Location: Less than an hour’s drive south-east of Melbourne. Walk pristine beaches and spectacular cliff tops, catch a wave, paddle a sea kayak, tackle the fairway at Cape Schanck, or sip a seductive pinot noir and feel the difference when you visit the Mornington Peninsula. The region now hosts 200 small-scale vineyards and more than 50 cellar doors offering visitors a personal warm welcome and taste of the region’s diverse and impressive collection of fine wines. There’s a good argument to be made for declaring it the best regional dining spot in the country. A trip to the Mornington Peninsula is not easily forgotten.
- Hurley Vineyard– Hurley has grown from a weekend hobby to one of the most impressive pinot noir sources in this country. Both viticulture and winemaking are relatively straightforward – as little input as possible to allow the natural site and fruit to express themselves as purely as possible. Essentially, the winemaker only does what needs to be done – nothing more, nothing less. There are three single-vineyard and an entry ‘estate’ blend to try. All are sensational! (101 Balnarring Road, Balnarring) Tastings by appointment only- call Tricia on 0413 526 161.
- Main Ridge Estate– the first commercial winery to be established on the Mornington Peninsula. Owners Nat and Rosalie White planted their vineyards amongst the apple and other fruit orchards on the Peninsula, inspired by the wines tasted on trips to Europe. Their highly fragrant pinot noirs are a must try! (80 William Road, Red Hill) Cellar door open 7 days, 12pm-4pm.
- Merricks Creek General Store – cellar door for Quealy wines, Elgee park and Baillieu. I recommend trying the quealy range for their superb Italian styled wines and the bistro for its sharp and exciting foods, particularly their breakfast (3460 Frankston- Flinders Road, Merricks) Cellar door open 7 days, 9am-5pm.
- Montalto Vineyard – spectacular setting and equally impressive restaurant. (33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Moorooduc Estate – a heavyweight of Mornington Peninsula wineries. It produces seriously fine expressions of pinot noir and chardonnay, with sidelines in shiraz and pinot gris. A good cup of coffee can be had here too. (501 Derril Road, Moorooduc) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Morning Sun Vineyard – (337 Main Creek Road, Main Ridge) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Oceans eight– Ocean Eight Vineyard and Winery is a hidden gem on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. It is is owned and operated by the Aylward family who established the Kooyong brand before selling it to Port Phillip Estate in 2004. The estate produces a small amount of high quality Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir each year. (271 Tucks Road, Shoreham) Cellar door open Thursday- Sunday, 11am-5pm.
- Paringa Estate – great portfolio of wines with particularly good pinot noirs. (44 Paringa Road, Red Hill South) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Polperro by Even Keel– a portfolio of wines, featuring two labels, that shows clear structure. The first, Polperro wines are strictly single vineyard wines from the Mornington Peninsula, a fundamental belief in allowing site expression; Even Keel a multi-region portfolio whereby wines are made with varieties coming from regions where the winemaker and owner, Sam Coverdale, feels they are a true representation of their kind. (150 Red Hill Rd, Red Hill) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Port Phillip Estate – this is the Peninsula’s showpiece brand spanking new mega structure with wines to match. (263 Red Hill Road, Red Hill South) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Ten minutes by tractor – the estate’s wines are among the region’s best, with especially exciting pinot noir and chardonnay. Similarly ,the food is a benchmark for wine region dining. (1333 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- The Cups Estate – the winery is close to the sea and Port Phillip Bay and lies on the famous sand belt, which has attracted so many great golf courses to the Mornington Peninsula region. Winemaker Richard McIntyre has a non-interventionist approach to making wine, which ensures a delicacy and lightness. His vast experience and attention to detail has won him widespread praise and recognition and has seen the winery win a swag of awards. (269 Browns Road, Fingal) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Willow Creek Vineyard– excels in the production of high quality wine, primarily chardonnay and pinot noir. (166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North) Cellar door open 7 days, 11am-5pm.
- Yabby Lake– the estate-level single vineyard wines set a regional benchmark for reliability. In fact, the quality stretches right through to the junior brand, Red Claw. Their cafe-style menu available throughout the day features some dishes from Chin Chin, one of Melbourne CBD’s busiest eateries. Again you’ll find a good cup of coffee. (86-112 Tuerong Rd, Tuerong) Cellar door open 7 days, 10am-5pm.
- The Laneway Espresso– serves great coffee and a healthy balance of good food that is prepared on the premises and made from quality regional ingredients. (167 Point Nepean Road, Dromana)
- The Deck at the Flinders Hotel – relaxed, casual, family friendly environment. For a more formal dining experience, visit Terminus,their one-hatted (in The Age Good Food Guide) restaurant. (Corner Cook & Wood Streets, Flinders) www.flindershotel.com.au/the-deck
- Ciao Bella Pizzeria and Wine Bar- specialises in artisan wood fire pizza (take-away available). For those who don’t feel like pizza there is a specials board with revolving dishes depending entirely on what is fresh, local and in season. If you still aren’t convinced, the restaurant was awarded the best pizza in Victoria at the 2010/11 Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence. (2998 Frankston Flinders Road,Balnarring) www.ciaobellapizza.com.au
- Cook and norman trattoria– the menu keeps it compact (five appetisers, five pasta/risotti, two main courses, four desserts), simple and, where possible, local. The pasta is all handmade. Add a cute little one-page wine list, a well-priced mix of Mornington Peninsula and Italian labels, and a simply outfitted, light-splashed room and it’s no wonder locals and blow-ins alike are already flocking. (Shop 1, 52 Cook St, Flinders)
- Doot Doot Doot– Fine dining at Jackalope – the Mornington Peninsula’s own mini-MONA among the vines. (166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North). https://www.jackalopehotels.com/drink-dine/
- Itali.co– located right on the foreshore in Sorrento. Pizza, pasta, and other Italian specialties form the base of the menu. A breakfast menu is also available. Their coffee, to, is right up there with the peninsula’s best. (1 The Esplanade, Sorrento) http://italicosorrento.com/
- The Long Table – its popularity with the locals is its best endorsement. (159 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South) www.thelongtable.com.au
- Merricks Creek General Store – in my opinion, one of the best casual dining places on the Peninsula (also see above).
- Montalto Vineyard – the restaurant serves food inspired by regional France, but anchored in the fresh seasonal produce of the estate and the Mornington Peninsula.
- Morgan’s Beach Shack– boasting bay views, a fresh menu and a cool setting, Morgan’s Beach Shack is an exciting new seaside restaurant. With miniature tables for the little ones, a table tennis table set up for the restless and ample outdoor seating for the sun seekers, Morgan’s is a place to eat and drink away a summer’s afternoon in Sorrento. (1 The Esplanade, Sorrento). http://beachshacksorrento.com.au/
- Peninsula Pantry– another local gem making great coffee and all their own cakes and pastries. (43a Wondaree St, Rye).
- Petit Tracteur– On the table, it’s France’s greatest hits – terrines, tarts and steak frites – as a prix fixe deal or open season a la carte. (1208 Mornington Flinders Rd, Main Ridge). http://petittracteur.com.au/
- Picknics Café– a cosy beachside cafe owned and run by the chef. (2285 Point Nepean highway, Rye).
- Pt Leo restaurant– what’s Point Leo Estate all about? Here’s Victoria’s newest and most spectacular sculpture park, with views spanning right over Western Port, and, a restaurant-cellar door manned by one of the best chefs in the country. (3649 Frankston – Flinders Rd, Merricks)
- Port Phillip Estate – features a modern European menu , utilising seasonal produce in small and larger grazing plates for sharing. www.portphillipestate.com.au
- Shop Ate– a cafe sourcing the freshest produce with a focus on presentation. (Shop 8, 87 Mount Eliza Way, Mount Eliza)
- Smokehouse Sorrento– a varied menu of both delicious pizza’s and pasta’s. Make sure to book a table because they are always packed during high season. (182 Ocean Beach Rd, Sorrento)
- Ten minutes by tractor – one of the most popular places now because this is the new generation of cellar doors where wine and food have equal billing. www.tenminutesbytractor.com.au
- Big Blue Backyard– three unique hideaways that have been designed with a complete range of luxury appointments. Each hideaway has its own private deck with a double spa bath, an outdoor shower and an al fresco dining area. Rates from $495 (includes breakfast and a complimentary soft drinks mini bar which is replenished daily) www.bigbluebackyard.com.au/
- Flinders Hotel– a newly constructed architecturally designed hotel with 40 contemporary rooms, the hotel is situated in the quaint town of Flinders, which is nestled among soaring clifftops and offers spectacular views of Westernport Bay, Bass Strait and Phillip Island. www.flindershotel.com.au/
- George’s Boutique B&B and Culinary Retreat– rated by Good Weekends Away as one of the best 100 retreats in Australia for short holidays. www.georgesonarthurs.com.au/
- Happy glamper– want a bit more flexibility with your location? Happy glamper is your company: they hire out different styles of tents with beds, fresh linen, rugs, lighting and any other homey essentials you may need, to be set up at your chosen seaside location. I know what you’re thinking: setting up your own tent isn’t very fun. Don’t worry, they do all the work for you. They’ll even tow a vintage Airstream to your chosen site if that’s more your style. http://www.happyglamper.com.au/
- Jackalope– when Jackalope opened in a Mornington Peninsula winery last year, it was like an alien spacecraft landing. The charred timber-clad building, full of arresting art and neon-lit corridors, is like nothing else in the region. Neither are the dark and handsome rooms, many with freestanding stone tubs, all with spacious balconies and complimentary minibars. Guests lounge beside a black infinity pool, contemplating the vineyard and an all-day menu. Alien maybe, but Jackalope landed in the right place at the right time. https://www.jackalopehotels.com/the-hotel/
- Lindenderry at Red Hill – a multimillion dollar refurbishment overseen by award-winning architects Hecker Guthrie has transformed the 40-room hotel: it’s contemporary and refined, with all the warmth and obliging service of a country inn.
- Orchard Keepers– if you’re looking for the ultimate country getaway – whether it’s with family or a group of friends – you can’t go wrong here with Orchard Keepers. For rates and further details on this glorious property visit http://orchardkeepers.com.au/
- Polperro Villas– plonked prettily among ancient angophora trees amid the leaves of one of Red Hill’s finest working vineyards, the four Hecker Guthrie-designed luxurious studio apartments are so stylish, they’d make an interior designer’s heart thump a little faster. Think flickering fireplaces, shag pile carpet and Italian leather love seats. What else? Oh, you know, only sunken spa baths, vineyard views and one villa even has its own cedar sauna. http://www.polperrowines.com.au/accommodation/
- Woodman Estate – luxurious country house with private lake and day spa. www.woodmanestate.com
- Peppers Moonah Links Resort – unique leisure resort combining two 18 hole championship golf courses, an endota spa and luxury accommodation. There are three room types, each with a balcony or patio. www.peppers.com.au/moonah
- Bass and Flinders– When you think Mornington Peninsula, chances are three things spring to mind: beaches, spas and wineries. But thanks to Bass & Flinders, it’s time to add a fourth: delicious gin distilleries. The doors to this locally-focused distillery opened in 2009, over in Red Hill, and they’ve been making their mark on the industry ever since. (232 Red hill road, Red hill). https://www.bassandflindersdistillery.com/
- Red Hill Brewery – for those keen on sampling some flavoursome hand crafted beer. (88 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South) Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am-7pm.
- Cheeky Rascal cider- Australia’s first 100% pure fruit blend. Ciders made entirely from fresh, crushed Victorian apples or pears either straight up or blended with luscious strawberry, raspberry or blueberry wine … and absolutely nothing else. (Corner Mornington-Flinders and Shands Road, Main Ridge).
- Dromana 3 Drive in – a vast three screen throwback to a simpler time. (133 Nepean Highway, Dromana). www.drivein.net.au
- For Golf enthusiasts, four recommended golf courses to play are – The Flinders Golf Club-The oldest and most scenic of all the courses in the region, atop the cliff tops overlooking Bass Strait- www.flindersgolfclub.com.au, Moonah Links-two world class courses – the Open Course and the Legends Course (No 13 of Golf Digest’s 2010 Top 100)– www.moonahlinks.com.au, The Dunes- Ranked No 14 of Golf Digest’s 2010 Top 100- www.thedunes.com.au, St Andrews Beach (Ranked Victoria’s best public access course in 2014 by golf Australia magazine)- www.standrewsbeachgolf.com.au/
- Gordon Studio glassblowers– visitors can watch the glass artists at work from up on the deck, and the gallery exhibits work from lots of different artists. The studio runs occasional classes and workshops too. (290 Red Hill Road, Red Hill). http://gordonstudio.com.au/
- Jetty road brewery– Jetty Road is the new kid on the Mornington Peninsula block, and they’re already making a name for themselves. As local boys with “a passion for all things craft beer and a childhood love for the Mornington Peninsula”, friends Blake and Simon have created a funky, industrial-style brewery. The concept? Craft beers, sensational local food and a great atmosphere. Sounds good to me. (12-14 Brasser Avenue, Dromana)
- Johnny Ripe– this restaurant and produce store has become a favourite among Peninsula locals. The restaurant is only open for dinner on Friday’s and Saturday’s and lunch on Sunday’s. The wonderful produce store is open Friday through Sunday. Their selection of baked pies are amazing and worth the trip alone. (284 Main Creek Road, Main Ridge).
- Limousine service– Your shuttle (call 1300 798 488).
- Main Ridge Dairy– an award winning farmhouse cheese factory and goat dairy, that offers a true paddock to plate experience for cheese lovers and foodie families. (295 Main Creek Rd, Main Ridge). www.mainridgedairy.com.au/
- MP Chocolates– a boutique manufacturer of hand-made chocolates using all natural ingredients combined with the finest quality Belgian and French couverture. www.mpchocolates.com.au/
- Peninsula Hot Springs – what better way to finish the day than with a hot soothing bath. (Springs Lane, Rye). www.peninsulahotsprings.com
- Portsea and Sorrento Ocean Beaches – spectacular views but note it can get windy and the surf quite rough. (Make sure to visit the nearby towns of Portsea and Sorrento). Another of my personal favourites is 16th beach in Rye. A pathway and steps leads from Tasman Drive down to the sandy bay. That’s all I can say. I don’t want this little gem of a secret to get out!
- Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry– catching the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff is a great day out, and you don’t even need to take the car. It only takes 40 minutes, and the kids will love going out on deck and exploring the boat. On the other side, 360Q is a modern Australian restaurant and wine store that’s part of Queenscliff Harbour. http://www.searoad.com.au/
- Red Hill Epicurean centre– five years in the making, this new venture includes a 200-seat dining room, a wine shop and a kitchen focusing on fine Italian fare. With good coffee, a bakery and woodfired pizza in the mix, the locals and tourists packing the place since it opened in late January seem to agree: it’s been worth the wait. (165 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South). www.redhillepicurean.com.au/
- St Andrew’s beach brewery– If you’re willing to wait it out, St Andrew’s beach brewery definitely rewards you in the end. Crowds over summer are often hectic, but there are parking attendants on site to get you into the best position possible. The taps pour four core beers, a US pale ale, Aussie lager, golden ale, and a pilsener. The menu also covers a lot of bases with everything from burgers and pizza to green tea soba noodles. (160 Sandy Rd, Fingal)
- The Enchanted Maze Garden for the Kids – features three hedge mazes, four giant tube slides, 20 themed gardens, an outdoor sculpture park and an indoor 3D maze. (55 Purves Road, Arthurs Seat). www.enchantedmaze.com.au
- Wine compass– runs tailored, private wine tours of the Mornington Peninsula. They concentrate on the boutique wineries and focus on the best wine and food experiences with plenty of laughs and local characters along the way. www.winecompass.com.au
- Red Hill Community Market – first Saturday of the month (Sept to May) between 8am and 1pm. One of the longest running community markets in the state, a bustling, colourful and slightly chaotic hive of activity. (Arthurs Seat Rd, Red Hill).
- EVENTS– Montalto Sculpture Prize (28th February to 30th October 2018). Peninsula Piers and Pinots (11th March 2018). Winter Wine Weekend (9th June to 11th June 2018).