Famous for the Penguin Parade and Motorcycle Grand Prix racing circuit, Phillip Island attracts a curious mix of surfers, petrolheads and international tourists making a beeline for those little penguins. At its heart, Phillip Island is still a farming community, but nature has conspired to turn it into one of Victoria’s hottest tourist destinations.
Pretty Mornington, with its cute bathing boxes and swimming beaches, is the gateway to the peninsula’s holiday coastal strip – just beyond the reaches of Melbourne’s urban sprawl. Originally part of the lands of the Boonwurrung people, it was founded as a European township in 1854.
Historic Sorrento is the standout town on the Mornington Peninsula for its beautiful limestone buildings, ocean and bay beaches, and buzzing seaside summer atmosphere. This was the site of Victoria’s first official European settlement, established by an expedition of convicts, marines, civil officers and free settlers who arrived from England in 1803.
Red Hill & Around
The undulating hills of the peninsula’s interior around Red Hill and Main Ridge are the centre of the region’s viticulture and wine-making industries, and a favourite destination for foodies. It’s a lovely region of trees and tumbling hills where you can spend a sublime afternoon hopping around the winery cellar doors and restaurants.
Exposed, windswept and wonderfully isolated, French Island is two-thirds national park and it retains a real sense of tranquillity – you can only get here by passenger ferry, so it’s virtually traffic-free, and there’s no mains water or electricity! The main attractions are bushwalking and cycling, taking in wetlands, checking out one of Australia’s largest koala colonies and.
Mornington Peninsula National Park
Stretching from Portsea on the sliver of coastline to Cape Schanck and inland to the Greens Bush area, this national park showcases the peninsula’s most beautiful and rugged ocean beaches. Along here are the cliffs, bluffs and crashing surf beaches of Portsea, Sorrento, Blairgowrie, Rye, St Andrews, Gunnamatta and Cape Schanck.
The last village on the peninsula, wee Portsea is where many of Melbourne’s wealthiest families have built seaside mansions. You can walk the Farnsworth Track (1.5km, 30 minutes) out to scenic London Bridge, a natural rock formation, and spot middens of the Boonwurrung people who once called this area home.
Point Nepean National Park
The peninsula’s tip is marked by the scenic Point Nepean National Park, originally a quarantine station and army base. A large section of the park is a former range area and is still out of bounds due to unexploded weapons, but there’s plenty to see here and long stretches of traffic-free road that make for excellent cycling.