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Bathing Boxes, Mornington Peninsula
Photograph: Peter Tarasiuk

Weekend getaways: Mornington Peninsula

With beaches, wineries, parks, gardens and spas, Mornington Peninsula boasts an embarrassment of getaway riches

Cassidy Knowlton
Written by
Cassidy Knowlton
Rushani Epa

There's a reason the Mornington Peninsula is one of Melbourne's favourite places to play. If ever a region were ideally suited to a weekend away, 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.

You'll find luxe accommodation, award-winning hot springs, gourmet restaurants, world-class wineries and pristine beaches and walking trails. It's only an hour from Melbourne, but it definitely feels like a world away. 

See how Mornington stacks up against Melbourne's other peninsula, the Bellarine

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Your guide to the Mornington Peninsula

See and do
Photograph: Visit Victoria

See and do

At Peninsula Hot Springs, you can spend hours enjoying the naturally healing waters of the property’s thermal pools and indulging in a day spa treatment. If you’re there with a partner, then book in for a Kodo massage, a treatment inspired by traditional Aboriginal techniques and complemented by a range of native aromatic oils to leave you totally relaxed. The pools range from hot to extremely hot, and there is also an ice cave for a bit of cryotherapy. You can also sweat it out in the sauna and steam room to banish those toxins. The café upstairs is good for a light, healthy meal.

Once you've reached a state of bliss, take a walk on the wild side at Moonlit Sanctuary. You can feed kangaroos and wallabies, pat koalas and get up close and personal with birds, reptiles, dingoes and other animals during the day at this sanctuary. But as the name suggests, Moonlit Sanctuary really comes alive at night, when you can go on a guided lantern tour through the sanctuary to meet numerous nocturnal animals, including feather-tail gliders, a nightjar, quolls, Tasmanian devils, owls, possums, squirrel gliders, bettongs and potoroos. 

Golfing fanatics will make a beeline for Moonah Links, a 36-hole complex and resort with spa and restaurant.

If the weather is good, going to the beach is a fantastic thing to do. 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, and you can also take the Eagle chairlift up and down the mountain for some pretty epic views.

Flora fans will be impressed with Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, with its 10 hectares of woodland and sculpted gardens. Three mazes – Cypress Hedge Maze, Circular Rose Maze and Lavender Labyrinth – will test your sense of direction.

Pt Leo Estate's Sculpture Park has a giant Kaws statue on its perfectly manicured lawns among many other sculptures. It's all set against a backdrop of the vineyard and the glittering blue waters of Western Port Bay.

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.

Or head to Torello Farm and pick up some seasonal produce, outdoor plants or fresh meat at the farmgate. It has its very own cookbook too which is well worth checking out.

Photograph: Supplied


The American south is known for many things, chief among them barbecue, good ol' southern hospitality and banana pudding. You'll also find excellent examples of all three at Red Gum BBQ, inside a former machinery shed on Arthurs Seat Road on the Mornington Peninsula. The cavernous space is bright and cheerful, thanks to skylights in the high ceilings. Seating is communal, picnic-style tables, and the menu is designed to be shared. There's pulled pork, fall-apart beef brisket with a gorgeous smoke ring, pork ribs, half or quarter chickens and homemade jalapeño cheddar sausage, which was rich and savoury, with enough spice to warm the belly. 

After something a little more luxe? Laura is the fine diner of the Mornington Peninsula, based in Pt Leo. Fine dining is too much of an old-fashioned term to describe this very new-fashioned restaurant, where the warm brioche rolls are made with a variety of red wheat grown close by, chased with peppery Cape Schanck olive oil, and the menu doesn’t go the long-winded degustation route but a tighter two or three courses dotted with site-specific origin stories. Pt Leo's Estate Restaurant is the alternative to Laura and instead offers a seasonal à la carte menu with the option to choose two or three courses. Along with the extensive wine list there are dedicated Martini and Old Fashioned menus too.

Chutney Bar in Mornington is a great spot to ail your cravings for a good, hearty curry. Try the Maharaja Thali that comes with a mix of the chef's selection from the menu – try a combination of curries like rich beef vindaloo, creamy dhal makhani and tender lamb korma, rice, plain naan, salad, a mango lassi and dessert (think gulab jamun) that comes in sizes fit for an individual or for sharing. 

Or hit up Merricks General Wine Store, where you'll find 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 the Epicurean Red Hill, 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 Provedore in Flinders, where the ham and gruyère croissant is also a must.

Photograph: Supplied


A produce-led, fantastic restaurant, a fascinating sculpture garden and delightful wines crafted with care – Mornington Peninsula wineries don't get much better than Montalto. The kitchen has done away with gas cooking entirely, replacing the traditional stove with an open fire. The method gives everything a delightful fire-kissed flavour, with vegetables and meats seared quickly for a perfect char or cooked slowly in smouldering coals for a smoky undertone. Montalto is also famous for its yearly sculpture prize. New sculptures are installed in the winery's sculpture gardens every year, and visitors can wander through the art and enjoy each piece. Make sure you stop at the cellar door to taste Montalto's range of cool-climate wines. 

Montalto's laid-back sister winery, Tucks Ridge, is next door, and they share sweeping views down the hill to a bird sanctuary. The winery does simple food, made from premium ingredients. Make sure you do a 'taste the rainbow' tasting at Tucks Ridge, too. It's a blind tasting, so you can get an honest sense of what you can taste before being prejudiced by talk of passionfruit, chocolate or woodsmoke. You can write your tasting notes on the table – which is a giant whiteboard – and you'll get to try both the Now range (no points for guessing when you're meant to drink it) and the higher-priced Tucks Ridge range, which will do well with a little cellaring.  

Avani Winery serves up biodynamic and minimal intervention wines in a stunning setting. The cellar door and restaurant overlooks the winery and the family's story is well worth hearing. Shashi, or Shashi Aunty as she's known by, is an Indian lady who migrated to Australia with her partner Devendra in the 80's. She went on to study viticulture and start making wine on her own with the help of her family. Now they churn out barrel after barrel of remarkable, natural wines that are perfect for any time of the day. The estate's restaurant also hosts pop-ups in summer and winter that sees a guest chef coming in and cooking Southeast Asian fare that pairs beautifully with the wine.

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. 

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.

Or head to Foxeys Hangout, a chilled-out winery with absolutely delicious produce. It specialises in pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as a positively fluorescent (and completely moreish) rosé. Sparkling wine is also a big focus here – and you don't need to wait for someone else to do it. Foxeys Hangout runs a make-your-own sparkling class, where the winemaker will teach you about how sparkling wine is made and show you traditional methods of riddling and disgorgement. You can design your own sparkling with your own preferred dosage (sugar) level, and you get to take home your very own labelled bottle.

Photograph: Cassidy Knowlton


It is not an exaggeration to say Jackalope has changed the Mornington Peninsula. The cutting-edge, ultra-luxe hotel is what you might expect to find in New York's uber-hip Meatpacking District, not set among rolling hills and gently swaying vines. The theme of the hotel is alchemy, the process of turning ordinary things into rare and precious things. The most famous examples are lead into gold and the creation of the elixir of life, but Jacklope turns an ordinary hotel experience into something special and extraordinary. The hotel opened in April 2017 and quickly racked up the accolades, being named Hotel of the Year by Gourmet Traveller magazine in its very first year. It's boutique, with only 45 rooms, which is small enough to make every guest feel special and appreciated. The staff are very attentive, showing you to your room and familiarising you with all the whiz-bang accoutrements and luxurious touches therein. 

Don't want to shell out $650 for your Mornington Peninsula accommodation? Check out Lindenderry at Red Hill, which sits on almost 14 hectares of vineyards and gardens. Inside the hotel it feels like one big, glam country house: there’s all of the space and elegance with none of the kitsch. Dotted throughout the hotel’s winding corridors are semi-secluded nooks stuffed with plush lounges and often an open fire – perfect for some reading, no? You’ll find more of those crackling open fireplaces inside the rooms, which are appropriately luxe. Book yourself a balcony suite, where you can stretch out on the ample bed, in an armchair by the fire or with a glass of the estate’s wine on your balcony while pretending you’re lord or lady of the manor.

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