The Mornington Peninsula may be best known as one of Victoria’s top food and wine destinations but its gentle bay beaches, a range of year-round activities and plentiful accommodation make it an ideal holiday destination for families. So what should you do to get the best out of the Peninsula?
1. A day exploring the beach
There is no shortage of fabulous beaches along the Mornington Peninsula, with the choice of bay beaches with wide sandbars and shallow, clear water or the wilder ‘back’ beaches for those wanting some surf. But for beach fun that doesn’t require a full day of bathers, towels, sunscreen, snacks and a million sand toys, check out the rock pools at Portsea back beach. Sightings of starfish, crabs, limpets and snails are almost guaranteed and there’s also the rocky London Bridge and natural caves to explore.
There’s also exploring to be done at Mount Martha’s Fossil Beach. Significant fossils were found in the limestone cliffs along the beach in the 1850s, some dating from 10 – 15 million years ago, and while it’s safe to assume there are no more major fossils to be uncovered, it’s sure to capture the imagination of budding archaeologists. Access to Fossil Beach is via the cliff path at the Bentons Road picnic area.
2. Get lost
Arthur’s Seat seems to be the epicentre of hedge mazes in Victoria (or even Australia) but my pick is the Enchanted Adventure Garden. As well as traditional hedge mazes, there’s also a Blue Gum maze, gigantic ‘puzzles’ to solve, tube slides and a pram-friendly canopy walk. Additional activities such as tree-surfing and zip-lining are also available. Block out a full day – there’s so much to see and do at the Enchanted Adventure Garden, you’ll need hours.
3.Choo! Choo! All aboard!
For junior train enthusiasts, the Mornington Railway is loads of fun. Heritage trains, including steam and diesel engines with passenger carriages, run between Moorooduc and Mornington. Trains run on the first three Sundays of each month (with extra services during school holidays) and at less than an hour for a round trip, it’s a perfect outing for little kids.
4. Underwater adventures
The snorkeling scene in Australia may be dominated by the tropical waters and coral reefs in the north however Port Phillip Bay has world-class temperate water diving and snorkeling. Snorkeling is my family’s favourite activity and all my kids learnt in the calm, shallow waters along the Peninsula and there’s certainly lots to see.
There are numerous destination diving spots along the Peninsula, including the Port Phillip Heads Marine Park, Pope’s Eye and submerged World War I submarines but for families, the underwater trail at Rye Pier, known as the Octopus’s Garden, is fantastic. Expect to see seahorses, sea slugs, sponge gardens, squid, urchins, hermit crabs and, if you’re lucky, weedy sea dragons. The 200-metre trail is well sign-posted (above and underwater) with instructions on how to follow the trail and what to look out for – all you need is a mask and snorkel. Check tides before you start the trail as water depth can vary between 0.5 and 3 metres.
5. Time to play
Playgrounds are located all along the Mornington Peninsula foreshore but a couple stand out. The Waterfront Reserve Foreshore Playground in Frankston has a sandcastle theme, shaded sandpits and is accessed by an extensive boardwalk. The playground is divided into areas suitable for toddlers and older children.
At the other end of the Peninsula is the Sorrento Historic Park. Without a doubt, the fort-style playground will attract the kids but it is all the other things the Park has to offer that will hold them – huge grassy hills (just made for epic rolls), amazing views across the Bay, a lookout from where you can watch the ferries come and go, and a helipad. Head down the cliff steps and explore the waterfront – keep your eye out for huge sting rays as there’s always plenty loitering around the sea walls!
6. To market, to market
The Red Hill Market is a Mornington Peninsula institution – parents will enjoy browsing and kids will enjoy eating their way around the market and nagging for one of the many wooden toys, costumes, soft toys and art and craft treats on offer from over 300 stalls. I recommend making a beeline for The Flying Calamari Brothers who serve up golden calamari in paper cones, washed down with tangy lemonade from the homemade lemonade stand.
If your visit to the Peninsula doesn’t coincide with a Red Hill Market day, equally good are the Point Nepean Market and the Emu Plains Market, held under the shady String Barks surrounding the Balnarring Racecourse.
7. Drive-in at Dromana
Catch a movie the old-fashioned way at Dromana Drive-In. The program changes weekly but special kids and early sessions are held during the holidays, with films starting at approximately 6pm. Kids will enjoy the opportunity to see a movie in their pyjamas and talk all the way through it if they so desire! The Dromana Drive-In has a fun fifties-style cafe and a playground for burning some energy between flicks.
8. Have a berry good afternoon
Why is strawberry picking so much fun? I don’t know, but I do know it’s a delicious way to spend an afternoon. Head to Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm in Main Ridge, pick a few punnets of berries to take home but also leave time to visit the scrumptious Dessert Cafe where you’ll find classics such as Eton Mess and crowd-pleasing ice cream sundaes.
9. Take a walk
Okay, so it’s a little bit like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous but for breathtaking views of Port Phillip Bay and a peek into the backyards of the clifftop seaside mansions, the Sorrento Millionaires Walk is a must. There are historical markers along the way and a clear pathway but don’t worry if you feel like you’re walking through people’s gardens – you are, but it’s allowed thanks to Crown land being retained for such purposes!
10. Soak away
For a thoroughly relaxing end to your holiday, stop by Peninsula Hot Springs. Enjoy the naturally occurring hot springs through a variety of ‘bathing experiences’ including pools, a cave pool, reflexology walk, a Turkish steam bath, saunas, cold plunge pools, a huge family bathing area, massaging thermal mineral showers and a hilltop pool which has stunning 360 degree views of the region.
A couple of tips – firstly, book ahead as it does get busy during holidays and visitor numbers are capped. Secondly, it’s the perfect place to visit in seasons other than summer – the water is hot and best enjoyed on a cool, crisp autumn day.
Make sure to take a look at our previous fun things to do with kids travel posts. We’ve been to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Cairns, Adelaide, Newcastle, Canberra, Perth, Bendigo and Tassie. Where would you like us to go next?