That was the sort of reaction I received when I announced that I was going to spend a weekend at Corio Bay – with She Who Hates To Travel.
I got similar sounds of disbelief when I said we were spending a couple of nights in Geelong.
It is true that back in the 1960s we referred to Corio Whisky as Cor-10. It was a time when import duties and other excise charges were so high that we couldn’t afford to buy Scotch and maybe Cor-10 dressed it up a bit like Vat 69.
So Corio Bay it was. An easy 60-minute cruise down the M1 which made a mockery of all the horror stories about ten-kilometre long traffic jams when things foul up in peak hour.
Geelong’s image precedes it. There was a recent travel piece in the Melbourne Sunday Herald-Sun which appeared under the headline Stunning Geelong. But the intro said:
‘Many Melburnians consider Geelong only as a grey-toned blur of factories and fast-food outlets on the way to The Great Ocean Road or a weekend pilgrimage for the footy’. But, it went on to claim, that ‘Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsular make up one of Victoria’s most beautiful regions’.
Our first Geelong shock was the price of a room with a view and a small balcony at the oddly-named Four Points by Sheraton on The Esplanade overlooking the bay. It WAS a long weekend but $450 a night with a compulsory two-night minimum was a bit much even for a four and a half star hotel. For what we got $250 rooms in Sydney and Melbourne were a bargain. Even though it was reputedly only seven years old it looked tired with a three-star décor.
There was a good fruit buffet or a cooked breakfast included and parking was free for guests. Some Melbourne hotels now charge you $25 a night to park your car there.
Mini-bar prices for water and fruit juices were at Big City levels and a cute charge: a $4.50 tray fee for room service which took the price of a latte to $8.
But it was on THE street for a visitor. Across the road from two really good seafood restaurants (Fishermen’s Pier and Le Parisien) which the Hungry Hinch will review. And it’s a good launch pad for forays to the wine country or Torquay and Queenscliff.
A lot of work has gone into the waterfront with the emphasis on families. A mini-train and room for kids to kick a footy with Dad. And dozens of clever, brightly-coloured six-foot tall carved statues. Like the Spring Carnival ones that greet you at Tullamarine Airport
They have done up Cunningham Pier and it looks like a British seaside resort. Tremendous potential for the best restaurant on the bay. We walked the length of it to discover a Smorgy’s on one side and a place called Buccaneers on the other. Unfortunately Buccaneers had buccan closed down!
They’ve managed to Heritage list and save many old buildings like Dalgety’s and there’s the Wool Museum. You can take a seaplane ride to the Great Ocean Road and get spectacularly close to the Twelve Apostles.
Not sure about the nightlife in Geelong. The Sheraton obviously caters for weddings -- and we saw a couple of pretty brides that weekend --but they don’t have much of a bar. Strolling along the waterfront after dinner we saw where one bridal couple ended up with the bride still in her wedding dress. They were boogieing at The Sailors’ Rest which was packed with young revellers.
I doubt they were drinking Corio.