#SUMMER DAYS

BEACH LIFE SORRENTO STYLE

SWAP  CITY LIFE FOR A SEASIDE GETAWAY SORRENTO STYLE & MAKE THE MOST OF THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA – MELBOURNE’S FAVOURITE SEASIDE PLAYGROUND . 

Whether you’re surfing the back beaches, shopping the main street, getting pampered at the Peninsula Hot Springs or letting a world-class winery work its magic on your glow factor, when it comes to summer, Sorrento knows what it is doing.

Follow the freeway an hour southwest of Melbourne and you’ll find yourself cruising down Ocean Beach Road – Sorrento’s “main street” in all its charming beachside glory. A bit of a leisurely haven for holidaymakers who have a hankering to part with some of their pennies, here you’ll find plenty of boutiques, food stores, coffee shops, restaurants, galleries, antiques stores and pubs to fossick through – at snail pace. Basking in the celebrity of its peak-season summer buzz, even the sandy beaches along Sorrento’s coastline start to disappear under a groundswell of Havaianas & espadrilles when mother nature really turns it on.  A secret beach hideaway, it is not… But there’s a reason so many birds of a feather flock there together. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, this mini guide to making the most of one of the Mornington Peninsula’s standout seaside hotspots has got you covered.  

Seagull Wars.

The Blairgowrie Yacht Club.

Sunset walks on the Sorrento Pier.

We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. 

Never mind the region looking pretty pokey on the map, the Mornington Peninsula packs an impressive punch, squeezing a truckload of scenery and world-class experiences between its ocean borders. Surrounded by Port Phillip Bay in the west, Western Port Bay in the east and Bass Strait to the south, this picturesque wine and food region boasts the honour of being the only Australian region to make National Geographic’s esteemed Best of the World list in 2015 – beating the Sydney Opera House and Great Barrier Reef to claim the honour, no less. Beyond the sandy beaches and rugged coastal scenery, there’s wall-to-wall wineries and a divine selection of artisan producers to sample. You’ll leave lunch along a long winding road, lined with gnarled pine trees like some fairytale forest and then suddenly the view will break open to reveal a breathtaking big-sky sea snapshot. Factor in the massively decreased travel time from Melbourne, thanks to the Peninsula Link Freeway and the region’s pulling power isn’t hard to understand.

One of the string of coastal holiday communities on the Peninsula that curl around Port Phillip Bay’s eastern half, Sorrento is a standout seaside town, with a long history of luring city slickers to the coast with the promise of sun, sand, surf and everything else you expect from a summer holiday. Sorrento Back Beach with its rock pools and cliff-side trails, as well as Point King, with its piers and boathouses, are the two most popular beach hangouts in town. But if you’re looking for a patch of sand a little further afield, Portsea’s beaches are just a short drive away.

A stunning stretch of coastline and the site of regular ironman contests, Portsea Back Beach is one of Victoria’s most popular and infamous beaches; It’s actually right near the spot where Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared in the surf in 1967. When you’ve caught enough sunrays for the afternoon, take a drive around Portsea and take in the billionaire mansions. The closest thing Melbourne has to The Hamptons, this exclusive resort town is the richest postcode in Victoria.

Day at The Portsea Polo

Portsea Back Beach

EAT + DRINK

You’ll find food with flair at dozens of cafes, bistros, bars and restaurants spread across the Mornington Peninsula. Snack by the sea, or dine in one of the region’s award winning winery restaurants. Life’s just too short for bad meals.

If you’re new to life on the Mornington Peninsula, you can’t go wrong dining at one of the world-class winery restaurants in the region that boast a coveted hat. Ten Minutes By Tractor or Max’s at Red Hill Estate, are great options. Pop Montalto and Foxeys Hangout near the top of your list too. For an afternoon of fine wine, excellent seafood and spectacular coastal views, plan a route that winds between vineyards. The majority of the peninsula’s 60 wineries are clustered around Red Hill and Red Hill South but there are another dozen or more dotted around areas farther north, including Moorooduc, Dromana, and Mount Martha.

My personal favourite? Do not leave the Peninsula without popping past Port Phillip Estate! An architectural landmark and one of the most exciting wine destinations in Australia, lunch in the dining room overlooking the vineyard vista is a seriously swoon-worthy affair. In fact, even if you’re skipping the succulent scallops and sensational desserts on offer in the lunch menu, it’s still worth dropping into the cellar door.  The automatic timber doors leading to Port Phillip Estate’s restaurant, bistro and cellar door are pretty much the Mornington Peninsula’s prime money shot at the moment.

The view from Port Phillip Estate Dining Room

If you’re after something a bit more casual, there’s a great bistro at the Flinders Hotel and the Red Hill Brewery (replete with hop yard and sunny deck) is always a winner. If you’re a part-time health nut, or a berry freak like me, picking our own strawberries at the family-owned Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm at Main Ridge is a fun way to while away a sunny afternoon. Don’t worry, when a gourmet road trip doesn’t take your fancy, there’s still a few noteworthy options on or near Sorrento’s main street…

MUBBLE

It might have a queue that launches well out the door and down Ocean Beach Road but you can’t beat Mubble for ice creams and gelato.

Mubble Ice Creamery

FISH FETISH

Seriously delicious fish & chips; just like they should be when your seaside…

Fish Fetish

DON’T BOTHER: BUCKLEY’S CHANCE

In honour of my favourite dog and the namesake of the blog you’ve just found yourself reading, I had to try the breakfast at Buckley’s Chance… Let’s just say, I can officially report there’s slim to no chance of a repeat. Unless you have a magnifying glass you’ll struggle to find the microscopic pebble of goat’s cheese that’s served up in the Smashed Avocado dish and the toastie could probably have been more “toasted” if they’d just left it in the sun for 5 minutes. I had a juice which wasn’t offensive but my better half tells me the coffee left a lot to be desired and so did the service. Fingers crossed we just caught them on an off day…

Hotel Sorrento

The Peninsula Hot Springs

The Bathing Boxes at Blairgowrie Beach

SHOP

ELEPHANT

COASTAL LIVING SORRENTO

EMIA

AFTER SOME SERVICE WITH A SNUB?… DEB’S BOUTIQUE

Despite its exquisite range of designer fashion, a mention goes to this store for having what could actually be some of the worst customer service I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. Who knew even stunning Missoni dresses and skirts could become so decidedly unappealing when they’re being sold by one hell of a scowl; the snide comments and responses to my genuine queries didn’t improve the experience either. It’s a shame. Hopefully I caught Deb’s Boutique on a very bad hair day because it certainly was not the fashion that had me hightailing it out of there. Post haste.

WHAT TO DO

VISIT THE PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS

Voted “Best Luxury Mineral Spa” in the 2014 World Luxury Hotel Awards, the Peninsula Hot Springs are a heavenly health mecca and a must do for the mind, the body & the bucket list… Submerse yourself in the steamy hill-top mineral spring as the sun sets and soak in the panoramic view from one of the planet’s most perfect places; treat yourself at the Peninsula Hot Springs. Featuring outdoor thermal mineral spring pools, an underground sauna, private baths, cave pools and Turkish steam baths, the Peninsula Hot Springs are an idyllic wonderland to relax and rejuvenate luxuriously.

EXPLORE POINT NEPEAN NATIONAL PARK

If you’re fond of a spot of exercise even when you’re “on tour”, you might want to lace your runners up and potter on over to the Point Nepean National Park. Blessed with the breathtaking views of Bass Strait, the Rip and Port Phillip Bay that mark the tip of the Mornington Peninsula, this former Quarantine station and army base Point Nepean is the perfect place to take a stroll or bike ride. There’s plenty to see here and long stretches of traffic-free road that make for excellent cycling. There are also plenty of walking trails throughout the park.

SWIM WITH DOLPHINS

Look out for dolphins hitching a ride on the bow wave ahead of the Sorrento Car And Passenger Ferry to and from Queenscliff. Better yet, take a Port Phillip Bay cruise and watch them playfully frolic beside your boat. To get even closer to the action join a local tour operator on a dolphin-watching cruise; donning a snorkel and wetsuit you’ll be able to dive right in swim alongside them.

Just make sure you book a tour with a licensed operator that follows the guidelines to protect the dolphins you want to dive amongst. They are actually vulnerable to extinction with latest figures suggesting there are only about 150 bottlenose dolphins living in the bay.  Half-day tours run from October to April, in the warmer six months of the year when sightings are more prevalent. The eco-accredited Moonraker Charters are a great option to guarantee you get to swim alongside Australian fur-seals and bottlenose dolphins before you head home from your holiday. Of course, swimming is not compulsory; you can still see the seals, dolphins and Australasian gannets from the boat if you decide to stay dry! Passenger numbers are monitored carefully so everyone has the chance to get wet if they want so book ahead if you’re going to be in town during peak periods.

TAKE THE COASTAL WALK

If the whim so takes you, you can even walk from Sorrento Ocean Beach, to Portsea Back Beach and onto London Bridge via the Farnsworth Track. The entire section from London Bridge to Koonya Beach is part of the 28 kilometre Coastal Walk which connects London Bridge and Cape Schanck. If you’re committed to conquering the lot you’ll pass jagged cliffs, interesting rock formations, tidal rock pools, sand dunes, spectacular views, dense coastal scrub and some well-known, beautiful and rugged beaches like Blairgowrie, Rye, St Andrews and Gunnamatta. The route is denoted by orange markers with blue signs to indicate departure points for circuit tracks to interesting sites. Just know that east of Rye Beach the increasingly rugged landscape means the trail markings can be a bit patchy. Check the tidal patterns before setting off too or you might find high tide stopping you from getting anywhere. All up the walk would take most people at least two days, but with plenty of access points – largely from back roads which radiate out from Point Nepean Road – you can choose to explore as much or as little of the trail as you like.

IF YOU’RE IN TOWN EARLY JANUARY, HIT THE PORTSEA POLO

If you’ve spent summer in the city, “sinking pots” and stalking air conditioners, you’ll know that come early January it’s time to swap your stubby holder for your straw hat, and make your way to the Mornington Peninsula to soak up the summer à la Hamptons Style, at the Portsea Polo. Where else would you find a flock of fashionistas and famous folk swanning around the perimeter of a world-class polo tournament? Did I say there are men on horses? Good. So long as we’re clear on that.

GETTING THERE

BY ROAD: The Mornington Peninsula is just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne. From the CBD take the Monash Freeway (M1), connect onto Eastlink (M3) and the follow the Peninsula Link right down the coast with very little hassle.

BY FERRY: A ferry trip across the bay from Queenscliff is roughly 40 minutes. Searoad car & passanger ferries operate daily on the hour between 7am and 6pm, 7pm during summer months

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

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Jess Harding is the frequent flying, freelance writer and travel blogger behind the scenes at Back to Buckley, the travel blog. Stay up to date with my latest obsessions and confessions by subscribing to the mailing list below or following the action 24/7 on Instagram, Twitter or facebook.

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