Weekender’s guide to Torquay: Where to eat, drink, stay and play

Travelling Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 02 July 2020

The 40 best things to eat, see, drink and do in Torquay, on Victoria’s Surf Coast.

When it comes to laidback beachside destinations, Torquay, on Victoria’s southwest coast, should be on every travel bucket list. With its surf beaches, creative community and flourishing culinary scene, this relaxed seaside town 90 minutes from Melbourne might as well be worlds away. 

Sandwiched between Breamlea, Bellbrae and Bells Beach, and bookended by rambling coastal reserves, it effortlessly straddles the line between quaint coastal retreat and vibrant seaside city. But don’t be fooled by the heaving surf apparel stores and factory outlets that fringe the highway into town. Off the main drag, the real Torquay is a very different scene.

Here, casual beachside eateries and specialty coffee shops line the foreshore, while upscale restaurants, brewhouses and bars add a touch of sophistication. Now, with a culinary scene that rivals established gastronomic hot pots like Daylesford, Kyneton and the Mornington Peninsula, the tide is turning for Torquay as it starts to make a name for itself as a world-class drinking and dining destination. Here’s our guide to everything to eat, see, sip and do in this eatworthy Otway hinterland hamlet. 

Slides: The Stoop's sprawling terrace, Bells Beach, RACV Torquay Resort, cycling along Torquay Esplanade, live music at The Minya, Cosy Corner, pasta of the day at Pearl Restaurant, Frontbeach.

Torquay guide: 40 of the best things to eat, see, drink and do

Some places are currently closed or have changed hours of operation due to COVID-19. Remember to maintain 1.5 metres social distancing and to practise good hand hygiene to keep yourself and others safe.  And if you have symptoms, stay home.

Best cafes in Torquay

If there’s one thing Torquay isn’t short of, it’s cafes and, when it comes to beachside caffeine dealers, Third Wave Kiosk is one of the best. A recycled steel exterior gives the rustic coastal coffee shop its natural, weathered look and makes it an easy and eye-catching meeting point for summer surfers and sand dwellers. 

On the esplanade, you can’t go past one of Torquay’s original specialty coffee shops – Pond – where they’re grinding Seven Seeds and plating up some of the town’s most interesting breakfast fare. A little further along there’s the Salty Dog, a fur-baby friendly seaside cafe that boasts beautiful beach views and delicious beans to match. And no trip to Torquay is complete without a visit to local institution Cafe Moby (currently closed due to COVID-19), which has been operating since circa 2007. Moby’s, as the locals affectionately call it, is housed in a converted weatherboard shack and perfectly captures the Surf Coast culture and lifestyle. Its sprawling backyard, complete with sandpit and picnic tables, is the ideal setting for a relaxed family lunch or chilled Sunday session. 

If you’re planning on hitting the outlets, Sticks and Stones is conveniently located in the Surf City Plaza, tucked between the Oakley and Rip Curl stores, and makes mean coffees and burgers. Go-to specialty coffee joint Mikro Coffee Roasters and vegetarian cafe Ginger Monkey (currently open for takeaways only) are a little further along the highway. It's all about espressos with a side serve of surf culture at South Coast – a custom board store, shaping workshop and showroom with an onsite coffee machine, or head to Amitie Cafe, a quirky spot in the Amitie Textiles warehouse, where you can get a cut of the coast’s coolest fabrics, as well as delectable house-baked treats (the yo-yos are a must-try) and locally roasted Ocean Grind coffee.

In town, Surfcoast Wholefoods, an organic greengrocer-come-healthy cafe, is where it’s at for nourishing plant-based bites. 

The details

Third Wave Kiosk: Voss Carpark, Torquay Foreshore, Torquay 
Pond: 39 The Esplanade, Torquay
The Salty Dog Cafe: 47 The Esplanade, Torquay
Cafe Moby: 41 The Esplanade, Torquay
Sticks and Stones: Surf City Plaza, 61 Surf Coast Hwy, Torquay
Mikro Coffee Roasters: Shop 3/57 Geelong Rd, Torquay 
Ginger Monkey: 4 Baines Cres, Torquay
South Coast: 1C Baines Cres, Torquay
Amitie Cafe: 87 Beach Rd, Torquay
Surfcoast Wholefoods: Shop 104/41 Bristol Rd, Torquay

Beachside cafe overlooking water

Beach views from Third Wave Kiosk.

Close up of person pouring cappuccino

You'll be pouring over the specialty coffee at Mikro Coffee Roasters.

Beachside cafe with wooden booth tables and lots of greenery

Pond cafe offers fine food and fabulous views.

Torquay's best restaurants and casual eateries

Have you even been to Torquay if you haven’t dined at RACV Torquay’s acclaimed Number One restaurant? Here, head chef Michael Bannerman is all about heroing local, seasonal ingredients – like Otway potatoes and shitake mushrooms, Sher Wagyu from Ballan, Manzanillo olives and Camperdown garlic. The drinks list also has an extensive range of local brews and wines, as well as an eclectic cocktail selection (don’t miss the saffron negroni or the Brown Magpie pinot noir). And the backdrop is as glorious as the menu, with the second-floor restaurant offering sweeping views over the golf course and beyond to Bass Strait. 

Frontbeach, under the Esplanade’s towering Norfolk pines, is the place to go for classic bistro vibes, while Fishos is your resident grilled fish and fried potato dealer. They also make some seriously delicious fish tacos and seafood platters. Meanline, the plate-list at Pholklore (currently only open for deliveries from Wed-Sun) is a mix of contemporary and classic Vietnamese hits. Here, they’re dishing up everything from rice paper rolls and popcorn cauliflower to traditional pho, fusion pho (we’re talking miso pho and pho laksa) and pho-inspired cocktails. What’s not to love about lemongrass and Thai basil mojito or a Pho White with cognac, white rum, cinnamon and lime. 

If mod-Mex is more your style, get ready for a beachside fiesta at Olè. Be sure to start with the calamares a la brasa (spice-marinated, barbecued squid served with apple and tomato salsa). And it’s all about that base at Dough Bros, who are slinging some of Torquay’s best pizza. 

With a wave of fresh new openings, Bell Street has started to emerge as Torquay's foodie hub. Check out Alisitos for fresh-Mex and baja cocktails. Fans of refined dining (high-end food with a more chilled vibe) will drool over the menu at Samesyn. Helmed by chef Graham Jefferies (who co-owns hatted Geelong stalwart Tulip), the seasonal, produce-driven dishes are all about highlighting local ingredients. We’re talking a revolving menu of mouth-watering morsels such as roasted cauliflower with walnut and saltbush, king salmon with leek, buttermilk and lovage (a celery-like herb) and slow-cooked lamb with broccoli and hazelnut. For classic burgers by the beach, Bell Street's Rocky Point is your resident beer and bun dealer and you’ll find locals flocking to Roku Den for their fill of fresh sushi, sashimi and seared local scallops. 

For classic counter meals with a contemporary twist, the Torquay Hotel, now under new ownership, is still the pick of the bunch. The Bell Street bistro recently reopened after extensive renovations and the once-drab diner is now sporting a fresh and funky new aesthetic, bringing a touch of cosmopolitan charm to the coastal strip. But despite its upmarket makeover and exciting new menu (hello parrilla wood-fired grill and South American barbecue), this laid-back eatery is still the go-to for live music, entertainment and relaxed seaside sippers.

If you can’t go pasta Italian cuisine, Pearl is Torquay’s local trattoria. With just six tables and a nightly-changing menu of five fresh, seasonally inspired spaghetti dishes scrawled on a blackboard, this is the epitome of local dining. And, from the same team behind Pearl (and also The Stoop) comes Miami. The vibrant venue, which opened its doors on New Year’s Eve, is spicing up the Bell Street food scene with South American, Spanish and Portuguese flavours. 

What about dessert?

Looking for a refreshing after-dinner delight? Get the inside scoop at Bell Street gelateria, Il Gelatino. Their frozen cone toppers are made fresh daily and fuse traditional Italian techniques with nostalgic Aussie flavours. Hello, Golden Gaytime, Bounty, Turkish Delight and even Sprinkles gelato. Drool. They’re also slinging Butterbing Cookies, if baked indulgence is more your style. (Note: Il Gelatino is currently closed due to COVID-19.)

The details

Number One Restaurant: RACV Torquay Resort, 1 Great Ocean Rd, Torquay
Frontbeach: 6 The Esplanade, Torquay
Fishos: 36 The Esplanade, Torquay
Pholklore: 38 The Esplanade, Torquay
Olè: 5A Zeally Bay Rd, Torquay
Dough Bros: 1/57 Geelong Rd, Torquay
Alisitos Mexican Restaurant: 46 Bell St, Torquay
Samesyn: 3/24 Bell St, Torquay
Rocky Point: 24 Bell St, Torquay
Roku Den: 34 Bell St, Torquay
Torquay Hotel: 36 Bell St, Torquay
Miami: 2 Bell St, Torquay
Pearl: 8 Pearl St, Torquay 
Il Gelatino: Shop 3/42 Bell St, Torquay

Close up of crema catalana on pink plate

The crema catalana from Bell Street newbie, Miami.

Close up of person holding glass of wine in front of beach

Rosé all day at Bomboras.

Seafood platter on wooden bar

Get stuck into seafood platters at Torquay Hotel.

Best bars and brew halls in Torquay

One of the best things about a weekend away is being able to switch off, unwind and kick back with a cocktail or a brewski while a gentle sea breeze sweeps away the city stress. If beers and burgers are your go-to relaxation tonic, you’ll love locally owned and independently run Blackman’s Brewery. Blackman’s is the beer-child of husband-and-wife duo Jess and Renn and was last year named 2019’s Champion Small Australian Brewery at the Australian International Beer Awards. Stop in for a Local ale and a slow-cooked lamb pizza. 

Growlers, which looks out over Cosy Corner, is where it’s at for laidback beach bar vibes, while nearby Senors, housed in the former Scorched restaurant space, is slinging spicy margaritas and South American-inspired tapas. A little further along the Esplanade, you’ll find all-day eatery Bomboras. Pull up a picnic table or hanging chair overlooking the beach and cool off with a Great Ocean Road Raspberry Gin Fizz while knocking back top-notch pulled pork and apple slaw sliders. Grab a glass of local vino and sit out on the sprawling terrace at The Stoop or get into the craft spirit at the 4 Pines Torquay brewpub, which is co-located next to Boardriders. For something more refined, Mr Archer Wine Bar (which reopens on 8 July) is barrelling a selection of the finest local and imported drops. Make sure you also grab one of their delectable cheese or charcuterie boards, which are worth it just for the Brooklyn Brine pickles.  

Best wineries near Torquay

Speaking of wine, if you love a good weekend winery session, sip your way through some of the Surf Coast’s coolest cellar doors from your Torquay base. Just 13 minutes’ drive from Torquay, in Connewarre, you’ll find The Minya (which is currently open for wine sales only), where owners Jeff and Sue Dans have been mastering the art of making grape juice since 1974. Stop in for a glass of grenache, shiraz, chardonnay or spicy gewurtzraminer.

Head about the same distance in the other direction, towards Anglesea, and you’ll pass beautiful Bellbrae Estate. Here, the wines are a celebration of the local area, with the Estate Range even named after some of the region’s best-loved surf breaks. There’s the Addiscott Pinot Noir, Boobs Chardonnay and Bells Syrah, as well as the just-released 2009 Winkipop Sparkling Shiraz, which is sure to be a crowd pleaser. 

About 10 minutes' drive inland from Torquay you’ll find Wolseley Wines, a 100 per cent organic vineyard that runs solely on solar power. Sunday sessions are a regular fixture at this boutique Paraparap cellar door, which plays host to a revolving stage of talented local artists.

For lovers of pinot noir, a visit to the Brown Magpie cellar door is a must (currently open by appointment only). Located about 20 minutes from Torquay in the gently sloping Surf Coast hinterland, the rustic Modewarre winery is one of the region’s best-kept secrets, with their award-winning pinot noirs having garnered something of a cult following. 

The details

Blackman's Brewery: 26 Bell St, Torquay
Growlers: 23 The Esplanade, Torquay
Bomboras: 37 The Esplanade, Torquay 
The Stoop: 1 Cliff St, Torquay
4 Pines Brewing: Shop 1/61 Surf Coast Hwy, Torquay 
Mr Archer Wine Bar: T11/222 Fischer St, Torquay 
The Minya: 95 Minya Lane, Connewarre 
Bellbrae Estate: 520 Great Ocean Rd, Bellbrae
Wolseley Wines: 1790 Hendy Main Rd, Paraparap
Brown Magpie Wines: 125 Larcombes Rd, Modewarre 

Close up of person holding can of craft beer

Drink like a local at Blackman's Brewery.

Close up of fresh oysters with lemon

Local produce is the star at Number One restaurant.

Bottle of rose and wine glass on table

Sip your way around the Otways at Mr Archer Wine Bar.

Top things to do in Torquay 

It’s not just the food and wine that has people flocking to Torquay – there is plenty of fun to be had, too. Unsurprisingly, water sports are one of the town’s main attractions, with Torquay offering something for everyone. From kayaking and kite surfing to stand-up paddleboarding, there’s no shortage of seaside activities for swimmers of all skill levels. Torquay Front Beach (aka Cosy Corner), is the ideal spot for wannabe wave riders to learn to surf. Check out local surf school Go Ride a Wave, on Bell St, for lessons. Or, if you’re more of a spectator than a surfer, head to the Australian National Surf Museum, Australia’s largest and only accredited Surfing Museum (which is currently closed due to COVID-19). 

Take in amazing aerial views of the Surf Coast skyline as you freefall from 15,000 feet, with RACV members saving up to 15 per cent on Great Ocean Road Skydiving, or take to the skies for an exhilarating adventure on board a vintage tiger moth plane. RACV members save 10 per cent on flights and 10 per cent on entry to Tiger Moth World Adventure Park (which is closed until 1 September).

Prefer land-based activities? Torquay is also awash with walking tracks. The Surf Coast Walk, made up of 12 separate trails, has hikes to suit all abilities. And be sure to check out the sundial at the Whites Beach end of the esplanade. Or, if you love bargain hunting, bag yourself plenty of big discounts with a day of retail therapy at Torquay’s famous surf outlets.

Take to the fairway at RACV Torquay Resort for a round of golf on a spectacular 71-par course designed by former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, or soak up some serenity with a relaxation massage or rejuvenating facial at One Spa

The details

Go Ride a Wave: 1/15 Bell St, Torquay
Australian National Surf Museum: 3228/77 Beach Rd, Torquay 
Great Ocean Road Skydiving: 1421 Barwon Heads Rd, Connewarre
Tiger Moth World: 25 Blackgate Rd, Torquay
RACV Torquay Resort: Great Ocean Rd, Torquay 

Close up of crema catalana on pink plate

Order a custom surfboard at South Coast.

Close up of person holding glass of wine in front of beach

Get the inside scoop at Il Gelatino.

Rip Curl store with surf boards out the front

Bag some serious bargains at the Surf Coast's outlet stores.

Best beaches in Torquay 

If relaxing by the beach with a good book and a shade umbrella is what your holiday dreams are made of, Cosy Corner (at Torquay Front Beach) is the beach for you. With its wide foreshore and safe, sheltered swimming access, it’s the ideal spot for family beach days, beginner surfers, bodyboarders and novice swimmers alike. A little further along the esplanade from Cosy Corner is Whites Beach, a lovely sandy stretch that is less crowded than its cosy neighbours. Whites is dog-friendly year-round, making it ideal for puppy play dates, and the Whites Beach playground, with its picnic tables, barbecue facilities and flying fox, is a popular spot for families. 

If you feel like baring all, Point Impossible Beach (the eastern section of Whites Beach) is a clothing-optional spot capped by 10-metre dunes, while keen fisherman will love Fisherman’s Beach (located between Darian and Zeally Bay roads). The Elephant Walk playground area is also just a stone’s throw away and is one of Torquay’s favourite play and picnic areas. 

World-famous surfing spot Bells Beach is a great place to sit and watch the pros as they glide along the waves. There’s a boardwalk with great views, and the sand is a lovely spot for a picnic or walk. But be warned – Bells Beach, though beautiful, is treacherous even for the most competent of swimmers so exercise extreme caution if entering the water and avoid swimming altogether in high surf. Always swim between the flags and don’t enter the water if the beach is not patrolled. 

Treat yourself to a coastal Getaway at the RACV Torquay Resort