Life really is a breeze on the Mornington Peninsula, a summer paradise dotted with seaside villages, vineyards, beaches, national parks, galleries, golf courses, day spas and restaurants. Offering romance, relaxation, indulgence and adventure, it’s easy to see why Melbournians love this place for a week or weekend escape.
It’s an hour drive around Port Phillip Bay from Melbourne to Frankston, where the chain of dreamy holiday towns and golden beaches begin. Visit Mornington, where yachts bob in the harbour, and stroll along the tranquil beaches of Mount Martha, Safety Beach and Dromana. Spot the colourful beach boxes that line the sands along the peninsula. Swim with dolphins in historic Sorrento or join Melbourne’s A-listers in the cosmopolitan cafes of Portsea. Both Sorrento and Portsea sit on the peninsula’s tip, between gentle bay beaches and the spectacular surf of Bass Strait.
There’s no shortage of things to do along this enchanting coastline. If walking tops your list, see staggering coastal views and kangaroos on a cliff-top walk through Mornington Peninsula National Park. Follow the Fort Nepean Walk past the labyrinth of tunnels guarding Port Phillip Bay. Or take the Bushrangers Bay Trail to Cape Schanck Lighthouse, past basalt promontory and rockpools. Climb to the summit of Arthurs Seat State Park, where you can survey the bay and Melbourne skyline. For a true challenge, the Two Bays Trail winds 26km through bushland and beach. It’s the peninsula’s longest continuous walking track, linked by boardwalks, steps, bridges and grass paths.
Off shore, you can snorkel or scuba dive with fish, sea dragons, soft coral and even submerged World War I submarines in the marine park around Port Phillip Heads. Spot fur seals, dolphins and gannets on a wildlife cruise from Sorrento. November to March is snapper season, and you can fish from piers lining the bay, from the wild ocean beaches or on a charter into the Bass Strait. Surf the back beaches of Sorrento and Portsea or at Rye, Point Leo or Gunnamatta Beach. Gallop through Gunnamatta’s crashing waves on horseback, or horse ride at Arthurs Seat, Cape Schanck, Red Hill or Sommerville.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the hinterland. You’ll find a picturesque winery region, with 170 vineyards and 50 cellar doors clustered around Red Hill, Merricks, Balnarring, Moorooduc, Shoreham and Main Ridge. Sample the hallmark pinot noir and chardonnay and visit the microbrewery. Buy organic vegetable from roadside stalls or pick your own strawberries, berries and cherries from orchards between November and April. Wander olive groves with ocean views or picnic in one of the many public and private gardens. There are century-old rose gardens, sculpted hedge mazes and the manicured lawns of heritage homes to relax next to.
When you’ve had your fill of fine wine and food, get pampered at a day spa in Mornington, Red Hill, Fingal, Rye or Portsea. Or play a round of golf on the lush, world-class, pro-designed courses spread across the peninsula. Try the unique coastal course in Flinders or enjoy the carnival atmosphere of the Portsea Cascade Pro-Am 2009 in January. If art, craft and collectable attracts you, browse the huge antique collection in a converted apple store in Tyabb. Check out the work of local artists in galleries in Mornington, Sorrento and Flinders and see paintings inspired by the scenery on the Coastal Art Trail around Port Phillip Bay.
During summer, the Mornington Peninsula is abuzz with all nature of events. See boats sail past the peninsula in the Melbourne to Hobart yacht race in late December. Cheer from the beach for the Portsea Swim Classic or the Rye Pole to Pier Swim, both in January. The same month, celebrate music at the Briars Park Jazz Festival in Mount Martha, the Red Hill Country Music Festival or the Coolart Jazz Festival in Somers. Enjoy a showcase of the peninsula’s bountiful fresh produce at the Dromana Strawberry Festival and Frankston Sea Festival in January and Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir Celebration in February.
However you experience this summer playground, you won’t run out of things to do.