If ever a region were ideally suited to a motoring holiday it’s the Mornington Peninsula. Whether you’re seeking a family break, an outdoors adventure or a weekend of indulgence, its diverse attractions are best discovered by car.
See and do
Exploring the region’s wineries is a must-do; select your designated driver and get tasting (see Eat and drink below). Unwind at Peninsula Hot Springs, where the natural thermal mineral waters will do wonders for your skin. Golfing fanatics will make a beeline for Moonah Links, a 36-hole complex and resort with spa and restaurant. Port Phillip’s beaches are flat and safe, ideal for families with small children or windsurfing; Dromana Bay, Rosebud, Rye and Mornington are among the best.
At 314 metres, Arthurs Seat is the highest point on the peninsula and the views are panoramic, reaching all the way to Melbourne’s skyline. Arthurs Seat State Park has a range of walks of varying levels of difficulty.
Flora fans will be impressed with Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, with its 25 acres of woodland and sculpted gardens. Three mazes – Cypress Hedge Maze, Circular Rose Maze and Lavender Labyrinth – will test your sense of direction.
On the way back to Melbourne, pick up a punnet of fresh fruit at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, where you can pick your own when the red devils are in season.
Eat and drink
Located in a statement building, Port Phillip Estate has several ranges available for tastings and the drops that stand out are Port Phillip Estate Chardonnay, Kooyong’s Single Vineyard Faultline Chardonnay, and Port Phillip Estate Pinot Noir.
At Ten Minutes by Tractor, order up a cheese plate that includes local stars Fingal Gold from Red Hill and Caprinella from Main Ridge. Paringa Estate is hidden gem on the Peninsula, with the cellar door and restaurant located among the vines – a stunning setting. The wines are top-shelf, particularly the current chardonnays and pinot noir.
Down the street at Merricks General Store, expect top country bistro-style fare. Order the bay mussels and the chicken and leek pie, and a glass of Elgee Park Family Reserve Riesling. At Red Hill Epicurean, more than 100 local wines are showcased alongside Italian dishes. Order the Porcolino or the Picantosa pizza. On the mains, the kalamata olive-crusted rack of lamb is the winner. The top cup of coffee in the district is found at Pier Providore in Flinders, where the ham and gruyère croissant is also a must.
The historic village of Flinders on the southeastern tip of the Mornington Peninsula is an idyllic base for your great weekend escape, thanks to the opening of an accommodation wing at the Flinders Hotel. Here, at Quarters, expect modern guest rooms that are spacious and contemporary in design. The hotel has a new restaurant, Terminus, that serves up north African-influenced cuisine with produce sourced from across the Peninsula.
Mornington Pensinsula is only an hour from Melbourne; get out of the city on the Eastlink and join the Mornington Peninsula Freeway (11). Completed in January 2013, the Peninsula Link completes the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, making for a smooth journey bypassing Frankston and all the way to Rosebud.