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Originally from Melbourne, Lonely Planet LocalKate and her partner made the move to Geelong over a year ago for its relaxed lifestyle. As a travel writer, Kate spends her time travelling the world but finds nowhere is as friendly as Geelong; it has a great community feel and the location – close to Melbourne, the Bellarine Peninsula and Great Ocean Road – is perfect.

Sailboats scattered on the ocean, seen from The Pier in Geelong, Australia Sailing boats bobbing in Corio Bay at sunset by Geelong Pier © Bernard Vierneza/ 500px

When I have friends in town… I persuade them not to head straight to the nearby beaches but to stick around and see what Geelong has to offer, from the art galleries and scenic waterfront to the top-rate restaurants and neighbourhood cafes.

A typical weekend involves…usually starting the day with some exercise along the waterfront or a walk along the Barwon River before breakfast at my local cafe House Iberia or Newfolk, a great cafe in Newtown with excellent food and coffee.

Kate Morgan at Little Creatures Brewery GeelongKate hanging out at Little Creatures Brewery in central Geelong © Kate Morgan / Lonely Planet

Lunch might involve meeting friends at Little Creatures Brewery or grabbing a baguette from Le Fournil bakery (to take home along with a stop by Born & Bred Bakehouse for some pastries). I’ll grab some fish and chips at the Geelong Boathouse for dinner or bimbimbap at Doncobefore catching an arthouse flick with some local wine at the Pivotonian Cinema.

Geelong fish and chips Kate MorganThis refurbished vintage barge is a local favourite for fish and chips © Kate Morgan / Lonely Planet

When I’m up for a big night out…I start with a few wines and a cheese platter at Union Street or Geelong Cellar Door then head to Captain Barfor a few beers in their outdoor space before heading upstairs for great cocktails at speakeasy bar, The 18th Amendment. Hopefully there’s some dirty punk band on at the legendary Barwon Club to end the night a little messily.

If I’m in the mood to shop… I check out Real Music Vinyl to stock up on records before heading out to the massive Geelong Vintage Market to scour for bargains. When I need to buy a gift, Boom Gallery’s shop has an excellent range of locally made art and crafts.

Boom Gallery Geelong Kate Morgan / Lonely PlanetPost-industrial Geelong houses eclectic art spaces and cafes © Kate Morgan / Lonely Planet

When I want to get out of the city…there is an endless list of places to choose from and it’s one of the main reasons Geelong is a great place to live. If I’m in the mood for wine tasting I’ll hit the Bellarine Peninsula wineries such as Jack Rabbit and Basils Farm, to get back to nature there is hiking in the You Yangs or in summer it’s a coastal drive to the nearby beaches along the Great Ocean Road.

Rip Curl Surfing Final Susan Harris/ShutterstockThe Rip Curl Surfing Finals is held at nearby Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road © Susan Harris / Shutterstock

When I want to check out some art… a visit to Boom Gallery is a must, not only to see what exhibitions are on but to have coffee or brunch in the onsite Neighbour cafe. I’ll often wander around the Geelong Art Gallery for its excellent collection of Australian art from Brett Whiteley to Frederick McCubbin.

If the weather calls for a day at the beach… I can be at some of Victoria’s best beaches and coastal towns in no time. The Art Deco bathing pavilion at Eastern Beach in Geelong is great but on hot days, forget it, it gets a little full-on, so instead I head out of town to nearby beautiful Breamlea or Fairhaven beach on the Great Ocean Road.

When I want to stock up on regional produce…I visit Geelong Fresh Foods on Pakington Street for local cheese, loose-leaf tea by Love and Zeally Bay sourdough. Geelong Wholefoods and the Fresh Food Merchant both in the city are other good spots and I’ll occasionally take a trip to Port Arlington for fresh mussels.

Geelong local produce Kate Morgan / Lonely PlanetLocal produce features in boutique Geelong stores © Kate Morgan / Lonely Planet

For a special occasion… award-winning IGNI is the place to dine. The food is sensational and there is no menu to speak of, just surprising course after surprising course. I love its unpretentious vibe and great soundtrack, too. Tulip on Pakington Street is another great choice for fine dining on Modern Australian cuisine.

For cheap eats…you can’t go past the Hot Chicken Project, a diner specialising in authentic Nashville chicken (from the same owner as IGNI). Saigon Corner is also a favourite of mine for some takeaway; it’s hidden in a residential area of Herne Hill and does great Vietnamese pho. A bowl of ramen at Sober Ramen in Little Malop Street is another winner.

When I need a caffeine hit…Cartel Coffee on Little Malop Street is my first choice for its single-origin beans expertly roasted.

For a pub meal…Gold Diggers Arms in Newtown wins hands down. There’s a lack of decent pubs in Geelong but this neighbourhood favourite is a winner for its character, great food and friendly service.

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