The Mornington Peninsula has long been a favourite destination for lazy beachside holidays that come with green hinterlands and wild ocean beaches as an added extra.
But if you haven't visited the area for some time, you'll be very pleasantly surprised at how the Peninsula has completely redefined the traditional beachside holiday. If you've never visited before, you're in for some delightful surprises.
Cliff-top mansions, lively local markets, grand historic gardens and galleries spilling over with art and antiques create colour and life around laid-back seaside villages.
The beautiful bays tempt you with every type of water sport you could wish for, from sailing to scuba diving, fishing to sea kayaking.
You can walk for quiet miles along coastal trails, through national parks and on peaceful country lanes, breathing in ocean-fresh air that's instant balm for the weary mind and body.
It’s only an hour’s drive from Melbourne, but seems a world away. In fact, the Peninsula now has an air that's reminiscent of the Mediterranean, with its vineyards and olive groves, its historic country houses and intimate hotels.
Its boot-shape (like Italy) makes the Mornington Peninsula easy to explore at a leisurely pace. You can travel the length of the coastlines, stopping at the villages, or just meander back and forth from one coast to the other on country roads with glorious views.
The Western Port Bay coastline has the more leisurely, laid-back lifestyle, with secluded bays tucked into its coastline. The Bass Strait coastline is known for its wild, windswept beaches with plenty of space for solitary strolls. In between these coastlines is a rich green hinterland.
Many people start at the wineries, and more than 50 cellar doors quickly reveal why the Mornington Peninsula has such an enviable reputation for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, now closely followed by other varietals including Shiraz, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Fine wine is always a magnet for fine food, and here you can buy just-picked and locally made produce, or let the amazing selection of restaurants and cafes tempt you with dishes that are the perfect complement to the regional wines.
After a lazy lunch, the beautiful outdoors will beckon. A round of golf? The Mornington Peninsula is renowned for some of the word's best natural golfing terrain. Come and experience it on 18 golf courses with magnificent views of the coast and countryside. The play just doesn't get any better than this with some of the world's best natural golfing terrain - but the green fees are decidedly Australian.
Or perhaps a walk? Choose a windswept cliff-top, a quiet beach or a bush-clad path, or head for historic Point Nepean where you'll find all three. The most famous feature of the 25,000 hectares of national parks, Point Nepean was closed to the public for more than 100 years. It's now open for everyone's enjoyment, and you can follow the cycle and pedestrian road to the extensive wartime military installations right at the tip of Point Nepean.
By this time, the seaside may well be beckoning you - and the Mornington Peninsula has plenty of options. Surfing, scuba diving, sailing, diving with dolphins or swimming with seals, fishing in Port Phillip Bay or the thrill of horse-riding along the sands of wind-swept Gunnamatta Beach.
Here you’ll also find French Island, two-thirds of which is National Park, and Phillip Island.
Passenger ferries run from Stony Point to French Island and Phillip Island. Phillip Island has those famous fairy penguins, while French Island has Australia's largest koala population. Take an eco-tour to French Island, and you're guaranteed to see koalas in the wild. Or hire a bike and enjoy riding where two wheels rule (no vehicles are allowed). French Island National Park has much to offer the visitor who appreciates unspoiled natural bushland or walking along beaches where your only companions are hundreds of wading birds.
Cape Schanck is right at the tip of Western Port Bay, and its cliffs are pounded by huge Bass Strait breakers. Visit the Lightstation museum, take the walk to Bushrangers Bay and picnic perched on a rock. What views!
But when it's time take the tensions out of life, just let yourself relax in expert hands at one of the area’s day spas. Mud wraps, massages, facials, hand and feet treats are all on the indulgence menu, along with outdoor Japanese-style hot baths, an Aboriginal relaxation massage and Arabic steam room.
Here you’ll find everything from art galleries and antiques to Victoria's earliest settlement and maritime defence fortifications. Explore historic homesteads, find treasures in the craft markets, discover estate jewellery in antique stores, visit galleries set in artful gardens or gardens filled with contemporary art.
Come and see a fragrant lavender farm, meandering hedge mazes, cottage gardens, formal gardens perfumed with 70,000 rose bushes and gardens with towering trees from the 1860’s.
Very few regions in Australia can tempt you with as many distinctive experiences as the Mornington Peninsula. While the three coastlines are just a short distance apart, each has its individual holiday atmosphere and special attractions.