Luxury Escapes Guide to the Mornington Peninsula

Seaside villages, rolling vines, bespoke distilleries, golfing greens and labyrinthine hedge mazes — it could only be the Mornington Peninsula.

An hour’s drive from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula officially begins after you leave Frankston, Melbourne’s most southerly suburb – and you’ll feel the difference immediately.

Gliding off the Peninsula Link freeway, you begin to see the stunning champagne shores bordering the region’s coastline, charming vineyards dotting the hills, and picture-perfect putting greens as you wind through quieter rural areas such as Fingal, Dromana, Flinders, Rye and Red Hill.

Whether you’re up for a daytrip, a weekend getaway or visiting for the whole summer, the Mornington Peninsula is a place where you can soak away your troubles in Fingal’s warm, mineral-rich waters, devour some of Victoria’s most acclaimed paddock-to-fork eats or find your way out of Australia’s oldest hedge maze.

This unique coastal region has sculpture gardens hidden among vineyards, scenic walks along Cape Schanck’s jagged coastline and, of course, plenty of pinot noir and chardonnay. Not only is the Peninsula home to dozens of outstanding cool-climate wineries, including Montalto and Pt. Leo Estate, but it’s also home to bespoke distilleries and craft breweries, including Victoria’s only dedicated rum distillery.

Impressive liquid offerings aside, the dining scene here is a veritable bounty of award-winning, chef-hatted restaurants with a huge focus on local, seasonal produce. Outside of Mornington main street, fast-food chains have no place here and once you pass the final BP on the expressway, you’ll find your fair share of bespoke cafés where wholesome food is handmade from scratch.

There’s also a host of outdoor activities (did someone say ‘do-it-yourself' cherry picking?), Sunday drives, and antique stores to keep you busy (or not so busy).

Please note that due to current restrictions some operators may be temporarily closed. Check their websites for the most up-to-date information

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Things to see and do

Soak away in the Peninsula Hot Springs

There are hot springs, and then there’s the iconic Fingal hot springs: a geothermal wonderland of over 40 mineral-infused hot pools, saunas, a Turkish hammam, an ice cave, and — if you dare — cold plunge pools where, for the next couple of hours, the outside world does not exist. With an outdoor amphitheatre and an iconic hilltop pool with 360-degree vistas over the sweeping bushland, it’s worth giving yourself a couple of hours here to immerse yourself in the thermal waters. Defrost in the sauna, deep soak in the therapeutic waters and take the cold pool plunge. Then, rinse, repeat and relax.

Peninsula Hot Springs
140 Springs Ln, Fingal
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Find history at Tyabb Packing House Antiques

If your aesthetic leans towards a certain nostalgic era, a visit to Tyabb Packing House Antiques is sure to satisfy— whether you’re searching for original movie memorabilia, ancient cookbooks, 1930s vintage clothing or matching tea and coffee cannisters from the 1970s. Located within a 100-plus-year-old coolstore, this antique haunt provides a wonderful trip down memory lane with individual rooms for various eras. You could find everything from old chemistry sets to original typewriters and even the perfect engagement ring. Even if you’ve visited before, know this bazaar doesn’t stop growing, so there’s always something new and intriguing to unearth.

Tyabb Packing House Antiques
14 Mornington-Tyabb Rd, Tyabb
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Get lost in Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens

Set among 25 acres of world-acclaimed gardens in Shoreham, Australia’s oldest and most famous hedge maze is the perfect place to get lost. Actually, that’s entirely the idea: Ashcombe Maze’s centerpiece is the 3m-high hedge maze, where the kids could race to find the way out, while you steal a kiss at every dead end. Smell the blooms in the rose maze, stand in the centre of the perennial lavender labyrinth, picnic amid deciduous woodland and seek out the resident gnomes. All pathways lead back to the café, where you could feast on lavender scones with lavender ice cream and cordial.

Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens
15 Red Hill-Shoreham Rd, Shoreham
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Go cherry picking at Red Hill Cherry Farm

Grab a punnet or bucket, and head to Red Hill Cherry Farm – Victoria’s oldest pick-your-own cherry farm – to snag yourself a box of these sweet ruby gems straight from the vine. Dating back to the 1940s, this family-run orchard is home to 25 varieties and opens seasonally between November and January. With a basket full of berries and the children having tired themselves out from picking, return to the café for some homemade cherry ice cream and cordial. The farm also serves cherry cider, port and beer.

Red Hill Cherry Farm
69 Prossors Ln, Red Hill
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Peek behind the scenes at Montalto

Nestled on a 50-acre property, Montalto has taken the concept of cellar door to the next level. The fine-dining restaurant has been hatted no less than 14 times and the sprawling vineyard, with a sculpture garden and 11 secret picnic spots, is the ideal place to enjoy a fully catered picnic with white tablecloths and all. For a truly unique experience, book a four-hour ‘Behind the Scenes Winery Tour’, where you can experience the wine-making process first-hand and taste fine wine straight from the barrel, before a long garden grazing lunch perfectly paired with wine in the Piazza.

Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove
33 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South
Bookable via Luxury Escapes

Discover the beauty of Cape Schanck

The Cape Schanck Lighthouse is Mornington Peninsula’s eternal beacon, a soaring limestone pillar that first shone its light over the Bass Strait in 1859. Still operational today, this stunning lighthouse isn’t even the most spectacular coastal attraction here — that honour goes to the rugged landscape of Cape Schanck itself. Follow the boardwalk down from the clifftop, 80m above the ocean, over slick black beach rocks and out onto the point for stunning views across the bay. Afterwards, you could tour the lighthouse itself to see the horizon from a new perspective or enjoy a brisk 10km Bushrangers Bay Walk.

Cape Schanck
420 Cape Schanck Rd, Cape Schanck
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Catch a flick under the stars at Dromana 3 Drive-In

Drive in, park your car, grab your freshly popped buttery popcorn and catch a film the old-fashioned way at one of Victoria’s last remaining drive-ins. One of three still operational today, Dromana 3 Drive-In first opened in 1962 and retains its classic retro vibe with its Happy Days-esque, American-style diner, Shel’s, offering choc-tops, burgers and hot jam donuts. While the 1950s vibe will make you crave a thick shake and fries, the films on offer are anything but retro, with an impressive line-up of new releases gracing three silver screens.

Dromana 3 Drive-In
133 Nepean Hwy, Dromana
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Learn the art of glassblowing at Gordon Studio Glassblowers

Explore the art of glass blowing at Gordon Studio Glassblowers, where, for more than 25 generations, the Gordon family has been breathing life into this dying art form. This professional art space and gallery is a workshop dedicated entirely to forging molten glass into vibrant carafes, vases and sculptures. If you’re lucky, you might get the chance to watch artists blow, roll and stretch their creations into shape from the light-filled mezzanine balcony. For would-be glassblowers, Gordon Studio offers one-day beginners’ classes where you could learn to manipulate molten glass into a tumbler and two paperweights.

Gordon Studio Glassblowers
290 Red Hill Rd, Red Hill
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Top places to eat and drink

JimmyRum

Distilleries on the Mornington Peninsula tend to specialise in gin, but within in a huge warehouse, on the same Dromana industrial estate as Bass &Flinders Distillery, exists JimmyRum, Victoria’s only dedicated rum distillery. Here, ex-marine engineer James ‘Jimmy’ McPherson crafts downright delicious rum that’s been aged in oak barrels, infused with imported Caribbean rums and proofed up to 57%. Take a seat in front of Matilda, the copper still, and let the man himself introduce you to the original Silver, the Oaked, Barbados and super-strength Navy. Not into spirit tastings? Try the rum-based cocktails in the dog-friendly rum gardens with a grazing platter.

JimmyRum
6 Brasser Ave, Dromana
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St Andrews Beach Brewery

Where else can you sip thoroughbred brews inside a world-class stable-turned-brewery? St Andrews Beach Brewery is the former training facility of some of Australia’s horse racing greats — Makybe Diva, Mummify and Miss Andretti, to name a few— where you can sip hoppy pints in the reclaimed stables these champions once called home. Behind the industrial-style main building, the former 1,200m rack track has been turned into an orchard where 8,000 apple and pear trees grow alongside hops. Be sure to reserve Makybe Diva’s stable and enjoy a woodfired pizza with a new breed of champions in the form of craft beer.

St Andrews Beach Brewery
160 Sandy Rd, Fingal
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Pt. Leo Estate

This is not your typical winery. Pt. Leo Estate has a former Rockpool chef in its two-hatted restaurant, Australia’s most comprehensive collection of sculptures in its gardens, and stunning views over the glittering waters of Western Port Bay. A gourmet hideaway headed by chef Phil Wood and a wine list curated by sommelier Andrew Murch (ex-Rockpool), Laura restaurant invites you on a gastronomic tour of the region over four, five or six courses. We recommend pairing this exquisite degustation with a glass of the 2014 pinot noir, before a frolic through the sculpture garden, which was handpicked by a former NGV curator.

Pt. Leo Estate
3649 Frankston - Flinders Rd, Merricks
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Del Posto 2409

When cravings for hand-rolled gnocchi or ribbons of fettucine hit, venture to the Rye Foreshore and Del Posto 2409, a local secret hidden opposite Rye Pier. An ode to regional Italian dining, with an ample menu of imported Italian wine to sate even the most discerning connoisseur, Del Posto 2409 will leave even your Nonna impressed. The antipasti ‘crocchette’ platter of prosciutto with polenta and parmesan promises delight, while the homemade lasagna di anatra, filled with slow-cooked duck, leek and ricotta, will leave you wanting more. If your stomach permits, do yourself a favour and order the cannoli lemon meringue.

Del Posto 2409
2409 Point Nepean Rd, Rye
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