The Tesla effect: A Mornington Peninsula road trip
Justine Costigan takes a Tesla Model X for a spin.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning on the Mornington Peninsula and the carpark leading to the Cape Schanck Lightstation is packed with people. So as I approach my car it takes a moment to locate the source of the awed voice asking, “Is that a Tesla?”
I’ve been driving a new Tesla around the peninsula all weekend and while the Model X 100D has generated plenty of waves and admiring looks, this is the first face-to-face encounter with a fan. About nine years old and kitted out in board shorts, a faded tee and bare feet, this boy knows more about the car than I do.
On the second day of my three-day road trip I’m still figuring out some of the tech, while he can reel off the stats like a pro. Needless to say when I give him a demo of the car’s famous wing doors, I make his day.
Making driving fun again
Aside from the wing doors (they open up, not out) and all that attention, one of the many fun things about the Tesla is the option to give it a name – this will then pop up on the mobile phone app you can use to unlock the car and on the in-car touchscreen. Before we leave Melbourne we toss around a few ideas, eventually typing the name Shirley – referencing the fabulous 1967 Shirley Bassey hit Hey Big Spender – into the car’s tablet-like screen. Shirl soon becomes her nickname.
Over the weekend we also make the most of the ‘Easter Eggs’ – the little surprises Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk loves to include in the company’s vehicles. They include a raft of dashboard options, lighting displays, a sketchpad, and driving modes – including the raucous ‘party’, where the stationary car booms music and shakes in time to the rhythm. It’s brash and loud and silly, but we love it.
There’s serious on-road fun to be had too. Shirl’s swift acceleration is silent and powerful and, like the downward run on a rollercoaster, the rush elicits a carload of squeals.
The charging challenge
The Model X has a range of around 420 kilometres but we plan to do a fair bit of driving. With no charger where we're staying we should be able to connect the car via an adapter to an ordinary power outlet for a slow overnight charge. But when we get to our beach house, there’s no outside plug, the windows all have fixed flyscreens, the Tesla cord won’t stretch to the indoor power outlet and we can’t find an extension lead. This means our plans for the weekend have to be tweaked to suit the car, so over the three days we happily add the charger-equipped Rye Hotel and Red Hill’s Paradigm Hill Estate winery (where owner and winemaker George Mihaly has a Tesla and powers the supercharger and the winery from the estate’s solar array) to our itinerary.
Paradigm Hill charging port and patient pups.
Three days isn’t enough to make the most of this hi-tech, luxurious car and see everything the Mornington Peninsula has to offer. We headed back to Melbourne wanting more of both. Unfortunately this Tesla – priced at $215,714 including on-road costs – is well beyond my budget, but with more affordable electric vehicles coming onto the market, driving it opened my eyes to the possibility of an electric vehicle future: one where cars are fuelled by the sun, you can charge your car just about anywhere, and pollution is a thing of the past.
And where every car comes with an extension cord. You can only dream.
The best of the Peninsula
Nature: Take a walk in Point Nepean National Park, past the intact buildings of the state’s former quarantine station and along beach and sandy clifftop paths to Fort Nepean, for a glimpse into Victoria’s wartime history and dramatic views across the heads to Point Lonsdale. Keep an eye out for echidnas along the way. From Cape Schanck Lightstation a walk on the cliff-hugging path offers up Insta-worthy beach and cliff views at every turn.
Food: The Johnny Ripe bakery in Main Ridge has justifiably famous handmade pies and sweet things. Be prepared to queue. And don’t miss a stop at Hawkes Vegetables’ rustic farm gate in Boneo for produce straight from the paddock to your boot.
Wineries: There are show-stopping wineries all over the Mornington Peninsula but for a laid-back, family-friendly experience head to Foxeys Hangout in Red Hill and sit on the steps of the deck overlooking the vines while winemaker Tony Lee’s staff bring you share-friendly platters of simple food and excellent wine.
Art: Head to Montalto Sculpture Park in Red Hill South and wander past the vines to a wooded path and wetlands, encountering the often whimsical contemporary sculptures along the way. Entry is free but you may be tempted to stop and taste some wine, or enjoy a coffee on the deck overlooking the vines at the cellar door and restaurant.
Where to charge your Tesla on the Mornington Peninsula
Corner Cook and Wood streets, Flinders
Availability: General public, all hours.
Amberlee Holiday Homes
306 Jetty Road, Rosebud
Availability: General public, all hours.
Paradigm Hill Winery
26 Merricks Road, Merricks
Availability: For visitors to the estate. Opening hours, weekends 12 to 5pm.