The Mornington Peninsula may be best known for its wineries but there is something for everyone to taste, see and explore in this region, a little over an hour from Melbourne. On our first visit to this region we couldn’t have picked a better day for the weather. The coastal vistas were at their most vivid blue hues as we stopped to admire the scenery at lookouts on the way up to Arthurs Seat, the highest point of the peninsula.
At Arthurs seat you can take a ride in Arthurs Seat Eagle, a gondola ride that gives you a birds eye view over the state forest, the peninsula and Port Phillip Bay. Return tickets on the cable cars cost $24 for adults with the ride taking approximately 15 minutes each way. There is a café here but we had something a little more substantial in mind.
Red Gum BBQ was a restaurant we had heard about and had to see for ourselves. Despite being tucked away behind a petrol station in a former truck mechanics space, the amount of cars parked in and around the premises gave us a hint as to its popularity. In fact we rang and booked ahead as the restaurant is so popular it has different lunch sitting times which I’m not always a fan of, but in this case it is a great way of getting people through and we didn’t feel rushed at all.
You’ll find this American style BBQ and beer hall at Red Hill and they are open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 11am to 9pm. As the name suggests this is probably not a place you’re going to pick if you are a vegetarian or vegan but for those of us who love a good cook up, the smoky smell and taste of long slow cooked meat is divine. There are vegetarian options on the menu but these are mainly the salads that accompany the meat.
The restaurant is set up with a series of long wooden benches which means you may be sharing a table with others but again this doesn’t feel like a bad thing, in fact it was a great way to start up a conversation with others giving it a really friendly and happy atmosphere.
This was the first time any of our party had been to Red Gum and the waitress gave us a fantastic run down of the way things are done and suggested items to buy and share off the menu. Again this is a good thing especially when your eyes are too big for your belly and you want to taste it all. There is also an extensive list of locally made beers, ciders and wines to choose from and again if the choices here are too hard you can have a tasting paddle of beers.
After you have eaten (including shared desserts) you can browse and buy merchandise they sell including cook books and their own range of BBQ sauces. Delicious!
With bellies full of hearty fare it’s time to move on to some of the wineries on the peninsula. My criteria for wineries is as much about the venues location and views as it is the wines on offer, so we found a couple of beauties.
Foxeys Hangout is a small cellar door in Red Hill and had we not already stuffed ourselves at Red Gum BBQ, this would be the place to grab some assorted sharing plates and sit out on the deck to admire the view. The name of the winery and the label harks back to its rather grisly past when fox trappers in the 1920s used to hang their bounty as a scorecard from a prominent tree. Thankfully these days the only foxes hanging are of the wooden variety. The wines and the welcome at this venue were absolutely brilliant and one we will return to.
Tucks Wine were another very friendly winery where you can have a tasting first then buy a bottle of your favourite to enjoy outdoors on the grassed area overlooking the vineyard. What a treat this is in autumn but with the winter weather closing in you will still be able to enjoy the scenery from indoors as you tuck into share plates or more hearty dishes.
Whilst on the peninsula you can also visit farmgate outlets to take home some gourmet goodies from berries to honey, chocolate, cheese and other fresh farm produce. Not to mention there is also a Beer, Cider and Spirits Trail featuring over a dozen of the peninsula’s breweries and distilleries.
Obviously this is an area that deserves the time to see and experience it slowly and there are lots of accommodation options available too. Point Leo is a very interesting looking spot which has foreshore camping, mostly unpowered but some powered and at only $10 per adult, per night. Bookings and a full list of conditions for staying in this reserve are available online at pointleo.com but it looks like a spot where boating, surfing, swimming and long beach walks would all be the order of the day. Mind you with names like ‘suicide reef’, ‘mystery left’ and ‘idiots’, some of the surfing spots are not for beginners or the faint hearted!
Fortunately there are other areas mapped out for learners to safely have a go. What a way to work off the day’s indulgences on Mornington Peninsula.