The city of Melbourne sits at the northern end of Port Phillip Bay, a 2000 sq km body of water that shelters the city from the open, and chilly waters of Bass Strait.
So, starting in Melbourne, and heading for a seaside lunch, would you rather head south-east down the bay toward Sorrento, or do you prefer south-west around the bay to Geelong?
There’s plenty of east-side and west-side rivalry among Melbournians, with both the Mornington Peninsula to the east and Bellarine Peninsula of the west offering plenty of reasons to visit – so which way should you go?
Bottom line, it doesn’t matter as whichever way you choose to head off, you can come back the other one thanks to a brilliant ferry crossing at the bottom.
It’s a great day trip for residents and visitors alike – here’s how to get there!
The car – 2022 Haval Jolion Ultra
Priced from $27,490 drive away, the 2022 Haval Jolion is a compact, urban-centric SUV, that while small in size is big on interior space.
There’s a heap of room in the back seat, and the boot offers 430L which expands to 1133L with all seats folded.
Our car is the second top-specification Jolion Ultra and is priced from $32,990 drive away.
It scores 18-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, and a 360-degree camera. Six colours are available (black, blue, green, grey, red, and white) with metallics attracting a $495 premium.
Power comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 110kW and 220Nm. The Jolion is front-wheel-drive and has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Adaptive cruise control is included across the range, as is a lane keep assistant and a range of other driver assistance tech.
|Key details||2022 Haval Jolion Ultra|
|Engine||1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power||110kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||220Nm @ 2000-4400rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle claim)||8.1L/100km|
The drive – Melbourne to Geelong
We’re taking the easy path first and heading southwest toward Geelong.
It’s a 75km freeway drive that – once you get past the roadworks in the city – is a pretty easy run.
We recommend a stop at the Geelong waterfront, which offers a really lovely slice of seaside life. There is a Ferris wheel, boardwalk and even a diving tower. More importantly, there are some good coffee shops as well.
There are a number of routes you can take to Queenscliff, either around the top of the Peninsula to Port Arlington, or you can spend some time on the ocean side at Barwon Heads.
Queenscliff itself was once the site of an old military fort – used to protect the entry to Port Phillip Bay through the narrow and treacherous heads.
The gap between Peninsulas is around 3.5km but with shallow rocks and reefs on both sides, the gap for shipping traffic is only about 1km wide. Which, when you’re in a big cargo ship, isn’t much margin for error!
The Searoad ferry sails a 16km passage between Queenscliff on the western side, and Sorrento on the east. A pair of boats run every hour during the day and can carry up to 80 cars and 700 passengers each crossing.
The car ferry service was only established in 1983 which meant up until that point if you needed to drive between the two tips of Port Phillip Bay, you had a 250km journey ahead of you!
The trip itself takes about 40 minutes. There’s a café downstairs for a more relaxing journey, or you can get some salty air in your lungs out on the deck and try to spot some dolphins.
It costs $72 per car for a one-way trip, with one adult and up to 3 children included in the fare.
You can cross with a caravan or trailer (and simply pay according to your length) or if you’re feeling energetic, a pushbike is free to carry with any passenger fare.
Sorrento and the Mornington Peninsula
Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula is a regular holiday playground and weekend destination for many Melbourne families.
There’s a sheltered bayside beach for young children to enjoy, as well as a more rugged surf beach for the more adventurous.
From here, the sky is your limit.
The Mornington Peninsula is home to wineries, golf courses and even a drive-in theatre, but rather than take up your time with those we’re going to hug the coast and head back up to Melbourne to complete our loop.
Our entire lap of Port Phillip Bay was about 220km, which included the ferry crossing, and at an average of 8.5L/100km in our Jolion the trip cost about $35 in fuel, plus the ferry and countless coffees.