A weekend guide to Torquay on the Great Ocean Road

Torquay is known around the world as the surfing capital of Australia. The coastal town is close to some of the best beaches in Victoria, including the iconic Bells Beach. It also marks the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, making it a popular destination for surfers, tourists and all round beach bums.

The pretty township is a favourite stop on the stunning coastal drive west of Melbourne, with trendy cafes, surf shop outlets, plenty of golden sand and an infectious surf vibe that will convince even non-surfers to get in the cool water.

Whether you’re just stopping on your way along the Great Ocean Road, or looking for a relaxing weekend away from the city, this guide to Torquay will have you covered. Find all the best beaches, accommodation and places to eat and shop below!

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Best things to do in Torquay

No matter how much time you have in the small coastal town, here’s what you can do:

Visit Bells Beach

Bells is familiar to all Australians, both surfers and non-surfers alike. The iconic surf beach just 7km outside of Torquay, is characterised by steep cliffs, a small stretch of actual sand and huge pumping waves in the sea. It’s of course most well-known for being the home of the world’s longest continuously run pro surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro, which has been held over the Easter weekend since 1962.

Bells can see waves over 1.5m, with the exposed reef and point break providing excellent right hand breaks. Although at times, other spots along the coast around Bells produce better waves, with Southside, Centreside, Rincon, Winki Pop, and Steps being other surfing spots in the area.

There’s plenty of parking along the top of the cliffs, from where there are numerous purpose built lookouts and viewing platforms to watch the surfers below. However, if the surf is really good on a weekend, you’ll be lucky to find a parking spot at all!

You’ll find surfers out in the water all year round, 365 days of the year. Although, it seems to be busier around sunset time during the week and all day on weekends. Winter is usually when you’ll get the best surf though, with the months of June to August generally providing the best conditions.

Bells Beach
Bells Beach

Or another of the incredible beaches nearby

There are endless options of beaches around Torquay, depending on how far you want to travel and whether you want to surf or just relax. Some of the nearby beaches (that aren’t Bells) include:

Torquay Surf Beach

Just on the edge of town, you’ll find the town’s closest surf beach. The waves here are perfect for beginners and you can rent boards nearby, making it a popular spot for visitors to Torquay. There’s parking, toilets, and a BBQ picnic area here too.

Torquay Front Beach

Torquay’s front beach that stretches right along the foreshore is perfect for swimming. The calm waters here make it popular for the whole family to enjoy and it’s easily walkable from town. Although there’s plenty of parking space too, if you need.

Bells Beach surfing
Winki Pop

Jan Juc Beach

Just across the other side of Rocky Point Lookout from Torquay town, Jan Juc Beach is one of the best places to go surfing. It should be reserved for experienced surfers as it’s prone to high waves and strong rips. You’ll find parking and toilets just back from the beach.

Point Addis Beach

Further down from Bells, Point Addis Beach is a great spot for surfers of all levels. It’s sheltered from large swells with safe water to surf, although strong rips are still present. There’s a parking area above the beach with a toilet, although it can get very crowded in the parking area as the Point Addis boardwalk and lookout is also a popular spot for people to enjoy the coastal views on a clear day. 

National Surf Museum
National Surf Museum

Spend an hour at the Australian National Surf Museum

Of course, Australia’s National Surf Museum finds its home in Torquay too. It’s one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to surfing and beach culture, and it’s considered one of the most significant centres of world surfing heritage. You’ll find it inside the Visitor Information Centre, so it’s easy to reach with parking outside.

It’s not overwhelmingly big, but the memorabilia, artefacts and stories make it worth an hour of your time. It charts the history of surfing both in Australia and more broadly overseas, from the early beginning until today. There are some fascinating displays on the evolution of surfboards and wetsuits, from the 1900s to present, with over 150 boards on display.

It costs $12 per adult ticket and is open 7 days from 9am to 5pm.

Walk, run or cycle along the foreshore

If you’re looking to stretch your legs while in Torquay, there’s a long, flat footpath along the entire foreshore area. You can walk, run or cycle from Point Impossible, past Torquay and onto Point Danger. From there, you can continue on the Surf Coast Walk even further if you want.

The footpath is always busy with walkers and runners throughout the day. You can enjoy views of the beach and out to sea for most of the way.

Torquay Front Beach
Torquay Front Beach

Spend Saturday morning at the farmer’s market

If you’re in Torquay on a Saturday and a market sort-of person like me, then the Farmer’s Market is a must-do. It’s held every Saturday morning from 8.30am to 1pm in the carpark of the Surf Coast Shire Offices.

You’ll find a range of local food and artisan produce there including, fresh fruit and veg, eggs, cheese, bread, fish, salami, olive oil, jams, honey and nuts. It’s always buzzing with locals and is a great place to pick up some delicious food for your trip.

Shop til you drop at Surf City Plaza

Torquay is home to Australia’s iconic surf brands, Rip Curl and Quiksilver, which were both founded in the town in 1969. One of the most popular things to do in Torquay is to head to Surf City Plaza where you’ll find all the best surf, snow and skate brands with their huge retail outlets.

From regular retail shops to factory outlets selling seconds and last seasons goods at discounted rates, you can spend hours heading from Roxy to Rip Curl to Billabong to Patagonia to Ghanda and back again, shopping for bargains.

There’s also a few cafes, bars and other stores in the mix too, so you can easily spend hours here. It’s worth noting that the factory outlets are actually behind the main retail stores, in large warehouses. Here you’ll find lots of racks of clothes and boxes full of seconds to sift through.

Watch the sunset from one of the lookouts in town

There are plenty of good lookouts to head for sunset in Torquay (or sunrise if you’re keen!). From Point Impossible to Point Danger or even above Bells Beach, you can sit and take in the changing colours of the sky over the ocean from within easy reach of town.

If you’re willing to drive a bit further, the best spot is arguably at Point Addis, where you’ll find a boardwalk and lookout spot that looks back towards Bells and Torquay.

Point Addis Boardwalk
Point Addis Boardwalk Lookout

Take a long hike along the Surf Coast Walk

The Surf Coast Walk is a 44-kilometre trail from Torquay to Aireys Inlet. it begins at Point Impossible and follows the coast all the way along to Split Point and Fairhaven Beach. The best part is that it’s divided into 12 sections, so you can simply pick which part you want to do as a half day or full day walk.

There are many viewpoints along the way, so you can enjoy ocean views for most of the long hike. Some of the sections are multi-use so you can also cycle some of it, if you prefer.

If you’re really keen you can do the whole length of the trail as a one or two night multi-day hike. You can stay along the way at accommodation in towns like Torquay, Anglesea or Aireys Inlet.

You can find more information on the walk at the official website here.

Unique accommodation in Torquay

If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Torquay, here are some of the most unique Torquay accommodation options out there:

Desa Retreat
Image via Booking.com

Desa Retreat

This is definitely dream-worthy accommodation in Torquay. These eco villas are located in Jan Juc, just outside of Torquay town and include a lounge, dining area, kitchenette, and large bedrooms with a King bed.

You can literally walk to Jan Juc Beach from the property, so it’s perfect for surfers looking for a relaxing weekend away. You also have access to a garden, fire pit, barbecue and hot outdoor shower.

They also run yoga retreats in their purpose-built yoga studio on the property at an extra cost.

Sleeping options | One bedroom villas (can sleep up to 4 people with a sofa bed)

Price | $$

The Woolshed
Image via Booking.com

The Woolshed

This two bedroom rustic-style house is perfect for a group or family getaway. The beautiful house is situated amongst a garden, to the north of Torquay town. The property has plenty of character with a barn-style exterior, yet modern amenities and furniture.

It has two bedrooms with large double beds in each and a sofa bed available in the lounge if you need it to sleep up to 6 people. It also has a kitchenette, living area, outdoor deck and barbecue, so you can cook your own meals and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Sleeping options | Two bedroom house (can sleep up to 6 people)

Price | $$$

Freshwater Creek Cottages
Image via Booking.com

Freshwater Creek Cottages and Farm Stay

As you’re driving into Torquay, you’ll notice that there’s actually a lot of big properties and farms around the coastal town. This unique accommodation allows you to stay on one of these working farms in a cute rural cottage.

They have four quaint cottages to choose from, all with a kitchenette, barbecue, open wood fireplace, TV and lounge area and air con. All guests also have access to a hot tub, sauna, free bicycle rental and a kid’s playground… seriously. You can even head over and watch daily animal feeding, which the whole family will love.

It’s located a 15-minute or so drive from Torquay, and is the perfect country escape that is also close enough to the beach.

Sleeping options | One bedroom or two bedroom cottages

Price | $$

Bells Beach Backpackers
Image via Booking.com

Bells Beach Backpackers

For those budget travellers, Bells Beach Backpackers is the best place to stay on the Surf Coast. It’s just a 6 minute walk from Surf City Plaza and a 10-15 minute walk into the town centre, making it perfect for a close to town stay.

Possibly one of the highlights of a stay here is the friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere. There’s a nice shared kitchen and dining area to meet new people, as well as hammocks out the front and a garden and barbecue area out the back.

They offer 6 and 4 bed dormitories, as well as, a double room if you want a bit more privacy. If you’re travelling in a van, they also offer van parking as well, which is very convenient. There are clean shared bathrooms and free Wi-Fi for all guests.

Sleeping options | Dormitory beds, private room and van parking

Price | $

Chianti Cottages
Image via Booking.com

Chianti Cottages

Torquay does beautiful and rustic accommodation well. These cottages are incredibly cosy and polished places that it’ll be hard to leave at the end of your stay. They have one rustic cottage with exposed brick walls and open plan living which can sleep up to two people. Or, they also have a cute one-bedroom studio cabin, on the property too, which is a little cheaper than the cottage.

Surrounded by garden, you can enjoy the outdoors with a barbecue and outdoor dining area. Or you can use the fully equipped kitchen to cook up a meal with the fireplace keeping you warm. The property is a 10-minute walk from Jan Juc Beach or a 5-minute drive from Bells Beach.

It’s the perfect retreat for a couple’s weekend away.

Sleeping options | One bedroom cottage or a one bedroom cabin

Price | $$$

Best places to eat in Torquay

Torquay is known for its good food. There are plenty of trendy cafes and restaurants on the Esplanade to check out while you’re in town. Try these:

Fisho’s Torquay

If you’re looking for the best fish and chips in Torquay, you have to head to Fisho’s. Located right on the Esplanade, it’s one of the most popular places to go for delicious seafood. Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, they pride themselves on high quality, local and sustainably caught seafood.

They have hand cut chips, classic beer battered fish, fish tacos and share platters which are perfect for a beach picnic. It’s also reasonably priced with between $20-25 for a main meal.

Ginger Monkey

I’m not a coffee person myself, but I’ve been told that Ginger Monkey is where you need to head for the best coffee in Torquay. Located amongst Surf City Plaza shops, it’s perfect for a morning coffee before you enjoy some shopping.

They’re open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 3pm and also serve some great brunch options including salads, smoothies, cooked breakfasts and cakes.

Growlers

For casual oceanfront dining, Growlers is known as one of the best restaurants in Torquay. Located right on the Esplanade and open 7 days a week until late, you can get any of your three daily meals here.

The menu is quite extensive with options to suit everyone. Their seafood comes highly recommended, especially their salt and pepper squid, but they also have a good range of vegetarian meals like chickpea shakshuka and quinoa salad.

Blackman’s Brewery

If you’re looking for the perfect place to grab a drink, Blackman’s Brewery is independently owned and brews and packages everything onsite. You can try their array of beer on tap and have a meal with plenty of tasty options. They have pizzas, burgers, fish tacos and parmas served in their rustic restaurant and beer garden. They’re open from 12pm til late from Wednesday to Sunday.

Torquay restaurant

Unique shops in Torquay

Torquay has always been home to some pioneering makers and designers. In 1969, Rip Curl was born in Torquay, shortly followed by Quiksilver, so the town is known for producing icons. However, there’s still plenty of creativity going on in the surf town, and you can find some of the best boutique shops and unique brands setting up shop. Here’s some of my favourite places to head for a unique shopping experience, away from Surf City Plaza.

Torquay Merchant

A beautiful home wares shop, Torquay Merchant is located on Baines Crescent, behind the Surf City Plaza. They sell curated high-end fashion, home wares and art and is one of those places where you wish you could just buy everything if you could. They also have an onsite cafe, if you need a caffeine fix.

Visit their website to check out what they have in stock.

Indigo Luna

One of my favourite brands, Indigo Luna makes eco-friendly yoga wear, swim wear and linen for women. They use plant dyes, organic cotton and recycled nylon to make their pieces which are done in small runs and hand-made in Bali in a small women-run factory. I have their bikini top made from recycled fishing nets and will never be buying swim wear from anywhere else again!

You can either purchase online or in their pop up store on Gilbert Street in Torquay centre or their showroom just off the Surf Coast Highway.

Gypsy Co
Gypsy & Co

Gypsy & Co

On the small strip of shops on Bell St, Gypsy & Co is a local favourite for beautiful gifts. They have handpicked jewellery with stones from nearby beaches, as well as, clothing, accessories, books, cushions, candles and art from some unique brands and local makers. You’ll find products from Ottway the Label, Will & Bear, Salty Aura and many other popular brands in store.

Find them on Instagram.

Romy Photographer

If you want to take away a piece of beautiful art of the Surf Coast, head into Romy’s photography studio on Gilbert Street and you’ll find breathtaking images. You can either buy from the display or order a custom print. You’ll see Romy down at Bells or another nearby surf beach photographing most mornings and evenings.

Find her website or follow her on Instagram

If you’re heading down the Great Ocean Road, I’ve got a few guides to help you plan your trip.

read next | The Great Ocean Road: A Guide to the Ultimate Road Trip

read next | 14 of the Best Campsites on the Great Ocean Road

Or, if you’re planning on doing the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, you can find my helpful guides here.

read next | Trek Report: Great Ocean Walk

read next | A Complete Guide to the Great Ocean Walk

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