This underrated region offers a long list of experiences to write home about.
Victoria’s own version of the Hamptons boasts incredible food producers, wineries, top-of-the-line restaurants, walking trails and so much more.
Sadly, many Victorians (let alone interstaters) are yet to discover the many gems hidden among the leaves of the pretty peninsula; a beautifully relaxed region that stretches from Frankston to Portsea. Here is how to change it and get acquainted with the best things to do in Mornington Peninsula.
Consistently voted as the best luxury mineral spa in the world, this lovely little retreat is the real deal. Located on a 17-hectare property, the Peninsula Hot Springs offers not one, but over 50 hot spring pools and geothermal bathing experiences; find thermal mineral spring pools, an underground sauna, private outdoor baths, cave pools, Turkish steam baths and a verrrrry nice looking hilltop retreat. The mineral-packed water is naturally heated by the Earth’s core and is pumped from 637 metres below ground, ready to soak tired muscles to heal and harmonise.
There are three dining venues: the outdoor Bath House café, serving gourmet pizzas and other wholesome options; the Amphitheatre café, where the focus is on healthy, locally harvested ingredients to deliver an organic, wholefood menu; and the adults-only Spa Dreaming Centre dining room, which is reserved for Spa Dreaming Centre guests who are invited to dine on delicious, healthy fare – in the comfort of their robes. There is also an outdoor picnic are for those who wish to pack their own lunch.
If you consider yourself a gastronome, you’ll be marvelled by the fact that the Mornington Peninsula delivers several hatted restaurants within 30 minutes’ drive of each other. The first, Laura at Pt Leo Estate, offers modern Australian cuisine among a $50 million sculpture park. Paringa Estate is a celebration of locally sourced, seasonal produce. The beef is from Gippsland, pork from Western Victoria and seafood from the surrounding coast.
Try the seasonal tasting menu (a vegetarian menu is also available) at Main Ridge’s Ten Minutes By Tractor. Doot Doot Doot is Jackalope’s one-hatted fine-dining restaurant. On offer is a five-course tasting menu that makes the most of the plentiful produce from local providores on the peninsula. The hotel’s more casual bistro, Rare Hare, also offers a hatted wine and food store so you can pick up some local delicacies to take home.
Then you’ve got Stillwater at Crittenden (formal and pretty, perfect for weddings) and Max’s at Red Hill Estate, with every meal matched with a suggested wine from the award winning Red Hill Estate range.
Find more great places to eat and drink on the Mornington Peninsula here.
Hike to your hearts content
The Mornington Peninsula houses a selection of multi-purpose trails to keep your feet busy while you’re in town.
The Bay Trail
To get a true sense of the Peninsula in its entirety, the 30-kilometre Bay Trail extends along the Port Phillip coast from Safety Beach to Portsea.
Point Nepean National Park
A natural beauty at the tip of the peninsula; this walk will see you pass the historic quarantine station and WWII housing.
Two Bays Walking Track
Twenty-six kilometres from one side of the peninsula to the other (Dromana to Cape Schanck).
Mornington Peninsula Walk
Keen amblers can tackle the 100-kilometre Mornington Peninsula Walk, which combines all of the above; people who prefer short strolls can embark on short trail sections.
Play a round of golf
The Peninsula often draws comparisons to Scotland’s Fife district due to the concentration of clubs here. Go for a spin at a mix of traditional and links courses. Natural dunes create sweeping hills and natural sand traps, plus most courses offer amazing sea views while you play.
RACV Cape Schanck Resort has a great club, bar and affordable accommodation onsite too, with stunning views. Portsea Golf Club Portsea hosts state and national events, complemented by their own prestigious 72-hole Open Amateur and the iconic Portsea Pro-Am.
The Moonah Links Golf Complex is the largest golf tourism development in recent Victorian history. Built along a stunning stretch of cliff-top land overlooking Bass Strait and Western Port Bays, The Flinders Golf Club is over 100 years old and a great place for a thwack.
If you have kids, make a beeline for The Enchanted Adventure Garden at Arthurs Seat. Alongside manicured garden mazes as far as the eye can see, this tactile paradise houses a tube slide ride, sculpture park, indoor maze and lolly shop. Go tree surfing on one of two high ropes adventure courses.
There are zip lines, swinging rope bridges, suspended tunnels and a giant Tarzan swing set in the native trees of this ancient woodland garden. There are two courses to choose from: the Grand course for adults/teens and the Nippers course for kids. Make sure you check out the bookings website for additional information before you visit.
The sandy shores of Port Phillip Bay offer boating, fishing, safe swimming and beachfront camping aplenty. The west coast faces Bass Strait, so there are amazing surf beaches. On the Western Port side, there are more surf beaches and views across to Phillip and French Islands.
Avoid the crowds at Mother’s Beach in Mornington. Take a swim, walk the shores and get out a picnic if you’re so inclined. Nearby Shire Hall Beach is home to colourful huts, along with plentiful benches, picnic tables and toilets.
Fossil Beach offers geologists and budding geologists a picturesque limestone cliff-lined walk. There’s a sign-posted walk that indicates sites of significance regarding the original Aboriginal inhabitants and the first European settlers.
Further south between Mount Martha and Dromana, Safety Beach is another calm spot. In between Portsea’s mansions – at the end of Point King Road – a hidden path leads down wooden stairs to Point King Beach.
For surfers, head to Portsea Surf Beach, Sorrento Back Beach, Rye Ocean Beach, St Andrews and Gunnamatta Surf Beach.
Arthurs Seat Eagle
When the floor just isn’t cutting it anymore, 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.
The summit is 314 metres high, granting great views across Port Phillip Bay to Melbourne. Each Eagle is all inclusive and caters to people with disabilities, as well as the elderly, frail and toddlers. It is also wheelchair and pram friendly.
Bask in a brew
Take a detour from Mornington Peninsula’s vinous highlights and bask in the talent of a growing crop of artisanal brewers, distillers and cider makers.
Mornington Peninsula Brewery, Red Hill Brewery and St Andrews Beach Brewery are the three venues leading the charge. Each space regularly changes specialty brews and refreshing ales, matched with no-nonsense favourites like woodfired pizza, burgers and fries.
In Red Hill, Bass and Flinders Distillery is the Mornington Peninsula’s only bespoke distillery and cellar door, producing a range of gins, vodka, limoncello and brandy. Visitors can participate in a gin masterclass to make their very own batch, or visit the cellar door bar for a tasting.
Neighbouring Mock Red Hill brews biodynamic ciders created from desert apples grown on their single orchard in the hinterland. Try a pint in the Cider Lounge with a platter of local cheeses and produce.
Pt. Leo Estate wears many hats. Owned by the Gandel family, the grounds consist of a 20-hectare vineyard, a cellar door, restaurants and, possibly the crowning glory of the whole project, a meandering sculpture garden.
One-hundred-and-thirty-five hectares in total, the Sculpture Park is an outdoor gallery housing 60 large-scale installations with plenty of room for more. The collection is made up of pieces by Australian and international artists, all part of the Gandels’ private collection. The Sculpture Park sees all these pieces finally brought together in one place for the first time, having in the past been stored or loaned out. One work was relocated from a paddock where some of the property’s 100 or so head of Angus cattle used it as a scratching post.
Thirty and 60-minute walks see you meander through the exhibition and adjacent vines. Similar to Sculpture by the Sea, the collection allows those viewing it to explore the works from every angle as they walk throughout. Pieces are rendered in various mediums, from slate to wood to metal.