“It’s easy to get lost on the pretty lanes that meander amid the acres of vines and alleys of pines on the Mornington Peninsula,” travel journalist Sue Gough Henly observes – one reason why you’ll find so many secrets here, also a big reason it is number 57, 58 and 59 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet. Sadly, many Victorians (let alone interstaters) are yet to discover the many gems hidden among the leaves of the pretty peninsula, a beautifully relaxed food and wine region that stretches from Frankston to Portsea. This should change that… Nominated by: Sue Gough Henly, travel journalist; George Calombaris, celebrity chef; Rebecca Judd, Nine Network presenter

57. Beachy keen

I’m a big fan of Safety Beach,” confides George Calombaris. “It’s a little gem. I reckon it’s one of the safest and cleanest beaches in the country.” He’s put his money where his mouth is, too, with the beach being home to his family’s beach house.

“If you’re standing on the beach, to your right are the picturesque hills of Mt Martha and if you look south, you look into Red Hill and its beautiful wineries. I love it dearly – the whole area also has a great energy because there are a lot of artisans and a creative community. “And only an hour from Melbourne with the new Peninsula link,” he adds.

“So easy!” Aside from the sweeping, unspoilt reaches of the beach itself, it’s the local café culture that’s sold him on the area. “There is a beautiful little Italian café called Provincia – those guys do a great job. They have beautiful coffee and it’s become a cool hangout where everyone meets to congregate and talk rubbish.”

Complete the picture with a few nights at Sea Eagle Beach House (from $180 per night) which, aside from the usual accoutrement, comes complete with a pool table, air hockey, table tennis and an assortment of VIBP (very important beach paraphernalia).

58. The secret foodie treasure trail

Mornington might not have the national reputation of other gourmet areas, but food is one of its biggest drawcards, says Sue Gough Henly – and she’s uncovered arguably the best place to start. “It’s called Wine Food Farmgate, and it allows you to create your own food trail around the region – a little like a progressive, weekend-long lunch,” she explains.

“Try aged goat’s cheese from Main Ridge Dairy, handmade couverture chocolates made in the pretty town of Flinders, single-flower, cold-extracted honey from Pure Peninsula Honey, or tapas from the buzzy Foxeys Hangout Winery.

Then stock up on free-range eggs, heirloom veggies and yummy chutneys, take ‘eating clean and healthy’ classes at 2 Macs Farms, sit down to a tasting of wine flights at the brand new Crittenden Wine Centre or book in for a gin-making class at Bass & Flinders artisanal distillery, then head out for the kind of restaurant meal that would turn heads in Melbourne, all in a day,” she says.

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Can’t decide? You can always select one of the planned itineraries to follow, such as the Cider and Ale Trail, the Hinterland Wine and Dine Trail or the Great Indulgence Chocolate and Cheese Trail; each offers timed driving instructions and a printable map so you can navigate the pretty backstreets with ease.

59. The hill with the fill

Mornington might be filled with delights, but there’s one region in particular, between Mornington’s back beaches and its bay, where “you’ve got a hill with everything”, declares Rebecca Judd. “Being a Western Australian girl, Red Hill reminds me of the Margaret River region. There’s cherry picking, heaps of cooking schools, traditional farm gates, bakeries, and one of the best wineries in the country,” she says.

“It’s probably the most up-and-coming region in Australia, I would say. National Geographic named it one of the world’s must-visit places for 2015.”

Her list of favourites is long, but at a run she recommends “Johnny Ripe, a cute bakery farm gate that does the best apple pies in the world; Harts Farm, which is run by a gorgeous lady called Penny who runs cooking classes and hosts dinners; T’Gallant winery and Foxeys Hangout, two fantastic boutique wineries with great cellar doors; Merricks General Wine Store, where you can get beautiful coffee; Red Hill Epicurean, which does pizzas and coffee and sells homewares – you cannot get a seat there; the Green Olive at Red Hill, which does great tapas and runs fresh pasta-making cooking classes; Port Phillip Estate , a winery that has a cellar door plus a fine-dining restaurant, as well as incredible, six-star on-site accommodation designed by Woods Bagot; the Enchanted Adventure Garden, which is a big beautiful maze made of hedging and is just divine; Lindenderry at Redhill, a winery with accommodation, cellar door and spa; Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove , where you can order a pizza then sit in the veggie garden to eat; and Ten Minutes By Tractor, which is just the cutest winery – gorgeous surrounds, really yummy food, amazing wine, and all local, seasonal and regional produce.”

Got that? We’ve got one more for you, as added by Columbaris: “Red Hill Cherry Farm,” he says. “I take my son and daughter here, to pick their own cherries. They love to eat themselves sick!”

We confess… so do we.


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