10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Mornington Peninsula
A summertime playground for Melburnians, the Mornington Peninsula, a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, is beautiful in any season. With the ocean on one side and Port Phillip Bay on the other, this thin strip of prime real estate offers visitors the best of everything. Rugged coastal vistas, quiet coves lined with pretty wooden bathing boxes, charming seaside villages, and family-orientated entertainment are some of the many tourist attractions. The region is best explored by car.
Address: 13-15 Red Hill - Shoreham Rd, Shoreham
The site of Victoria's first mainland European settlement, Sorrento has always been considered one of Victoria's most fashionable towns. The graves of the first settlers can be seen at Sullivan's Bay, a particularly beautiful spot at dawn. Within the small township and surroundings, many of the magnificent local limestone buildings, built in the 1800s, still stand today and are protected under the National Trust. The main street and beachfront is lined with high-end fashion shops, restaurants, and cafés. There is even a cinema - The Athenaeum with a history that dates back to 1894. A five-kilometer walking trail between Sorrento and Portsea (locally known as Millionaire's Walk), takes hikers along the cliffs above the beautiful Port Phillip Bay coastline, past the holiday homes of Australia's rich and famous.
2 Point Nepean National Park
Located at the very end of the Mornington Peninsula, the rugged landscape of Point Nepean National Park was once the center of military activity as a quarantine station and fort. Given the immense size of the park, the hop-on, hop-off shuttle service connecting the major sites is a great way to get around. There are also many excellent hiking trails. Self-guided audio tours are available for download at the Visitor's Centre near the entrance to the park. This is highly recommended as the park is full of hidden treasures. At the very point of the park is where Port Phillip Bay meets Bass Strait. Known as "the Rip", this extremely dangerous stretch of water is where all vessels coming to Melbourne must pass.
3 Peninsula Hot Springs
For a total relaxing travel break, the Peninsula Hot Springs beckons visitors. With both private and public spaces, each area has been meticulously planned to reflect popular treatments around the world. The natural springs ooze holistic health and the center is geared for families as well as couples. The bathe-and-dine packages are extremely popular, and like most of the specific treatments, bookings are highly recommended, especially in summer and autumn.
Admission: Packages start from $95.00
Location: Springs Lane, Fingal
4 Back Beach Walks
Heading to the back beach from any area along the Mornington Peninsula is both exciting and soothing. Even on the hottest and crowded days, the wide open space of sweeping coastline makes for fantastic beach experiences. Swimming can be dangerous along this stretch of coastline, so any venturing into the water should be on a patrolled part of the beach. This is always indicated by the presence of lifesavers and a system of swimming between the yellow and red displayed flags. As trails literally zig-zag the entire coast, it's worth picking up a walking guide from the Visitor's Centre in Sorrento. Popular trails include the St. Sorrento to St. Paul's Beach, Sorrento to Portsea, and Coppins Track from Diamond Bay to Sorrento. The All Smiles beach café/restaurant, on the sand at Sorrento Back Beach, is a popular stop to rejuvenate and refresh.
5 Dolphin and Seal Swim
What lies beneath Port Phillip Bay is as alluring as what's on the surface. Home to around 80 wild bottlenose dolphins, the bay offers opportunities for swimming with these playful creatures. It's a highlight of a visit to the Mornington Peninsula. Pick up a tour from Sorrento onboard either Moonraker or the nostalgic Polperro boat for an adventure of a lifetime. Non-swimmers can spend time relaxing on deck, watching and photographing as the dolphins frolic through the bow wave and swim under the boat. In addition to the dolphins, it's also possible to swim with the resident seal colony and view many species of seabirds.
6 Ashcombe Maze
Established in the late 1970s, Ashcombe Maze is the tourist attraction that keeps growing. The original hedge maze is both beautiful and challenging. However, over the years other parts of the property have enhanced the experience with a rose maze that boasts the "oldest circular rose maze in the world" status, a series of lavender gardens, and the Great Gnome Hunt activity. The café, built from mud bricks, serves a great selection of local produce and is a favorite wedding venue. The drive through the the lush hinterland of the Mornington Peninsula surrounding Ashcombe Maze is spectacular, particularly in autumn.
Admission: adults $18.50, children $10.00, family ticket $52.00
Address: 13-15 Red Hill - Shoreham Rd, Shoreham
7 Horseback Riding Along the Beach
To canter along the sand into the sunset is every horse-lover's dream, and Gunnamatta Trail Rides makes it a reality. Their signature St. Andrew's Beach and Bush Ride takes riders through quiet bush tracks onto the wide, sandy stretch of a surf beach. Available for both experienced and inexperienced riders, this option is available year round. From November to April, they run a twilight beach ride to watch the sunset.
Admission: 2 hour beach ride $120.00
Location: Trumans Rd, Fingal
8 Sorrento to Queenscliff Ferry
This iconic 40-minute journey takes in the best of Port Phillip Bay. Linking the two of Victoria's favorite seaside towns, Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula, and Queenscliff, on the Bellarine Peninsula, the ferry service runs on the hour, every hour, every day of the year. Accommodating vehicles and foot passengers, the ferry has large windows and decks that provide an up-close-and-personal view of the coastline. Dolphins are often spotted from the deck catching a ride in the bow wave. Visitors might like to spend a day in Queenscliff and return to Sorrento or take a one way journey and continue exploring Victoria from Queenscliff along the Great Ocean Road.
Admission: adult $20 return, children $16 return (foot passengers)
9 Red Hill Market
As one of the original craft markets of Victoria, the Red Hill market continues to break all records. From humble beginnings in 1975, the picture-perfect market, held on the first Saturday morning of each month, September through May, houses more than 300 creative stall holders who grow, bake, or make an eclectic array of goodies for the mind, body, and soul. Located in the hinterland, the country-style bush atmosphere is a contrast from the beach. Go with carry bags and an empty stomach.
10 Art Galleries
With stunning scenery all around, the Mornington Peninsula is home to many artists. A self-guided Peninsula Studio Trail guides visitors through the region, providing an insight into the variety of mediums and styles. Many galleries are dotted throughout the area, from the magnificent Gordon Studio in Red Hill, where visitors can see glass blowers in action, to the contemporary Portsea Art Gallery, there is something for every taste. Each January, the Rotary Club of Sorrento holds an important art show that brings artists from all over Victoria together to exhibit their work.