Queenscliff is a tiny seaside village on the Bellarine Peninsula in southern Victoria.
Known as the ‘grand dame’ of The Bellarine, this elegant town is a lot like a British seaside resort.
It has a relaxed atmosphere that feels dignified rather than chilled. And it takes you back to a more genteel time with its wide boulevards, stately churches, and Victorian-era hotels.
It’s far less crowded than other places to visit in Victoria. But there are just as many things to do in Queenscliff as other Australian tourist attractions.
The town is a haven for history lovers with maritime and historical museums, a fort, lighthouses, galleries, and antique stores. Visitors can also enjoy festivals, markets, and both land and water sports.
If you’re planning to stay for a night or two then check out our list of the best accommodation in Queenscliff.
We visit often from our home in Geelong and we’ve put together this list of the best Queenscliff things to do.
So if you’re wondering what to do in Queenscliff keep reading to find out the top Queenscliff attractions!
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Top 12 Things To Do In Queenscliff Victoria
Note: There are two ways to spell Queenscliff which can be a tad confusing.
- Queenscliff refers to the town.
- Queenscliffe refers to the Borough of Queenscliffe which includes the town of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale.
To be clear this article is all about the town of Queenscliff.
1) Stroll The Queenscliff Pier And Queenscliff Beach
The Queenscliff Pier was built between 1884 and 1889. It’s historically important to the town as a reminder of the early bay steamers that travelled from Melbourne to Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale.
The pier consists of a Lifeboat Shed that helped provide safety to the ships entering and leaving Port Phillip, and a Shelter Shed.
There are few if any of these sheds left in Victoria, and the Shelter Shed is particularly impressive with its arched wrought iron truss work and panelled timber interior.
Today, Queenscliff Pier is popular with fishermen and holidaymakers who enjoy a relaxing stroll out to the end of the jetty. The pier has fabulous views of the Black Lighthouse, Queenscliff beach, and Sorrento ferry.
The beach here is low and flat and much safer for swimming than other beaches in the area. It’s particularly good for families with a lovely foreshore reserve with picnic and barbecue facilities as well as toilets.
2) Tour Fort Queenscliff
Queenscliff isn’t just a quaint little seaside town. It actually played an important role in Australia’s military history.
In 1860 Queenscliff Fort was built to defend the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, and it became the headquarters for a chain of forts around the heads. It was manned as a coastal defence installation from 1883 until 1946.
It’s now one of Victoria’s most important heritage sites. Stacks of work has been done to restore the old guns, magazines, and buildings that made up the Fort’s original defences. Behind the high walls, visitors are also treated to amazing views and beautiful gardens.
The only way to enter Fort Queenscliff is on a guided tour. Guides are entertaining and informative and tell interesting stories.
A fun part of the tour is when visitors are taken into a bunker and given the chance to dress up in military gear. The tour finishes at the Fort Queenscliff Museum where you can read more stories, view artefacts, and buy souvenirs.
Tours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m, Saturday – Sunday 11 a.m and 1.45 p.m
Tickets: Adults $15.00, Concession $10.00, Children $7.00, Family $35.00
Note: Photo I.D is requred for adults.
Contact: Phone 52581488 or email [email protected]
3) Snorkel With Seals
One of the best and most fun things to do in Queenscliff is to swim with seals.
This fantastic snorkeling tour takes you to Pope’s Eye, part of the Port Phillip Heads Marine Park whose shallow waters brim with brightly coloured fish and marine life.
Here you can snorkel to your heart’s content until it’s time to head to a local hauling-out site that’s a temporary home to Australian fur seals.
These playful characters are only too happy to share their water world with you.
The boat has a rooftop viewing platform (spot dolphins!), mermaid lines around the vessel, and an extending hammock for relaxing.
This tour gets consistently good reviews. Participants can choose to snorkel or to simply join the fun and sightsee.
4) Catch The Queenscliff Ferry To Sorrento
One of the best things to do in Victoria is to catch the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento.
Sorrento is an enchanting historic village on the Mornington Peninsula. Spend a laid back afternoon browsing galleries and boutiques amongst beautiful limestone buildings.
For a look at the region’s remarkable history pop into the Sorrento museum. Exhibits include Aboriginal artefacts, memorabilia from pioneering families, and a maritime display. The landscaped grounds are home to Watts Cottage – built in 1869 it’s a settler’s original home.
Sorrento is a foodie’s heaven whether it’s pub grub you’re after or find dining there’s something for everyone. Just be sure to leave room for an ice-cream on the beach.
If you time it right you can watch the sunset over the bay on the return ferry to Queenscliff.
Searoad Ferries have two specially designed ferries with drive on/drive off facilities, that connect the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas. They have plenty of open deck space to enjoy the views and spot the dolphins that come to say hello!
Ferries depart from Queenscliff every hour on the hour from 7 am – 6 pm daily.
Extra sailings operatae during summer peak times.
5) Get Your Boogy On At The Queenscliff Music Festival
Way back in 1996, the Queenscliff community shared a dream of hosting a great music festival. They decided to hold it on “The Last Weekend in November” to fill a void in the tourist season.
Since then the festival has gone on to become a premier event for music lovers the world over. Artists and audience members travel from across the globe to enjoy three days of good vibes, great tunes, and fabulous food.
Unlike other music festivals, the QMF doesn’t focus on any one style of music. Instead, it prefers to showcase a lineup full of local and international acts from different genres.
The vibe of the event is chilled and relaxed, and although there’s plenty of rock ‘n’ roll, the Queenscliff Music Festival is a family-friendly event. There are tonnes of activities for the kids from face painting to carnival rides and of course lots of singing and dancing.
This Queenscliff festival is held over three days on the last weekend in November. It usually sells out so buy your tickets early. For bookings and more information click here.
If you’re planning to visit Queenscliff Australia, then why not plan your trip to coincide with the QMF?
It’s one of the top Bellarine Peninsula things to do. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this video and see for yourself.
6) Have A Surfing Lesson
Have you dreamt of learning to surf but thought it was too hard?
Then here’s your chance to learn the easy way with Victoria’s first and only human-made wave. Practice your skills on a wave created by an 11-metre boat as it cruises the beautiful blue ocean.
The unique nature of this lesson means that your instructor can give you live tips right alongside you. So you can achieve the longest surf of your life.
And if you do fall in the instructor is right there to help you get back on board.
A buoyant wetsuit and surfboard are included in the cost of the lesson.
7) Visit A Queenscliff Lighthouse Victoria
Originally a fishing village, Queenscliff became an important cargo port for steamships trading at nearby Port Phillip.
Two lighthouses were constructed to help guide ships attempting the notoriously dangerous journey through the “heads” of Port Phillip Bay.
Both lighthouses were built from the same black stone. But only one was painted white so it could be distinguished from the other during the day.
Known as the Queenscliff Low Light, the White Lighthouse sits on the lower bluff beside two other towers that are also used for navigation.
Queenscliff’s Black Lighthouse, known as the Queenscliff High Light, is one of only three black lighthouses in the world. And it’s the only one in the southern hemisphere.
Together, the two lighthouses played a crucial part in turning Queenscliff into an important trading town.
Fun Fact: It’s believed the first public telephone service in Victoria was installed in the Queenscliff Black Lighthouse.
8) Glimpse Days Of Old On The Queenscliff Heritage Walk
Queenscliff’s pioneering families took pride in quality craftsmanship to build beautiful buildings rarely seen in modern times. Many of these buildings have been turned into the best accommodation in Queenscliff Victoria.
The Queenscliff Heritage Walk showcases the town’s elegant streets and stellar history. Take a stroll along wide boulevards and delight in elegant Victorian homes, grand hotels, olde-worlde shops, and impressive churches.
It’s a great introduction to the town with fabulous guides that entertain visitors with stories of old. Get the goss on who did what and when!
These fun and informative walks are an easy stroll and take about an hour and fifteen minutes. Afterward, sit down to a sumptuous afternoon tea at a glorious old Queenscliff hotel.
If a guided tour isn’t your thing, then you can do a self-guided walk using the booklet ‘Queenscliff – A Living Heritage’ available at the Information Centre. This short walk will take about 45 minutes.
Guided walks are provided at 2 p.m every Saturday. For bookings and more information phone 1300 884 843.
9) Tour The Queenscliff Maritime Museum
Escape into Queenscliff’s fascinating past at the Queenscliff Maritime Museum.
There were many shipwrecks in the area due to the ‘Rip’ (the entrance to Port Phillip Bay from Bass Strait). That’s known to be one of the world’s most dangerous and challenging stretches of water.
Discover the stories of sailors and travellers who experienced life on the seas and learn of the hardships and situations these people faced.
A highlight of the Museum is the lifeboat ‘Queenscliffe’. For 50 years it saved lives and rescued vessels from in and outside the heads.
There’s a large variety of exhibits, including model ships, lighthouse displays, and old diving equipment. Visitors can even try on an old diving bell helmet for themselves.
The Queenscliff Maritime Museum is open 11.00 am – 4.00 pm daily.
Tickets: Adults $8.00, Concession $7.00, Children (4-14) $5.oo
10) Chow Down On Board The Q Train
Put on your fancy pants and step onboard The Q Train for a gastronomic train journey reminiscent of the Orient Express.
An old “Sunlander” has been transformed into an award-winning rail restaurant that meanders along the heritage railway line between Drysdale and Queenscliff.
The train pauses at Suma Park Historic Homestead before passing through beautiful Swan Bay. Guests are delighted with passing views of vineyards, olive groves, rolling hills, and captivating farmlands.
The Q Train serves a six-course degustation feast that showcases local produce from Geelong, the Otways, and The Bellarine. Cooked and prepared onboard there’s plenty of time between courses to relax and enjoy a tipple or two.
This is a unique culinary experience and an unmissable stop on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Fun Fact: The Q Train featured in Masterchef Australia in 2019.
11) Climb The Tower At Queenscliff Harbour
Queenscliff Harbour is a hub for all things maritime and is a destination in itself. It features shops, cafes, restaurants, eco and adventure tours, and even a day spa.
The Queenscliff Marina is home to the historic ‘couta’ boats, a type of fishing vessel found only in Victoria, Australia. As well as yachts, powerboats and drool-worthy luxury watercraft.
Take a walk along the boardwalk and check out all the boats while keeping an eye out for the giant stingrays that call the harbour home.
The stand-out feature of the area is the Queenscliff Observation Tower which soars 40 metres into the air. It has spectacular 360 degrees views of the surrounding area and it’s a great spot to watch the Queenscliff ferry coming and going.
This is where you’ll find one of the top restaurants in Queenscliff – 360Q. Their menu offers a wide variety of dishes (try the seafood) that are creative, fresh, and delicious.
While you’re in the area why not organise a day out on the water? Queenscliff has heaps of water-based activities such as fishing, diving, snorkeling, and swimming with dolphins.
It’s another unique way to see Queenscliff, Australia.
12) Do Some Taste Testing At Bellarine Peninsula Wineries
You can’t visit Queenscliff without visiting at least one Bellarine winery. Even if you don’t drink wine (whaaat?!) they’re worth a visit for the food and views alone.
The Bellarine has a cool maritime climate that produces excellent shiraz, chardonnay, and pinot noir, with the latter being noticed internationally.
Even so, the Bellarine Peninsula wineries are one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets. The region has its own Bellarine Taste Trail which includes almost 50 unique food and wine locations to visit.
Each vineyard has its own unique growing environment that produces quality handcrafted wines. A special feature of this wine region is that all wineries are family owned and operated.
There isn’t a corporate in sight!
So when you visit a Bellarine Peninsula winery the chances are the people you meet are the personalities behind the wines.
Visitors can choose from a huge range of accommodation in Queenscliff. From luxury apartments to hotels and heritage houses to simple camping grounds there’s something for everyone.
Athelstane House was built in 1860 and is Queenscliff’s oldest operating guesthouse. The 10 rooms have their own ensuites (8 with corner spa baths). There’s a fully licensed bar, dining room, front sitting room with a cosy fireplace, verandahs, courtyard, and garden.
Carisbrook Cottage is a delightful two-bedroom self-contained cottage. This great value property is clean and warm with everything you need for a perfect break. Offering lots of added bonuses it’s within easy walking distance to the town and beach. This is a good budget weekend getaway.
Salt Loft is the perfect place for couples to escape the stresses of day-to-day life. This private retreat in the heart of Queenscliff features a balcony and off-street parking. With expansive water views across the rooftops, Salt Loft has everything one could want in a self-catering stay.
There are many more things to do in Queenscliff than we’ve listed here. Have you been? What would you add?