A ready collection of bookable travel ideas inspired by what you love. From rolling hills that are raked with vineyards, to hot springs and oysters on the beach, discover great things to do, where to stay and the best spots to eat and drink in our definitive guide.
One hour from central Melbourne, and yet a million miles from the tooting of cars and the hum of city life, Mornington Peninsula is a bucolic outcrop where rolling hills meet the sea. Everything is within easy reach by car: you can be swimming in the morning and sipping award-winning wines by lunchtime. What’s guaranteed is that you’ll leave feeling revitalised – albeit with a bit of wine-induced sore head. With so much to see and do in the area, Culture Trip curates your itinerary of the best places to stay, eat and play.
Where to stay
Brooklands of Mornington
4.3/5 (373 Reviews)
Courtesy of Brooklands of Mornington / Booking.com
This historic homestead, on a three-acre (1.2ha) plot at the top of the Mornington Peninsula, dates back to 1878. Though it is a particularly wallet-friendly hotel, you wouldn’t know it thanks to the great facilities, including an indoor pool and spacious fitness centre. Retaining its original cream and sage paint job, this villa is also a popular wedding location with its picture-perfect background.
Sitting stoically on the cliffs above Port Phillip Bay, Hotel Sorrento has uninterrupted views over the crystalline ocean beyond. To make the most of the location, opt for a Heritage Balcony Room where your private balcony seems as if it’s above the ocean. Dining is relaxed, and the menu is Mediterranean-themed, with the focus on fresh-off-the-boat seafood like salt-and-pepper calamari and shellfish linguine. Finding a spot at the bar isn’t an issue here, with four in-house that, to no surprise, come with magnificent vistas; you’ll often find impromptu dance parties springing up in the summertime, too.
Where Hotel Sorrento makes the most of the Mornington Peninsula’s spectacular coastal position, Jackalope Hotel takes advantage of its other breathtaking vista: rolling vineyards. Inside, the black and white decor gives it a cool urban vibe, while outside it’s all endless green and grapevines, which bring you straight back to the agrarian setting. Meanwhile, dining is a destination unto itself: choose between Rare Hare, a cellar door-style restaurant that serves wines produced on-site alongside small plates, and Doot Doot Doot, where degustation menus are served under a light installation inspired by the bubbles produced by fermenting wine.
With more than 200 vineyards in the region, it’s safe to say Mornington Peninsula is a wine lover’s hotspot. With a cool, sheltered climate and its proximity to the ocean, it’s ideal for producing seriously hard-hitting bottles of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. Dedicate a day to cruising through a few of the wineries – some come with restaurants that are the thing of foodie legend, like Port Phillip Estate, while others, like Quealy Wines, are a more casual affair with low-key tastings accompanied by cheese and charcuterie boards.
Seek out some marine animals on a sightseeing cruise
Jutting out into the Bass Strait, Mornington Peninsula is home to its fair share of marine animals. Whether you choose to stay dry and go sightseeing by boat, or dive in on a guided snorkelling tour, you’ll be likely to see bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and a range of other aquatic animals on any given day. Add in the spectacular scenery and idyllic beaches, and you have the perfect nature-oriented adventure.
Not just rolling vineyards and sweeping swathes of sand, Mornington Peninsula is also home to Victoria’s first natural hot springs. With water temperatures ranging from 37C to 43C (100F to 109F), these springs are said to help with all manner of health issues, including injured muscles, arthritis and even stress. In the name of optimal wellness, bathing options range from the hydro pool, where water jets massage your body, to thermotherapy where you travel from a hot pool to a freezing cold one; the stark change in temperature is said to promote blood health and boost your metabolism.
You can’t visit Mornington Peninsula without a long lunch at one of the area’s vineyards – and Paringa Estate is simply one of the best. Floor-to-ceiling vaulted windows flood the dining area with light, allowing you to sip your wine while looking out across the very vines the grapes grew on. The tasting menu is influenced by seasonal local produce, with a heavy focus on what the chefs have foraged that day, so expect wild mushrooms in autumn and samphire and sea parsley in summer.
For relaxed beachside fare, head to Morgan’s Beach Shack, which is in spitting distance from the water. Sit outside to make the most of the location, sipping on a frozen margarita or icy cold Corona beer while eating your way through the modern Australian menu. The food changes seasonally, but expect laid-back dishes like fish and chips and chicken parmigiana alongside freshly shucked oysters.
Ask any local where you should eat while in Mornington Peninsula, and it’s likely they’ll recommend Polperro. While technically housed on the Polperro vineyard, the restaurant rejects the traditional cellar door-style eatery in favour of a casual small plate-oriented bistro with distinct Asian and European influences. The menu is ever-changing, with favourite dishes including blue fin tuna with wasabi, sesame seed, daikon and nori and spatchcock chicken with baba ghanoush and tomato vinaigrette.
These recommendations were updated on September 24, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.