Located just one hour drive from Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula is a stunning seaside escape from busy city life. With wineries, galleries, spas and beaches in abundance, it’s no wonder “The Peninsula” is one of the most popular Melbourne day trips.
With so many things to do in Mornington Peninsula, a day trip will quickly evolve into a weekend getaway – thanks to the numerous attractions suitable for all ages, boutique hotels and picturesque campsites. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax and unwind, ready for a challenging hike or simply fancy a breath of fresh air from the bustle of city life these Mornington Peninsula attractions will delight all ages (and budgets!)
HOW TO GET FROM MELBOURNE TO MORNINGTON PENINSULA
As mentioned, the Mornington Peninsula is one of the most popular day trips from Melbourne, and thankfully a few transport options are available depending on your time and budget limits.
Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula By Car
The first time we drove from Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula, we hired a car from Skyscanner as we found this the cheapest way to compare hire companies. There are then two driving options:
You can either follow the coast from Melbourne via Frankston which will take you through the picturesque Port Phillip towns of Mt Eliza, Mornington, Rye, Sorrento and Portsea. Or for a faster route take the M1 which joins the Eastlink tollway. Then take the Mornington Peninsula Freeway and then Moorooduc Freeway and you’ll reach Mornington within an hour. To reach the very tip of the Peninsula at Portsea, it will take another 45 minutes of driving.
Noting there are no toll booths on the M1 or Eastlink so you will need to purchase passes beforehand from Citylink for the M1 or Breeze for Eastlink or check with your hire company if there is already one in the car.
Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula By Public Transport
You can take the train from Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula, leaving Southern Cross Station and Flinders Street every 15-20 minutes. The trains only run as far as Frankston, taking around 1 hour 5 minutes.
You will then need to take the local 788 bus to reach other towns along the Peninsula. It takes around 2 hours via bus to reach Portsea on the very tip of the Peninsula.
Note, to use public transport in Melbourne you will need to purchase a Myki card and top it up. You can buy a Myki from main stations or any 7 Eleven stores. For more details on public transport as well as timetables and costs for trains and buses from Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula, check with Public Transport Victoria website.
You can also travel to Mornington Peninsula via Ferry – head to #9 for more details.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MORNINGTON PENINSULA
During our seven months living in Victoria, we enjoyed several day trips from Melbourne, with Mornington Peninsula being one of the favourites. However, there is only so much we could squeeze into a day trip, so we asked a few of our favourite travel bloggers to share with us their favourite Mornington Peninsula attractions that we didn’t have time for, but so wish we had!
1. Visit the Mornington Peninsula Beaches
Let’s start with one of the most obvious things to in Mornington Peninsula – visit the beach. With Port Phillip Bay on one side and the open ocean on the other, it’s no surprise Mornington Peninsula is one of the most popular day trips from Melbourne with those looking for beaches to surf and swim. The beaches are home to many Mornington Peninsula attractions from the bright bathing boxes to dolphins, surf lessons to cliff jumping – here are our favourites:
Picturesque Mount Martha is one of the longest beaches on Mornington Peninsula, stretching 2km and divided in half by Balcombe Creek mouth. The white sand is interrupted by vibrant bathing boxes which are dotted along the shore providing the perfect backdrop for holiday snaps. Martha Cliff offers protection from intense currents, making Mount Martha a safe and calm beach to swim although beware of unexpected drop-offs.
For the adrenaline junkies, head to The Pillars – one of the most popular Mornington Peninsula attractions with locals and tourists alike. Be warned, to reach this cliff jumping haven, you will have to endure a tricky path along the edge of the cliffs, and there was word of local authorities closing it off, so read local reviews before making the trek to see if it’s still open during your visit.
From one of the most treacherous Mornington Peninsula attractions to one of the safest – as the name describes, this beach is perfect for families with little ones due to the calm and shallow waters. A little further along the road is Safety Beach, named after it’s calm and shallow waters. Safety Beach is also home to the brightly coloured bathing boxes as well as a picturesque coastal walk called the Safety Beach Bay Trail. The trail is 3.5km in total with 11 “poetry pillars” dotted along the way. Each pillar shares a short ‘jingles’ about the local historical people, nature and landscape relating to Safety Beach making it a fun activity to find all of them along the route.
As mentioned, one of the most popular things to do in Mornington Peninsula is snap a photo of the vibrant beach boxes. If this is on your Peninsula bucket list, Mills Beach is said to host the best of the bathing box bunch. The shallow water here is also ideal for families as well as proving popular with paddleboarders due to calm currents.
2. Go Hiking in Point Nepean National Park
It’s easy to forget about much of Australia’s history when you’re relaxing on a beach. Still, if you’re looking for a trip to immerse yourself in history truly then Point Nepean National Park is an absolute must while you’re in the Mornington Peninsula.
This scenic reserve is a beautiful mix of oceanic views and rich history from world war 1. There are numerous walks here, but if you have a full day we recommend doing the full circuit to make the most of your visit. This loop will take you roughly 4 hours and covers 10km as it zig-zags past war bunkers, through underground barracks and an old quarantine station.
Besides its extensive history, it’s also a great place for spotting wildlife. Emu, Echidna, Roo’s and Wombats are renowned for wandering the old war zones while albatross have occasionally been seen hovering above the coastline.
By Leah, Officer Travels
3. Explore Cape Schanck
If looking for things to do in Mornington Peninsula, then stopping at Cape Schanck is an absolute must. The reserve sits at the southernmost tip of the Peninsula fronting the unpredictable and wild Bass Strait waters. Coastal cliff views and untouched landscape around this area are breathtaking and you get to appreciate the immense force of nature.
At 21m tall Cape Schanck Lighthouse is the most prominent feature here. Built-in 1859, it rises high above rocky cliffs and despite being one of the oldest lighthouses in Victoria, it’s still fully operational. The extended view from the balcony is just gorgeous as you’re able to observe the power of the crashing waves coming in. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some whales along this coastal stretch during their migration season (May until October.)
If you’re into coastal hiking around this area, then this is a perfect place to head out for a day and explore on foot. Bushrangers Bay Trail (6km one way) starts here at Cape Schanck, alongside the 28km long Two Bays Track and 30km long Coastal Walk to London Bridge in Portsea. Along these routes, you’ll get to experience some of the most rugged and beautiful Mornington Peninsula attractions.
On the other hand, I highly recommend you find your way down the boardwalk to the volcanic beach with rock pools and Pulpit Rock formation. This is an easy walk suitable for all ages, that almost instantly gets you rewarded with distinctive coastal flora and marine life. This part of the reserve usually isn’t too busy, which is always a plus with the places where you want to connect with unspoiled nature.
By Mateja Drobnic, Matejalicious
4. Swim with Dolphins & Seals in the Wild
One of my all-time favourite memories was standing on the dock waiting to board the Polperro – one of the most exciting things to do on Mornington Peninsula. This magnificent boat was going to take us out into Port Phillip Bay to swim with the wild dolphins that are renowned in the area. While many companies will claim they have the animals best interest at heart we can assure you that the guys at Polperro actually do.
Firstly, we were briefed as to what to do when we were in the water. You are not allowed to touch the dolphins; instead you float alongside in the water with a snorkel and observe from a distance. Secondly, as they are wild if they don’t show up it’s not forced and it’s part of the magic – waiting to find out if they will make an appearance. The dolphins did not want to show themselves during our snorkel but we had an amazing swim with seals instead!
We hung on to a large rope attached to the back of our boat and watched them as they glided through the water around us but never close enough to touch. It was an unforgettable experience. We then got back on board for a hot coffee and one of the crew told us about the wildlife in the area.
As we headed back to the mainland, we were treated to a group of dolphins who all came to swim beside the boat so we could tick off seeing the famous dolphins off our bucket list.
By Bec, Travels In Gippsland
5. Enjoy The Art & Wine At Point Leo Estate
Point Leo Estate is one of the most popular Mornington Peninsula attractions with art lovers. As a winery and restaurant, it is also home to a sculpture garden featuring works by major Australian and international artists. There are over 60 works of art placed throughout the 19-acre sculpture garden and there are two walking trails you can follow to discover them all.
Most of the sculptures are large in scale and complement the idyllic setting among the hills and vines overlooking Western Port Bay. You can easily spend over an hour wandering through the garden admiring the sculptures, views and unique architecture of the estate.
Visit the sculpture park separately or ideally, combine your trip with lunch at the award-winning Point Leo Estate Restaurant or wine tasting at their cellar door. We love their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties.
The sculpture park is open daily from 11 am – 6 pm with last entry at 5 pm. Entry is $10 per person if you are not dining at the restaurant.
By Katy, Untold Morsels
6. Visit Victoria’s Oldest Market in Mornington
Mornington is not only the gateway to its namesake Peninsula but is perhaps one of the most charming of all of the Peninsula’s towns. What makes Mornington so charming, you might ask? It’s not the bathing box lined beach, the stunning rocky coast nor the plethora of top-rated restaurants. The most charming thing about Mornington is it’s Main Street Market which, at 40 years old, is Victoria’s longest-running market.
The produce stalls are always practically overflowing with fresh fruits (try the Yarra Valley cherries in Summer!), and the craft vendors are always selling well-made art and gifts.One of my favourite things to do in Mornington Peninsula is grabbing snacks from the Market and then taking them down to the beach at Main Street’s end.
Better yet, sit in front of one of the Peninsula’s plethora of bathing boxes for the most picturesque Aussie picnic you could imagine. Main Street Market occurs every single Wednesday morning – rain or shine – from 9 AM to 3 PM.
By Savannah, Savvy Dispatches
7. Visit The Famous Arthurs Seat
Many would argue the highlight of all things to do in Mornington Peninsula is a visit to the 304-metre granite hill of Arthurs Seat. There are many options to explore Arthur’s seat including by foot and by air.
On Foot Via The Arthur’s Seat Circuit Walk
Starting at Seawinds Entry Road on Arthurs Seat this easy 1.8km circuit trail takes around 1 hour and guides visitors through major points of interest close to the summit. The walk is suitable for all ages. It includes highlights such as the Matthew Flinders Cairn, Seawinds Gardens, William Ricketts sculptures, the Seawinds Nursery Volunteers Indigenous Garden as well as other major viewpoints. Follow the Crimson Rosella symbols to guide your way. For the more adventurous, the trail can be completed as part of the most challenging Two Bays Trail which is 26km.
What better way to enjoy the views over Port Phillip Bay than soaring on the state of the art gondola which soars up Arthurs Seat. Launched in 20016, Arthurs Seat Eagle is a gondola lift which connects the township of Dromana to the Arthurs Seat summit. Following our fearful trip on the Sentosa Gondola in Singapore, we didn’t brave the Eagle, but for those not afraid of heights (like us) it is one of the most popular things to do in Mornington Peninsula.
If you time your visit for February, you will be treated to one of the most popular Mornington Peninsula attractions – The Herald Sun Tour. Considered the Australian tour de France, this professional cycling race takes five days and has been held every February for over 60 years. As part of the race, competitors must make the gruelling climb (via bike) up Arthur’s Seat – in 2019, they had to make the climb an astonishing FIVE times as part of the race route.
The climb is also popular with amateur cyclists who make the 160km day trip from Melbourne via Beach Road and Nepean Highway. If you don’t fancy a cycle that long, you could start the climb from Dromana instead. Turn onto McCulloch Street off Point Nepean Road and after heading under the Mornington Peninsula Freeway pass you turn right and you’ll see the entrance stone which marks the start of Arthurs Seat Park.
Regardless of how you reach the summit of Arthurs Seat, you will be rewarded to stunning views of the sandy beaches, Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas, as well as the skyline of Melbourne on a clear day across the bay.
8. Peninsula Hot Springs
After a strenuous climb up Arthurs seat, or a busy day at the beach why not relax in the award-winning natural hot springs. The Peninsula hot springs are a hidden oasis with natural thermal mineral water that flows through pools and private baths while creating the perfect setting for rejuvenation and relaxing.
Anyone that knows us is aware of our obsession with spa breaks in Europe, so we were excited to visit our first spa in Australia and Peninsula Hot Springs did not disappoint. It features over 50 bathing experiences including a Hammam, sauna, reflexology walk, cave pool, refreshing cold plunge pools and even a hilltop pool which offers panoramic views over the Peninsula.
As a tip, this is one of the most popular things to do in Mornington Peninsula so book your tickets ahead of time as not only are you guaranteed a space, but it’s also cheaper – they charge 10% more for same-day bookings.
Our second tip would be to book the very first slot of the day, which is around sunrise. Not only can you enjoy the most incredible views but this is when the hot springs are most quiet – free from crowds and noisy families allowing ultimate relaxation and time to admire the sunrise over the region.
9. Take the Ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff
The second time we visited Mornington Peninsula, it was after our Great Ocean Road trip and we were in our campervan. This allowed us to take the scenic route and enjoy the ferry crossing from Queenscliff (just off the Great Ocean Road) across to Sorrento on The Mornington Peninsula.
Alternatively, after exploring the Mornington Peninsula attractions, you could take the ferry across to then enjoy the famous Great Ocean Road as the 40-minute crossing avoids a 3-hour drive back round through Melbourne.
There are ferries on the hour, all year round from 7 am until 6 pm. As mentioned, we were camping in Australia in our van so we took the van on board the ferry. It is also possible to bring cars, motorbikes and trailers on the ferry as well as travelling as a foot passenger.
- Foot Passengers are $13 (one way)
- Motorhomes/Campervans are $13 per metre
- Cars $69 (one way)
10. Camp at Cameron’s Bight Campground, Blairgowrie
Visiting this campground in late 2019, I was surprised how relaxing and well maintained the grounds were. Located bayside between Rye and Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula, expect a calm camping experience on the bayside of the main beach road as Cameron’s Bight Campground has a family vibe.
The campsites are mostly protected from sound and wind by the surrounding trees and greenery.
The 60 plus campsites comprise both powered and unpowered sites and are open to the public from September until the end of April each year. It’s highly recommended to book well in advance, as these limited spots are quickly reserved.
Due to being situated on a Crown Land reserve, there are some conditions- no pets, no fires, and only 1 car per campsite. The campground does include hot showers, laundry and a nearby BBQ area.
Perhaps the best draw of this area is the relaxed atmosphere, not far from Rye, yet not as upper class as the nearby beaches and restaurants of Portsea.
On a family trip we welcomed the quiet and private setting, while still being driving distance to local coffee and grocery supplies as well as the main Mornington Peninsula attractions. Well worth the visit!
By Kate, Not A Tourist
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a full weekend away, hopefully, you now have a list of things to do in Mornington Peninsula to keep all ages entertained. Whether you’re backpacking on a budget or after a romantic escape from the city these Melbourne attractions will suit all travel styles and are guaranteed to leave you longing to return.