I’ve opened up before about the fact that my husband has an addiction. He’s addicted to surfing as Charlie Sheen is addicted to women. I’ve previously shared my favourite surfing widow-friendly beaches in Victoria, but sometimes you need to drop your man-seal off at the surf, confiscate the car keys and go adventuring on your own.
One of my favourite places for the husband (let’s call him Jude) to frolic in the surf like a wetsuit-clad seal is at Bells Beach, because seven kilometres away is the seaside town of Torquay that’s the antithesis of busy Melbourne.
Getting to Torquay
Torquay is 105 kilometres south-west of Melbourne, along the gun-barrel straight Princes Highway and is the starting blocks for the Great Ocean Road.
For the month, Nissan Australia has ever so kindly lent me a super good-looking Nissan JUKE to cruise about in – I’ve nicknamed her Betty. (Be warned: Betty has some seriously cute, heart-stealing bug eyes). Ever since I adopted Betty, I’ve been itching to get out of the city, onto the open road and give the hot hatchback-on-stilts some flex, seeing how much firepower she has underneath the bonnet. A Bells Beach bribe seemed like a great way to get Jude out of Melbourne. And for the record, the Nissan JUKE absolutely gobbled up the Melbourne to Geelong road.
So, for fellow surfing widows or those who just want to spend the weekend soaking up some sea-scented air, here are my favourite things to do in Torquay:
1. Get a spa treatment
Look, I know being rubbed and kneaded until you’re as floppy as a well-worn pair of Levis sounds like a version of water torture but trust me, it’s incredibly relaxing. Endota Day Spa, Saltair Day Spa and RACV Torquay Resort’s One Spa all do a mean rubbing and kneading in the Torquay area code.
2. Go surfing
Duh. Right. We are in Australia’s surf capital. Well I haven’t got on a board since that time three years ago when I was owned by one-footers at Moana in South Australia. So full props to anyone willing to jump off an eight-foot wave with a three-kilogram board strapped to their ankle, especially when it’s one of those typical Victorian days that involve the trifecta of sideways rain, gale force winds and single digit temperatures.
You’ll find me soaking up the area’s surf culture by visiting the Australian National Surfing Museum, located at the Torquay Visitor Information Centre, and remaining completely dry, after I’ve been getting a delightfully sweaty back driving around with the heated seats on high.
3. Dabble in some wine (or beer) tasting
Given I could probably sniff out a winery in Antarctica, it’s no surprise really that Betty and I ended up at Bellbrae Estate Wines, enjoying a little taste of their cool-climate wines, a rummage through their cheese and condiments cabinet, and the company of the super-friendly staff. Other wineries in the area include Brown Magpie Wines, Mt Duneed Estate and Saint Regis Winery, but check opening hours as they’re quite seasonal. Also if you’re on your own sans designated driver, the spittoons are there for a reason. Don’t be a goose.
Now if you’re allergic to wine, you can taste a wheat-based beverage at Blackman’s Brewery.
4. Visit the Torquay Farmers’ Market
Head to the Surf Coast Shire Offices’ car park to stock up on fresh farmer-direct local and regional produce. I filled up the Nissan JUKE’s boot with lots of blueberries and strawberries – I’m a sucker for anything that contains the word ‘berry’ – plus some locally-made bread, organic eggs and a box of seasonal veg.
The zero fanfare, open-air Torquay Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday 8:30am–1pm.
5. Go swimming
If you’re like me and not up to going head-to-head with an eight-foot wave but want to get wet (clearly it’s not raining, cold or windy then), there’s much more sedate swimming to be had at Torquay Back Beach and Fishermen’s Beach.
6. Hibernate in a Torquay café
But The Bottle of Milk is a favourite of mine, with towering burgers that are particularly amazing if you had a big night on the Champagne the night before. I recently had the Sa’Tasty burger of chicken schnitzel, cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce, onion, carrot, mayo, satay sauce and avocado, which, despite being hangover-free, I utterly enjoyed.
7. Hike or ride the Surf Coast Walk
Stretching from Point Impossible to Fairhaven, this 44-kilometre coastal walk is not for the faint-hearted. Yet with cliff top views, eucalyptus forests, whales and wildlife, and lots of lookout points it has many, many things going for it.
If you’ve got a spare eight hours and a spare lung you can walk or cycle the whole 44 kilometres. Alternatively, you can just do the Torquay (1.6 kilometres) and/or Bells Track sections (3.2 kilometres), drinking up the views of Fisherman’s Beach, Front Beach and Bells Beach. Alternatively again, you can just have a Sa’Tasty burger and tell your surf-seal of a husband that you totally did the walk.
8. Break out the AMEX and go shopping
Torquay is definitely the place to stock up on your favourite surf brands, with factory outlet surf shopping available at Surf City Plaza and other surf favourites, along with homewares, gift and art stores, sprinkled about Gilbert and Bell streets.
9. Read a book/magazine/kindle on the grassed Torquay foreshore
With long boulevards of grass, the Torquay foreshore is an A+ place to roll out a picnic rug, stretch out the limbs and nerd out on your latest reading pursuits. Whether that’s Game of Thrones or Liane Moriarty, no judgement.
10. Get your action adventure on at Tiger Moth World
Tiger Moth World is great if you have kidlets or are just a big kid at heart, with a $12.50 per adult or $10 per child entry fee giving you all-day access to the adventure park’s mini golf, canoes, a flying fox, maze and paddleboats.
Plus, if you’re channelling some Arnie Schwarzenegger (circa 1990), Tiger Moth World also has a lot of other action adventure pursuits that are a little more extreme than mini golf. Think: aerobatic flights and sky diving (which cost extra).