillip.