Global Grapevine’s Alex and Ross travelled the Mornington Peninsula in search of great bays, beaches and the challenge of The Pinnacles. Fly Isabella’s Liz Stark has been back to find the area’s best beach spots – and discovers it’s as wonderful, and as busy, as ever.
I’d been to Melbourne many times before, and knew loved suburbs like Fitzroy as well as tourist-staples like Cookie nestled in Melbourne City’s famous laneways. Until living here this year though I wasn’t really aware of the Mornington Peninsula and its best beach spots – and that’s coming from me, a massive beach bum. How negligent.
This summer 2016 (UK winter) it’s been amazing to start to explore this stunning coastline of calm shallow beaches, sparkling water (far from the boats of Port Melbourne/ St. Kilda so it’s definitely very clean) and many a mega-mansion.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
BRIGHTON BEACH | I confess I took about 200 pictures of beach huts here. This place is so English, until you look out to sea and it’s crystal clear and you glance to the right and you can see the skyscrapers of Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District). Get there early (you can catch a train if you don’t have a car) to see it before the crowds of Japanese tourists – hell-bent on the perfect beach hut Instagram shot, but with no intention of a swim or sitting on the sand. One of Mornington Peninsula’s best beach spots for sure, if only for the photos!
Also check out: to either side of the ‘beach hut stretch’ there are much quieter and just as lovely stretches of beach.Brighton Beach
HALF MOON BAY | this is another Mornington Peninsula best beach spot, and very accessible from Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station (the train line runs all the way down to Frankston, and another line goes beyond that). Offshore is part of the HMVS Cerberus, sunk as a breakwater in 1924 but currently deemed ‘unstable’ and in need of preserving.
Here, unlike some other quieter spots, they sell fish and chips and ice cream if – like me – you can’t get through a couple of hours without eating.Half Moon Bay
ARTHUR’S SEAT | this was a cool detour that friends drove us to on the way back from Portsea to Melbourne City: the road twists and bends up through scented eucalyptus trees to an altitude of 314m. We caught sunset over uninterrupted views of both the Mornington (east) and Bellarine (west) Peninsulas: Port Phillip Bay looks so tranquil, a huge glass lake despite the huge ships trawling its surface.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
SHELLEY BEACH | in Portsea is pretty much – but not quite – as far as you can get in search of Mornington Peninsula’s best beach spots, and it’s worth the 1.5+ hour drive from Melbourne. It’s a quiet beach, popular with the gay community and boasting beautiful fresh water due to being so close to the Bass Strait, yet protected from any waves as it’s still on the Port Phillip Bay side.
Also check out: just before Portsea is the historic wealthy town of Sorrento, which we didn’t leave time to explore but seemed to be full of retirees loving life.Shelley Beach
THE PINNACLES | great little not-so-secret spot in Mount Martha where only the brave jump, dive or somersault off the cliff rocks into the most incredible azure ocean: how European. Of course I didn’t have the guts to do it (mainly couldn’t figure out how the hell to get back out?!).
Also check out: Mount Martha is a best beach spot in its own right, complete with more rows of individually painted beach huts to rival Brighton Beach.The Pinnacles
ESPLANADE DRIVE | This drive between Dromana and the town of Mornington sticks in my mind for the ocean views and tempting beaches that we could spy below us.
Also check out: tonnes of places you could stop, but we grabbed brunch in Mornington at The Winey Cow. Very tasty but could have eaten my meal twice over!
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR OF:
NEPEAN HIGHWAY | in contrast to driving along the Esplanade (above), if you’re trying to hug the coast rather than take the freeway you will also hit the not-so-pleasant Nepean Highway. This is a slow and bland crawl from Frankston to Mordialloc, at which point you can jump on to the much more scenic Beach Road, taking in Black Rock and Half Moon Bay, all the way to St. Kilda.
FERRY | after a few days doing the famous Great Ocean Road drive, we decided to return via the Mornington Peninsula best beach spots and catch the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. What I hadn’t been told was that it was $62 for the car plus $11 for the second passenger. Kinda pricey. In hindsight I would save myself the extra drive time and tackle each peninsula in a different trip.
TRAFFIC | unfortunately this is largely linked to weekend popularity, so if you are planning to head anywhere on a sunny Saturday or Sunday definitely leave early. Also be prepared for crowds: The Pinnacles had a pretty harmless but bogan teenage crew dominating the cliff tops with their tatts and hip-hop-blaring speakers.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
FORT NEPEAN | this is the furthest point you can reach on the Mornington Peninsula, so drive past Shelley Beach in Portsea but no further: that’s the sea. I’ve been following @lostandfoundtraveller on Instagram and her pictures have been making me very envious.
AND KNOW THIS: The beach huts at Brighton – with no water or electricity – fetch up to $260,000 (approx. £150,000) and were originally used as ladies’ changing sheds in the 1800s before the council took over management in 1877. Later residents could go on a waitlist to purchase one for $11,000.