Mornington Peninsula, Victoria – Fine Food, Wine, Beaches And More

An easy one hour drive from Melbourne CBD (15 minutes longer if coming from the airport), Mornington Peninsula is a compact area with a diverse array of activities, ticking lots of boxes for a perfect holiday destination –  beautiful beaches, renowned restaurants and vineyards, a thriving art scene, thermal springs, pristine national parks and sporting and adventure activities for those that can muster the energy. My first home swap experience exceeded expectations and landed us in Arthurs Seat, perched on a hilltop with stunning views of Port Phillip Bay. A well-positioned base for exploring the area, we cracked through a lot of the recommendations kindly put together by our host. Here are some of the places you should visit in the Mornington Peninsula:

Food – from farm gates to highly awarded cellar door restaurants, it’s hard to eat badly here:

  • Ten Minutes By Tractor (Main Ridge) – fine dining, highly recommend the degustation, also a cellar door (Petit Tracteur is their sister restaurant down the road and more family friendly)
  • Montalto (Red Hill South) – stunning grounds with art sculptures, both fine dining and family friendly options. Also a cellar door
  • Foxeys Hangout (Red Hill) – small and informal, tapas style, no bookings or large groups. Also a cellar door
  • Johnny Ripe (Red Hill) – shelves of fresh apple pies, cakes, take home meals, savoury pies, tarts, relishes and much more
  • Cakes and Ale Bistro (Sorrento) – skillfully simple cooking, using superb produce grown close by
  • Mussels from Harry the Mussel Man at Flinders pier – sells them fresh off his boat for $10kg. Sometimes he’s there, sometimes he’s not. Look out for the sign on the roundabout
  • Flinders Hotel – stop in for a drink or bite to eat after you’ve visited Harry
  • Cellar and Pantry (Red Hills) – a small but well-stocked grocery store in Red Hill, carrying much of the produce and wine from the surrounding farms and vineyards. Love the fact you can sit on their balcony and enjoy a glass of local wine pre or post shop
  • Merricks General Store (Merricks) – wine, food, art, produce
  • Polperro,  Port Phillip Estate and Paringa Estate in below ‘Wine’ section

Wine – 170 vineyards and over 60 cellar doors, find yourself a designated driver or take a wine tour. The area is known for its pinot noir and cool-climate chardonnay as well as newer regional varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris and Shiraz. I didn’t get to as many as I’d have liked unfortunately. Next time!

  • Ocean Eight (Shoreham) – the family vineyard of the lovely Aylward family whose home we stayed in during our holiday. All their wines are made in small quantities to ensure high quality so a focused style of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris can be achieved
  • Polperro (Red Hill) – restaurant, luxury accommodation and cellar door. Opt to sit outside so you can take in the beautiful garden or let them organise a picnic for you on their property
  • Port Phillip Estate (Red Hill South) – worth a visit for the building alone which is architecturally stunning
  • Paringa Estate (Red Hill South) – we didn’t get here but I’ve heard great things from everyone we’ve spoken to so am confident it should belong on this list
  • See Montalto, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Foxeys Hangout in above ‘Food’ section.

Family fun stuff:

  • Peninsula Hot Springs (Fingal) – over 20 globally-inspired bathing experiences including a cave pool, reflexology walk, Turkish steam bath (Hamam), sauna, cold plunge pools, family bathing area, massaging thermal mineral showers and hilltop pool, offering stunning 360 degree views of the region
  • Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm (Main Ridge) – a dazzling display of strawberry products or pick your own
  • Enchanted Adventure Garden (Arthurs Seat) – tree surfing, gardens, mazes, bush scramble obstacle courses and tube slides
  • Eagle Skylift (Arthurs Seat) – board a state-of-the-art gondola and fly over the state forest to the highest point of the beautiful Mornington Peninsula
  • Horse riding (Arthurs Seat) – pony rides for very little ones
  • Beaches galore – calm ‘front’ beaches of Port Phillip Bay are great for families and the ocean ‘back’ beaches are more on the wild side and popular for surfing
  • Sorrento Historic Park – large wooden fort style adventure playground, lovely views

Other activities worth a mention:

  • Not much retail therapy had by me these holidays but lots of window shopping in Sorrento, Mornington and Red Hill House . Blairgowrie and Rye both had some nice homeware shops too.
  • Farmers markets
  • Cheeseries in Red Hill and Main Ridge
  • Bike riding
  • Cape Schank walk – stunning landscapes, dramatic volcanic features, unspoilt and wild beaches and scenic walking tracks with spectacular ocean views

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