The Mornington Peninsula may be just on the Melbourne fringe but it feels a world away from the city.
Drink wine by the vineyard in which the grapes were grown, eat seafood while you have sand between your toes and meet the locals who grow, catch and make this bountiful region’s produce.
Getting to the Peninsula
It’s so close to town it’s a bit nonsensical giving distances and driving times from Melbourne’s center. Just follow the edge of Port Phillip Bay and you’ll soon reach the edge of Melbourne. Actually, if you’re short of time, there’s the M1 freeway to get you there in an hour.
Suburbia gives way to holiday villages and you’ll see there are cows, vines and bushland out your window.
Then it’s time to take a deep breath, unpack your appetite and relax for a day or two wandering the farms and back roads, sitting at restaurants and unpacking a picnic in an orchard, a vineyard or at the beach. There are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of terrific products and places to try.
Here are a few special Mornington Peninsula experiences to point you in the right direction.
Wineries and Restaurants
Ten Minutes by Tractor is a winery, cellar door and restaurant. There’s an interesting story behind this co-operative wine and food operation, with the name coming about because the parcels of land are ten minutes apart by tractor. At the much-lauded restaurant, Chef Stuart Bell uses his classical French training and the best local produce for his contemporary dishes, some with an Asian influence. Critics love it all, with both the restaurant and winery winning an accolade of awards. 1333 Mornington Flinders Road, Main Ridge +61.3.5989.6455. www.tenminutesbytractor.com.au
Montalto is a winery, olive grove and restaurant. Pick up a picnic from the kitchen, wander the property or just plonk down in the restaurant in front of that pretty, pretty vista of olive grove, vineyard, orchard, veggie gardens and sculptures.
Also at Red Hill South is The Long Table. Reviewers like this comfortable, cosy restaurant very well. And why not, with food this sophisticated and a thoughtfully constructed wine list with an emphasis on local labels.
Merricks General Wine Store began as a community hub in 1924 and still is 90 or so years later. At this contemporary café, cellar door and provedore, you can turn up for breakfast, a coffee, a wine tasting, lunch or to buy some local produce. 3460 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks. +61.3.5989.8088. www.mgwinestore.com.au
Speaking of local produce—Heronswood is one of the heritage properties run by The Diggers Club, a gardening organization that works to save and distribute heirloom fruits, herbs and vegetables. The Fork to Fork café is a tasty way to reinforce how good it is to grow your own food and buy local. The menu is mostly made of produce grown on site or grown or caught from nearby on the Peninsula. Wander the gardens to work up an appetite. 105 La Trobe Parade, Dromana. +61.3.5984.7321. www.diggers.com.au
Pick, Buy, Eat Berries
At Sunny Ridge Strawberries you can pick strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and buy and eat the fruit, plus ice cream, jams, syrups and freeze-dried berries.
Markets for Splurging
Mornington Farmers’ Market has just achieved accreditation with the Victorian Farmers’ Market Association, which means you can be sure that what you buy has been grown or made by the people who sell it to you. It’s on the second Saturday of the month and is a great morning out. There is music, hot food and it’s close to the pier, the beach and the Mornington shops.
Mornington Park, Schnapper Point Drive, Mornington. +61.401.026.687. morningtonfarmersmarket.org.au
Red Hill Community Market, held on the first Saturday of the month, has become an integral part of the Peninsula. Crafters claim it as a craft market, but it began also as a place to barter excess produce. There are now 300 stalls and the local, fresh, artisan produce is as much a part of the market as the craft. Be there as close to 8 am as you can to avoid the crowds. Arthurs Seat Road, Red Hill. www.craftmarkets.com.au/markets
A Park for Exploring
Pack a picnic and explore the Point Nepean National Park. There are fascinating military forts and tunnels and the historic quarantine station to explore and trails, bushland, beaches and breathtaking views. You can walk or ride throughout the park, and bikes are available for hire, if you don’t have your own.