There are so many great day trips or night stay-overs that you can do easily from Melbourne and get to see some coastline. Portsea and Fort Nepean – the Mornington Peninsula’s furthest point – is just one example where you can tick off beautiful beaches, charming piers, Australian history and hot springs all in one trip. Here’s a bunch of stuff you should cram in to a 24 hour road trip:
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
SORRENTO BACK BEACH | such a beautiful spot! I read somewhere that this is one of the Mornington Peninsula back beaches popular with the young and trendies in the summer so decided to check it out. When we went it was almost empty, bar a couple of brave kids bracing themselves on body boards against the crashing waves. The water is incredibly clear and there are cool rock pools to the right – watch out as the sea comes in really quickly!
LONDON BRIDGE | during my two most recent Great Ocean Road trips I hadn’t made it to the London Bridge at that location so it felt only appropriate to check out the rock formation here. This was a small detour and not far from Sorrento back beach, yet further north than Portsea and Fort Nepean. We didn’t actually walk down to the sand and instead goggled at a mad bride and groom having their photos taken and getting soaked! Beautiful views out to see.
PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS | apparently this attraction has been open for about three years and is less than 30 mins drive north from Portsea and Fort Nepean. We turned up before 9am to get the $20 entry fee (versus $35) and were surprised at how busy it was (mid week on a Wednesday). It’s a fun thing to do and the main spring hilltop setting is pretty special, although you may have to wait a few minutes to get a spot. It would be even better if they had a few other options like some spas do e.g. mud baths, different minerals – rather than just lots of hot pools with slightly different temperatures.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
RYE PIER | this is a quaint and popular little spot on the bay side of Mornington Peninsula. There are lots of budding fishermen who you can watch and marvel at their patience. Good for a walk out on to the calm bay which is such a contrast to the pounding waves of the back beaches side.
FORT NAPEAN | unfortunately we didn’t go right to the furthest point (you can walk or wait for a shuttle bus) as we were feeling pretty shattered! All that hot spa lounging is tiring business. Regardless, Portsea and Fort Nepean especially is a really interesting area to check out with tonnes of Australia history. We parked at Gunners Cottage and walked to Observatory Point at the beach, before exploring some of the buildings at the Quarantine Station.
PORTSEA | this is such a teeny tiny little town! There’s really not a lot to it, but it’s very sweet and I can imagine it still gets busy in the summer. We walked out along the pretty pier and stopped for lunch at the General Store. Not great fish and chips, but hey.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
RYE | we were lucky enough to stay at our Melbourne housemates’ rental house in Rye whilst it was empty. Unfortunately we didn’t really see all that much of Rye having arrived in the dark on Tuesday night then spending all of Wednesday out in the car before heading back to Melbourne. There didn’t seem to be a lot going on! We had a very low key dinner that evening at Baha Taco Joint.
WEEKENDS | this trip was taken during Autumn and mid-week (March, Wednesday to be precise) and I was surprised how busy the Peninsula Hot Springs were. As this is definitely worth a trip – or you might be hitting up some popular Red Hill wineries too – I suggest avoiding weekends if possible as apparently the Springs start to heave.
INLAND ROADS | for such a skinny stretch of land with clear coastline on either side, I was surprised how sometimes we kept ending up on a very unexciting inland road cutting right through the middle! Keep an eye on old Google Maps to maximise your scenic drive. It really is very beautiful.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
FLINDERS BEACHES | the patch I feel that I haven’t explored at all on the Mornington Peninsula is the back beach area north of Flinders (facing out to Phillip Island). Apparently there are some great spots including Point Leo, Balnarring Beach and Merricks Beach. There’s also Cape Schanck (cool name) which I’d love to see. Flinders is about a 45 minute drive from Portsea and Fort Nepean.
AND KNOW THIS: Not sure if this is a ‘fact’ as such, but supposedly Cape Schanck has the cleanest air in the world: it’s bottled by CSIRO scientists after gale-force winds blow uncontaminated air directly from the Antarctic. Refreshing.