With picturesque seaside villages, rolling vineyards, quaint antique stores, local markets, art galleries, nature trails and an array of water-based leisure activities, the Mornington Peninsula is one of the country’s top spots for a long weekend road trip.
The beauty of it is, with so much packed into a relatively small peninsula, you can have a wide variety of experiences without spending days on end in the car.
The other draw card is this part of the world is fabulous year-round. In the colder months spend your days curled up by the fireplace at a vineyard in the hinterland, and in summer laze away hours on a paddle board in the serene waters of Port Phillip Bay.
Read on for our ultimate itinerary for a long weekend away.
Melbourne to Merricks – 1 hour 15 minutes
Head up the highway to the peninsula and admire some of the unique public artwork along the Eastlink roadway (a giant bird and a mini hotel are bound to catch your eye). When you arrive in Merricks, head straight to the Merricks General Wine Store for a good coffee and a light lunch made from seasonal local produce. There’s also a great provedore here, where you can pick up some local preserves and wines to take with you.
After lunch it’s time to whip around some of the fabulous wineries in the Red Hill area for a tasting. Foxey’s Hangout, Polperro, Paringa Estate, Quealy Winemakers, Main Ridge Estate and T’Gallant are all worth a look. At Montalto Estate, take a walk along the sculpture trail or grab a woodfired pizza if you’re still feeling peckish.
If you want to get a broad appreciation for the area’s food and wine in one spot, visit all-day bistro, bar and cellar door Many Little. Sit on the huge deck, soak up the atmosphere (this is a popular spot with locals) and sample wines, beers and ciders from the region. Be sure to check out the beautifully curated Amelie & Frank’s boutique a few doors down and spend all your hard-earned cash on lovely things. Gordon Studio Glassblowers in Red Hill is also worth a look while you’re in the area – they are considered some of the best glassblowers in Australia.
Check into your accommodation at the architecturally formidable Jackalope late afternoon, so you can sit by the infinity pool and enjoy watching the sun set behind the vines. Make time to admire the incredible artwork throughout the hotel, which was one of the few Australian accommodation offerings to make it onto Condé Nast Traveler’s hot list last year. Have dinner at Rare Hare, or Jackalope’s fancier offering Doot Doot Doot.
Merricks to Pt. Leo Estate – 10 minutes
Hop up in the morning and head to a yoga class at the beautifully intimate HotHut Yoga. Then make your way to Pt. Leo Estate and take your time walking around its sculpture park. Set high on a hill and with Western Port Bay as the backdrop, this is a truly unique spot to drink in some incredible art. After your artsy stroll, head inside to Laura restaurant for a degustation lunch – chef Phil Woods’ restaurant recently landed the Best New Restaurant gong at the Good Food Guide Awards. You won’t be disappointed.
Pt. Leo Estate to Cape Schanck – 25 minutes
After lunch make your way to the evening’s accommodation at the freshly finished Cape Schanck Resort. With sweeping views of the rugged coastline, this resort is adjacent to a world-class golf course. If swinging a club is not your thing the day spa at Cape Schanck is also amazing. The hammam-style bathing experience is a cheap and cheerful way to experience the amenities, or choose from one of their indulgent treatments.
One you’ve taken part in your afternoon leisure activity of choice spend the evening dining at the Cape Restaurant (which is quickly becoming one of the peninsula’s hot dining spots).
Cape Schanck to Fingal – 15 minutes
In the morning head down the road to the Peninsula Hot Springs in Fingal. This is Victoria’s first natural hot springs and day spa centre. It’s won a slew of tourism awards, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a beautifully landscaped labyrinth of thermal pools, saunas and private bath houses. Be sure to make your way up to the top bath, which offers views across the rolling hills.
Fingal to Sorrento / Portsea – 25 minutes
When you’ve soaked your cares away, jump back in the car and head to Sorrento and Portsea (two towns side by side at the end of the peninsula). These beachside towns have long been the playground of wealthy Melburnians, so among the jaw-dropping holiday homes you’ll find excellent art galleries, cafes and shops to explore. The Portsea Hotel is something of an icon, so be sure to drop in for a lazy beer or wine and do a spot of people watching.
The beaches here are top notch. Go for a dip or take part in one of the many water activities on offer, including sailing, fishing and sea kayaking. Also check out the quaint little bathing boxes/huts set right on the beach. These are privately owned and are tightly held – when they do come up for sale the prices are often eye-watering.
You also might like to go for a walk around the Point Nepean National Park, which is rich in maritime history. There’s a historic fort you can explore, and bike hire is available if you’d like to take it in on two wheels.
Spend your last night at the Portsea Village Resort, which offers 25 boutique-style apartments.
Portsea to Arthurs Seat – 35 minutes
Kick off your final day with an early morning excursion out into the bay. Moonraker Charters offers a three-hour small-group tour where you can swim with dolphins and seals. The tours depart from the Sorrento pier. Have fish and chips for lunch afterwards on the beach.
Then make your way to the Arthurs Seat Eagle which gives you the chance to soar in a cable car through the forest canopy over Arthurs Seat State Park. You’ll get great views across Port Phillip Bay to Melbourne.
Arthurs Seat to Melbourne (via Tyabb) – 1 hour 30 mins
On the journey back to Melbourne stop in at Tyabb Packing House Antiques. Located in a 100-plus-year-old cool store, the range of vintage items on offer provides a wonderful trip down memory lane. There’s also a cafe on site where you can grab a decent coffee for the drive home.