‘Everyone has a certain relationship with the ocean’


I moved to the Surf Coast (Torquay to Lorne along the Great Ocean Road) in 2013. It is the traditional home of the Wadawurrung, Gulidjan and Gadubanud nations. Being Victorian and close to Melbourne (Torquay is 100km south west of the city) we are all a bit snobby when it comes to food and coffee, but it is amazing how much it has improved. 10 years ago there wasn’t much to recommend it!

Two places in Torquay have next-level sandwiches. Mortadeli has a meatball sandwich that’s easy to share. Gooleys has a shredded chicken breast roll with lettuce, chips and aioli. They’re both right on the Esplanade, so you can walk over to watch the ocean with your delicious sandwich.

Torquay has two exceptional contemporary Australian restaurants. The Kyn serves great cocktails and the tasting menu costs around $70. They also do takeaway if you can’t eat it all. Try not to go crazy with the fresh focaccia as a starter so you can indulge in the Turkish “beef ravioli” (manti) and smoked sea trout. It’s always busy; a hectic atmosphere, but they can squeeze you into a booth for a date.

Samesyn is moody and intimate; more of a food-centric experience. It focuses on low waste and the tasting menu is under $100.

Green spaces

The Surf Coast walk is 44km long and starts at Point Impossible and finishes at Fairhaven Beach. I love walking the 6.5km round trip from Jan Juc to Bells Beach. There are lots of lookouts, interesting vegetation and bright orange clay cliffs. I also love walking from Urquhart Bluff to Split Point Lighthouse. It’s about 12km round trip but I go to the Lighthouse Tea Rooms in the morning or Aireys Pub in the afternoon. Dogs on leads are allowed on the Surf Coast walk – my dog ​​loves it! Bring your swimsuit for a dip in the ocean along the way.

Cosy Corner in Torquay is where my seven year old son surfs because it is protected from big waves. If you continue along the path you will be on the side of the breaking waves in less than a kilometre.

Point Addis between Torquay and Anglesea is super popular. Pack a cool box and boards or just splash around and swim. It’s a surf beach but not usually too wild. It has a special feel because it feels isolated despite being so close to the city.


The Torquay hotel is a live music hub with bands and DJs – the whole spectrum. They get teens to 50s enjoying the line-ups. There is also the Sound Doctor at Anglesea Memorial Hall, set up by a local doctor and playing easy folky, mellow music with a bit of rock. Some concerts sell out in minutes!

Bird Rock in Jan Juc is a small bar with DJs and a super local vibe. The food is really good so it’s a nice place to park in the evening. In Anglesea there’s an old house that’s been converted into a venue called Last One In with occasional live music and DJs. It’s on the Great Ocean Road overlooking a beautiful creek and bushland. They also have a good happy hour with $10 margaritas.

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The old Lorne theatre has been around since 1937 which is pretty amazing and it shows films. They have brought in the Golden Age team to programme the cinema which is quite a coup for a small town. They have fantastic school holiday programmes such as The Goonies. I took my son to see it (and probably enjoyed it more than he did). Every time they show a surfing documentary the 550 seat theatre is sold out.

The Lorne Theatre was recently bought by the people who opened The Clam restaurant next door. People are worried about gentrification, but then again, there wasn’t much nightlife in Lorne before. The Clam serves fresh seafood and hosts live music, including Japanese psychedelia, folk, country, punk and First Nations acts. On Monday nights, there’s a community fair with more music and usually dancing.

The Clam and Lorne Theatres are closed during the winter and will reopen in the spring.


Surfing is embedded in the culture here; everyone has a relationship with the ocean. Bells Beach is one of the most famous surf spots in Australia and the Bells Beach Pro has been held every Easter since the early 1960s. Surfers call May “Magic May” because the winter swell hits and the waves usually last until October.

For a taste of it all, head to Bells to listen in and pick up some new surf terms. It’s a great place to watch surfing, as the cliffs form a giant amphitheatre. If it’s a big wave day, everyone goes; it’s a peanut butter gallery of people watching people surf. There are vans and utes parked up with surfers chatting to each other in the car park as they remove their wetsuits.


Torquay has seen a lot of development in recent years, but Anglesea is surrounded by national parks and has a lovely village feel; so do Aireys Inlet and Lorne. Le Comptoir is a small all day restaurant in Aireys Inlet. It’s like stepping into a French village. The staff are so friendly and the charcuterie and cheese is delicious. I love going there on my own with a book.

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The Torquay Farmers Market on Saturday has excellent produce and is the essence of the Torquay community. It is a real cross section of people and everyone hangs out, chats and sits on the grass with a coffee or a gozleme. There is great bread, giant spring rolls – bigger than a Chiko bun! – delicious chilli oil, preserves and the venison man. Only food though… you can’t buy tea cosies or anything.

Indie bookshops are a dying breed, so we’re lucky to have three thriving on the Surf Coast: Torquay Books, Great Escape Books in Aireys Inlet and Lorne Books. They cater for everyone from newborns to grandparents and travellers popping in for a map of the Great Ocean Road.


Sunnymead Hotel in Aireys Inlet (from $120 low season) has a mid-century design. They’ve refreshed the decor and there’s a new spa, too, with a glass-ceilinged bathroom and four bathtubs in a row, so you can rent them and have champagne brought to you while you sip and chat with friends. They serve cocktails by the pool on weekends in the summer.

Anglesea Family Caravan Park (sites from $58 and cabins from $161) has cute cabins right on the beach. Wood paneling inside; a real 70s vibe.

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