Only got a weekend in Melbourne, but want to experience the best of an Aussie summer? The Mornington Peninsula is where to go. This is where the locals flock for the best beaches and laid back holiday vibe. Located in the south east of Melbourne, it’s my original stomping ground and so I know it well.
Although I’m from there, I have never treated my own city as a tourist would. However this month I went back to visit family for a month, with the intention of taking my boyfriend on a whistle-stop tour of the best that the Mornington Peninsula has to offer. This time around I saw it through different eyes and was amazed.
The Best Wild Beach – Balnarring
Balnarring Beach is a wonderland of wild and unkept beauty. Balnarring is a little wayside hamlet that exists in the south eastern part of the Mornington Peninsula, about 69 kilometres from Melbourne city centre. As such it’s within reachable distance by car within about an hour.
The beach lies on Western Port Bay and is the more wild and natural counterpart of the bustling and busy Port Phillip Bay.
- A lack of visitors here means you will have deserted beaches to yourself with plenty of room to sunbake in peace.
- Unkept natural wonders like unusual rock formations, rockpools containing crabs, fish and other wild things – ideal for fossicking and beach-combing.
- Wild surf that’s ideal for surfing, body boarding, or if you’re feeling less energetic: whale and dolphin watching.
The Best Family Friendly Beach – Mother’s Beach, Mornington
This beach in the suburb of Mornington in Melbourne’s south east (57 kilometres from central Melbourne) is a family favourite. In fact this beach is ideal for anyone who wants to experience the beach in summer, but who wants the option of shady trees right at the shoreline. This beach is deceptively close to all of Mornington’s amenities and shops. Yet there is a feeling of snug isolation due to the cove-like cliffs that nestle close to the shore.
- Plentiful shade to escape into for those unbearably hot Aussie summer days.
- Safe, shallow, waveless and clear water for visitors who are paranoid about sharks or who aren’t strong swimmers
- Plentiful soft sand for lazing.
- Amazing cafes, restaurants and fish and chips within five minutes walking distance.
- Amenities like toilets and BBQs close by.
- Overlooks a pretty and vibrant marina.
The Best Hidden Beach – Davey’s Bay, Mount Eliza
A secret beach that is loved by locals and left in tranquil isolation from visitors. Located in the upper class suburb of Mount Eliza, it’s one of the only public beaches with public access that very rarely gets used as it’s hidden away so well.
Davey’s Bay is located in Melbourne’s south east, about 5 kilometres from Frankston and 48 kilometres from central Melbourne. This quiet tree lined cove has gentle waves (like most of Port Phillip Bay) and also plenty of interesting flotsam and jetsam for beach combing. There are no beach houses here and the place is left wild and in relative isolation, yet it’s still a part of metropolitan Melbourne.
To get there, follow the directions to Davey’s Bay yacht club in Mount Eliza and once you step onto the walking track, turn left to get to the deserted beach rather than right to go into the Yacht Club.
The Best Mid Range Place to Eat – DOC, Mornington
Now this is undoubtedly contentious! I am speaking from my own personal experience. I was blown away with how good DOC was. However I’m sure you will find many other places to enjoy on the Mornington Peninsula, as it’s a foodie’s dream.
- Fresh, simple yet luxurious Italian food that has won awards and many devoted fans in Melbourne. There are always lines, but the food is absolutely cracking and totally worth the wait!
- A reasonable price point compared to other mid-range restaurants.
- A genuine Italian experience with all staff speaking to each other in their mother-tongue.
- Sit inside of alfresco facing the bustle of Mornington’s main street.
- Try the sweet pizza. Sounds crappy and I was dubious myself until I tried it and loved it. And I’m not even a dessert person.
The Best Budget Place to Eat – Sofia’s By the Bay, Frankston
This restaurant is located right next to Frankston pier on Frankston Beach. Sofia’s has garnered a strong reputation in the past decade that it’s been open. As a part of the Frankston foreshore redevelopment, this restaurant has definitely added a buzzing vibe to the area. Open morning, noon and night during the summer – there is an extensive wine and beer list, as well as cocktails.
- A modern and comfortable restaurant with unobstructed views of Port Phillip Bay and Frankston Beach.
- Efficient, fast service and budget-friendly prices.
- Enormous portions (some would argue too large), but ideal for the ravenous beach-goer. Don’t order the starter or dessert as the main is enough to completely fill you up!
- Cheap booze and decent coffee. So ideal for a lazy brunch, long dinner and everything in between.
- A broad selection of European-Australian cuisine. Including crowd-favourites like the parmagiana, salt and pepper squid and fish and chips.
The Best Day Out – Moonlit Sanctuary, Pearcedale
This is a relatively new native animal sanctuary that opened in 2001. Formerly a pony club, the refurbishment was a mammoth task on 25 acres (10 hectares) of land. This includes a modern, environmentally sensitive visitors centre. The planting of 10,000 native Australian trees and plants and a 2 acre wetland.
- A totally hands-on experience! Buy some feed for $3 and get up close and personal with kangaroos, birds, emus and wallabies. They will allow you to touch them and not get freaked out.
- 30 different native species of animals including the big Aussie icons like kangaroos and koalas, as well as many other species such as owls, dingoes, reptiles, birds, wallabies and possums.
- Many endangered species of birds and mammals have a breeding programme here, such as the Squirrel Gliders, Orange Bellied Parrots and Spot-tailed Quolls.
- Protected from native and introduced predators by a 1.2 km electrified fence.
- The 2 acre wetland with lake attracts local water fowl that have set up home in this predator-free environment.