In 2004, Sorrento established a simple coastal walk that links the two main settlements of the town. This became known as the Sorrento–Portsea Artists’ Trail. It may not offer the most dramatic scenery in the region, but it can claim to have been the inspiration for key Australian artists throughout the last 150 years. All along the trail are stretches that inspired the masterpieces of John Perceval, Sidney Nolan, Sir Arthur Streeton and Albert Tucker. The walk itself leads you along the borders of private coastal gardens, down through isolated, tiny beaches, and — when the trail splits in two — down the lanes of both Sorrento and Portsea and by some extremely expensive houses. For the serious hiking enthusiasts who can’t get enough, the area also offers trails down Diamond Bay, Millionaire’s Walk, and Back Beach Coastal Walk.
If you dream of swimming with the dolphins, then Sorrento is your kind of town. Polperro Dolphin Swims offers experiences with magical sea animals such as Burrunan and Bottlenose Dolphins, as well as Australian fur seals, all in Port Phillip Bay. You meet the ship at Sorrento Pier near the ferry terminal on the Mornington Peninsula. The business is family-run, and the hosts are most friendly. They promise to help you find your equipment and wetsuit as part of their service.
Polperro Dolphin Swims, Esplanade, Sorrento VIC, Australia +61 3 5988 8437
Proline Charters offers several good fishing boats, among them the 41-ft-long Steber Sportfisher — the ‘Strait Shooter.’ A bit smaller than the main boat, it is still optimal for shorter trips to the fish-filled local waters where fishermen are able to catch a wide range of different species, such as leatherjackets, snappers, and bluethroats. The boat itself is outrigged to the best standards and under AMSA survey. Perhaps the best thing about these charter fishing trips is that they are all-inclusive, plus they come with high-quality tackle.
To some devotees, this is the best beach in the Sorrento area. It is clean and provides good surf. The wave action is much stronger than on the front side of the town beach near the pier, which means that you will see the local surfing crowd decked out and on their boards. There are rentals for water sports available on this beach, too, which makes it more interesting if you have older children with you to entertain.
Peninsula Stand Up Paddle, 42 Peninsula Ave, Rye VIC, Australia +61 448 563 339
There is something magical about ferries. This one will take you over Port Phillip Bay to Queenscliff, and, if you time it just right, you will have the pleasure of watching either sunrise or sunset over the beautiful bay. Check out Visit Victoria for times and fees. It is also a terrific and affordable way to see dolphins swimming in their natural habitats.
Searoad Ferry Terminal, 1 Wharf St E, Queenscliff VIC, Australia +61 3 5258 3244
Those who aren’t interested in surfing the back beach opt for this beach area. The Sorrento pier and foreshore area are both fabulous and demand that you put in a long walk through the sand, enjoying the sights and sounds of Sorrento.
Without a doubt, Sorrento itself is all the attraction that visitors really need. There is plenty to do and see just walking through town on the main streets. The principal business district and shopping center is but a few hundred meters from the beach. On one side of Sorrento is the lovely, calm bay, while on the other is the roaring surfing beach, and the two are only separated by restaurants, cafes, and fabulous shops. Strolling between them is a breeze and great fun.
Because the water is so crystal clear in Port Phillip Bay, snorkeling is an ideal activity and includes wonderful underwater visibility. The best place to take part is at the second settlement of Sorrento — Portsea, by the Portsea pier. The surf and waves are less rough there and do not stir up sediment to cloud your underwater viewing. This is one of those rare, fantastic, free activities that makes for good memories.
It’s possible to come to Sorrento and ignore the town’s interesting history, but it would be a terrible shame to do so. There is a history trail that will take you all of a simple six to seven kilometers to tackle on foot, and it is worthwhile. Along the town’s historical trail you will see an interesting museum, an old tram line, an original settlement, a graveyard, and a variety of other historical buildings and homes, such as the Athenaeum Theater (from 1894), Whitehall Guesthouse (1904), Sandstone Presbyterian Church (1880), Sorrento Park (1870), and the Anchorage of George Coppin Holiday House (1873).
Next door to the town museum in the historic old part of town is Watts’ Cottage. This gorgeous property offers a variety of opportunities for visitors, and it comes complete with historical cottages to rent, plus an elegant restaurant serving lunch and dinner in the beautiful gardens. It is also a great place to begin a cycling expedition once you have finished exploring the gardens. There are cycling trails leading up into the nearby mountains for those who are looking for more vigorous activities.