Want to explore, relax, eat good food and drink wine,read on
Just over an hour's drive from Melbourne's Airport, thanks to the new Eastlink freeway, Mornington Peninsula is the perfect weekend getaway for foodies, renowned for the wine, it's the perfect excuse to hire that convertible to experience the wind in your hair and discover this amazing place for yourselves.
Day 1, 10AM PICK UP THE CONVERTIBLE
Pick up your convertible courtesy of Dream Drives Melbourne and begin your journey onto the freeway, cruising along with the top down and let the work week go. Perhaps decide who is going to be navigator and who's driving as this will reduce the argy bargy later. Smooth sailing until someone forgets which exit, 'Was it 21? 23? No, it's 28 for M11 for the tenth time'.
The start of the windy road to the peak of Arthur's Seat gives us a chance to get close to nature with the smells of wattle and eucalypts, as well as manoeuvring around the hairpins channelling that Formula One experience. However this may have been somewhat curtailed with a police car and revving sounds of a Harley Davidson trailing behind. Once you get to the top, the views are out of this world, looking down to seaside villages of Rye, Rosebud and Dromana and soaking it all in.
Day 1, 2PM MERRICKS GENERAL WINE STORE & STONIER WINERY
The roots of original the general store date back to 1924 and now it is a bistro and the cellar door for Elgee Park Wines, Bailliue Vineyard and Quealy wines. Meals are served all day, seven days a week. Snack on the shared tasting platter or for something more substantial, try the Merricks burger. Next door to Merricks House there is an art exhibition and Stonier winery.
Stonier is one of the original wineries first planting chardonnay vines in 1978 followed by pinot noir in 1982, Rob, the cellar door manager, is very knowledgeable on the topics of malolactic fermentation and mesoclimate which will have you learning a thing or two. Their sparkling wine is the best I've tasted for the region and has become my new favourite.
Onwards to Point Leo Foreshore Reserve, one of the Mornington Peninsula's famous surf beaches to wander down and watch the waves. From here you look across the mouth of Western Port towards Phillip Island, comprising banksia woodlands, smooth-running creeks and sand dunes, with decent surf breaks and walks through wetland areas. There are also camping sites and holiday houses that are popular over the summer break.
If you have a love affair with chocolate, then you cannot miss the French style sensory delights from Mornington Peninsula sold in individual pieces which glimmer like precious stones on display, too delicate to eat. Stand in awe of their mini sculptures of chocolate dinosaurs, fish and frogs which I would love to take home for the kidlets. If you've wondered where Max's Restaurant gets their pinot noir chocolates from, you didn't hear it from me.
Explore the rock pools at Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary aptly named for its mushroom shaped reef. This park protects 80ha of the open coast of Flinders and is composed of sandstone rock platforms extending from the shore, sheltered rock pools, coves and a shallow reef on the ocean side. The reef is formed from ancient basalt which has weathered beautifully, allowing creatures to hide within crevices and cracks or under loose rocks. You may be lucky and catch a glimpse of the paragliders as they glide overhead.
With a plethora of restaurants to choose from, enjoy the last of the sun's rays with panoramic views over vineyards and olive groves with modern French and Australian cuisine at Le Pétanque. Take advantage of the midweek and weekend bathe and dine packages for 2 courses or 3. With a glass of champagne in hand, and enjoying the company and a delicious dinner, along with free bathing passes at Peninsula Hot Springs, you won't think it can get much better than this.
Drive your way to the historic seaside village of Sorrento with its cosmopolitan village feel and shops. Doesn't take long to settle into a café with a coffee and breakfast of smashed avocado with poached eggs to start my day. Sorrento has a rich history and it's believed to be the first European settlement in Victoria. It was discovered in 1803 and developed as a tourist destination for the rich and famous in the 1870's.
Stop into Just Fine Food and try their sublime fluffy vanilla slices ($7.50 a slice) which have reportedly made grown men cry. Wander into the old fashioned Toy Workshop with a philosophy to bring happy childhood memories and toys that are made to last. It's a perfect place to buy my nearly 2 year old a birthday gift. Then it's back cruising in the convertible past the arched Monterey Pines, whizzing past cylindrical hedged gardens, catching glimpses of amazing looking abodes ranging from $5 to $25 million at the resort town of Portsea at the end of the Mornington Peninsula.
Located at the very end of the peninsula with a view between the calm water of Port Phillip and the wild surf of Bass Strait is Point Nepean National Park. It houses military forts, such as Fort Nepean, where you can step into the boots of the soldiers once posted there, listen to recorded conversations, or lose yourself in the maze of barrack tunnels above and below ground. See the gun placements, ammunition magazine, engine house and even a bomb proof room.
View of Port Phiilip and Bass Strait from Fort Nepean
Fort Nepean was a critical part of Victoria's defences from the 1880s until 1945. Today Fort Nepean remains an example of the evolution of Australia's early defence strategies with its heavily armed installation around the entrance to Port Phillip. The first shot of the British Empire in World War I and the first Australian shots of World War ll were fired from Fort Nepean, earning its entry in military history. With so much to see, I recommend that you walk the trails and take in the history and see what makes Fort Nepean so unique. Discover the last few hours of Harold Holt and be amazed by picturesque views whilst enjoying your vanilla slice. But be sure not to have your jaw open too wide or, like my travel partner, you may swallow a fly. For some reason the following lyrics were running in my head - perhaps he'll die.
Day 2, 3PM Mornington Hot Springs
Enter into another world where the mind and body are calmed by the soothing sounds of running water, time stands still and natural hot mineral waters are flowing from deep underground and into the pools and private baths at Peninsula Hot Springs. From an underground aquifer 637 metres below the surface, the flows of 50°C naturally hot mineral spring water run untouched direct from the source to the pools, which range between 37°C and 43°C. You can even book in a massage at the Spa Dreaming Centre but you'll need to book weeks in advance or dine in the café at this tranquil costal environment.
Hot Springs at Mornington Peninsula
Day 2, 5PM Drinks on the balcony
After such a relaxing day, it's time to make the most of the amazing views. A historical tidbit for you, in February 1802 the 'Lady Nelson' captained by Lieutenant John Murray became the first ship to enter Port Phillip Bay. Murray came ashore where he climbed and named Arthur's Seat, a granite mountain and Mornington Peninsula's highest point, which reminded him of a similar landmark near Edinburgh. Crack open the Stonier sparkling and enjoy the views from 300m high Arthur's Seat from our airbnb accommodation looking onto Dromana with its lone 1.2km pier built in 1870.
Need a bite to eat? Then don't venture too far and try out Arthur's Hotel perched upon Arthurs Seat Scenic Road,with a spectacular view to match. 180 degree views from Port Phillip Bay to Westernport Bay are worth the trip alone, enhancing the spaciously set dining room that soaks up a plethora of natural light from the floor to ceiling windows.The chef's special is pretty good with the housemade Thai fish cake and sweet chilli sauce. I couldn't go past the kangaroo with sweet potato mash and green pepper jus whereas my partner went with pork belly. Complementing your meal, Arthurs Hotel offers an extensive local and international wine selection.