When in Melbourne, Australia, daytrips to the surrounding area are a popular to-do on each visitor’s schedule. Unfamiliar to the region and on my first visit to the country, venturing out far on my own wasn’t really an option for me (neither was trying to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road). So I searched the internet for a tour company offering expeditions to the Mornington Peninsula. I opted for Bunyip Tours, a popular local tour provider whose Mornington Peninsula Ultimate Tour promised a full day of fun with several interesting stops in the area.
5 Things to Discover in Mornington Peninsula, Australia
In the early morning hours of the tour day, I was conveniently picked up at a nearby landmark. A young friendly Australian with curly hair and a big smile introduced himself to our 12-person group as the tourguide and announced the schedule of the day. “All of you but one chose to first visit the local hotsprings. Great choice, that is my favorite place in the area!” he praised. The outlier, of course, was me. I must have not done my research correctly, how could I have overlooked and not booked the suddenly fantastic sounding hotsprings?
My fear of missing out turned out to be unnecessary. Before meeting the rest of the group again for lunch, the tourguide brought me to the Point Nepean National Park, as well as to several stunning beaches.
5. Point Nepean National Park and Quarantine Station
Located at the very tip of the Mornington Peninusla and part of Port Phillip Bay, the Point Nepean National Park is a former quarantine station and an important historical site, dating back to early European settlement. In the 1850’s immigrants, who often developed fever and other diseases on sea, had to stay at the quarantine station. Consequently disease-spreading to the Australian population was prevented. The park was closed to the public for more than 100 years and opened to visitors again in 2009.
‘What a serene place! A beautiful park to wander around on my own, gather my thoughts and explore,’ I thought to myself while my tourguide gave me a rundown of the site’s history. “You gotta be careful when on your own in this park though,” he warned. “Some parts are a former range area. They have contaminated soil and unexploded landmines!” So much for exploring on my own.
Point Nepean National Park
Former Quarantine Station
4. Sorrento Back Beach and local seashores
A close Australian friend of mine, now Las Vegas based, recommended for me to visit his childhood favorites: Sorrento Back Beach and other seashores in the Peninsula.
Just south of the town of Sorrento, the Back Beach is a popular surfing and summer hang-out destination. Low tide reveals natural rock formations known as rockpools. Limestone paved footpaths and excellent views along the coast make this a great walking and hiking place. A beautiful place to spend a whole day at.
3. Lunch & Winetasting
At midday the tour made a beeline to the traditional Pig & Whistle Tavern’s Winery and Cellar Door for a well-deserved lunch. Nestled in the Mornington Peninsula’s rolling hills amongst serene gardens and a picturesque vineyard, the Pig & Whistle Tavern – so we were told – is a popular stop in the area. The large Bayview Estate is home to the restaurant, tavern and a few accommodation options.
Adjacent to the Pig & Whistle, a charming beer garden appeared inviting. Had the weather been more welcoming, we certainly would have enjoyed the beauiful nautral surrounding here. Lunch instead was served at a lovely private function room, housing an expansive selection of fine wines and overlooking the vineyard. Cozying up to indoor patio heaters, we enjoyed our choice of either fish & chips, local seafood or other Australian favorites. The subsequent winetasting included regional reds and whites and gave us an opportunity to purchase a unique giveaway for friends at home.
Traditional Aussie cuisine: fish & chips!
A Mornington Peninsula institution, the Pig & Whistle Tavern can be found at the picturesque Bayview Estate Winery
Wide selection of red and white wines for some post-lunch winetasting fun
2. Chocolate Tasting
En route to our next stop, the collective excitement of the group revealed that everyone had a solid sweet tooth. We were headed to Mornington Peninsula Chocolates in the charming seaside town of Flinders, for a chocolate tasting. The small family-run shop, inspired by the 2000 movie Chocolat, offers an array of artisan sweets, handcrafted in the shop’s own chocolate factory. Flowers, miniature houses, high heel shoes and cars artfully made out of chocolate were on display for visitors to admire. After careful delibration as well as collecting the other tour group members’ insights, the decision was clear: the salted caramel praline was a joint favorite.
Mornington Peninsula Chocolate’s sweet collection
1. The Enchanted Adventure Garden
On our final stop, we explored the Enchanted Adventure Garden, a playground for young and old alike. In anticipation of Australia’s largest tube slide park, 4 mazes including a 3D indoor maze, zip lining, tree surfing and several beautifully landscaped gardens we ventured to this vast park located in Arthurs Seat. After joining some newly aquainted friends in the tour group to wander through the large hedge maze, a freshly brewed coffee awaiting at the Adventure Garden’s own coffee shop marked the right note to end a memorable and fulfilling day at the Mornington Peninsula.
Beautifully manicured gardens at the Enchanted Garden Adventure
Bunyip Tours Melbourne, 570 Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000