Part of Australia's surfing community for many years, Bells is on the Great Ocean Road that extends from Torquay west to Warrnambool. This is one of Victoria's most famous attractions for its weathered limestone rock formations, surfing and fishing areas.
Bells Beach is 18 Kilometres south of Geelong, Victoria's second largest city and 94 kilometres south west of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria. The beach was named after a pastoralist, John Cavert Bell who moved there in 1840.
Possibly the most famous beach in Victoria due to the surfing classic held here each year. It is ideal for surfing due to the break that is formed by a combination of a limestone reef that slopes gently off from its southern point and the waves that are refracted or bent around the Otway's. This is an unpatrolled beach that mainly attracts surfers when the conditions are right.
The beach is short at 300 metres long and faces south east with waves reaching from 1 to 1.5 metres. Due to the limestone cliffs above the beach you need to walk down to the beach through a gully at the south end. The heavy sand and wave action does not form a sand bar and the beach is quite steep. Even if you don't swim or surf the views from the top of the limestone bluffs are worth the trip. These cliffs are the backdrop to the amphitheatre shape of the beach and are a great vantage point to watch the surfing from.
The beach is quite safe when the waves are low but as they increase a rip develops that the surfers love to ride. This rip is what brings the surfers to bells. It brings them in hard and fast to the shore giving them a great ride. The swells come in from the southern ocean and are slowed by the limestone reef. This creates the outstanding conditions for surfing especially in the autumn and winter months, March to August.
When the waves reach 1.5 metres and higher Bells is the world class right hand surfing beach. When the waves are smaller right hand surf is created at the southern end of the beach. This is known as Rincon.
The beach has water, toilets and showers, a sealed parking area for 200 cars and is on the ferry, train and bus timetables.
The potential hazards found at bells are sharks, as in most southern beaches, rips and strong winds. The beach is classified as a moderately hazard 6 by Victoria Surf Life Saving.
Bells Beach has hosted a world surfing competition, initially called the Bells Beach Surf Classic that is now sponsored by Rip Curl and held over each Easter weekend. The contest was first held in 1961 in January and has since been held every year.
Since 1988 the Bells Beach Reserve has seen a group called Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment revegetate the area with more than 100,000 native and local plants in order to preserve the reserve.