Village by the sea

Sandy Guy settles into a historic guesthouse on the coast where she explores beach and rock pools.

At low tide the seawater in the rock pools at Point Lonsdale is so transparent it's like looking into a bath tub. Picking your way across rocks near Point Lonsdale's headland over squashy neptune's necklace, a type of seaweed, there is colourful marine fauna swaying at the bottom of the exposed pools and, to the delight of young explorers, sometimes little seahorses, seastars, and darting fish.

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, which encompasses the waters off Point Lonsdale, is home to spectacular sponge gardens which, when illuminated, are as vibrant as tropical coral reefs. Divers and snorkellers take to the waters here to view rock faces covered with clusters of bright jewel anemones, yellow zooanthids and sponges. Iridescent, blue devil fish, inquisitive leatherjackets and delicate sea spiders rest under the rock edges.

On the Bellarine Peninsula 20 minutes' drive from Geelong, Point Lonsdale's geography of rock pools and dive sites, a protected beach at the foreshore reserve where children can paddle and a sweeping ocean beach, make this small town at the mouth of Port Phillip Bay an ideal place for a seaside sojourn in any season.

Better still, Point Lonsdale is not too scarred by the modernist developments that have infected so many of Victoria's once-attractive seaside towns with townhouses cheek-to-jowl with huge resorts and streets crowded with two-dollar shops.

A single thoroughfare of stores — a pharmacy, several nice cafes, a bakery, supermarket, and very importantly a fish-and-chip shop — has the atmosphere of a true seaside village.

Although there's no pub, it's a mere six kilometres to Queenscliff, the Bellarine Peninsula's most regal town, and its classic Victorian hotels.

Point Lonsdale's lighthouse, one of Australia's few attended beacons, keeps vigil over the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, known as the Rip, a three-kilometre stretch of waters between Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean regarded as one of Australia's most treacherous stretches of ocean. Its reputation is well-earned — between 1841 and 1890 more than 30 ships were wrecked in the Point Lonsdale area.

The traffic through the heads is constant: pilot boats guide massive cruise liners and container ships, and yachts and fishing boats pass by.

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Point Lonsdale's jetty is a popular spot to fish for snapper, whiting and salmon, and there's always the chance you'll see seals frolicking around the old pylons.

Accommodation is a mixture of new houses and apartments, 1950's fibro homes, some vintage 19th-century cottages, caravan parks, and the Point Lonsdale Guest House, which is our favourite place to repair for a few days.

The guest house, which dates from the 1880s with a 1980s wing added at the back, is comfortable rather than grand; rooms are motel-style with no frills. In the old part of the building is a lounge with a big television and board games for rainy days, while outdoors is a tennis court, a pool and a communal kitchen.

We drive to Queenscliff and the new shops near the marina to buy fresh local squid, flathead and whiting from Q Seafood Provedore. The supermarket at Point Lonsdale stocks some good cheeses, salad items, local meats, and a selection of local wines — everything required for a poolside barbecue back at the guest house.

Morning brings low tide, and we set out, snorkels in hand, to explore the rock pools.

Later we ramble around the rocks to look for Buckley's Cave, situated beneath the lighthouse and said to have once been home to William Buckley, a convict escapee from Victoria's first settlement, established at Sorrento in 1803 and abandoned the following year.

Buckley was adopted by local Wauthaurong Aborigines with whom he lived for more than 30 years before meeting fellow Britons at John Batman's camp at nearby Indented Head in 1835. From here we set off for a walk along the sweeping sands of Point Londsale's Back Beach, bewitched by the sea birds, ocean breeze and wave-pounded shores.

FACT FILE

Getting there

Point Lonsdale is 100 kilometres south of Melbourne and 28 kilometres south-east of Geelong at the tip of the Bellarine Peninsula.

Staying there

Rooms at Point Lonsdale Guest House cost from $110 a night, 5258 1142, see pointlonsdaleguesthouse.com.au. Lighthouse tours are run every Sunday by the Queenscliff Maritime Museum. Adults $6, concession $5, children $4. Phone 0419 513 007.

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