Seaside towns meet local wineries and impressive restaurants on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula.
By Ellie Schneider
With its wall-to-wall wineries, busy bayside villages and stunning walks along the coastline, it’s easy to see why the Mornington Peninsula is a summer playground for Melburnians.
- Sample innovative food and wine
- Cool off on the beaches
- Unwind in natural thermal pools
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Top things to do in the Mornington Peninsula
Sip local wines
The Mornington Peninsula is home to more than 50 cellar doors. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the region’s specialties, however Shiraz, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are beginning to share the spotlight. Ten Minutes by Tractor is an estate of three vineyards – separated by a 10 minute tractor ride – each with unique qualities and character expressed in its variety of wines. Sample a selection of its acclaimed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at its intimate cellar door. You can order a carefully designed wine flight – five wines based around a theme – from small-batch winemaker Crittenden Wine Centre, or blend your own bubbly with winemaker Michael Lee at Foxeys Hangout. Many of the Peninsula’s wineries are as much loved for their wines as they are for their exquisite restaurants overlooking vines, rolling hills and lakes. Delve into the two- or three-course menu at the Dining Room at Port Phillip Estate, where chef Stuart Deller serves seasonally driven dishes with European accents. Or book in advance for the tasting menu at Montalto, an award-winning restaurant with wide open views to the grapevines and olive groves. Some of Australia’s premier craft breweries can also be found here, such as Red Hill Brewery, Mornington Peninsula Brewery and True South.
Savour farmgate produce
Meet the growers and makers of the Mornington Peninsula on a Wine Food Farmgate trail which takes in the region’s most delicious produce. There are a number of themed itineraries to choose from such as the The Great Indulgence Trail for cheese and chocolate shops, or the Berries and Cherries Trail to visit orchards growing strawberries, blueberries raspberries and cherries. There are countless gourmet stores and traditional general stores dotted throughout the region where you can purchase artisan breads, jams, teas and spices. Don’t miss Johnny Ripe in Red Hill for its famous apple pies.
Head to the beach
Roll out your towel on the golden shores of Port Phillip Bay. The long, wide bay beaches at Frankston are ideal for swimming, snorkelling and yachting. Small bays are dotted between Mount Eliza and Mornington, while a series of safe, sandy bay beaches can be found around Mount Martha. Colourful bathing boxes huddle along the foreshore between Mount Martha, Dromana, Rosebud and Portsea, and have become an attraction in their own right. At the back beaches – on the open waters of the Bass Strait – you can tackle the swells generated by the strong westerly winds known as the Roaring Forties. Hit the surf at ocean beaches such as Point Leo, Flinders, Portsea and Sorrento, or if you’re just starting out, book a lesson with Salty Surf School.
It’s time for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. At Peninsula Hot Springs, natural thermal mineral waters flow from beneath the ground into pools and private baths, across its two facilities, the Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre. The Bath House includes a number of bathing options, including a cave pool, hamam (Turkish bath), cold plunge pools and thermal mineral showers. The Spa Dreaming Centre (reserved for guests 16 years and older) offers private pools and spa treatments. Book the 60 minute kodo massage, a rhythmic massage inspired by traditional Aboriginal techniques, to tone and re-align energy flow. There are a number of other day spas in the Mornington Peninsula such as Red Hill Spa, Endota Spa and The Wellness Manor.
Take a walk
Breathtaking coastal views and wildlife spotting turn a cliff-top walk through Mornington Peninsula National Park into a unique experience. Follow the one kilometre (0.6 mile) Fort Nepean Walk past military fortifications dating back to the 1880s and take in vistas over Port Phillip Bay. Or take the 40 minute Bushrangers Bay Trail from Cape Schanck Lighthouse to Bushrangers Bay, keeping your eyes peeled for kangaroos. Climb the 300 metre (984 foot) granite hill of Arthurs Seat for spectacular views of the bay, the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas and the distant Melbourne skyline. For a real challenge, the 26 kilometre (16 mile) Two Bays Walking Track is the peninsula's longest continuous walking trail linked by boardwalks, steps, bridges and grass paths.
Join in the events
The Mornington Peninsula hosts a number of fantastic events that celebrate the arts, sports and the region’s gourmet culture. Enjoy the peninsula's bountiful fresh produce at the Winter Wine Weekend in June or the Main Street Mornington Festival in October. See the works by leading local and international artists at the Montalto Sculpture Prize exhibition between February and October, or head to the beach and witness the impressive displays at the Frankston Sand Sculpting Championship. Stroll through aisles of handmade arts and crafts, original jewellery and fresh produce at the Red Hill Community Market, which is held on the first Saturday of each month (between September and May).
How to get there
The Mornington Peninsula is just over an hour drive south of Melbourne. Trains depart from all stations in Melbourne’s city centre to Frankston station approximately every 15 minutes, and there is a shuttle service to Frankston and surrounding bayside suburbs from Melbourne Airport.