A cruisy hour-long drive from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is popular among city slickers for a day trip. Though home to countless options for fine dining, wineries, spa and surf, it offers enough to do for a week-long visit, too.
Alex McCabe grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, leaving it to go to university, but continually visiting over the years, and now living here again. As the co-founder and creative director of homewares brand Kip & Co, she’s who you would ask for stylish recommendations in the area.
“My parents were pioneers in the wine industry on the Peninsula,” says McCabe. “They had retained a beautiful block of land with their original vineyard on it. When they decided to sell, I bought it with the plan to rent a house on it. Then COVID happened and we moved there, incredibly fortunate to have a place with space and trees during those long lockdowns. Now, we’re here for good.”
Ahead, McCabe shares her to places in Mornington Peninsula to eat, stay and play.
Best Hotels in Mornington Peninsula
“I love the Log Box in Red Hill — it’s a boutique accommodation with three spaces on the one block so you can stay with multiple groups or just indulge yourself. The owner is a keen art collector and the spaces are part gallery, part accommodation. It’s the perfect mix as you look out over the rolling bush — kangaroos guaranteed — to the ocean beyond.
“My other favourite place to stay is Camillo House, the new kid on the block making a big impact with its impeccably renovated 1970s home a stone’s throw from the beach. If you’re after a full-service hotel, Jackalope Hotel is hard to go past, with its multiple restaurants on-site, a bar and an infinity pool overlooking the vineyard. This place is a one-stop-shop for indulgence.”
Best Restaurants in Mornington Peninsula
“Definitely Tedesca Osteria, an intimate venue of 30 seats that feels more like a home than a restaurant. It’s warm and welcoming, and you immediately feel yourself slow down and sink in – ready to indulge in a four-hour — yes, four — set-menu lunch made from local produce. Book ahead though, these spots get snapped up months in advance.
“Don’t worry if you miss out on a booking at Tedesca, we’re spoilt for choice down here. Try Pt Leo Estate and marvel at the best sculpture garden I’ve ever seen while you pick from fine dining if you’re down for a special occasion or the more casual main restaurant – both brilliant.
“Many Little in Red Hill has an excellent Sri Lankan menu. I recommend grabbing a seat at the snug little bar. There’s a brand new Spanish-style wine cellar in Dromana, Bodega, where you can grab a bottle from the shelf and enjoy a snack. If you’re down with the kids it’s hard to go passed Fontalina in Balnarring, excellent and fast wood-fired pizza that does the trick for the kiddies every time.”
Best Things to Do in Mornington Peninsula
“There are so many beautiful walks and beaches in the Mornington Peninsula, but a must-visit is the Mermaid Pool, which you can access from Bushrangers Bay. It’s as pretty as it sounds but make sure you go at low tide or access will be trick.
“My favourite cafés are the Somers General Store and Merricks General Wine Store. I recommend ordering a rosé and bowl of chips on the deck at Somers and then strolling down the stairs to the beach for some dolphin spotting. They’re here most days.
My favourite gallery is the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. It really punches above its weight — case in point: the Archibald is touring here for the next two months. And my favourite shop is a boutique called Aestas in Flinders for a carefully curated collection of pieces from around the world.
“The ninch is about one hour from Melbourne and is well worth a weekend trip. It’s perfect for families but also popular for a romantic getaway. It’s known for its abundance of high-quality scenic wineries — my favourites include Kerri Greens winery where you can BYO a picnic and sit and energy a vino in rugged hipster surroundings, Point Leo estate for bougie day out set amongst one of the most impressive sculpture gardens in Australia, and Foxeys for a relaxed share plate and a glass of wine on the hill.”