Having lived in Melbourne for three years it was so crazy that I had not properly explored Mornington Peninsula before. I thought it looked pretty similar to my home state of Tasmania, and I did not have any means of transport, so I shelved the idea for later. Boy oh boy was that a mistake, and I quickly learned that the Mornington Peninsula is not a place to overlook! A couple of weeks ago the idea of a Victorian weekend road trip turned from three-year-long fantasy into reality when I was able to get a car. After a lot of city, hospital, and suburbia time this semester, I was in the mood for a relaxing weekend and the seaside. The weather was warming up after a long winter and the Peninsula was the perfect option.
This region is actually very close to Melbourne — which was pleasantly surprising. From the very centre of Melbourne to the town of Mornington, the drive is around 1:00h – 1:15h. If you go straight through to Portsea or Fort Nepean the drive is just under 2:00h. This makes it the perfect weekend getaway. You can see something completely different to the city without having to drive for ages. Although it seems most natural to visit the Peninsula on a sunny summer day, it is also a great escape from being bed-bound in your winter trackies.
I would recommend spending *at least* one full day down the Mornington Peninsula, but if possible, you should give yourself a full weekend so you can make the most of what the region has to offer. ‘Varied’ barely even begins to describe the range of activities available here. Whether you want a weekend full of hiking, surfing and action, or you want a leisurely weekend of hot springs, lying on the beach, and winery tours, the Mornington Peninsula is guaranteed to fulfill your needs. This is no exaggeration.
For now, I have to settle with sharing the highlights here until exams are over and I can do it all again!
BEST THINGS TO DO ON THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA
You’ll be pleased to know that there is no shortage of things to do on the Mornington Peninsula. With some of Victoria’s best stretches of beach, day hikes, and wineries, all studded with quaint seaside communities, your time here will be full of activities.
WALK TO CAPE SCHANCK
Although the lighthouse is the most iconic part, there is so much more to Cape Schanck. The lighthouse, built in 1859, provides a nostalgic backdrop to the the dramatic landscape. The interesting volcanic cliffs, spattered with vibrant greenery, are visually stunning. With cascading wooden stairs leading down to the shore, you can see the cliffs and lighthouse from a variety of angles. If you are visiting at low tide then you cannot pass up the opportunity to see Pulpit Rock.
There are quite a few short walking tracks around Cape Schanck, although a slightly longer 2.6km Bushrangers Bay Track (named after two escaped convicts) provides the ultimate scenery and is worth the walk. The lighthouse itself has guided 20min tours available if you are interested.
ENJOY THE SCENERY AT ROSEBUD BEACH
The seaside town of Rosebud is often overlooked on a Mornington Peninsula adventure but it shouldn’t be. The beach is a great place to relax and the long wooden Rosebud Pier is a gorgeous place for a stroll. Rosebud itself is a good place to stop on the way to the end of the Peninsula and refresh. With several great cafes and food hot spots, there is every reason to put Rosebud on your itinerary.
CLIMB UP ARTHUR'S SEAT
Arthur’s Seat is one of the most iconic places on the Peninsula. The panoramic views are completely unrivaled; you can see classic Australian beaches as well as the Melbourne skyline all in the one glance. The hill itself is just over 300m tall and it is possible to walk to the top. This walk is not too difficult and is the perfect length. If you don’t feel up to walking there is also a gondola. Visiting Arthur’s Seat for sunset is a spectacular display!
VISIT HISTORICAL FORT NEPEAN
Fort Nepean sits at the very end of the Peninsula and is not accessible by car (however, there is a shuttle bus for $10). The leisurely 2:30h return stroll from the carpark down to Fort Nepean and back provides splendid views and packs a historical punch. The trail begins rather plainly but quickly turns exciting as there is something of historical significance around every corner. The spectacular views over the coastline are incredible to behold with pumping waves and dramatic cliff faces.
Around halfway through the walk is the Cheviot Beach lookout. Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared from this beach in 1967 during the height of the Cold War and the disappearance has become a source of intrigue for many Australians. It was interesting to see the beach itself, and I hadn’t at all expected it to be along this trail!
Fort Nepean itself was built in the 1800s as a defence as was at one time the most heavily fortified fort in the Southern Hemisphere! It is hard to imagine that now as the area is surrounded by calm blue seas and the Fort is only occupied by relaxed tourists and walkers. The Fort is well-preserved and is a fantastic place to explore. The good signage means that you can learn a lot whilst taking in the view.
DRINK UP ON THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA WINE TRAIL
Mornington Peninsula is not only famous for its beaches and walks, but also its fantastic selection of vineyards and gourmet food. Sprawling vines can be found in a number of locations along the Peninsula, which has gained a fantastic reputation with vineyards both new and old. I personally enjoyed visiting T’Gallant and Montalto.
SOAK AND REJUVENATE IN THE HOT SPRINGS
Oh my. This place is like Heaven on Earth. And even better, it is only 90 minutes from the Melbourne CBD! Whether you want to relax in the hot springs themselves or you want some spa treatment, you are bound to find something to ease your tensions here. It is necessary to book in advance to ensure your spot. The link to the Peninsula Hot Springs page for more information and bookings is here.
JUST ENJOY THE VIEWS
Make sure you take in all the vistas during your trip. It isn’t just the activities, hikes, and towns which warrant admiration down here. There is beauty spilling from every corner of the Peninsula and wandering off the main roads will reward you. If you see a cool viewpoint or a whimsical winding road, don’t be afraid to stop and see what it leads to! Some of the most beautiful stuff I saw down the Peninsula came from moments like these. On the road to Cape Schanck from Sorrento there were loads of beautiful side roads which were surrounded by velvety rolling hills. With views like that, I couldn’t help but stop!
BEST TOWNS TO VISIT ON THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA
There are *so* many fantastic towns to admire during your journey down the Peninsula. It is impossible to list them all but these are a few of the unmissable highlights. Each town here has a unique yet relaxing atmosphere. With a great selection of restaurants, cafes, vineyards, and activities in each town, there is no shortage of interesting things to do.
Sorrento was founded in 1803 which is a whopping 30 years before Melbourne itself (what?!) and the history here shows. The beautiful limestone buildings and views over Port Phillip Bay make Sorrento a unique part of the Peninsula. The relaxed atmosphere is mixed with class and timelessness. Whether you want relaxed fish and chips, a nice craft beer, antique shopping, or some time by the beach, Sorrento is sure to provide the goods.
Vibe: relaxed, timeless, elegant
Activities: eat and drink, enjoy the architecture, boutique shopping, swimming, and kayaking
Want a taste of how Victoria’s wealthy live? Look no further than Portsea. This town is well known for its spectacular multi-million dollar homes and one of the nation’s highest taxable incomes. It was even named the country’s most affluent suburb in 2005! The atmosphere here is pretty unique and honestly rather splendid. The great thing about Portsea for visitors is its proximity to Fort Nepean, making it a great place to stop for lunch or coffee pre/post your walk.
Vibe: affluent, relaxed
Activities: eat and drink, relax by the beach
Of course, a visit down the Mornington Peninsula is not complete without a visit to Mornington itself. Although larger than many of the other towns on the Peninsula, Mornington retains a small-town vibe. The beach is beautiful and lined with many colourful bathing boxes, not too dissimilar to those found at Brighton Beach. Mornington has a huge array of cafes, fish and chipperies, and restaurants to relax in, as well as boutiques to satisfy any retail needs. It is a relaxed place with plenty of options, and really is an unmissable Victorian destination.
Vibe: vibrant and beachy
Activities: lots of food and drink, beach and bathing boxes, spectacular sunsets, galleries