The real Mornington Peninsula (minus hot springs and polo)

Melburnians’ love affair with the Mornington Peninsula is no secret. It is well-trodden territory, but its allure goes beyond the hot springs and technicoloured bathing boxes. To get the untapped lowdown on where to eat and what trails to walk, you only need to hit up one source: locals. Because who knows the Peninsula better than the people who live and work there? With that in mind, here is the ultimate locals’ guide to the Peninsula. Using intel from Lindenderry at Red Hill’s team, we’ve assembled the must-eats, the best sips and what you need to know for your next weekend Peninsula-side. Prepare to take notes. 

Eat

You don’t go to the Mornington Peninsula to enjoy just one meal; you go to enjoy many – and it starts with breakfast. The fare from Flock Café guarantees your morning starts on a seriously delicious note. The breakfast burger from milkbar & co. will do the trick too. In the bakery stakes, the Peninsula has two standouts. Munch on gourmet pies from Red Hill Baker – the duck and five-spice offering is the pick of the bunch – or snap up a breakfast quiche or legendary apple pie from Johnny Ripe. To reach either from Lindenderry couldn’t be easier - both are less than a five minutes’ drive from the hotel.
 
Dining dens like Port Phillip Estate, Paringa Estate, Trofeo Estate and Montalto all get the local thumbs up, but venturing off the vineyard and cellar door path has its rewards. Ask for a table on the covered deck at The Rocks Mornington for an unbeatable view as you order from the seafood-heavy menu. To snack as you walk, snaffle up a paper cone-filled fish-and-chip combo from the Mornington pier kiosk, or place an order at the nautical-kitsch Morgan’s Beach Shack to tuck into market-fresh fish and spice-dusted calamari. Ciao Bella has picture-perfect alfresco dining and award-winning pizzas, but D.O.C Gastronomia Italiana has a knack for mouth-watering pies too. Punchy Thai flavours are nailed at The Lighthouse Cafe, or savour perfectly al dente pasta at Cook & Norman Trattoria.
 
Taking a piece of the Mornington Peninsula home should be high on anyone’s agenda. Swing by Woolumbi Farm for nitrate-free pork (nitrate is a preservative used to give ham and bacon its pink hue), free-range eggs, homemade preserves and other goodies to stock your car boot. Fill an esky with Dromana Bay Mussels from the Safety Beach or Hastings outposts. 
 
Where to eat Mornington Peninsula

Sip

Coffee, good coffee, runs through the veins of most Melburnians, and a requirement of any weekend destination is at least one haunt that boasts a decent brew. Commonfolk Coffee Company has one of the best, local-approved cups on the Peninsula. They even roast their own beans and serve smashed avocado, another Melbourne staple. Swap caffeine for beta-carotene and hightail it to Store Fifteen for a house-pressed juice or raw super smoothie. 
 
As the afternoon turns into evening, make for one of the Mornington Peninsula’s tucked-away watering holes. Mr Paul’s Beer & Wine can be found behind an electrical store in a Mornington shopping mall and has a rotating selection of brews. Merchant Lane is a cool, buzzing den offering street food-inspired fare and an alley-like setting. Sip on local vintages at Mr Curtis in Mount Martha, or make the 10-minute drive from Lindenderry to Dromana for a waterfront perch at tapas-and-wine-bar hybrid Two Buoys. Further along in Rosebud West, the Sound Bar hosts regular live music gigs and muddles lip-smacking cocktails. 
Point Nepean National Park
Cellar and Pantry Red Hill

Explore

Put simply, a weekend on the Peninsula spent only indoors is time wasted. Get out and explore; the Peninsula demands it. To feel the sand beneath your toes, look to Canadian Bay Beach, the Rosebud foreshore or the back beach at Flinders (this one happens to be close to the Blowhole too). While you’re on this corner of the Peninsula, Cape Schanck beckons. Take the Bushrangers Bay Track from the Cape car park to treat your peepers to spectacular coastal scenery. For more beauty spots, simply follow the back beach road between Flinders and Balnarring. Stop-worthy perches and little walks are strung along this stretch; most are signposted and favoured by locals in summer.
 
Make sure to stop off at Spray Point, a pocket of headland with #nofilter views across Koonya Ocean Beach and Diamond Bay. It’s next door to a gorgeous, sheltered cove and shelly beach too. A walking track leads from the car park to Montfords lookout. In Point Nepean National Park, strap on your sturdiest shoes and prepare for a thrill. Scrambling up London Bridge is an adventure (low-tide permitting, of course), or you can explore the rock pools beneath if you want to keep your feet on terra firma. If it’s a picnic you fancy, pack your hamper and head to Seawinds Gardens. There is a bounty of secluded spots hidden among the native and formal gardens. Tip: fill your basket with treats from Cellar & Pantry in Red Hill. To stay closer to home, you could also bring your hamper back to Lindenderry and spread a blanket out on one of the hotel’s lush lawns. Cue gourmet grazing bliss.

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