I’ve always had a soft spot for Anglesea. This little town on the Surf Coast is often overshadowed by its big brothers to the east and west, but where Torquay and Lorne are busy and bustling in summer, Anglesea is much more relaxed. If you’re like me and prefer a slower pace to your holidays, here’s where you’ll find it.
Slower doesn’t mean boring, though: in fact, every time I visit, I’m surprised at just how many things there are to do in Anglesea for such a small town. For outdoorsy types, the options feel endless: surfing, swimming, paddleboarding, canoeing, hiking, biking, and more.
Even when it’s not beach weather, though, you’re not going to be left sitting around in your hotel room: Anglesea on a rainy day can be just as rewarding. From chocolate tasting to impromptu craft beer tours, shopping to exploring a famous lighthouse, you definitely don’t need to go far to find a good time.
And all of that before you take in Anglesea’s most famous attraction: a golf course where the kangaroos easily outnumber the players!
I’ve visited throughout the year, from the height of summer to the middle of winter, and most recently on a couple of gorgeous autumnal days. It’s great at almost any time of year, and visiting during shoulder season means cheaper hotel prices and no crowds. Most places stay open all year round, albeit sometimes with reduced hours.
Here’s what’s worth doing.
Work On Your Tan at Anglesea’s Beaches
Like many popular spots along the Great Ocean Road, Anglesea’s beaches are its biggest drawcard. You’ve got several to choose from, with each one appealing for a slightly different reason.
First up is Anglesea Beach, the most popular of the lot. As the name suggests, it’s right in town, with the river spilling into the sea part way along. It’s patrolled during summer, and with relatively calm waves compared to much of the rest of the Surf Coast, is an ideal spot for swimming.
You can easily walk there from most accommodation around town, and I invariably end up doing exactly that whenever I visit, spending hours alternating between heating up in the sun and cooling off in the ocean.
Point Roadknight Beach is probably most well-known for its rock pools (below), but it’s a great spot for families whether you’re interested in marine life or not. Like Anglesea Beach, it’s patrolled during summer, and because it’s protected by the limestone cliff that gives it its name, the water stays calm in most weather.
If you’ve got a furry friend with you, head over to Guvvos Beach. It’s dog-friendly year round, although you are required to keep them on a leash at all times. In theory, at least. Because it’s a little out of town and stretches for several kilometres, you’ll rarely find many people on it, especially once you head away from the carparks.
I love this beach for its quiet and solitude, but note that it isn’t patrolled at any time of year, and the waves can get much rougher than nearby beaches. With big waves and more than the occasional rip, it’s best appreciated from the shoreline.
Go Rock-Pooling at Point Roadknight
For Lauren, growing up in the UK, rock-pooling formed a core part of almost every family holiday when she was a child. That’s probably why she made a beeline for Point Roadknight as soon as we got into town, very excited at the prospect of wandering around the rocks for hours and tracking down tiny animals.
She wasn’t disappointed, and if you get there around low tide, you won’t be either: there’s a good chance you and the kids will find all manner of sea life going about its daily business. You will need to time your visit, though, as the rocks are entirely covered when the tide comes back in.
Once that happens, it’s time to head up the trail behind the beach to check out the view of Soapy Rocks. As the name suggests, these rocks (and those behind the beach) are deceptively slippery, so enjoy the views but perhaps avoid clambering around on them unless you’re very sure-footed!
You can walk to Point Roadknight from most parts of town in under twenty minutes, but there’s a good sized carpark there as well.
Play Golf With Kangaroos
In its own right, the Anglesea Golf Course is a lovely spot to work on your handicap. It’s been around for over seventy years, with a full 18 holes plus the usual selection of practice facilities, including a driving range, net, and both fairways and putting greens to perfect your technique.
The real highlight of the course, however, and the thing that brings most people to play here, is the very high likelihood that you’ll be sharing your tee with a family of kangaroos! They’ve been in the area for much longer than humans, and have shown no desire to move just because we decided to build a golf course in their backyard.
The roos tend to hang out in the rough, under the shade of the trees in the long grass. It’s a good incentive to line up your shots carefully: not only are you more likely to get around the course under par if you hit down the middle of the fairway, you also won’t have to convince a mob of kangaroos to move so you can play your shot.
Or Take a Tour to Get Up Close and Personal With Them
Even if you’re not all that into golf, it’s still well worth checking out the strange sight of kangaroos hopping across the fairway. Volunteers at the club run tours throughout the day during peak season, taking you around the course in electric golf buggies and explaining the backstory behind this 300-strong population of Eastern Greys.
The half-hour tour is really fun, and super-popular with tourists (I’ve had multiple family members rave about it when they’re visiting from overseas). You’ll want to book ahead if you’re there during the summer holidays, but can also turn up on the day to join the next tour, space permitting.
During breeding season, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see joeys peering out from their mother’s pouches, or jumping in and out of them once they get a bit older. You’ll get plenty of good photo opportunities at any time of year, though, with the chance to get out of the buggy and nice and close to the kangaroos.
It’s reasonably-priced for such an unusual experience, at $15 per adult, $5 per child under 12, or $35 for a family of four. My tip is to try to book your tour for late afternoon if you can, as that’s when the kangaroos are likely to be most active.
Paddle or Motor Along the Anglesea River
Meandering through the heart of the town, the Anglesea River is just as big a part of daily life here as the ocean. You’ll often find locals out paddling around the waterways, but if you’re visiting town and don’t have your own vessel, Anglesea Paddle Boats has you covered.
The company operates from the end of Noble Street alongside the Great Ocean Road bridge, and has a variety of human and petrol-powered vessels for hire. You’ll pay $30 per quarter hour in the paddle boats, $40 per quarter hour in the motor boats, and $50 per hour in the canoes. They can all carry up to three people.
Whichever vessel you choose, dawdling up and down the river on a sunny day is one of life’s little pleasures. I find the canoeing most enjoyable: it’s more affordable to take out for a longer period, making for a relaxing, peaceful experience once you get away from the main part of town.
You can also turn off the main part of the river into Coogoorah Reserve (discussed below), a delightful stretch of water and wetlands, and you definitely should: it’s the best part of the route.
The shop is open every day from 10am in summer, but only operates at weekends during the quiet winter months.
Learn to Surf and Paddleboard
With Bells Beach a matter of minutes up the road, it’s hardly a surprise that surfing is a big deal in Anglesea. Professional surfers and those who aspire to be flock to the area, but if you’re new to the sport, getting started can seem a bit intimidating.
I know it was for me: I was more than a little worried before my first surf lesson! As with many things in life, those fears were unfounded: by the end of the morning I was already standing on my board and riding (very small) waves into shore. If I can do it, believe me, anyone can!
In not-entirely-surprising news, there’s a great surf school in Anglesea that can help you overcome any fears and take your first steps toward riding the big waves that pound this section of coastline. Go Ride a Wave is literally just over the road from Anglesea Beach, and has taught thousands of people to surf over the years.
They run beginner group lessons daily, even over winter (you just need a thicker wetsuit!), at a cost of $79 per adult for a two-hour introductory course. Packs of three lessons are available at a slightly discounted rate, if you’re in town for a while, and private tuition is an option as well .
While surfing is the main focus, it’s not the only water sport on offer: the company also hires out standup paddleboards and runs group and private lessons for them over the warmer months. You’ll again pay $79 per adult for an introductory lesson.
If you only need to hire a board, it’s $25-30 for two hours through to $45-50 for the day. All boards come with wetsuits, so no need to bring your own unless you want to.
Cast a Line and Catch Your Dinner
Whether you’re mad on fishing or just like to a drop a line in the water now and then, Anglesea is the place to do it. Thanks to the combination of river and ocean, there are many great spots to try your luck, and a wide range of different species in the area.
Somewhere towards the river mouth is probably the best place to start, at least if you’re on the hunt for whiting or flounder. As you head back up the river, mullet and bream become more common: you can cast from the trail that runs alongside, but the boatsheds near the bridge are ideal if you’ll be there for a while.
If you’re more of a surfcaster, that’s definitely an option too. Everything from gummy shark and snapper to whiting and calamari are regularly found close to shore, and there are near-endless places to fish directly off the beach or from nearby rocks.
Don’t forget that with only a few exceptions, anybody between the ages of 18 and 70 needs a recreational fishing license to fish in Victoria. You can buy one that lasts anywhere from three days to three years, in person or online, so make sure you do before you cast off.
If the fish aren’t biting, it’s not a problem: head along to Fish By Moonlight on the main street and grab your lunch or dinner from there instead. It’s the best fish and chips in town, and while there are a few seats outside, I’d recommend getting your meal to take away. The shop is opposite the huge Lions Park and a short walk to the river, so you can easily create an impromptu picnic.
Walk, Picnic, and Play at Coogoorah Nature Reserve
I’m going to put it out there: I really like Coogoorah Nature Reserve. It’s just far enough from the beach that most visitors don’t seem to make it there, which means it’s much quieter in summer than most of the rest of Anglesea.
Slightly north of town, you can get to it from the Great Ocean Road in a couple of minutes, on either side of the river. Coming in from the eastern side is particularly nice: just find a park somewhere along Bingley Road, then walk across the pedestrian bridge into the reserve.
From there, you’ve got a wealth of options. I’ve walked most of the trails that wind through this 17 hectare reserve, and for somewhere so close to town, I’ve often only had birdsong for company. You can cycle these paths as well, if you prefer wheels to feet.
The river also branches off and meanders through the reserve, and you’ll often find people canoeing and kayaking around the waterways. Fishing is pretty popular here, and I usually see someone with a line in the water as I wander.
Of course, you don’t have to do any of those activities if you don’t want to. Along with the nature reserve, there’s a manicured section of parkland with BBQ facilities, children’s playgrounds, toilets, and the like. It’s the ideal spot for a lazy picnic, and you’re unlikely to have to share it with too many other people.
If that’s where you’re headed, come in from River Reserve Road: there’s a good-sized carpark there, right beside the playground.
Hike a Section of the Surf Coast Walk
The Surf Coast Walk is a spectacular 44km path that runs from Point Impossible, a few kilometres east of Torquay, to Fairhaven, just west of Aireys Inlet. A few
masochistic enthusiastic people walk the whole thing in one day, while a larger number spread it over a weekend.
The trail runs directly through Anglesea: you’ll see signs for it at various points, but chances are that if you’re on a trail beside the ocean in this area, you’re on the Surf Coast Walk. If you don’t have the time or motivation to tackle the whole thing, there are several shorter sections that are worth doing, separately or combined.
For the longer trails, you’ll get the most out of them if you’ve got someone who can drop you off or pick you up, as there are no real loop options. If it’s just you, start in Anglesea and walk until you decide it’s time to turn around: it’s really up to you where that is!
I’ve listed a few of my favourite sections that start/finish in Anglesea below, with links to the AllTrails maps for easier navigation.
- Anglesea River to Point Roadknight, 2.5km, easy
- Anglesea (Ramsay Street) to Point Addis, 4.6km, easy
- Anglesea River to Split Point Lighthouse, 13.5km, moderate
You can make up your own sections as well, of course, letting you pick the length that works best for you. This map covers the entire 44km route of the Surf Coast Walk: just download it to your phone before you set out.
Take in the Views From Loveridge Lookout
Between Anglesea and Point Roadknight beaches, Loveridge Lookout sits high on the clifftop overlooking the ocean. An observation post from 1942 until the end of World War Two, it was manned by local volunteers around the clock to keep an eye out for enemy attack, and is now on the Victorian Heritage Register.
These days, it serves a more serene purpose, with locals and visitors alike showing up to admire the views over the nearby beaches and out over the rolling waves. With a bunch of seats dotted around, it’s a particularly good spot for stopping to watch the sunset, but the views are great at any time of day.
A series of information boards tell the story of the history and geology of the area, and there’s a replica of a lifebelt from the “Inverlochy”, a three-masted cargo ship that hit rocks and sank about a kilometre east of the river mouth in early December, 1902.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie
While Lauren is mad about chocolate, it’s fair to say that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Stopping in at a chocolate factory, then, is rarely high on my list of things to do–but for the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, I’ll now make a willing exception.
Just north of Anglesea, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding it: not only is it well signposted from the main road, the building is enormous (and the carpark is even larger). The dedicated bus parks are a hint that the place is popular with tour groups on their way back from the 12 Apostles, so try to time your visit for earlier in the day if you can.
Once inside, the place is a confectionary lovers dream, with near-endless tables and shelves full of cocoa-based delights. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much chocolate in one place (there are something like 250 different kinds), and it was hard to restrict ourselves to only a few items each.
I mean, if you haven’t bought and consumed a Giant Polka Dot as big as your head, have you even lived?
There’s plenty on offer even for dairy-free people like me, with an entire table full of vegan options. I also have it on reliable authority that the “bush tucker” collection is particularly delicious, with unusual local flavours like gum leaf and wild honey and lemon myrtle.
There’s an onsite cafe, which does serve things other than chocolate in case you were wondering. There are tables inside, but they do get busy: fortunately there’s also a takeaway menu so you can eat and drink in the factory’s manicured grounds if the weather’s nice.
Pair that with tasting sessions and chocolate-making classes, and you may find yourself spending a lot more time (and a lot more money) here than you planned for!
Take on the Trails at Anglesea Bike Park
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s a place for you at Anglesea’s Bike Park. Built in 2006, it’s in woodland to the northeast of Anglesea, tucked away on a back street (Camp Road) and accessible 24/7.
It’s pretty impressive, as bike parks go, with a wide range of different jumps and obstacles for a variety of different skill levels. You can also get onto several single track mountain bike trails from out the back of the park, so once you’re done with the rollers and table tops, head out to put those newfound skills to work!
The park gets busier at weekends and especially during school holidays, but it’s rare to find it particularly crowded. If you’d like the place to yourself, head there during the day in term time: that’s when we last visited, and had the whole place to ourselves the entire time!
There’s no charge to use the park, which was built and is maintained by the local council. There are some basic facilities near the front gate, including toilets and a simple picnic area, and plenty of shade from the towering pine trees beside the track.
Or Explore Further Afield on Two Wheels
Of course, you’re not limited to the bike park when it comes to two-wheeled adventures. Spend five minutes in town and on nearby paths and you’re guaranteed to see cyclists, from hardcore enthusiasts working up a sweat to families out for a gentle ride.
Popular cycling routes include the sections of the Surf Coat Walk that run from Point Roadknight to the visitor centre and along both banks of the river (about 5km one way) and Bells Beach to Point Impossible (about 13km one way).
Bring your own bike if you’ve got one, but if not, Simon and Ari at Trailhead Bike Co on the main road can sort you out with a well-maintained hire bike for a few hours or a few days.
Enjoy a Wine Tasting at Bellbrae Estate
Established over twenty years ago, Bellbrae Estate is the only winery directly on the Great Ocean Road, and has become renowned for producing some of Australia’s finest wines. It’s only ten minutes from Anglesea as you head towards Bells Beach, with a big sign outside so you can’t miss it.
Like most of the wineries in the area, it specialises in cool-climate wines like shiraz, pinot noir, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc. You can order glasses individually or (my preference) opt for a tasting flight that highlights all of the varieties on offer.
If you’re visiting around lunchtime, be sure to check out the delicious pizzas: you can combine tasting and a meal in one package, or just pick whatever you’d like from the food and wine menus.
If you’re there at the weekend and would prefer something lighter, the “Winkipop” experience pairs five tapas dishes and tastings of six different wines. There’s often also live music on the weekend, which makes for a wonderful, laid-back way to spend a sunny afternoon!
In news that will surprise nobody, you can also buy bottles or cases of any of the wines you liked, directly from the cellar door. Bellbrae also ships Australia-wide, at no charge if you spend over $120. The cellar door is open from midday, Wednesday through Sunday.
Catch Some Air At Jumpz Trampoline Park
If the kids in your life are anything like the kids in mine, there are days when they just have too. much. energy and you desperately need to help them find a way to burn it off. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to head to Jumpz trampoline park, at the back of the Great Ocean Road Resort opposite the river.
The trampolines themselves are wall to wall with plenty of padding, so there’s little chance of injury and lots of chance of fun! Kids under ten need to be supervised by an adult, and the maximum age to use the trampolines is 16: it’s definitely kids-only when it comes to bouncing.
Fortunately, if you’re there on weekends or during school holidays, there’s some adult-friendly fun on offer as well. Jumpz runs a bar service from 10am on those days, along with a food menu of pizzas, burgers, and the like.
There’s also live music between 1 and 4pm on weekend afternoons, so if the sun’s out, it’s a great place to kick back with a drink and enjoy the sunshine. Speaking of sunshine, while the trampolines are open every day from 8:30am, they will close for safety reasons during and after heavy rain.
Tickets cost $15 for an hour or $25 for a day pass.
Get Your Shopping On at the Riverbank Market
If you’re visiting Anglesea at the weekend, be sure to carve out some time to visit the Riverbank Market. Running from 9am until 4pm on certain Saturdays and Sundays from September to April, it’s a super-popular spot for locals and visitors to wander through.
Shockingly, given the name, you’ll find the market on the banks of the Anglesea River that runs through town, opposite the caravan park. With over 100 stalls, there’s a wide range of products on offer: fresh local produce is the biggest drawcard, but you’ll likely find everything from handmade jewelry to plants, clothing, and more, depending on which vendors are there on the day.
There’s usually live music and entertainment running at the market for most of the day, and a big focus on sustainability, waste reduction, and general environmental friendliness. Many of the stalls have at least some eco-friendly and upcycled products for sale as well.
Check the market’s Facebook page to find out when the next one is running.
If you somehow manage to exhaust all of the fun in Anglesea, never fear: there's plenty to do nearby as well! Torquay and world-famous surf spot Bells Beach are just a 15-minute drive east, while Airey's Inlet is even closer to the west.
Visit the Famous Split Point Lighthouse
Did you ever watch the Australian kids TV show “Round the Twist”? It was massive back in the 90s, somehow finding its way to over seventy countries. Apparently the world just couldn’t get enough of the adventures of the zany Twist family who lived in an old lighthouse.
What’s that got to do with this article, you may rightly ask? Well, the lighthouse in question is at Split Point in Aireys Inlet, barely a ten-minute drive from the middle of Anglesea. It’s also close to the endpoint of the Surf Coast Walk, and right on the path: it’s a wonderful 13km walk if you’ve got someone to pick you up at the other end.
The lighthouse itself is really pretty impressive; 34 metres tall and sat right at the tip of the point, it’s visible from a long way off. Built in 1891, it’s remained in operation to this day, with a succession of lighthouse keepers before switching to automatic operation in 1919.
There’s no charge to enter the lighthouse grounds: just park in the carpark a couple of hundred metres back down Federal Street and wander up past the Lighthouse Tea Rooms. The cafe used to be the lighthouse stables and workroom, back in the day, and now serves a mean scone with whipped cream.
If you’d like to go inside and check out the view from the top, it’s $10 per person. The lighthouse is open every day, but times vary depending on the time of year: check the website for details.
Go Snorkeling at Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary
At the base of the lighthouse, and extending 300m out to sea, sits Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary. The deeper waters are home to around 25 species of fish, including several varieties of wrasse, while the extensive rock pools hold everything from tiny fish to crabs and even octopuses.
When the conditions are right (i.e., small waves and little to no wind), the snorkeling here can be a delight. Go in off the nearby beach and paddle around near the reef and rock shelf: there’s a lot to see in a relatively small area.
The problem, though, is that conditions often aren’t right: this area, like a lot of the Surf Coast, sees plenty of wind, and the waves get too powerful for comfortable or safe snorkeling when that’s the case.
On days like that, stick to the shoreline and admire Eagle Rock itself, and the surrounding rocks and beaches of the marine sanctuary, from the viewing platforms alongside the lighthouse. There are several, each with a slightly-different view, but it’ll only take ten minutes or so to check them all out.
Get a Photo Under the Famous Memorial Arch
Did you know that the Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial? It was built by about 3000 returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and dedicated to those killed in World War 1.
Creating the road was a mammoth undertaking, especially for the time, and in 1939 it was decided to build a memorial arch at Eastern View, just outside Airey’s Inlet, to commemorate the soldiers’ sacrifice during both the war and the construction of the Great Ocean Road.
Made from stone and timber and stretching across the entire width of the road, the arch still stands to this day. Well, sort of: the one that’s there now is actually the third on this site, with the original rebuilt in 1973, and then again a decade later after it burned down in the Ash Wednesday fires.
The current one still looks much the same as the original, however, and is a popular spot to stop and take a photo. There’s a small carpark on the left as you approach from the east, with sculptures and information boards that explain the history of the arch and the building of the road.
I took the above photo when coming from the other direction: you can pull off on the side of the road there for a minute or two, but it’s not really an official parking space. Either way, if you’re quick enough and there isn’t much traffic, you can nip out into the middle of the road and get your own shot.
Just be careful when you do–it’s a highway (and a war memorial) after all!
Create Your Own Craft Beer Tour!
Craft beer is taking over the world, and that’s especially true in Torquay, just 15-20 minutes up the road from Anglesea. For a relatively small town, there sure are a lot of craft breweries there. The good part about that, of course, is it means you can create your own craft beer tour armed with nothing more than Google Maps and a sober driver!
There are four breweries to choose from: three of them are within a five minute stroll of each other in the middle of town, while the last one is down beside Cozy Corner beach. Obviously I’d suggest trying them all if you’ve got the time!
4 Pines Torquay sits upstairs of the Roxy store in Surf City Plaza, and is a great place to start your beer-drinking journey. It’s a fairly well-known brewer, with over a dozen brewpubs across the east coast of the country, and has a selection of around ten different beers on tap. Order a flight with five of your favourite styles ($25) and see which one grabs you!
The food is great here, too, with particularly tasty tacos on the menu, along with salads, burgers, and standard pub dishes. But really: it’s all about the tacos here!
Bells Beach Brewing, one street over on Baines Crescent, is probably my favourite brewery in town. They’re a small operation, only in Torquay and Geelong, but their wide range of beers are super-interesting and extremely tasty. The taproom is open from midday, Thursday through Sunday, with a bunch of tables set up out the front in summer for a fun, laid-back vibe.
There is a food truck beside the brewery that offers (very tasty) burgers (including a vegan option) and fries that you can eat inside the brewery.
Sou’West Brewing is quite literally over the road from Bells Beach Brewing: if it takes you more than a minute to walk from one to the other, you probably sampled a few too many of the Posso’s IPA!
The beer hall is Sou’West’s biggest drawcard: quite literally, as it seats over 200 people! If you’re after an Oktoberfest vibe on the Surf Coast, here’s where you’ll find it. There’s also a smaller tasting room if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter, along with a family room where you can park the kids in the playground while you enjoy a crisp ale or two.
With a wide selection of food on the menu, too, this is a good choice if you’re travelling with pickier eaters.
Blackman’s Brewery Bar is close to the beach, around a twenty minute walk from the others. To be fair, if you’ve made it through the other three, a short break from the beers probably isn’t a bad thing! It’s open Wednesday through Sunday, although the beer garden is only open Fri-Sun from 1pm.
I particularly like the wildberry sour for something a bit different, but there’s a wide range: ten beers that you’ll find all the time, and a few seasonal or special brews that change regularly. If you’re organised enough to book a week in advance, brewery tours run on Wednesdays at 4pm: they cost $20 including a tasting paddle.
In terms of food, Blackman’s is known for their tasty range of pizzas, but they also serve fish and chips, burgers, and other pub-style dishes. They have a sunny beer garden and a spacious interior, but I’d still recommend making a reservation if you’re planning on visiting during the weekend.
Explore the Australian National Surfing Museum
If you’re into riding the waves, the idea of a national surf museum will already be getting you excited. Even if you’re not, though, the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay is absolutely worth a visit. Even better, it’s in Surf City Plaza (below) and right alongside several of the craft breweries I mentioned above. Now that’s the perfect way to spend a few hours!
As someone who’s only tried surfing a handful of times, I’d hardly consider myself a huge fan of the sport. Even so, I found the museum’s exhibits fascinating, and absolutely worth the price of entry. There’s a lot to see: don’t expect to be in and out in a few minutes. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore it properly.
I found the history of the sport particularly interesting, and while the museum obviously has a focus on Australia, I learned a lot about the origins and global rise of surfing as well. Seeing how surfboards, and those who rode them, have changed over time was fascinating.
The videos and information boards do a good job of explaining many of the technicalities of the sport without getting too into the weeds. There’s a lot of jargon in surfing, but you don’t need to understand much of it (I definitely don’t) to enjoy the museum.
If you’ve got the time or you’re there on a rainy day and looking for an excuse to avoid heading back outside, there’s also a small theatre playing classic surf movies that’s well worth a look. The Surf Museum is open 9am to 5pm every day except Christmas, and admission is pretty reasonable at $12 per adult and $25 for a family.
Buy a New Wardrobe at Surf City Plaza
The Surf Museum is part of Surf City Plaza, a block-sized shopping precinct dedicated to all things surfwear. Given that Rip Curl and Billabong t-shirts seem to make up about half of my clothing options, it’s probably no surprise I made a beeline for the place as soon as we got into town.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Along with large flagship stores for those two iconic Australian surfwear labels, there’s an Oakley store, plus a few general surfwear shops like Boardriders with a range of different brands. That’s just the full-price options: walk down Baines Crescent on the south side of the plaza, and you’ll find my favourite kind of shopping. Outlet stores.
I spent a lot of time, but not a lot of money, in the Rip Curl outlet. With rows and rows of discounted stuff, I left with shopping bags full of shirts, shorts, and t-shirts, and could easily have bought more. Lauren, meanwhile, was buying her new favourite jacket next door in the main store: it wasn’t on sale, but it sure looks great!
There’s also a Ghanda outlet on the same street, a Patagonia store over the road, and some good cafes and coffee roasters in and around the plaza to help you recover after you’ve blown your entire trip budget on a new wardrobe.
And Then See (or Do) the Real Thing at Bells Beach
Bells Beach probably needs no introduction. Just a fifteen minute drive east of Anglesea, this world-famous surf spot has been attracting the best in the world (and the rest of us) to the annual Rip Curl Pro competition for over 60 years. Known for its perfect right-handers, waves reach as high as five metres when the conditions are right.
If you’re planning to hit the surf and really know what you’re doing, head to Bells Beach between autumn and spring (April through October) to have the best chance of big wave action. If you’re still new to the sport, head there during the rest of the year: November to March is when you’ll find smaller waves and noticeably warmer water.
Even if you’re not really a surfer, there are still plenty of reasons to visit. Boardwalks and viewing platforms hug the clifftops above the beach, with panoramic views over the sand and all the action down below.
There’s plenty of car parking (at least if you’re not there during an event), but if you really want to stretch your legs, walk there from Anglesea along a beautiful stretch of the Surf Coast Walk. You’ll probably want someone to pick you up or drop you off, though: it’s about 13km one-way from downtown Anglesea.
If you’re not feeling quite that motivated, just wander as far as you like in either direction from the Bells Beach carpark: the walking path runs the length of the beach, so isn’t hard to find.
I timed my last visit for just before the start of the Rip Curl Pro in early April 2023, and couldn’t have picked a better day. I got to watch some of the best surfers in the world practice in near-perfect conditions, with only a few other spectators alongside. It would have been a very different story the following day!
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