Frankston, the gateway to Victoria’s glorious Mornington Peninsula, makes for the perfect coastal escape, just 45 minutes from the liveliness of Melbourne’s CBD. With pristine beaches, amazing nature, vibrant arts and culture, and plenty of history to boot, this up-and-coming city is full of hidden gems. Whether you have a day, a weekend or are lucky enough to call this delightful spot your home, here are some of the awesome things to see and do in Frankston.
Renowned as one of Port Phillip Bay’s most incredible beaches, Frankston Beach has long been a popular destination with day trippers from the city. Go for a paddle, soak up some sun on the beach or take a wander along the Frankston Boardwalk with its fabulous vistas over the Bay and Landmark Bridge. A much-loved heritage feature of the beach, Frankston Pier was built in 1864 and extends out 220m (722ft) across the bay. It’s the best spot for sunset in Frankston, perfect for a late afternoon stroll before watching the sun sink into the ocean. If you don’t feel like heading down to the sand, the Frankston Foreshore is a great sunset-watching place too, with plenty of romantic bridges, restaurants and bars to choose from.
Raised over the dunes, the famous timber of Frankston Boardwalk stretches from Wells Street to Oliver’s Hill, showcasing the beauty of the Port Phillip Bay, while protecting the region’s unique flora and fauna, including coastal banksia and tea-tree, and a diverse array of birds and lizards. A 3-km (1.87-mi) or so loop, a walk along the Boardwalk is a must-do activity when in Frankston. You can also extend the walk over to Saltwater Creek Nature Reserve from Oliver’s Hill, or continue towards Seaford by heading inland and joining the Kananook Creek Trail from Wells Street.
Ballam Park Homestead is one of the oldest and most famous homes in Frankston. One of the first two-storey houses to be built in the area, the beautiful Ballam Park Homestead was built with sandstone in 1855 by the Liardet Family. Now open for visitors, with a museum and café, the French-style homestead provides a unique step back in time to the early days of the colonial era.
One of the best things about Frankston is its focus on art that can be enjoyed by everyone, including massive murals that bring bursts of colour to the city’s streets and buildings, and sculptures dotted throughout the city’s gardens and beaches. Download the map from the city website, and go on a self-guided tour around the city’s street art, murals and galleries to see some incredible art from both local and international artists.
Although the Mornington Peninsula was home to the nomadic Bunurong people for around 40,000 years before European settlement, Frankston’s development didn’t begin until 1835, when it started off life as a small fishing village. Catch a glimpse of the early days of European settlement by visiting some of Frankston’s heritage buildings. Some good places to start are the Ballam Park Homestead, Mulberry Hill, the Mechanics Institute, the Old School House Museum and the Yamala Mansion. The historic Frankston Park Gates are also steeped in history, once belonging to the Old Melbourne Gaol.
Opened in 1975, Frankston’s George Pentland Botanic Gardens provide a relaxing picnic spot close to the city. Once a hunting ground for the Boonwurrung people, before becoming a golf course, the gardens are home to a wide variety of plants from Southeastern Australia. Great for a short walk or an afternoon relaxing with the kids, the gardens include a variety of different habitats including fern gullies, lush lawns and an ornamental lake.
Just down the road from Frankston, Seaford Beach and Foreshore is another gem on the Mornington Peninsula. With a picturesque pier and plenty of cafes, Seaford makes for a great little escape from Frankston. You can also visit the Seaford Foreshore Reserve, or the Seaford Wetlands, which are especially incredible at sunset when all the colours of the sky are reflected in the water.
A 15-minute drive up the coast, Mornington has become famous for its Wednesday markets. Running for over 40 years, this is one of Melbourne’s most popular markets and is well worth the journey from Frankston. The market features an array of local produce, along with food, artisan treats, gifts, clothing, jewellery and inspired arts and crafts. Make a day of it with a visit to Mornington Foreshore Reserve, or go for a walk along the cliffs around Fishermans Beach.
One of the homes of Australian sculpture, the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park was once home to Harry and Annie May McClelland, who moved to Long Island, near Frankston, in 1912. Harry – a successful artist and philanthropist, and Annie May – a poet and entrepreneur, were central figures in a bohemian group of creative personalities, and likely infused Frankston and the peninsula with their love for art. Established by Annie May in honour of her brother, the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park was opened in 1971. You can still find his studio in the grounds of the park, which also houses the first bespoke modernist gallery in Victoria, along with community art groups, and over 100 sculptures by famous Australian artists.
A pretty spot that has inspired artists and photographers for generations, Oliver’s Hill offers fantastic views over the Port Phillip Bay. Great either first thing in the morning or at sunset, Oliver’s Hill Lookout is accessible by car and by foot. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can also follow the trail down to the wild beach, or just enjoy the greenery around Oliver’s Hill Reserve and Foreshore.
You would be remiss to visit Frankston and not spend at least a couple of hours exploring the Peninsula. From food and wine to the Peninsula Hot Springs and Arthurs Seat Eagle – a cable car up the highest point on the Mornington Peninsula – there is so much to do here. Culture lovers also won’t want to miss Sorrento and Sullivan Bay, while Point Nepean National Park is famed for its beauty and military history and nature aficionados will love the Mornington Peninsula National Park.