Melbourne is fortunate to have the glorious Mornington Peninsula, just a short drive from the city. Locals and tourists swarm to the region, in the warm weather especially, to enjoy not only the outstanding beaches, but a plethora of awesome recreational pursuits and just to chill out.
It’s the perfect destination for day-trippers and holiday-makers in Victoria, Australia because there are so many epic things to do on Mornington Peninsula all year round, that entice people to visit, stay and play.
About the Mornington Peninsula Region
The boot-shaped Mornington Peninsula has approximately 190km of coastline, with many seaside towns facing Port Phillip Bay. Western Port Bay is at the back of the Peninsula, the South Pacific Ocean at the foot and Bass Strait at the heel.
Enjoying the fabulous beaches is what draws people here, and definitely one of the best things to do on Mornington Peninsula. Both the ocean beaches and bayside beaches are popular.
Ocean beaches or back beaches, have wild surf, rock pools, and rugged terrain which are exciting to explore. Such as Gunnamatta Beach, Portsea Back Beach and Sorrento Back Beach.
Meanwhile the front beaches facing the Bay, such as Safety Beach, Dromana, and Rye, are more protected, with calmer waves, shallower waters and a few sand banks, hence are much safer for swimming and playing.
The region is very busy during Summer holidays, particularly over December and January when everything is in full swing for fun in the sun. The population increases dramatically, as Melburnians escape the city to their Summer playground to enjoy the sandy beaches and partake in water sports.
Many people from Melbourne own holiday homes here on the Peninsula, and some live here permanently, because why not have the best of both worlds, work and holiday at the same location.
Popular water sports at the Peninsula include boating, sailing, kayaking, fishing, jet-skiing, surfing, paddle boarding, swimming and scuba-diving, amongst others.
Other leisure activities people love here all year round are visiting iconic landmarks, experiencing world class food and wine, hiking, bushwalking, bike riding, wetlands, gardens, wildlife and a host of other recreational activities.
The Mornington Peninsula has almost everything you want to do on a long or short getaway.
Having visited and holidayed in the region many times, I have put together a list of epic things to do on Mornington Peninsula that I’m sure you will enjoy, whether you’re going for a day trip or a longer vacation.
It’s by no means a complete list of everything there is to see and do here, but will give you a taste of the region and leave you wanting more.
1. Cruise Port Phillip Bay and Swim with Seals and Dolphins
One of the most epic things to do on Mornington Peninsula is to take a cruise on the magnificent Bay. Cruising the sea is an adventure not to be missed. As you enjoy the views of the coastline and blue ocean water, you can view wildlife such has Humpback Whales, Australian Fur Seals and Dolphins which live in or migrate through Port Phillip. You can even experience swimming and snorkelling with the animals.
2. Take the Port Phillip Bay Ferry
An alternative to a boat cruise is the Sorrento to Queenscliff Ferry, an iconic attraction and a perfect way to explore part of the Bay. It is something everyone can enjoy. The Ferry crosses the southern tip of the Bay from the Mornington Peninsula to the Bellarine Peninsula and usually departs every hour from Sorrento Pier. See if you can spot dolphins, whales and seals from the vessel, as they love to swim alongside.
You might like to enjoy ‘High Tea on the High Seas’ for a little indulgence. Or a Captain’s Lunch of delicious local produce.
Visit Searoad website for more details and for bookings.
3. Surf, Paddle, or Kayak
If you’re an experienced surfer, some of the best places to surf are the back beaches of Mornington Peninsula, namely Portsea Surf Beach, Sorrento Ocean Beach, St Andrews Beach, Gunnamatta Ocean Beach and Flinders Ocean Beach. Check swellnet before going out.
SUP Boarding or Kayaking is ideal anywhere on the front beaches where there are only small waves.
Surfing lessons are available from the many instructors on the Peninsula.
4. See the Colourful Beach Boxes
You will see many colourful beach boxes lined up on the shore in various locations, which are iconic to the area and much-loved features of the coastal landscape. These cute boxes are privately owned by local residents and are used as storage facilities for boats, beach umbrellas, chairs, surf equipment and the like, and some are even fully fitted out with furniture and appliances for maximum comfort on the beach and to entertain guests. Believe it or not, they are quite expensive pieces of real estate, situated on prime land with the best views. However, they are not for habitation.
5. Ride the Arthurs Seat Eagle
Arthurs Seat is located at the summit of the mountain at Dromana which rises approximately 300 metres above sea level. An iconic attraction for its breathtaking panoramic views of the Mornington Peninsula.
The perfect way to enjoy the spectacular scenery is to take the Arthurs Seat Eagle Ride. Gondola cabins glide down the hillside through the treetops, flying over the forest and wildlife below, down towards the Bay, giving you literally a bird’s-eye view. No need to book, just turn up. You can even take a twilight ride.
6. Relax and Rejuvenate at Peninsula Hot Springs
One of my favourite attractions and a highlight on the Mornington Peninsula, is the hot mineral springs. A total wellness retreat located at Fingal, set amongst serene Australian bush with dozens of different thermal pools to experience, in a beautifully landscaped setting. Relax and rejuvenate body and soul, and indulge in the different therapies available at the wellness spa.
There is no time limit, you can stay as long as you like. A new area has been added with an amphitheatre for live shows whilst you bathe There is a cafe, or have a picnic. The evening session is perfect for a lovely romantic outing. Glamping here is also an option.
Definitely book prior to going, so you don’t miss out, as its a very popular destination. Allow a few hours and you will leave feeling rejuvenated. A wonderfully calming experience for all us busy, stressed souls. I thoroughly recommend it, anytime of the year, but preferably in the cooler months.
7. Experience Vineyards of the Mornington Peninsula Wine Region
What better way to enjoy your holiday at the Mornington Peninsula than by visiting some of the many outstanding wineries in the region. The cool maritime climate is apparently perfect for wine growing, as dozens of wine makers here will testify.
Try some local wines at the cellar doors and dine at the winery restaurants which offer local produce on their menus. Indoor and outdoor dining is available, and some places offer charming accommodation too.
Visiting a winery here is a memorable experience, even if you don’t partake in wine. The stunning properties have picturesque vineyards, romantic gardens, and some have beautiful lakes, art and sculpture parks to browse and little shops selling locally produced gourmet foods.
Some of my favourite wineries on the Peninsula are:
8. Explore Cape Schanck Lighthouse and surrounds
Cape Schanck is the furthest point South on the Peninsula and the old lighthouse is a historic nautical landmark and tourist attraction, built 1859.
You can take a tour to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views of the coast.
Walk the stepped boardwalk down to the rock pools and explore the coastal reserve. See Pulpit Rock at the tip.
Explore other walking trails nearby, to Bushrangers Bay.
9. Dine at Fabulous Restaurants
Dining on the Peninsula is an exciting experience, with many, many restaurants, cafes and pubs to choose from. You will find some are located adjacent to the beach or right across the road, with great views as you dine or enjoy a drink.
A few of my favourite restaurants on the Mornington Peninsula, which I recommend you try are:
- Portsea Hotel
- Intercontinental Hotel (currently being refurbished)
- Italico Sorrento
- Vanilla Slice Cafe Sorrento
- The Sisters Cafe Sorrento
- The Kitchen, Rye
- Rosebud Hotel
- Baro Mediterranean Restaurant Rosebud
- Monkey Business Dromana
- Zero 95 Pizza Dromana
- Two Buoys Dromana
- DOC Mornington
- 400 Gradi Mornington
- Mercetta Cafe and Bar Mornington
- Lunar Dumpling Bar Mornington
- Kirks On The Esplanade Mornington
- The Rocks, Mornington.
10. Shop ‘Til You Drop
The best shopping in the region, is Main Street in Mornington and Ocean Beach Road in Sorrento. These shopping strips offer a great variety of retail stores and specialise in beachy coastal wares, clothing, shoes, art galleries and gourmet food. Shopping is one of the favourite things to do here any time of year.
Browse the Markets
And, who doesn’t love a good market. Some of the best on Mornington Peninsula are:
- Red Hill Market, Arthurs Seat Rd, Red Hill is the most popular – every 1st Saturday of the month.
- Emu Plains Market, Balnarring – check website as dates vary.
- Mornington Main Street Market, every Wednesday.
11. Play Some Golf
If golf is your thing, you will be in heaven, as the region has about 20 golf courses and golf resorts to explore, with exceptional views. Some have resort accommodation. Many courses are some of the best in the country. Here are some of the most iconic courses in the region.
- Moonah Links, a world class course.
- Portsea Golf Club has amazing views of the Bay.
- Sorrento Golf Club, an historic and much loved club.
- St Andrews Beach Golf Club, one of the best public golf courses.
Visit this website for more information on golf courses in Mornington Peninsula.
12. Visit Ashcombe Maze
The Maze is an iconic landmark in the Mornington Peninsula, since the 1970’s. All ages can enjoy this magical place and have fun conquering the huge maze and visiting the lovely lavender and rose gardens.
Read my post here for all the details.
13. Hike the Trails
Walking trails around the Peninsula are super popular for the picturesque views, bushland, wildlife and lovely sea breeze.
All levels of hiking are on offer in the region. Some of the best and most scenic trails are:
- The Bay Trail, one of the easiest and most popular walks, winding along the foreshore from Safety Beach to Portsea.
- Mornington Board Walk, takes you to the Matthew Flinders monument.
- Arthurs Seat Walk, a very steep climb up the hill but the magnificent views are so worth it.
- Two Bays Walking Track, from Dromana to Cape Schanck through bush, is average difficulty and you’ll be rewarded with terrific ocean panorama.
- Cape Schanck Boardwalk.
- Point Nepean National Park at the tip of the Peninsula, has various walking trails.
14. Take in the History at Fort Nepean
The Fort is a historic landmark located at Point Nepean, right at the southern-most tip of the Peninsula. An 18th century military fort used in both world wars to protect Melbourne. An interesting place to explore with tunnels below. Entry to the fort is free.
There are a number of walking trails nearby and magnificent views of The Rip, one of the most dangerous sea roads in the world.
Fact: In 1967 Australia’s then Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, disappeared whilst swimming here at Cheviot Beach, Point Nepean.
15. Discover a Hidden Gem at The Pillars
Not widely publicised, not even signed, the Pillars are a bit of a hidden gem, a popular spot for those in the know. The attraction at Mount Martha’s Esplanade, resembles places on the Mediterranean, with sandstone rock cliffs overlooking pristine waters and caves below. People sit on the rock ledge and swim in the water. A pretty location but not recommended for young kids, as the cliffs are quite high and it is difficult to reach.
Accommodation on Mornington Peninsula
I’m sure you will want to stay a while to soak up some of the awesome things to do on Mornington Peninsula. If you’re interested in short term accommodation there is plenty available to suit everyone’s needs and budgets –
- Apartments, and
There are also luxury homes and villas, with stunning views of the Bay.
All-inclusive resorts have become popular too, which have pools, tennis courts, gyms and on-site restaurants.
Camping and caravanning on the foreshore is an epic experience, right in front of the beach, and it’s budget-friendly. But permitted only in designated caravan parks and camping grounds. These are mainly at Rosebud, Rye and Sorrento, and are so popular, the camping sites are booked out well in advance. Find out more information on the website.
Have you tried glamping? You can do that here too.
Check out the following fabulous accommodation options:,
- Portsea Holiday Getaway – luxury home with large yard and pool, walk to the beach, suits large family.
- Rye luxury Retreat – spacious 2 storey home, for large group, a short walk to the beach.
- Sorrento Beach House – suits a big group, backyard with pool.
- Sorrento Beach Cottage – 2 bedroom cottage, ideal for short stay.
- Soleil Sur La Mer in Dromana – modern beachy vibes, only 1 min walk from beach, fits large group.
- RACV Cape Schanck Resort – suites and villas available, excellent facilities including pools, tennis courts and golf course.
- Red Hill Ridge in Dromana – a 5 bedroom farmhouse on a huge property with a lake, short drive to beach.
- Centrum Red Hill South – a bush getaway, house with 4 bedrooms, perfect for exploring nearby wineries and walking trails.
- Villa Provence in Merricks North – a stunning large 2 storey European residence.
- Illuka Glamping Retreat in Red Hills South – disconnect from the world in a glam tent with patio and lake view.