The stunning Mornington Peninsula has it all: from the quaint, colourful bathing boxes that line its beaches to its manicured vineyards that produce some of Victoria's best cold-climate wines, writes Sue Wallace.
Just one hour's drive south of Melbourne, the boot-shaped peninsula that makes up 10 per cent of Victoria's coastline has something for everyone. There are more than 3000 hectares of parks and extensive bushland and coastal trails where the scenery will stop you in your tracks.
Wildlife is abundant and you can spot koalas, swim with seals and dive with dolphins. The Mornington Peninsula ticks all the boxes: it can be a food and wine lovers' haven or a perfect getaway for a luxurious escape, but it also has lots of fun-packed adventures for families.
FOOD AND WINE LOVERS
Hearts will beat faster with a choice of more than 50 wineries and eateries ranging from cute cafes to hatted restaurants dotted across the peninsula.
Stunning outdoor sculpture and sweeping Western Port Bay views accompany great dining at Pt Leo Estate with its modern bistro buzz, while Montalto Cellar Door has sculpture, fabulous food and a wetland walk. Ten Minutes by Tractor offers a range of great dining options and Green Olive at Red Hill has a new Farm Picnic for 2 experience on the beautiful property.
Dine at the historic home at Heronswood where the menu stars heirloom vegetables. Drop into Mornington Peninsula Brewery, Chief's Son Distillery for whisky, JimmyRum Distillery and St Andrews Beach Brewery.
Striking Jackalope Hotel is set among vineyards and has two hatted restaurants, Rare Hare and Doot, Doot, Doot. Main Ridge Winery has a cute farmhouse restaurant and Ocean Eight Vineyard has been producing top-notch drops since 1997.
Follow the Wine Food Farmgate touring map and grab picnic supplies at the Red Hill Community Market.
- Where to stay: Jackalope Hotel rooms from $650; jackalope.com.au.
Unwind with a soak in warm bubbling waters fragrant with lavender milk in a private pavilion at Peninsula Hot Springs. You can also enjoy an experience under the stars: luxe glamping is a new addition. The tents have thermally heated polished-concrete floors, private decks and king-sized beds. They open on December 1.
MP Experiences offers behind-the-scenes food and wine experiences. A full-day wine tour includes tutored wine tastings at up to six cellar doors and a two-course a la carte lunch at Max's at Red Hill Estate. The Wine Food Farmgate tour stops at cherry and strawberry growers, olive oil producers, seafood operators and a visit to the first biodynamic cider orchard, plus lunch.
Indulge in a high tea at Woodman Estate overlooking the private lake, complete with white linen tablecloths, a glass of Louis Roederer champagne, finger sandwiches, pastries, luscious slices and cakes.
Swim with a rare breed of bottle-nosed dolphins on a Polperro tour that takes guests out in an historic wooden boat to Port Phillip Marine Park. Dine at Tedesca Osteria; the fixed-menu of the freshest local produce is $135.
- Where to stay: Woodman Estate has rooms from $402 per night. Visit woodmanestate.com.
You won't be hearing "I'm bored" when holidaying on the Mornington Peninsula. There's so much to see and do. Fun activities include picking strawberries and eating ice-cream at Sunny Ridge.
Get lost in the Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Farm that is home to Australia's oldest maze. The Enchanted Adventure Garden at Arthur's Seat has tree-surfing courses for nippers with climbing, jumping and swinging in the trees and tube slides.
The Moonlit Sanctuary night tour is by lantern light and on the day tour you feed kangaroos. Green Olive at Red Hill has a giant trampoline and great food and the Red Gum BBQ serves delicious Aussie-smoked, American-style dishes and there's plenty of room to roam.
Point Nepean Quarantine Station is ideal for picnics in scenic surrounds and has great cycling tracks. Bikes can be hired. Refuel at Main Ridge Dairy with a spider or milkshake. Yabby Lake winery has a sculpture park for the kids to explore and swings.
- Where to stay: RACV Cape Schanck has rooms from $220. Visit racv.com.au.
From tree surfing to skydiving and sea kayaking, there's heaps for adventurers looking for adrenalin-inducing experiences on the Mornington Peninsula. If you want to see the wonders of what's below the surface, Bayplay Adventure Tours offers scuba diving experiences in Port Phillip Marine Park. Kayakers can spot seals, dolphins and penguins around the waters of the Point Nepean National Park.
Love hiking? Stride out along the Bushrangers Bay Walking Track which is a three-hour walk from Cape Schanck to Portsea. You pass the lighthouse and abundant birdlife as well as sweeping views of the coastline. The Two Bays Walk and shorter walks, including the famous Millionaire's Walk, are also picturesque.
The Fort Nepean Walk features an 1882 fort which was in service until the end of World War II. The walk also passes Cheviot Beach, where Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared in 1967.
Always wanted to try surfing? The Pt Leo Surf School will teach you the skill to hang tens.
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