Drysdale, in the central north of the Bellarine, is a centre for much of the produce and fine wines which come from the area. Surrounding the town are the cider houses, vinyards, dairies and berry farms for which the region is known. The town is named after Anne Drysdale whose estate “Coriyule” still sits above the township.
Where is it?: Drysdale is located on the Bellarine Peninsula, 94 km south of Melbourne and 21 km east of Geelong.
The Drysdale Markets are held on the third Sunday of the month between September and April on the Recreation Reserve (at the end of Duke St). They are the largest on the Peninsula.
The former courthouse (1882), in High Street, is now a museum. There is a small admission fee, tel: (03) 5250 1783.
In Crimea St, between High St and the Recreation Reserve, is a former home for infirm soldiers and sailors. Built in 1891 it is a single-storey brick institutional structure with a timber verandah. The building was modelled on the Crimean War veterans’ hospitals at Greenwich and Chelsea in England. A cannon still bears testimony to the building’s military past.
Quarry Park is a pleasant recreation area at the eastern outskirts of town, adjacent the Portarlington Rd.
A popular youth music and performing arts venue, affectionately labelled ‘The Potato Shed’ is located in the back of Drysdale. The industrial size venue is the site of ‘Battle of The Bands’, a yearly music festival which has seen a number of local bands make a name for themselves in a popular setting.
Bellarine Rail Trail
The Bellarine Rail Trail runs through the town. This 32 km walking and cycling trail follows the route of the former South Geelong to Queenscliff branch line. It runs from South Geelong to Queenscliff, passing through the towns of Leopold, Curlewis and Drysdale. The Bellarine Railway operates a tourist railway between Drysdale and Queenscliff, and the walking track runs parallel to the railway in this 16 km eastern section. The tourist railway is happy to take bicycles on their trains if you don’t want to ride in one (or both!) directions of this section. The route traverses farmland with scattered patches and strips of native vegetation, mainly eucalypt woodland.
The 16-km Bellarine Peninsula Railway is run by the Geelong Steam Preservation Society. It has an outstanding collection of vintage steam locomotives and carriages which take passengers on scenic pleasure trips to Queenscliff, taking in views of Swan Bay, the Bellarine Hills, Corio Bay and Port Phillip Bay. The station is located at Lake Lorne Reserve, just off the main Geelong-Portarlington Rd (High St), at the southern end of town. Trains run every Sunday of the year, some Saturdays and several days a week during school holidays (see the Railway’s website for detaila).
An all-weather cycling and walking trail runs parallel to the railway track and those wishing to take the train one way and ride a bicycle back can transport their bikes for an additional fee. The trail continues from Drysdale along the original rail line as far as South Geelong. Trains can also be hired for special occasions. Contact: (03) 5258 2069.
Clifton Springs adjoins Drysdale. It occupies land on the foreshore of Port Phillip Bay and is essentially residential in nature. The population in the 1996 census was 6651. The settlement was named after some mineral springs discovered below the cliffs in 1870. In the late 19th century such waters were widely believed to have medicinal value and, together with the seaside atmosphere, they attracted many visitors. The area was also popular with yachting and boating enthusiasts and a pier, hotel, baths and a kiosk were built with steamers conveying people back and forth from Melbourne. The mineral water was bottled and sold by the thousand and the pier was extended in 1889 to accommodate the growing custom as Clifton Springs began to rival Queenscliff as a favourite holiday resort.
Clearwater Drive provides access to a 65 ha complex which includes a country club, a golf course, a bowling club and a swimming pool. Clearwater Drive continues on to the beach where there is a boat ramp. Golfers can also try out the Curlewis Golf Club on the Geelong Rd. Clifton Springs Rd leads to a lookout over Port Phillip Bay.
Spray Farm is one of Australias most unique and picturesque historic venues. It was until recently a venue for weddings, corporate events, conferences and private functions. It is reputed the property was named after The Spray, the first sailing ship to single-handedly circumnavigate the world, which had entered Port Phillip Bay in late 1890s.
Spray Farm was formerly known as Ellenvale when built in 1851 for army captain James Conway Langden to the designs of Geelong architect John Young. The main house was a single storey brick and rubble villa based on a symmetrical plan around a central hall and vestibule lit by a large lantern. It was acquired in 1862 by Geelong Dalgety wool broker, Charles Ibbotsen who extended it in 1875 with the addition of a Victorian Gothic brick wing and stable complex forming two fully enclosed courtyards. Its stables have now been converted into four guest suites.
The historic estate bought by businessman and horsebreeder Rick Jamieson who bought the property in 2010 for $7.05 million. Rick Jamieson, who famously sold Black Caviar as a yearling for $210,000, was the founder of party supply and events company Harry the Hirer. Its current owner is ANZ chief executive Mike Smith and his wife, Maria. It is now a private residence and closed to public access. Location: 2275 Portarlington Road, Bellarine.
Down the road, at 330 Scotchmans Rd, is Stoneacres Farm, a large orchard/rose garden/nursery which is situated on elevated ground offering fine views over the bay. There is a rose walk, a wild garden, a hedged terrace, a bluestone wall, a sunken garden, a pond and a bog garden. The nursery specialises in old-fashioned roses, perennials and unusual shrubs. The Cafe is open for Summer Lunch: Wed-Sun, winter Lunch: Fri-Sun, public holidays. Regional wines are featured at this little country cafe with its nursery setting. The views from the Bellarine to the Mornington Peninsulas are stunning. The service is casual and friendly and the menu is changes frequently, but the risotto is always a good choice. Location: 330 Scotchmans Rd, Drysdale. Ph (03) 5259 3109.
Drive along Murradoc Road for a very short distance and you’ll find Becks Rd heads off to the left. Along here, at no.35, is Tuckerberry Hill where you can pick your own blackberries during picking season (December to March). Blueberry jams, juice, chutneys, muffins and toppings and blueberry plants are available all year round. Tuckerberry Hill was started by one of Australia s pioneering blueberry farmers, Margaret Tucker (hence the name!), with her daughter Christine and husband David Lean continuing on the farm. Tuckerberry is the only blueberry orchard on the Bellarine and all their fruit is spray-free and grown under natural conditions. There is no entrance fee, you just pay for what you pick. Tuckleberry Hill also has a picnic area and offers sweeping hilltop views. The Ph: (03) 5251 3468.
Set in 52 acres of picturesque parkland at nearby Wallington, Adventure Park is Victoria’s biggest theme park. It has a wide range of activities for families, including a 100-metre tube waterslide, go-karts, a 9-hole golf course, jumping castles, volleyball, a merry-go-round, paddleboats, an archery range, Adventure Island mini-golf, aqua bikes and canoes, mountain bike riding, the Adventure Express Train, paddleboats, an archery range and the Adventure Playground. Facilities include a kiosk and cafe and undercover seating. Gas barbecues and lockers are available for hire. Location: 1249 Bellarine Hwy, Wallington. Ph: (03) 5250 7200. To get there, head south-west along the Geelong-Portarlington Rd. When you reach the roundabout at the edge of Drysdale, veer south along Grubb Rd for about 3 km then turn right into Swanbay Rd
Also at Wallington, a little further south of the intersection with the Bellarine Highway, is A Maze ‘n’ Things, a complex which features a giant three-dimensional wooden maze, a puzzle and jigsaw centre, a croquet court and a 24-hole mini golf course. There is a kiosk, a playground and a picnic area with barbecues. It is open daily 10 am to 6 pm and doubles as something of a tourist information centre for the Peninsula. Location: 1570 Bellarine Hwy, Wallington. Ph: (03) 5250 2669.
The town is named after Anne Drysdale who, with her partner Caroline Newcomb, established a property named ‘Coriyule’ at the edge of the present townsite in 1843. She was one of the state’s earliest female squatters. The property’s sandstone homestead is still standing. Built in 1849 it is the oldest structure on the peninsula.
The settlement developed in the 1850s and was initially known as McLeods Waterholes. The ‘waterholes’ reference is to two lagoons which still go by that name. They are in the Recreation Reserve at the end of Duke St. McLeod was the name of a local Scottish schoolteacher.
A flour mill was built in 1854, providing a stimulus to the area, although it burned down in 1861. Nonetheless, Drysdale became the administrative and commercial centre of the Bellarine shire when that shire was proclaimed in 1865 (it is now incorporated into the City of Greater Geelong). From the 1870s visitors were drawn to the mineral springs at what is now Clifton Springs and to the boating opportunities available from the coast. However, the custom of the farmers has proved the mainstay of Drysdale for most of its existence.