Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is one of our favourite weekend getaways... for reasons largely beginning with w and ending with -ine. But the Peninsula’s charms don’t end with the spectacular Wine Food Farmgate Trail, Listers. No siree. With over 30 gorgeous coastal towns and hinterland villages, natural hot springs and luxe day spas, charming shopping strips and contemporary galleries, Mornington Peninsula is full of surprises.
Whether you want to unwind with a facial, picnic in idyllic gardens, or sip on award-winning pinot noir, the beautiful region turns it on for pleasure-seeking visitors January through December.
Here are five of the best ways to bliss out on the Peninsula. Now shut up and take our money!
#1: Pamper & Chill
In our humble opinion, ain’t nothing as restorative as a long, languid soak in the natural thermal mineral waters at Peninsula Hot Springs. The beautifully landscaped, leafy grounds boast over 20 public bathing and relaxation experiences including a cave pool, sauna, Turkish Hamam, reflexology walk, cold plunge pools, and the ever-popular hilltop pool with its awe-inspiring, 360-degree views.
With the pools at a toasty 37°C to 43°C all year round, there’s also private bathing at the Spa Dreaming Centre, where you
can also should definitely splash out on a body wrap or massage.
If you prefer your tszujing to take place on dry land, take a break from wine tasting in Red Hill with a trip to the eco-chic endota spa. While the lovely ladies do a mean trade in top notch beauty services including manis and waxing, we’re all about that bliss and can happily report the day spa element delivers in spades. We were oh-so-close to snoring during the organic facial (in a good way!) and in saucier news we once impressed the pants off a former suitor with a lush couple’s facial and massage.
Meanwhile, over in the bucolic beauty of Moorooduc (incidentally, also a top spot for mushroom foraging), Woodman Estate Spa is a peaceful sanctuary with a luxury hotel, spa and restaurant—plus, spa manager Stacey has magic mitts that will sort out even the gnarliest of knots. There’s even a cute post-treatment chill zone with comfy lounges, blankies, adult colouring books, and bottomless herbal tea.
#2: Ogle Some Art
If you’re a nature-loving art buff, head straight to McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park in Langwarrin. Over 100 thought-provoking pieces are set among the bushland, so make sure you take some time to wander through the rocky labyrinth, drop your jaw over the wind-activated, kinetic magic of the Tree of Life, and get up close and personal with Ron Mueck’s hyper-real Wild Man (located in the gallery). Refuel with coffee and cake in the cafe, then drop some dollies in the excellent gallery shop on the way out.
For thoughtfully-curated exhibitions that often explore the coastal surrounds, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery is a lovely spot to while away an hour or two. Or, if the performing arts are more your scene, head to Frankston: with multiple gallery spaces including the purpose-built Glass Cube Gallery for digital media, as well as an 800-seat theatre, Frankston Arts Centre offers a huge range of entertainment, including music, comedy and theatre productions.
#3: Pore Over Chic Vintage Finds
Retail therapy is our favourite therapy—and we got a good fix at The Vintage Shed in Tyabb, home to over 60 stalls of antiques, retro furniture, artwork, kitchenware, curios and more. Some of the stalls are beautifully styled to look like mini, self-contained shops, and there are also brand-spankin’ new homewares out front if the pre-loved thing isn’t your bag.
Across the way, The Vintage Emporium is a treasure trove for vintage and second-hand fashion from the ‘40s through to the ‘90s. If you’re lucky, you might even nab a piece of pre-loved designer wear from the likes of Missoni. Come prepared to rifle through, cos it’s packed to the rafters.
#4: Drink All the Wine & Eat All the Food
You didn’t think we’d forget your parched throats and rumbling bellies did you?! For a leisurely lunch or dinner, and perhaps a game of bocce, The Long Table is an exceptional husband-and-wife-run affair in Red Hill South. Enjoy dishes like pine mushroom tartare (freshly foraged, natch), kingfish ‘prosciutto’ with melon, and house-made haloumi with watermelon, mint and blueberries. The restaurant has recently added a cellar door for Quealy wines, making it even more of a must-visit.
Another great spot for lunch (and wine tasting!) is relative newcomer, Whispering Vines at Trofeo Estate. Set on a beautiful property in Dromana—with 42 acres of vineyard—the cafe and cellar door is located in a stunningly restored ’30s building that started life as a passionfruit plant. The winery prides itself on its sustainable approach to wine making, utilising biodynamic farming methods. The wines fuse modern science with some interesting old-world techniques, including the use of terracotta amphora imported from Italy. On the food front, it’s all about biodynamic and organic produce, often sourced from the kitchen garden. Do not leave without having a crack at the Spiced Crème Brûlée with Medjool dates and almond biscotti.
Over in the charming coastal town of Flinders, the Cook & Norman Trattoria is the hottest new spot for a mouthwatering Italian meal. Open for a little over a year, you’d best book your spot on the comfy burgundy leather banquettes or bentwoods as it fills up fast come dinnertime. The trio in charge know their stuff—it’s all about the handmade pasta (the gnocchi with braised lamb is the best we’ve eaten), and that tiramisu. Bravissimo!
#5: Catch Some Quality Zzzzzs
After all that wining and dining, you’ll want to sleep it off in some luxe digs. The 4.5 star Lakeside Villas at Crittendon Estate in Dromana are the ultimate in boutique luxury. The three self-contained villas (we said boutique!) are constructed over the vineyard lake, and are light-filled and spacious, with chic yet homely furnishings, a sumptuous spa bath and cosy wood fire. You’ll receive a gourmet brekkie hamper on your first morning, best enjoyed on your private balcony with the resident ducks for company.
The Crittenden family are also doing things differently with their impressive Wine Centre. Instead of the regular old cellar door experience, here you’re invited to sit down (a particularly good idea if this is your second or third winery of the day…) and sip your way through your choice of wine flight. Keen to tick off another winery while you’re at it? Red Hill wine gurus Polperro also offer accommodation, which comes with access to a private sauna if you book into their top villa. Hey, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it in style…
Melbourne’s an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you our Get Out Of Town! series — the ultimate guide to Victoria’s regional gems. For more ideas about where to wander in Mornington, click here.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List