One of the first reports of settlement in Ocean Grove was in 1854 when William Bonsey ran a property and established a small leather tanning business using local wattle bark as the preservative.
Ocean Grove received its name from a town of the same name near New Jersey in The United States. During the 1870’s the American Methodist Church set up a religious camp near New Jersey and due to its success decided to set up camps overseas. They set up forces with Methodists in Victoria and decided on setting up a camp near Point Lonsdale. This proved successful so they purchased a large area of land to set up their Australian version of Ocean Grove in 1882.
In 1887, 2,500 blocks of land were subdivided after being purchased by Charles James and James Grigg. The land had an interesting covenant on it- being strong Methodists, James and Griggs forced “no part of the above land shall be used for the manufacture of sale of malted spirituous or vinous liquors”, this meant that no grog was allowed to be sold or manufactured on the land.
In 1927 the town was linked by the Barwon Heads bridge to Barwon Heads on the other side of the river, previous access being by rowboat.
Until recently, it was impossible to buy liquor of any type in Ocean Grove, other than at the outskirts of town in Collendina, at the Collendina Hotel. Today the rules have been relaxed and The Terrace now features a Pub and a Liquor store or two.
The town never really took off as a holiday town until after the second World War when it’s potential was really seen. The popularity of cars and camping saw the town go from strength to strength. Then along came surfing and Ocean Grove never looked back. Before this time Ocean Grove was really just a fishing village.
Now Ocean Grove is the largest town on the Bellarine Peninsula, and is growing rapidly with new housing estates, new sporting facilities and big shopping complexes. It’s no wonder why with many people commuting the easy 25 minutes to Geelong, only an hour extra to Melbourne and having one of Australia’s most amazing beaches at their back door.
Real estate and design
Ocean Grove is the largest town on the Bellarine, covering about 20 square kilometres to the east of the Barwon River mouth. More and more residents commute to Geelong, and the relative number of holiday homes has declined but Ocean Grove is still a thriving holiday resort.
Much of Ocean Grove is spread over the undulating hills and valleys which characterise this section of the Bellarine Peninsula, giving good views down to the ocean and of the surroundings.
In the early 1990’s, the permanent population of Ocean Grove was just over 8000 residents, however today that number has nearly doubled. During summer with the large number of visitors to the town, the town experiences a huge boom and is a buzz of activity.
Being the largest town outside of Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula, Ocean Grove offers a wide selection of shopping facilities including major supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and specialty shops, spread between the main shopping strip near the coast along The Terrace and the Ocean Grove Marketplace Shopping Centre to the north on Shell Road.
Sports fitness and recreation
Significant infrastructure development in Ocean Grove during 2008-2009 has resulted in two soccer pitches, indoor swimming complex complete with a 25m pool and a four star skate park with a bowl suitable for boards, blades and bikes. There is a local football club called The Grubbers, along with tennis, bowls, cricket and soccer clubs.
Distance from the CBD and transport
Ocean Grove is situated on the southern side of the Bellarine Peninsula and is approximately 20km from Geelong, 90km from Melbourne and 15km from the Queenscliff ferry, which takes you across Port Philip Bay to Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula.
Famous landmarks and attractions
Ocean Grove is home to some of Australia’s best beaches.The surf beaches are superb with golden sands and protected dunes. There is also a sandy beach up from the mouth of the Barwon River overlooking Barwon Heads which is very popular with families looking for calmer waters for the children. Smith’s Beach facing Bass Straight is a favourite for swimmers, surfers and people who just want to soak up the sun. There is also good beach fishing along the wide sandy strip.
Flowing from the Ocean Grove beach right through to the Otways, the Barwon River is a lovely spot to spend an afternoon. Fishing is popular along the river, which is salt water. mullaways are the prized catch of this region of the Barwon, while downstream of the bridge whiting, snapper and mullet can be caught. Popular for a stroll, the river looks breathtaking at sunset and is suitable for swimming over the summer time. The walking track runs all the way from Ocean Grove Golf Club to the Barwon Heads bridge, which has a pedestrian pathway to take you to the delightful town of Barwon Heads. Boating down the river is also popular, with crafts ranging from canoes to speedboats. The river can also provide great conditions for windsurfing.
Ocean Grove is home to one of The Bellarine’s favourite mini golf courses. Visit the challenging courses at Bellarine Adventure Golf to test out your accuracy. Ocean Grove Nature Reserve contains the only significant example of woodland on the Bellarine as it was prior to European settlement.
Visitors can take a walk through the reserve and should keep an eye out for some of the native animals that live in the reserve. It is a haven for birds and the reserve’s bird hides provide a great location for viewing some of the 130 different species that have been spotted there.
There are also a number lakes in Ocean Grove that are tranquil spots where birdlife abounds. The walking tracks around the lakes are great for a short bike ride or walk and the playground across the road is popular for families. Ducks, pelicans and swans are all residents at various times of the year. The lakes are a very pretty spot for a picnic, and they are well-loved by locals.
Restaurants and cafes
Ocean Grove’s restaurants offer something to please every taste – from authentic Thai, to modern gourmet, to a tub of chips and gravy. The main street of Ocean Grove is lined with al fresco dining opportunities, all with delicious fresh foods. For a casual lunch after a morning in the sand the local chicken shop is very popular with the younger generation, whilst the ice cream bar across the road is guaranteed to get your mouth watering when the sun is shining. More formal restaurants are also available, with a variety of quality meals and service offered for that special evening out.
The Dunes, located right on top of the Ocean Grove main beach, is a magnificent way to dine with a spectacular view, and further along Grubb Road, towards the Queenscliff Highway are award winning Oakdene vineyards & restaurants.
Ocean Grove epitomizes cafe culture. Casual coffees with friends on the weekend is almost obligatory to the locals and the pleasure is shared by most visitors. With plenty of spots along the main strip to stop by and enjoy a homemade cake or a light lunch, it’s almost impossible not to.
Schools & education
Ocean Grove has two local Primary schools, a Catholic Primary school and is home to the Junior Campus of Bellarine Secondary College.
There are an abundant range of events in the town, many featuring the beach with various Surf Life Saving events and beach runs including the annual Rip to River event. Ocean Grove was one of the major venues for the 2007 Surf Lifesaving Games which attracted Lifesavers from around the World.