It is named after John Cavert Bell of the family that first took up a pastoral run there in the 1840s. The beach and coastal reserve are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Bells Beach is the home of the world's longest continuously running surfing competition – now known as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. The event was formerly known as the Bells Easter Classic (among a variety of other titles). The competition was first held in January 1962 and then at Easter every year since although occasionally, when conditions at Bells aren't suitable, the competition has been transferred to other breaks such as Johanna and Woolamai.
As early as 1939, surfers from Torquay made their way to Bells but access was a considerable problem until 1960, when Torquay surfers and Olympic wrestler Joe Sweeney hired a bulldozer and cleared a road along the Bells cliff from the Cobb & Co Road, where the concrete wave now stands, down to the beach. He charged one pound per surfer to recover his expenses. This is now part of the Surf Coast walking track.
Nearby surf breaks include "Southside", "Centreside", "Rincon", "Winki Pop", (Uppers and Lowers), "Boobs" and "Steps". Although Bells is known internationally as one of the best breaks in Victoria, "Winki Pop" often works better under more diverse conditions than the other nearby breaks.
The first "Surfboard Rally" at Bells Beach was organized by surfing pioneers Peter Troy and Vic Tantau to help promote sales of T Boards their own brand. Planned to run in December 1961 the event was postponed until January 26 1962.
- Suburb:Bells Beach