An afternoon guide to North Geelong’s burgeoning Federal Mills Precinct

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An afternoon guide to North Geelong’s burgeoning Federal Mills Precinct

Words by Mackenzie Pennycook

Geelong’s Federal Mills was once a powerhouse of industry in the region, but now has been transformed into every foodie and history lover’s dream. 

The former Federal Woollen Mill is an icon of Geelong’s industrial past, opening originally in 1915 it was vital to the region in creating stable employment for locals. The days of scouring raw wool are over at the establishment, but the hugely impressive brick structure lives on in a new way. 

The Federal Mills is now a mecca of food, art, and innovative tech businesses ready to be explored. The Federal Mills is HUGE, you really can spend an afternoon getting lost in all 55,000 square metres of the historic location. 

There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to things to do at the Federal Mills, from all-day café-style dining to a perfect new date night location with a trip to the Geelong Vintage Market or a distillery adventure that sees you checking out the Popcultcha Collectors Museum, if you’re a lover of all things food, drinks, and Geelong history this is the place to check out. 

The Federal Café

The Federal is breathing life back into the Woollen Mills, with an Australian-inspired menu café menu. The venue is spearheaded by the Moussi family, who use their hospo expertise to provide its customers with a one-of-a-kind dining and entertainment experience in a truly iconic Geelong venue. The Federal is open five days a week for breakfast and lunch so you can always get your fix.

The breakfast menu is certainly no slim pickings, the massive menu has a vast variety of savoury and sweet options alike. There are banana split waffles, smashed avo, pulled pork eggs benny, vegan shakshuka and three varieties of sweet and savoury breakfast bruschetta. As for lunch the options are similarly limitless, think meatball linguine, beef burgers, a halloumi salad, fish and chips and the ever-faithful chicken Parmi. The Federal caters to a range of dietaries, so if you’re vego, vegan or gluten free, fear not! The Federal is sure to have something for you on your next visit.

The Federal also has take home grazing boxes, with charcuterie boxes AND dessert boxes that feed anywhere from 2 to 12 people all on offer. 

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Federal Mills or a seasoned regular, The Federal Café should be added to your list of must-see spots. 


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Anther Distillery

If you’re a lover of all things gin, Anther is the place for you to check out.

The distillery which was born in 2016 as a tiny start-up by Dervilla McGowan and Sebastian Reaburn has quickly turned into a booming distillery putting out nationally and internationally award-winning spirits. Anther Distillery is a gin distillery with a difference, working closely with local foragers and growers of Australian botanicals to incorporate the true taste of Australia into their spirits.

One of the most special things about Anther Distillery is its location, history is a key ingredient in all Anther spirits, so having the beautiful redbrick backdrop of the 1915 Federal Mills is extra special. Every drop of Anther is prepared, extracted, and distilled within the Federal Mills. There is a huge range of gin on offer at Anther, there’s an Anther Australian Dry Gin, a Goddess Strength Gin even a Geelong Dry Gin which is the perfect tipple when you’re on your Federal Mills excursion.

Anther also offers limited release gin; now they have an Anther Moon Cake Gin on offer. Book yourself a tasting or a seat at the bar and enjoy a spectacular venue alongside an even better drink. 

Geelong Vintage Market

Geelong Vintage Market is a section of the Federal Mills that you can spend an afternoon lost in. Relish in the vintage treasures on offer across more than 60 unique stalls with various vintage sellers. Wander through the stalls and experience a sense of nostalgia for the various retro items on offer, there’s something for everyone at the Geelong Vintage Market. If you’re after vinyls, antiques, vintage clothes, art deco pieces or upcycled reclaimed furniture this market has it all.

There’s over 4,000 square metres of collectable and vintage items across Geelong and the Surf Coast, with the Federal Mills location housing most of the vintage market treasures. Geelong Vintage Market is open seven days a week, so you can always have a gander around the latest and greatest vintage finds in the region. Geelong Vintage Market will get those nostalgia feelings flowing for any generation.

If you’re after an afternoon sifting through vintage treasures, industrial furniture, and old school vinyls, be sure to check out the Geelong Vintage Market. 

The Pickers Union

The Pickers Union is another unreal café located within the now thriving tech hub that is the Federal Mills. The Pickers Union is a long-standing café within the former industrial space, holding its own in the café game for over six years now. The Pickers Union focuses predominantly on breakfast and lunch deliciousness, with a special kid’s menu for the littlies in your life.

Their food is unreal, and their coffee is to match. Using specialty coffee and a whole lot of locally sourced produce, you can trust you’re truly getting the taste of Geelong at The Pickers Union. Their main menu is designed to be eaten in, but they are also super takeaway friendly if you’re in a rush, with most items being available to grab on the go, The Pickers Union also has a STOCKED display fridge full of easy to grab meals for takeaway (or dine in if you fancy).

In terms of their brekkie and lunch options, you’re spoilt for choice at The Pickers Union. There’s breakfast panacotta, chilli scrambled eggs or shakshuka. And if you’re more of a brunch fan, their cinnamon roll hotcakes, chicken bao buns or a steak sandwich on offer. Kids can treat themselves to some pancakes kitted out with maple syrup and ice-cream, tempura nuggets or avocado soldiers. The interior is to die for, and the food is even better.

If you’re after a brunch feast to fuel you for your day at the Mills, be sure to check out The Pickers Union. 


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Finish your afternoon of Federal Mills exploration with a date night at one of Geelong’s newest and best locations. 1915, aptly named after the year the Federal Mills were built is a restaurant serving up modern fanfare beneath the powerful history of the Federal Mills.

Nestled beneath the historic North Geelong smokestack sits the redbrick boiler house that 1915 calls home. 1915 prides itself on plating up delicious local food and classic thirst-quenching drinks for locals and visitors alike. 1915 slings Mediterranean inspired dishes alongside top shelf wine, beer, and spirits. Even more exciting is that Anther Gin, one of 1915’s neighbours has crafted a specialised cocktail menu specifically for the venue. The venue itself is an attraction, with the two-storey conversion of the 100-year-old building a true sight to behold.

Whilst the building is good, it’s the food that will keep you coming back for more. Their Mediterranean inspired menu features lamb rump, king George whiting, calamari, saganaki, gnocchi and a whole bunch of sides like chargrilled broccoli, buttered mash, and roasted root veggies. If you can’t quite decide what you’re after in 1915 you can choose to ‘Trust the Chef’ an option that gives diners a 3-course feast comprised of a whopping 10 dishes specifically chosen by the mastermind chef himself.

If you’re looking to indulge in a delicious dinner experience set amongst a slice of Geelong’s history, look no further than 1915. 


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Popcultcha Collectors Gallery

If you’re a Popcultcha fan and you haven’t been to the Collectors Gallery, it’s a must go!

The Popcultcha Collectors Gallery is a must for anyone having an afternoon at the Federal Mills. Housed within the walls of one of the beautifully repurposed heritage buildings is a collection of items to make any pop culture fans day. It’s a store as much as it is a display, with items available for purchase if you’re looking to round out your collection. There’s a range of collectables and display pieces on offer, set to take anyone’s fancy.

Step through the doors to see a floor to ceiling display of Lifesize statues and busts. There’s entire walls full of ultra-rare comics and books, dozens of framed fine art prints, and glass cabinets chock full of action figures and various designer toys. There’s also a huge range of Funko Pop! vinyls to help extend your record collection, and vinyl players in you’re ready to get into the record collectors’ lifestyle.

It’s a perfect pitstop on your day out at The Federal Mills, get lost amongst the collectables and you might even find yourself leaving with some goodies!

Get cracking on planning your afternoon exhibition ASAP, the rich history, delicious food, and shopping opportunities are a totally unique experience. You can find The Federal Mills at 33 Mackey Street, North Geelong. Be prepared to turn your afternoon into a full day exhibition with so much to see at this iconic venue!

This article was made in partnership with Visit Geelong & The Bellarine.