A gargantuan warehouse packed with everything from perfect period furniture to questionable tat, Australia's largest antiques repository makes Aladdin's Cave look threadbare by comparison.
On the Mornington-Tyabb Road, just off the Nepean Highway, it's a monster of a place, happily swallowing up visitors for whole days at a time, and indisputably Victoria's Mecca for bargain hunters. Art and books greet you at the front, with furniture lining the sides of the football-field sized warehouse. In the centre innumerable stalls sell bric-a-brac, handmade crafts, European imports and a general collection of allsorts that makes browsing great fun and pretty much guarantees you'll unearth something you like. The bonus is that prices are often knockdown compared with what you'd expect to pay in the city. So, if you're feeling flush, head to the back to see what's on offer – on any given day a speedboat or kayak, classic car or job lot of church furniture may just tempt an excitable buyer to blow the budget.
The place is particularly strong on French-provincial, and there's enough kitchenalia here to deck out an entire town. There are originals on offer as well, with several stalls selling hand-crafted furniture and many others reconditioning and rebooting old pieces. But really the big thing about Mornington Antiques is the variety – gothic architectural salvage to US googie-inspired retro-kitsch, art nouveau lighting to 1950s children's toys, the diversity on display is pretty much unmatched anywhere else, and makes it a great place to browse and pick up presents, for yourself or others. And kids – before they're exhausted at least – seem to love the place, climbing over and clinging to furniture, making discoveries and playing house. It also may be the best indoor hide-and-seek venue yet created.
Whether you're after an Ikea-free home starter-pack, have the nose for a bargain, or just feel the need to populate the spare room with pianolas, this is the place to head to. Just don't be in a rush to get round the warehouse – it can exhaust even the hardiest constitution. Best to take a breather at some point and head next door to Lulu's Cafe, where, among yet more antiques, you won't regret opting for the ploughman's platter or one of the moreish cakes on offer (pray the '1920s cheesecake' has been prepared the day you visit).
And if your antiques-enthusiasm is running to fever-pitch, there are other places nearby – the Bottom Drawer further up the road is definitely worth a look. Happy bargain-hunting!