The township of Barwon Heads was first surveyed in 1870 but remained sparsely populated for many years. Fishing was the mainstay of the town in its early years.
In the 1890’s an influx of hunters started to visit Lake Connewarre for ducks and other native birds, which saw the town swell. In the 1920s and 1930s the town became a popular holiday resort and a number of the richer families of Melbourne built houses here. The summer period today still sees a large influx of holidaymakers to the town.
The Barwon Heads bridge was opened in 1927, spanning the Barwon River between Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove. Prior to this there was a rowboat service across the river.
During the late 1990s, Barwon Heads was the primary location of filming for the popular Australian television series, Seachange. In the past decade Barwon Heads has become subject to what is colloquially known in some parts of Australia as the ‘Seachange Effect’.
The waters around the heads have been very dangerous over the years, the giant limestone bluff not only stands proudly at the mouth of the river it extends along a large reef into the sea and has caused many devastating shipping accidents over the years. There are recordings of 12 ships between 1853 and 1890 being destroyed. One of the worst was the Earl of Charlemont which was lost on the rocks in 1853. In 1940 a cargo ship called the Orungal also run aground and burnt and there are reports of it’s boilers still being seen off the bluff at low tide.
Barwon Heads has remained one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Geelong region for nearly 100 years and with so much to offer with its beautiful natural assets and quaint town it will remain a favourite for many years to come.
Real estate and design
The holiday town of Barwon Heads is located on the southern coast of the Bellarine Peninsula and separated by the Barwon river from its twin coastal town of Ocean Grove.
Barwon Heads is a popular seaside community, offering a diverse variety of coastal attractions from the shallow and sandy shoreline of the Barwon River to the windswept surf beaches which front bass strait along 13th Beach road. The bluff lookout, at Point Flinders, is situated on a rocky outcrop and a network of surrounding walking tracks provides views over the town centre, along the Barwon River and in all directions across bass strait.
The commercial centre of Barwon Heads includes the town’s major hotel just near the river bridge and a strip of shops including cafes and restaurants along Hitchcock Avenue.
Just north of Barwon Heads is the expansive waterway of Lake Connewarre and surrounding wetlands which make an ideal spot for fishing and bird watching.
Since the Seachange television series first aired in 1998 there has been a significant increase in tourism and real estate sales and development (both commercial and residential) in the area. This has resulted in a very substantial increase in property and land values, making the town an ideal location for property developers.
Barwon Heads is home to about 3000 permanent residents and swells in size over Summer with thousands flocking to the laid back lifestyle for outdoor activities or just plain relaxation. The town is less than half an hour to the centre of Geelong and a great place to explore the Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road all within minutes.
With The Bluff towering in the background, Hitchcock Avenue has a cafe culture to rival the quality of Melbourne’s best. Bustling with fashionable shops, the main street offers selective and quality shopping. There are famous surf shops, while many boutiques sell stylish clothes and homewares. There’s also spa therapy and yoga centres on the shopping strip, just around the corner from the Riverside playground.
Sports fitness and recreation
Barwon Heads boasts a tennis, bowls, surf life saving, soccer and pony club. Golfers play at the Barwon Heads Golf Club on Golf Links Road, or at the course at the Thirteenth Beach Golf Links on Barwon Heads Road. Barwon Heads has great recreational fishing from its river to the heads and caters for all types of anglers.
The town also has a footy team competing in the Bellarine Football League, and a cricket club which is currently competing in the Bellarine Peninsula Cricket Association.
Distance from the CBD and transport
Situated about 22 km south east of Geelong, Barwon Heads as the name suggests is where the Barwon River (which originates high in the Otways) reaches the sea. Barwon Heads is about 23 kilometres to the south east out of central Geelong being about a 25 minute drive passing through Belmont, Marshall and Connewarre.
Famous landmarks and attractions
Once a sleepy fishing village, Barwon Heads is now one of the favorite destinations in the Geelong region with great beaches, a trendy café set and easy going lifestyle. This town has been rejuvenated and is thriving with life and only 20 minutes from the centre of Geelong.
Nearby Thirteenth Beach is a popular surfing location. The beach is named for its proximity to the 13th hole of the golf course and is one of the best surf beaches in the region.
Just behind the dunes is the site of both of Barwon Heads outstanding, world rated golf clubs. Barwon Heads Golf Club is just behind the bluff and Thirteenth Beach Golf Links is a few kilometres along the Barwon Heads Road.
The historic heritage listed clubhouse, with its old world charm, has magnificent views of the course and the coastline towards Port Phillip Heads. The nearby Bass Strait and sand dunes, along with the weather conditions provide a links reminiscent of famed Scottish links.
Thirteenth Beach is a 36 hole golf and residential complex, famous golfing pro Nick Faldo has suggested that Thirteenth Beach will become one of Australia’s “must visit golfing destinations”.
The giant bluff at the mouth of the Barwon River is just as well known as the bridge. This huge limestone cliff face offers shelter to the river mouth and protects the sandy shores making it enjoyable for swimming and also offers great protection to the large campground at its base.
There is plenty of nature to see and enjoy around Barwon Heads, with the river and connecting reedy swamp and Lake Connewarre attracting an amazing array of bird life including ibis, spoonbills, pelicans and ducks. Some of Lake Connewarre is a state game reserve and has been popular over the years with shooters during duck hunting season.
Fishing is also a great past time which attracts many to Barwon Heads, with fishing from the jetties, beaches and boats all popular. The township has some great places to ride bikes and plenty of walking tracks to experience the fresh sea air from Bass Strait.
Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the north west corner of Barwon Heads and is an educational sanctuary renowned for its work in dealing with sick, injured and orphaned koalas, birds, mammals and sealife.
The Barwon Heads area offers probably the most diverse fishing experiences in the Geelong region. The town was built on its good fishing and hunting.
Restaurants and cafes
Plenty of new dining experiences have popped up in town over recent years some of the favourites include Barwon Orange, The Beach House, Peppercorn Foods, and At the Heads situated on the pier overlooking the picturesque river and bluff. The Barwon Heads hotel still offers fresh cold beer and a great meal.
Schools & education
Barwon Heads only Primary school is located at the beach end of Golflinks Road.
Festival of the Sea is a community festival which showcases local music and performances, offers fun coastal-based activities and promotes awareness and appreciation of the coastal environment.