Local perspective on Mornington Peninsula

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If you want memorable experiences on your weekend away at RACV Cape Schanck Resort, just ask those who know the Peninsula best.The Mornington Peninsula is blessed with safe swimming beaches, old-fashioned bathing boxes, fruit-laden orchards, romantic vineyard restaurants serving premium wine, natural hot springs and magnificent paint-me seascapes. It lures visitors in droves.

But get chatting with people who live there and you’ll discover they’ve been holding out on the rest of us with secrets they are loath to divulge.

Winemaker Tod Dexter of Dexter Wines has lived most of his life on the peninsula and has a wealth of personal favourites: the beach walk at low tide from Balnarring to Shoreham, the walking trail from Red Hill South (opposite Cellar and Pantry) down to Merricks Reserve, the view over Western Port and Phillip Island from the end of Cliff Rd in Shoreham, fresh produce from the Red Hill Kitchen, good food at Somers General Store, fine dining at the Terminus at the Flinders Hotel, fish and chips on Mothers Beach in Mornington and good food and wines at Merricks General Store – “don’t forget to check the gallery in the old house next door,” he adds.

A former long-term resident of Mount Martha (and now Moorooduc), Barbara Churches loves watching the sunset while sitting on Mount Martha South Beach. “And the views from the Flinders Golf Course make even bad golf a pleasure,” she suggests. Barbara also enjoys the literary-themed Wheeler Centre Friday Night Dinner Conversation series at Montalto Winery in Red Hill South, walking the secluded trail to Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck, and the fact that there are still a handful of family-run roadside stalls selling home-grown produce where you put your money in an honesty box and take out your change.

Eight years ago, Ian Scott started out using his holiday house at Cape Schanck as a weekender but now finds he’s spending more time there than in Melbourne. He’s discovered great nearby walks. “One starts from the very end of the Cape Schanck Lighthouse boardwalk where you should turn right. But,” he advises, “it’s very important to go at low tide to see the most amazing rock pools – they are other-worldly.” Another is the walk to Fingal Beach from Cape Schanck. “There’s a beautiful viewing deck looking right up Gunnamatta Beach to Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea. It’s a great spot for watching the sunset.”

Nikki Maxwell has been a Blairgowrie regular for 15 years and loves to kick-start the day walking the back beach, just minutes from her house. At low tide on secluded Montforts Beach on the ocean side, hers are often the only footprints as a forbidding surf rolls over submerged rocks, eerie water-carved rock formations stand above rock pools and waves crash enthusiastically on Spray Point. “Each time I go there, it’s like seeing it for the first time,” Nikki says.

Mornington resident Guy Mirabella considers Mr Paul’s Beer and Wine bar, hidden away at the top end of Main St, a gem. “Offering 14 beers and ciders on tap, this fun, relaxed, funky bar serves the best cured meat and cheese board on the peninsula, plus an ever-changing blackboard menu with delicious bar snacks suitable for sharing,” he says.

Local foodies suggest Guy’s own intimate Shop Ate Cafe and Store in non-touristy Mt Eliza to be a neighbourhood hero. After 14 years feeding the local community with inventive fare “served with a great pinch of soul”, it’s often difficult to find a table to lunch on conchiglioni with ricotta, artichoke and spinach pesto or a Vietnamese-inspired chicken baguette.

Many locals cite Johnny Ripe in Main Ridge as their ‘go-to’ for their weekly fix of freshly-baked home-style apple, beef, chicken or perhaps fish pies and great coffee.

Then there’s the rustic La Campagna restaurant, not far from RACV’s resort, horseback winery tours, excellent Red Hill and Main Ridge cheeses, pick-you-own fruit farms, melt-in-the-mouth pulled pork and sensational sandwiches at the St Pauls Rd General Store in Sorrento, the fun hot-dog stall at Koonya General Store (also in Sorrento), exceptional fare at new Terre restaurant at Dromana Estate winery, fresh bay fish from Hutchins Brothers’ wooden shack on Fishermans Beach in Mornington, Sunday jazz afternoons with Ray Johns and friends at Ray’s Red Hill Bakery in Balnarring, plump bay mussels from the Mornington pier in summer …

You’ve got general the idea: just hit the peninsula and ask a local.

www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org or call 1800 804 009.



Members save 25% on accommodation at RACV Cape Schanck Resort and RACV’s other resorts in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Go to racv.com.au/resorts.


At RACV Cape Schanck Resort you will wake up to spectacular views from the Ocean View Rooms, Executive Suites and two and three-bedroom Villas.


Golfers can try the resort’s 18-hole course, and there are tennis courts, a pool and walking tracks to keep you active all day.


Enjoy the resort’s diverse menu, matched to distinctive Mornington Peninsula wines.
Book your stay by calling 5950 8000 or go to racv.com.au/resorts.

Cape Schanck lighthouse
Olive grove wine tasting
Horseback winery tours
Red Hill vines
Mt Martha Bathing boxes
Heronswood estate
Written by Tricia Welsh
April 01, 2015