Mornington Peninsula, just an hour south of Melbourne, has a little bit of everything for everyone! From cute little beach towns, to rugged coastlines, national parks, vineyards and spas – it’s a great little escape from the city.
If you are visiting Mornington Peninsula with a small budget, foreshore camping is the way to go! One thousand campsites, all adjacent to the beach (and Nepean Hwy) in the towns of Rosebud, Rye and Sorrento, can be booked in advance for a relatively small fee. The fee will depend on the season that you visit, and whether or not you are visiting with a tent or caravan that requires power. During the peak season of Dec 19 to Jan 30, you need to book far in advance.
Foreshore camping also puts you in a great location to enjoy the beaches and explore the small towns which line the coast along the Nepean Hwy. You can find a large Woolworths and Coles, as well as a shopping centre in Rosebud if you are in need of camping food or gear.
Mornington Peninsula National Park
Whether or not you’ve got a few hours or a few days in Mornington Peninsula National Park, this long and narrow park is sure to impress you. We had a day to explore the region, and our only disappointment was not having more time to do some of the coastal walks/hikes. Luckily, there are many quick stops that you can make from the road. Two of our highlights from the park were:
- The Blowhole: From the car park, you immediately get a beautiful view of the rugged basalt coast. Follow a short trail down to the water, where you can walk across the rocks and pebble beach to the blowhole.
- Cape Schanck: Take a trail from the car park out to a stunning view of the cape, jutting out into the ocean. Follow (many) steps down to multiple platforms where you can catch a view of the lighthouse, and even further down to the rocky beach. Once on the rocky beach, I highly recommend that you continue walking to your right, along the rock platform, to see some really neat geologic formations.
Peninsula Hot Springs
Like anyone else, I like the occasional pampering. The problem is that I’m usually way too cheap! But Peninsula Hot Springs is a very affordable pampering – and you’d never guess it from the Bath House. I can’t speak to the spa, but the bathing area is beautifully set within lots of greenery, and offers 20 different “experiences” which include different temperature pools (one of which sits on top of a hill!!), a sauna, steam room, and showers. We paid $35 dollars each (off peak day) and spent over 2 hours hopping between pools and sitting by the duck pond. You can save even more money by visiting in the morning before 9 am. I’d recommend doing it in the morning or evening, because those pools are HOT. I couldn’t imagine doing it during the daytime in the heat of the Australian summer.
Point Nepean National Park
On a map, Point Nepean stretches far out into the water, dividing Port Phillip Bay from the Bass Strait. Looks like a pretty cool place, right? And it’s a national park, so much like the Mornington Peninsula National Park, it’s probably bursting with natural beauty? Mmm, I wouldn’t say this is the case. This park has some trails, but I didn’t find that they offered spectacular coastal scenery. Some sections just follow a paved road that the park shuttle uses! Others were gravel paths lined within some vegetation – but still pretty boring. I should acknowledge that it is possible that our experience may have been dampened by the ridiculous amount of flies.
However, the park is full of history! This is inclusive of the Indigenous dependence on the coastline for gathering shellfish, as well as the early European settlement in Victoria. It has an eerie Quarantine Center, as well as military forts and tunnels. The Quarantine Center and Information Center are accessible by car, but the forts and tunnels are accessed only by walking or by shuttle. The furthest vehicular access into the park is Gunners Cottage. Alternatively, bikes can be hired at the Information Centre.
Before heading back to the city, you may want to check what markets are running to pick up some local fruits and veggies, wine, crafts, plants, or maybe just brunch!
We caught the weekly Mornington Main Street Market, which happens every Wednesday (9am to 3pm). It had the town buzzing, and was impressively large and well established. We had a great time grabbing breakfast sandwiches, fresh produce, and some potted flowers.
Trip Extension: Phillip Island and its Penguin Parade
If you’ve got more time to explore, an hour and a half drive around the Western Port Bay will take you to Phillip Island. You’ll need a couple of days to see everything that the island has to offer, including the Koala Conservation Centre, The Knobbies, Pyramid Rock, the SPECTACULAR beaches, and the Penguin Parade.
Do NOT leave Australia without attending the Penguin Parade to see the Little Penguins. You’ll be blown away to learn that this attraction had over 1 million visitors last year – and that it is for good reason. Every night, you are guaranteed to see these little 1 foot tall penguins swim up to shore and waddle to their nests. I was hesitant to allow myself to have high expectations, anticipating that it may be a bit of a tourist trap, but I was tremendously happy with the experience and would do it again.
When you attend, I recommend that you sit at the bottom right of the stadium to get the best view of them arriving. I also recommend that you don’t stay in the stadium seating too long. Walking the boardwalks will give you an excellent opportunity to get up close to them. Also…dress warmly! It may be hard to believe during the heat of the day, but the Penguin Parade is at night and on a windy beach. So bring layers, and if you’ve got a high level of cute aggression, bring something to squeeze.