This is a place that’s “carefully tucked out of sight”, explains Nina Caplan in Conde Nast Traveler, “a weekend playground an hour south of the city: “the delicious beaches and tree-lined vineyards of the Mornington Peninsula.” Best known for its beautiful beaches and national parks, the Peninsula is also home to “a fantastic line up of eateries and local producers, which make it the ideal location to escape to, away from the hustle and bustle of city life,” says Melbourne Girl, made up of so many beautiful towns including Blairgowrie, Cape Schanck, Dromana, Mornington, Mount Eliza, Point Leo, Portsea, Red Hill and Sorrento, ”to name just a few of my favourites.”
The “hilly, tree-cloaked hinterland” of the Peninsula is a foodie’s delight, writes Nina Rosseau on Good Food. Among the best restaurants are Petit Tracteur (“great for a date or a low-key drink at the bar … dunk just-baked sourdough into a brothy bowl of mussels, or go for the signature duck a l'orange or a correctly cooked wagyu with hand-cut chips and bearnaise”), Paringa Estate (“bucolic idyll, complete with roaming geese, the wine is excellent”), Merricks General Wine Store (“is it a cellar door? A restaurant? A provedore? A brunch haunt? It's the lot, rolled into one smart country-charm package”), Stillwater at Crittenden (“the contemporary menu champions the area's produce and the seasonal bounty plucked from the kitchen garden”) and Johnny Ripe (“oin the queue of bakery diehards who take away family chicken or beef pies with buttery flaky pastry or stock up on sweet apple pies and friands”).
It’s also a great region for foraging, says Rosseau. “Before the Peninsula hills were vineyard country, they were apple country, and the hinterland is still dotted with orchards selling farm-gate produce.” She recommends Mock Red Hill (“a family-owned orchard for generations, sells heirloom biodynamic apples and has a lounge where you can taste their own sparkling apple juice and cider”), Sunny Ridge strawberry farm (pick your own in season, usually November to April) and two artisan cheese-makers, Red Hill Cheese and Main Ridge Dairy (“the latter specialising in goat's cheese from its own herd”).
“The peninsula’s tip is marked by the stunning Point Nepean National Park, reports Lonely Planet. Originally a quarantine station and army base, Fort Nepean at its tip was important in Australian defence from the 1880s to 1945 -- it’s an “historic precinct, which comprises some 50 heritage buildings to explore – including museums at the Quarantine Station, Hospital and Wash House, all featuring interesting exhibits.”
The Peninsula walks are long and picturesque. Point Nepean National Park has “history, breathtaking views and many walking tracks to discover,” says Weekend Notes. Or, suggests Like Minds Create, try the Red Hill Trail. It starts at Johnny Ripe Cafe and ends at the Epicurian Centre in Red Hill -- approximately a 7km return trip which is “enough to walk off a small apple pie at one end and a coffee and cake (or a wine and wood fire pizza) at the other end.”
The Bushrangers Bay Walk is “a stunning coastal adventure,” says Adventure Me, where you “get to stride it out while taking in the views of Bass Straight from the cliff tops, before meandering down through the bush trail to arrive on the beautiful open beach of Bushrangers Bay.” Departing from the carpark at Cape Schanck lighthouse, the round-trip takes around three hours, highlighted by the decent into Bushrangers Bay -- “a golden stretch of beach enclosed by rugged cliffs leading straight up from the temperamental ocean pounding at their base … it’s a place of raw beauty, where you feel wild and free.”