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Gone with the wind

There are adventures to be had on the other side of the bay, and you don’t need to drive long distances to experience them. Leave the car at home and hop on the Port Phillip Ferry to Geelong and beyond

Geelong Flyer

It’s an unseasonably sunny and warm winter’s day and passengers on the Port Phillip FerryExternal Link are taking full advantage, with many angling for the best views on the deck as it pulls away from its recently revamped HQ at Docklands.

The crowd is mixed. Too late in the day for commuters, it seems to be a mix of tourists, those heading home to visit family, and older people taking advantage of Senior Card discounts on a range of car-free packages on offer. One group is heading to Geelong to the Clarice Beckett exhibition at the Geelong Gallery, but we are getting off at the historic coastal town of Portarlington to continue this car-free adventure.

The wind is starting to pick up as the ferry docks. If we’d brought our own bikes on the ferry, that would be a bad omen, but not today.

Getting into turbo gear

Jeremy Klitzing, Owner of Bella E-Bike HireExternal Link only hires electric bikes and he quickly shows us how to use the simple controls that, in tandem with traditional bike gears, allow riders to select power assistance levels ranging from the lowest eco setting to turbo.

It takes a surprisingly short amount of time to get familiar with the bikes and we’re off. With the dock at the bottom of a steep hill, we immediately become friends with the turbo setting.

There are a selection of routes on offer, with one taking in six wineries and two distilleries, but it involves riding on the shoulder of a busy road. The safer and much more picturesque route is along the Bellarine Coastal Trail.

Bike rider at the Bellarine Peninsula

Bellarine Coastal Trail

From Portarlington, the trail is a mix of hard gravel and asphalt that meanders about 15 kilometres one way as it hugs the bay, winding its way through a linear trail of parks and caravan parks. There are several playgrounds and picnic areas to break for a toilet stop or just to appreciate the view.

The final stretch of bike path, which stops just past St Leonards, is not to be missed. The vista is incredible, with the water at times less than a couple of metres from the path.

With the bay so close, you can smell the salt and sometimes even feel the spray on your face as the bike motors up and down the small hills with no sweat required. The e-bikes making light work of a ride into a strong headwind that would have been a misery on a normal bike.

Jeremy says since COVID popularised e-bikes, seniors have made up the bulk his business with many jokingly annoyed that they feel compelled to buy one after giving it a go!

‘People really enjoy it, and it makes riding accessible. People who have a partner whose got a bung hip or something, well they can get an e-bike and they’re on the same footing. It's great.’

Returning home

Riding back to the ferry dock, we stop for a quick drink at the beautifully restored Portarlington Grand Hotel, taking in a last view of the bay from up high before freewheeling back down the hill to Jeremy’s waiting trailer.

The wind is well and truly raging by the time we board the ferry for the trip home and it’s a much more subdued return trip to Melbourne. Like most passengers, we are content to huddle in the warm interior of the ferry and watch the waves from inside the cabin on the final leg of our car-free adventure.

Reviewed 20 November 2023