A Victorian Loop: Pt1 – Black Spur and the Mornington Peninsular

by Steven Chater from Trip Plan Australia. Check out Trip Plan’s free Itinerary Planner that will help you make the most of your next road trip through regional and outback Australia.

Melbourne is located at the top of the very large Port Phillip Bay. “The Bay”, as it’s also commonly referred to, is one of Australia’s busiest ports with ocean going vessels all having to navigate through its surprisingly close headlands – the navigable width being only about 1 km wide.

Road trip planner Australia - Vessel entering Port Phillip Bay pictured from the Cattle Jetty Point Nepean National Park

Vessel entering Port Phillip Bay pictured from the Cattle Jetty, Point Nepean

I’d seen the headlands a number of times when sailing through them on the Spirit of Tasmania and flagged doing the loop around The Bay as a trip that would be great to do.

We decided to widen the circle to take in two of what are recognised as Australia’s, and indeed the world’s, great drives – the Black Spur and Great Ocean Road drives.

This first blog will cover heading down to the Mornington Peninsular, crossing The Bay by ferry, and getting to the start of the Great Ocean Road just out of Geelong. Part two will be about the Great Ocean Road drive itself, with the Twelve Apostle’s a highlight, and the third post will take in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges on the way back.

Coming from Sydney, we started the expanded loop by diverting from the Hume Highway at the town of Benalla. This enabled us to take in some picturesque countryside and arrive at Narbethong, the northern starting point of the fabulous Black Spur Drive.

Road trip planner Australia - Mountain ash trees at Dom Dom Saddle on the Black Spur Drive

Mountain ash trees at Dom Dom Saddle on the Black Spur Drive

Road trip planner Australia - Fabulous tree ferns and mountain ash trees on the Black Spur Drive

Tree ferns and mountain ash trees on the Black Spur Drive

At the southern end of the Black Spur Drive is the town of Healsville. We couldn’t get enough of the mountain ash trees and so turned left at Healsville to keep going through the beautiful Yarra Ranges and eventually the Dandenong Ranges. Plenty of curves to keep things interesting and it’s spectacular all the way – but you need to allow plenty of time.

The next day brought us into the Mornington Peninsular, with visits to the Coolart Wetlands, Cape Schanck, Arthurs Seat and eventually into the cosmopolitan Sorrento.

Road trip planner Australia - View from one of the bird hides at Coolart Wetlands

View from one of the bird hides at Coolart Wetlands

Shopping (well, window shopping for us!) and eating are the things to do around Sorrento, which has an interesting mix of old and new buildings. It was quite busy there on the weekend, particularly as we arrived when the annual “Around the Bay” bicycle event was on.

Put a visit to Point Nepean National Park (located past the last town on the peninsular, Portsea) on your itinerary. It’s free to enter, however you can only drive up to a certain point. After that it’s walking or catching the shuttle bus (small cost). A walk to the old Cattle Jetty let us meet up with this fellow in the Point Nepean cemetery:

Road trip planner Australia - Echidna busy eating ants in Point Nepean National Park

Echidna busy eating ants in Point Nepean National Park

We caught the shuttle out to Fort Nepean, which took us past Cheviot Beach and the monument to Harold Holt (a Prime Minister who, in 1967, disappeared whilst swimming at the beach – his body has never been found, one of Australia’s great mysteries).

Road trip planner Australia - Looking back from Fort Nepean Barracks - Bass Straight on the right, Port Phillip Bay on the left

Looking back from Fort Nepean Barracks – Bass Straight on the right, Port Phillip Bay on the left

Fort Nepean Barracks has an interesting history, well presented, so allow time for a visit there too.

Road trip planner Australia - Fort Nepean Barracks

Fort Nepean Barracks

The ferry to take us over to the western side of The Bay departs on the hour from Sorrento. Generally there’s no need to book ahead except, I’m told, maybe on a Saturday or when special events are on (such as the “Around the Bay” bicycle ride that we encountered). The 45 minute trip was a great experience and it was easy to drive on and off.

Road trip planner Australia - Sister ferry heading to Sorrento with Queenscliff in the background

Sister ferry heading to Sorrento with Queenscliff in the background

The town at the other end, Queenscliff, is a step back in time – not nearly as busy as Sorrento and a wonderful atmosphere with its old buildings.

Road trip planner Australia - Just a few of the terrific heritage buildings in Queenscliff's main street

Just a few of the terrific heritage buildings in Queenscliff’s main street

Road trip planner Australia - Shops in Queenscliff's main street

Shops in Queenscliff’s main street

It’s then only a 30 minute drive into Geelong, Victoria’s second largest city. Geelong is going through a tough time at the present due to manufacturing industry closures, however you wouldn’t know it down at its waterfront. Again some fantastic heritage buildings, a great looking pier, and wonderful coffee spots near the water!

Road trip planner Australia - Cunningham Pier, Geelong

Cunningham Pier, Geelong

Road trip planner Australia - One of the many beautiful heritage buildings in Geelong

One of the many beautiful heritage buildings in Geelong

The start of the Great Ocean Road is the town of Torquay, just 25 minutes drive south of Geelong. The trip so far had been a great experience with its mountain ash forests, shopping and heritage buildings; arriving in Torquay, we could tell that the next section of the trip, whilst being different, was going to be great!

Road trip planner Australia - Torquay surf beach

Torquay surf beach

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Road trip planner Australia - Victorian Big Loop - Black Spur Drive, Mornington Peninsular, Great Ocean Rd, Daylesford

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