Photo: Pier, Mornington Peninsula
Wedged between the mighty Bass Strait and the sheltered Port Phillip Bay, the Mornington Peninsula is just one hour’s drive south of Melbourne.
From the small, sandy bays of Mt Eliza to the rolling waves of the Portsea Surf Beach, there are opportunities to swim with the Port Phillip dolphins and seals, lounge on the sheltered beaches, participate in a cooking school, or sample wine at the many cellar doors.
One of the most popular is Sorrento, first settled in 1803 - a good 30 years before Melbourne. Filled with grand old limestone buildings and stunning hotels, its now a thriving resort town.
Nearby Portsea is a small, gracious town, known for its clifftop mansions and celebrated pub. The hills around Arthur’s Seat and Red Hill are a tapestry of small orchards, vineyards and farms. Many of the small farms in the surrounding region produce the freshest of gourmet foods, wines, cheeses, breads and fruits for the many local restaurants.
It has been said that the Mornington Peninsula has more vineyards per kilometre than anywhere else in Australia - a total of 174 vineyards at last count.
No wonder, then, that the region has many excellent wineries and a range of winery restaurants with magnificent views. See more about Mornington Peninsula Wineries.
Elsewhere there are coastal walks offering fabulous views, and the Mornington Peninsula National Park, with its 2,686 hectares of pristine bushland and abundant wildlife, is both beautiful and rugged. The good life continues at the pretty holiday villages dotted around the beach fringes.
Access: Follow the Nepean Highway or the Mornington Peninsula Freeway south from Melbourne. This park protects 50km of wild ocean coast and bushland with fern gullies. Highlights include Cape Schanck Lighthouse and boardwalk, historic Fort Nepean with its interpretive audio ’soundscapes’ and patrolled surf beaches of Portsea, Sorrento and Gunnamatta.
There are many walking tracks with wonderful coastal views. Distance: 90km (56 miles) south of Melbourne Approximate drive time: 2 hours. Nearest town or city: Dromana, Sorrento, and Portsea.
Parks Victoria Information Centre: 13 1963
Many visitors are lured by the classy array of golf courses on the peninsula, with some of Australia’s most picturesque and challenging courses. The Dunes at Rye is a superb links-style course, while the pretty Portsea course has stunning views of Port Phillip Bay.
Two of the three courses at The National at Cape Schanck have been designed by Australian golf legends Greg Norman and Peter Thomson.
Here you can find dolphin swims, beach horse rides, shipwreck dives, U-pick fruit farms, wildlife, walks and of course great cool-climate wineries and golf courses. Just an hour’s leisurely drive from Melbourne, the peninsula is home to an abundance of Australian flora and fauna, serene, lush gardens and mazes, hinterland trails and fresh produce farms.
The Mornington Peninsula has it all and in abundance. It is easy to see why its been a favourite Melbourne getaway playgrounds since the 1800s.
Mornington Peninsula Visitor Information Centre Phone: +61 3 5987 3078.
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