While there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Melbourne, there’s plenty more to do in the areas around the city says Antoine Lewis
While Melbourne city sits at the northernmost part of the oval-shaped Port Phillip Bay, at the mouth of the Yarra River, the Greater Melbourne area extends southwards along the shorelines encircling the bay. To the city’s south-east is one of Melburnians’ favourite weekend spots–the boot-shaped Mornington Peninsula.
Barely an hour from Melbourne, a short, scenic, self-drive holiday opportunity at that, en route Mornington Peninsula (and around), the sea is just a salty breeze away. And when you’re inland, thick copses open up to large swathes of green fields and flat lands give away to rolling hills. Mornington will ring a bell for fans of Masterchef Australia as team challenges, in Season 3 and 4, sent contestants to farms on the peninsula to pick local produce, to cook on the show. Dotted with farms and wineries, Mornington supplies much of Melbourne’s fresh fruits, vegetables, artisanal cheeses as well as a variety of excellent wines.
With more than 50 cellar doors to choose from, it’s easy to create the perfect food and wine matching itinerary here, and Red Hill South’s Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove is as good a place as any to start. While this estate winery produces a range of wines, the focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Step outside the tasting room and you’ll find an unending stream of pizzas flowing out of the ovens into the casual dining Piazza Café that overlooks the vineyards. Montalto also conducts an Annual Sculpture contest and has over 20 permanent sculptures throughout its estate.
Pop into T’Gallant for some crisp old -world style, Pinot Grigio and a very fruity, almost dessert-like, rose pink sparkling Moscato. There are plenty of antipasti going around, but the pizzas at the rustic La Baracca Expresso Bar & Trattoria are very popular with kids.
Almost all these places are not only tourist-friendly, but also child-friendly. Australia’s largest strawberry producer, Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, allows visitors to pick strawberries for themselves, for which a different section of the farm is opened up, every day. All you need to do is pick up an empty punnet box (available in different sizes) and head to the allotted section with rows and rows of ripe strawberry plants. Parents, grandparents and children excitedly forage through the shrubs looking for the perfect, juicy red berry. Later you can treat yourself, and your kids, for all the hard work–to one of the big strawberry desserts from the dessert café.
Ordinarily, a beauty like Heronswood garden in Dromana, with a commanding view of Port Phillip Bay, would not find place on a gastronome’s list. However, Heronswood is also home to Digger’s Club, a group dedicated to preserving Australian horticultural history and heirloom fruits and vegetables. The Club not only manages the property, but also sells a range of vegetable and fruit seeds, many of which are perfect for a kitchen garden. But more importantly the sweet, little café is famous for its fabulous scones with thick clotted cream and raspberry jam. They’re so sinful, you’ll want to eat a whole plate by yourself!
Getting to Mornington
Car: Follow the coastline from Melbourne via Frankston to access Port Phillip’s bayside towns. For a quicker journey (60 minutes) take the M1 and join the Eastlink tollway.
Train: Jump on a metropolitan train service from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to Frankston, then connect through Hastings to Stony Point on Westernport Bay.
Bus: From Melbourne to all areas and local bus routes operate around each Mornington Peninsula village. Bus number 788 departs Frankston station for towns alongside Port Phillip Bay to Portsea.
Published DNA Friday, 22 May 2015