First published on 12 Apr 2012. Updated on 1 Mar 2013.
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Coastal living meets traditional Aussie charm on the Mornington Peninsula, a pleasant hour's drive from Melbourne. It’s an area filled with hidden treasures, including galleries, spas and cafes, conveniently nestled in seaside villages – or you can head further out and explore the delights of the winery districts.
The region is famed for its Pinot, thanks to the cool climate and rich soil, so lovers of the grape should rejoice in the 50-plus cellar doors in the area. Alternatively, you could embark on the unique Horseback Winery Tours: ride through the bush and farmland of the Red Hill vineyards, taste award-winning wines and enjoy lunch at your choice of winery along the way.
Speaking of dining, there are plenty of world-class restaurants around the Peninsula. In 2012 no less than seven restaurants located in the region received a Chef’s Hat in the Good Food and Travel Guide: La Petanque Restaurant and Ten Minutes by Tractor on the Main Rdige, Veraison @ Bluestone Lane and Salix Restaurant in Merricks, and Montalto, Port Phillip Estate Dining Room and The Long Table in Red Hill.
Or perhaps you fancy getting some serious relaxation in? Then note that Peninsula Hot Springs offer mineral-rich thermal pools, including Turkish steam room, sauna, cave pool and the glorious 360 degree views of the Hill Top pool.
If you like your relaxation to be more golf-like in nature, then you’re in luck: they don’t call the area “the cups” for nothing. There are 19 courses on offer, ranging from relaxed nine holes to sensational public courses and exclusive private clubs designed by some of golfing's biggest names. And where else can you play to the soundtrack of Bass Strait pounding away, or surrounded by gnarled Moonah trees overlooking the gorgeous coast?
Of course, it’s not just a homogenous region: each of the towns has its own personality. There’s artsy, café-filled Mornington, tiny, tranquil Flinders, the farm-to-table dining and lush hillside wineries of Red Hill, and of course the historic Sorrento, with imposing limestone buildings and cavorting dolphins.
In fact, the beaches are among the most beautiful locations, from secret sandy inlets to wild surf beaches – or just stroll along the sands to Cape Schanck Lighthouse in the Mornington Peninsula National Park. Or if you’re feeling really robust, take the challenge of completing the 100km walk through gorgeous natural scenery to Point Nepean.
On a rather more civilised note, there’s the Aschcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens. You can quite literally get lost in the oldest and largest hedge maze in the southern hemisphere, set within 25 acres of gardens. That’s only one of the botanical highlights of the region, with modern arid gardens at Cranbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens and rainforest plants, fern gully and gorgeous terraces at Frankston Botanic Gardens.
Want to make the most of your time in the district? See some of the highlights of the region with the Mornington Peninsula Attractions Pass, including discounted admission to the Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, Cape Schanck Lighthouse, Moonlit Sanctuary and Peninsula Hot Springs, as well as discounts on other local produce.
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