5-day Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula family road trip
With its picturesque landscapes and countless epicurean delights, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is a wonderful destination for all ages.
By Kate Symons
Just over a one-hour drive southeast of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a dream location, and the pairing of seaside charm and rich wine country is at the heart of its appeal. A long-time favourite with Melburnians looking to escape the city bustle, the Mornington Peninsula has bolstered its credentials in recent years, injecting millions of dollars to elevate its tourism offering – and the rewards are there to be reaped.
Even better, the Mornington Peninsula is such a compact region that its sights and delights are all within an easy drive of each other; so base yourself here and spend five days exploring at a leisurely pace.
Day 1: Melbourne to Arthurs Seat
- Drive time: about one hour.
Depart Melbourne for the Mornington Peninsula’s hinterland heart, just over a one-hour drive southeast. In a region with so much to offer, start by getting a lay of the land from the vantage point of Arthurs Seat Eagle. The gentle 30-minute (return) gondola journey offers uninterrupted views over Port Phillip Bay and across to Melbourne, with Arthurs Seat State Park down below. Once you disembark, explore the Arthurs Seat region a little further via the walking tracks of Seawinds Gardens.
Appetite successfully worked up, it’s time to hit up Red Gum BBQ, a 10-minute drive away in the neighbouring hinterland wine region of Red Hill and Main Ridge. Here, a finger-licking American-style barbecue awaits. Among other delights, barbecue master Martin Goffin serves up fall-off-the-bone ribs, smoky beef brisket and juicy pulled pork.
Day 2: Sorrento and Red Hill food trail
Spend your morning in Sorrento, a picturesque village near the western tip of the Mornington Peninsula, a 30-minute drive from Cape Schanck. Here, a stroll along the main strip will throw up all manner of yummy breakfast options. Once you’re fuelled, it’s time to hit the beach. With its rippling rock pools, Sorrento Back Beach is a hit with kids keen to lay eyes on pint-sized marine life.
Head back to the Red Hill and Main Ridge region. If you’re in town between November and April, be sure to visit Sunny Ridge for strawberry-picking season. This hands-on experience will delight the young ones, and the rewards are truly delicious. Sticking to the food trail, Main Ridge Dairy is just a few minutes up the road, and the Cheesery is what calcium-filled dreams are made of. Join the kids on a farm tour before settling in with an adult-friendly cheese platter and wine on the lawn.
And what’s a family holiday without ice-cream? Indulge in some of the sweet stuff at Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.
Day 3: Beaches of the Mornington Peninsula and lunch in the vines
The Mornington Peninsula’s bathing boxes epitomise summer, and the brightly coloured cubes are worth a look, whether you’re trying to satisfy wide-eyed youngsters or Instagram-obsessed teens. They can be found on a number of the Peninsula’s beaches, including in Mount Martha, Rosebud and Portsea. When you’re ready to farewell the sand and surf, head inland, where it’s time to wine and dine and enjoy what the area is most famous for.
If you’re with older kids, don’t miss lunch at one of the Mornington Peninsula’s award-winning restaurants in and around the Red Hill and Main Ridge wine region. Choose from Laura at Pt Leo Estate, Doot Doot Doot at Jackalope or Ten Minutes by Tractor, among others.
Day 4: Merricks and Peninsula Hot Springs
A 30-minute drive from Cape Schanck, Merricks General Wine Store is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s can’t-miss spots, so drop in for a French-inspired breakfast. This grand beauty, built in 1922, certainly stays true to the term ‘general’ – it is a café, bistro, cellar door, pantry, art gallery and coffee kiosk.
After breakfast, grab a few supplies for a picnic lunch, which will taste all the better once the scene is set at Peninsula Hot Springs, a 30-minute drive west (and just 15 minutes from your accommodation). The award-winning natural hot springs, including an inviting assortment of thermal mineral pools and private baths, is a chance for all ages to rejuvenate, and The Bath House boasts a dedicated family area.
Day 5: Mornington Peninsula to Phillip Island
- Drive time: about 30 minutes to the ferry port
Check out of your accommodation and end your road trip with an adventure that awaits just a 15-minute ferry ride away from the Mornington Peninsula. With its sandy beaches, wildlife encounters and rich local produce, Phillip Island is a destination in its own right.
Arguably the most famous attraction on Phillip Island is the Penguin Parade – a daily treat that can only be experienced at sunset. To enjoy it, you’ll need to make your visit to Phillip Island an overnighter, as the late ferry isn’t quite late enough. But you won’t be complaining, especially when the adorable little (fairy) penguins begin waddling ashore, bound for their burrows after a day’s work.