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Seven reasons to escape to Cape Schanck
At the rugged end of the Mornington Peninsula, and with a brand-new restaurant, RACV Cape Schanck Resort is the ideal place for a winter escape.
Cape Schanck, on the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula, remains the wilder part of Victoria’s premier playground. Here, the well-tended wineries and manicured hills of the hinterland give way to the stark beauty of tea-tree scrub and endless stretches of deserted coastline.
For a region that punches above its weight for wineries, restaurants, and winery-restaurants, the Mornington Peninsula boasts surprisingly few hip hotels, which makes the architect-designed RACV Cape Schanck Resort especially welcome. And the resort can now add a new 150-seat restaurant to its long list of reasons to visit, with modern-Australian casual diner Samphire now open.
Seven reasons to escape to Cape Schanck
Anchored by a stunning Wood Marsh-designed building that rises surreally from the coastal landscape, the resort underwent an ambitious makeover two years ago, relaunching with a superstar executive chef with some serious runs on the board, a wine program drilling down into the Peninsula terroir, conferencing and function facilities, and 120 new rooms and suites, each one blessed with generous proportions, sleek lines and breathtaking views of Bass Strait and Port Phillip Bay.
Some things haven’t changed, though. The resort is still the Peninsula’s home of golf, with an 18-hole championship course. It still has its original 12 villas and 48 ocean view rooms. But if you haven’t visited the resort’s stunning central hub – well, you haven’t really visited Cape Schanck Resort.
“We’re opening up to a new demographic. Young couples, corporates, families… we want to embrace a vibrant mix of guests,” says operations manager Andrew Whalan. “Not to mention reset ourselves as a really desirable stay-and-play golf course.”
Dining has become an essential part of modern travel and Cape Schanck Resort punches above its weight with executive chef Josh Pelham whose mastery in the kitchen earned signature fine-diner Cape a coveted Good Food chef’s hat. Josh is well known in restaurant circles thanks to his time as head chef at two-Michelin-star London gastro-temple The Square and Melbourne’s ESP.
“I’m loving the Peninsula,” says Josh, who has built strong relationships with the area’s producers. “I can pop into Hawkes Farm on my way to work and buy potatoes and pink lady apples that taste the way apples used to taste. I have a guy who goes out fishing and calls me to say he’s got gummy shark, or abalone, or squid.”
While Cape will reopen shortly in a more intimate space with seating for 70 and a dedicated bar and open kitchen, Josh’s attention is, for the moment, on the resort’s brand-new dining room, Samphire.
“Samphire is a much larger, more open restaurant where people can relax a bit more,” Josh says. “We’re doing a mod Oz menu highlighting local produce as much as possible – beautiful things like XO-glazed crispy duck legs, cured kingfish with taramasalata, shared kilo ribeye, or a whole fish, simple, with a caper and butter sauce.
“What I’m excited about with Samphire is being able to break down those walls of formality and do things like just a really delicious fish pie – maybe some beautiful layers of golden puff pastry like a vol au vent filled with a delicious mix of seafood that can be shared … or not!”
... and the wine
Samphire’s wine list mixes classic grape varieties with less traditional offerings – try a Clare Valley assyrtiko or a friulano from Quealy in Balnarring – and offers a rare chance to taste widely across the Mornington Peninsula’s increasingly broad vinous spectrum. You can sip on a glass of rose from just down the road in Shoreham, or a cab-merlot from Elgee Park in Merricks North. And the list will develop constantly to showcase up-and-coming producers and keep things interesting for locals and returning guests.
Architects Wood Marsh are responsible for some of the Peninsula’s greatest hits, both private and public (and they also designed the award-winning RACV Torquay Resort on the Great Ocean Road), and it’s their design at Cape Schanck that first grabs you on the turn into Trent Jones Drive.
You could call it a beautiful contradiction, at once harmonising with the surroundings while rising from the rolling dune landscape. Viewed from above, the curving three-winged building is arresting. Viewed from the ground, it’s a sculptural form that shape-shifts from every aspect, as if it might have been revealed by natural erosion.
The rich amber hues of more than 3000 square metres of Castlemaine slate wrap the lower levels, creating a visual plinth that grounds the building to the land. The ground-level, glass-glazed public spaces quietly recede underneath the bold matrix of the three accommodation levels, clad in rusted steel, that jut over the top. It took 350 workers two years to build this latest addition to the RACV portfolio.
Inside, you’ll rarely see the end of the curved, flowing corridors. The rooms are no boxy identikit creation either. The irregular curves of the building have resulted in more than 20 different room configurations. Even the entry-level Superior Ocean Rooms feature a keen mix of sleek finishes and cosy tactility; plush robes, faux-fur throws and a marble bathroom big enough to swing a cat.
The resort does a good lobby, too, best filed under "five-star hotel with a dash of personality”. Behind the reception desk, artist Lindy Lee’s thrown bronze shapes known as Elemental are meticulously placed in an orbital swirl.
The kids’ area
Every parent knows that if the kids are happy, everyone’s happy. Enter the resort children’s playroom, a wonderland of coloured beanbags, retro pinball games, table tennis and foosball.
The day spa
This is the zone where things get more active for the grown-ups, too. On the other side of the glass is a 25-metre swimming pool as well as a fully equipped gymnasium. For those whose pursuit of bodily perfection takes a more horizontal approach, the adjoining One Spa is a world of mud-wrapped indulgence with eight treatment rooms. All these facilities are open, but guests must book ahead before their stay.
It’s almost enough to make you forget the golf. Cape Schanck Resort is still a place to swing a club to your heart’s content, but now you can also pamper in luxury, go the burn, refuel in style or – just a gentle suggestion – simply sit by the fire and watch the moody Peninsula landscape steal the show.