The Mornington Peninsula is a Mediterranean-like getaway within an hour of Melbourne. You can drive across the peninsula in around 15 minutes, or 30 minutes down the length.
A getaway to this seaside enclave will make you feel you are miles from the city.
Top 10 things to do and see
Wander along the foreshore from Mornington towards Sorrento and you’ll see rows of colourful beach huts along the sand. These are an historical reminder of the public decorum necessary in the 1880s to protect the modesty of ladies and are quaint bathing boxes painted in a huge range of colours.
Peninsula Hot Springs (www.peninsulahotsprings.com)
Mornington Peninsula offers a huge range of spa options, however the Peninsula Hot Springs is the original public bathing house with over 14 mineral pools of varying temperatures. Whilst you can make this into a luxury adult retreat by booking into the Spa Dreaming Centre and taking advantage of the private mineral pools, massage and spa treatments, the centre is equally attractive for families. Famly pools, a sauna, pool cave, Turkish steam bath and reflexology walk all set around a beautiful lake make for a great day, or evening, out, open 7am to 10pm.
Food and Wine
The Peninsula’s hinterland area has been tilled by farmers and orchardists for over 100 years, with the first vines planted over 30 years ago. The local village stores in this area stock specialty produce representing the gourmet food and wine culture. With a huge variety of restaurants and cafe’s producing menus centred on regional produce and matching this with regional wines, this is a food-lovers delight.
Cool climate wines in the Mornington Peninsula are winning awards, particularly for Pinot Noir. With over 200 vineyards and at least 50 with cellar doors, wine tasting options are definitely on the cards.(www.mpva.com.au).
Mornington Peninsula is home to a variety of magnificent gardens and parks set amongst natural bushland:
Heronswood is the home of the diggers club (www.diggers.com.au) and you can also visit Heronswood House (an 1860’s Gothic Revival mansion), open during the Harvest and Spring Festivals. Heronswood is a cottage garden and has great displays of the interplanting of vegetables, fruit, perennials and herbs.
Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens is home to Australia’s oldest hedge maze set in 25 acres of gardens.(www.ashcombemaze.com.au). Or, a family, favourite, visit The Enchanted Maze Garden at Arthurs Seat (www.enchantedmaze.com.au)
Pick your own strawberries from November to April at the Sunnyridge Strawberry farm (www.sunnyridge.com.au)
The highest vantage point on the Mornington Peninsula with fabulous views back to Melbourne across Port Phillip Bay. Drive the steep and winding road, or take the easier option of the chairlift. Stop for lunch at the pub at the top, or just sit on the deck and take in the views.
Arthurs Seat Trail Rides is a horse-lovers dream, with quality horses for both beginners and more experienced riders. Supervised scenic trail rides let you enjoy the rolling countryside.
The historic Cape Schanck Lighthouse still boasts it’s original beacon and is operating as it did in the mid-1800s. You can enter the grounds and take a guided tour to the top of the lighthouse or check out the museum which explains the history of lighthouses. The buildings were constructed from 1859 and are a great example of architecture from this period.
The Octopuses Garden is a self-guided snorkelling trail under the Rye Pier in Port Phillip Bay. Victoria’s first underwater marine trail, this is easily accessible from the shore and great for adults and kids alike. The trail is 200 metres long and underwater signs guide you out along the pier providing information on the marine life in the area. With marine life including sea slugs, crabs, seastars, seaweeds and pipefish this is a must-see, but it’s important that you be a competent swimmer and wear a wetsuit and gloves. Marine life is fragile, so it’s important you don’t touch.
Point Nepean National Park (www.parkweb.vic.gov.au)
Point Nepean National Park, a great place for nature-lovers and history-buffs, is accessed from Portsea at the tip of the Mornington Peninsula. Explore the historic Quarantine station established in 1852, Fort Nepean’s at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay and the memorial at Cheviot Beach where Harold Holt disappeared in 1967. There are a number of self guided tours in the park which include interpretive displays, or you can cycle or walk many of the tracks. As with all Victorian National Parks, there is now free day entry since mid-2010.
With access to both Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and Bass Straight, you’d be hard-pressed not to find some sort of fishing you like. Piers dot the bay coastline at Dromana, a favourite local fishing spot off the long pier, Rye and Sorrento, or try your luck surf fishing from the ocean beaches.
If the fish aren’t biting, then you can enjoy freshly caught seafood on a cafe deck overlooking the beach.
Ferry to Bellarine Peninsula
From Sorrento Pier to Queenscliff Harbour, the car and passenger ferry departs on the hour every hour from 7am to 6pm in all weather and all-year-round. Not only is this a quick way to get to the Bellarine Peninsula without having to go through the centre of Melbourne, it’s a 45 minute ride where you can view the foreshore of Mornington Peninsula and experience Port Phillip Bay.
An easy weekend getaway from Melbourne for a couple, group or the whole family. Or, a perfect stop on a longer touring trip with easy ferry access to the Bellarine Peninsula and on to the Great Ocean Road.
When to go?
Enjoy the beaches in the summer, the gardens in autumn and spring, wine tasting, fishing, touring and the hot spas at any time of the year.
How to get there?
Around an hour from Melbourne, follow the coast around to Frankston or catch the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento.
How long to go for?
A weekend would be the minimum, but, being so close to Melbourne this is a popular weekend away, so if you can visit mid-week you’ll encounter smaller crowds. To see and do everything on the Mornington Peninsula, you’d need a week or more.
Where to Stay? There are a huge range of great places to stay on the Mornington Peninsula in Frankston, Dromana, Mount Martha, Rosebud, Rye, Sorrento, Portsea, Flinders and Cape Schank.
For visitor information go to www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org however, once you get there, most of the main attractions and accommodation have local visitor information handy.