Phillip Island to Melbourne via Mornington Peninsula
|Three beautiful coastlines, indulgent spas and hot springs, and a generous sprinkling of seaside and country villages. Just take your time, because you’ll also find some of Victoria’s most inspiring nature walks, fine boutique accommodation, more than 50 cellar doors and excellent restaurants featuring regional produce and wine.
Only an hour’s drive from Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula packs an amazing diversity of attractions into a famously beautiful and very compact region. It’s been a favourite holiday spot for Victorians for generations – and you’re about to find out why.
It takes only about 30 minutes to travel the Peninsula top to toe, and 10 to 15 minutes to drive from one coast to the other through green hillsides laced with vines and dotted with olive groves, orchards and produce farms.
You can easily criss-cross back and forth, exploring peaceful beaches and villages on Western Port Bay, busier villages and beaches along Port Phillip Bay, and the wild Bass Strait coast.
Your first stops should be the award-winning Australian Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne, then Moonlit Sanctuary where you can meet Australia’s wildlife, including intriguing nocturnal creatures on lantern-lit tours.
Then travel through the hinterland to Red Hill, where you’ll fi nd much of the Peninsula’s celebrated food and wine culture. Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove and Max’s at Red Hill Estate are two outstanding wineries with restaurants, and you can pick your own berries at Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm during summer. All year round, the farm’s busy retail outlet sells every imaginable kind of strawberry flavoured treats.
Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens has Australia’s oldest and largest hedge maze and the world’s first circular rose maze, along with a garden café where you can enjoy morning or afternoon tea with a touch of lavender.
Now it’s off to the wild Bass Strait and Cape Schanck Lighthouse, where you can visit the lighthouse museum and stay overnight in historic cottages.
Then cross the hinterland to Rye, where Peninsula Hot Springs boasts Victoria’s only naturally heated mineral waters, with private indoor and outdoor pools and a tempting menu of spa treatments.
A little further down the coast is Sorrento, known for mellow old limestone buildings and excellent shopping. Its pier is the starting point for seal and dolphin swims operated by Moonraker and Polperro. Bayplay Adventure Tours adds to the options with sea kayaking, snorkelling and horseriding.
Continue through Portsea’s “millionaires’ row” to Point Nepean, famous for its historic wartime fortifi cations from the 1800s to World War II and extraordinary coastal views. Point Nepean had a colonial cemetery and quarantine station in the 1850s, and was closed to the public for 100 years.
Then head back up the Port Phillip coast, stopping at Heronswood in Dromana. Here you’ll find an historic bluestone mansion, thatched roof cafe and two hectares of exquisite landscaping and vegetable gardens. Heronswood is also home to the Digger’s Club, which is famous for its heirloom and organic seeds.
Drive along the rest of the coast, exploring more seaside villages en route to Melbourne and enjoying their cafés, local produce stores, art galleries and boutiques.
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