Spotlight on: the Mornington Peninsula
Pack your bags, build up a hunger and immerse yourself in some of the best scenery and spots this country has to offer with our Spotlight series. When we’re not making (and drinking) whisky, we’re getting out and about. This month is all about the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria: here are the top five things we’re sipping, seeing and doing while we’re there and you should too because these will not disappoint! Let's hit the road.
1. Donna Maria
The many wineries sprinkled throughout Red Hill and surrounding areas might be the first thing you think of when it comes to the Mornington Peninsula, but after those wineries close, Donna Maria comes into its own. The space is dimly lit and cosy with wine-filled shelves and crowded artwork on the walls; it’s cosy and inviting, and perching at the bar is highly encouraged. On the menu you’ll spot all the Italian classics (think freshly shucked Sydney Rock oysters, garlic and rosemary focaccia and insalata di burrata) alongside a focus on quality local seafood, like Hiramasa kingfish crudo, King George Whiting with fennel, zucchini, mint and pinenuts, and Flinders mussels served with agretto. We’d be remiss not to call out some mouthwatering pasta as well: pork and fennel ragu or spanner crab spaghetti, anyone? The wine list is extensive yet easy to navigate, index and all. If you fancy a cocktail to kick things off there are three, yes three, negronis to choose from – and plenty more where they came from. You’re welcome.
Dinner, 7 nights, 5pm – late. Lunch, Friday to Sunday from noon.
Phone (03) 5989 0160
The story behind this family-owned winery will warm your heart. Mario Toniolo, the ninety-two-year-old founder, grew up in a small village called Mason in Northern Italy. He migrated to Australia at the age of 25 in search of a new beginning for his family. After being a concreter for 50 years he decided to pursue his love of food and wine (vino e cibo) and purchase a parcel of land – an abandoned orchard – to hand-plant the vines and olive trees you’ll spot on the property today as you sip your pinot noir. The cellar door is run by Morning Sun’s good friends at Foxey’s Hangout and set amongst the hills of Main Ridge – picturesque to say the least. While you enjoy some of the local varieties, browse the food menu which has an Italian spin (also taken care of by the team at Foxey’s Hangout). Choose from pizza and share plates of cheese and cured meats – and don’t leave until you’ve tried their fried parmesan polenta chips with housemade aioli. The entire experience and setting will transport you to Italy – and that’s what we call molto bene!
Thursday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm
Morning Sun Vineyard
337 Main Creek Road Main Ridge VIC, 3928
We can always get behind a brewery, after all, Starward’s founder David Vitale is a craft beer fan from way back and turned to whisky after realising everything he loved about beer was evident in single malt whiskies. The two mates who started Jetty Road wanted to bring together their two loves, beer and the Mornington Peninsula. You’ll find the brewery hidden away in Dromana’s industrial estate, housed in a large factory with high ceilings; as you sip your drink of choice (we recommend the Jetty Road IPA) you can take in the high ceilings and witness the beer-making process from barrel to bottle. The crew here are bloody good at what they do and are proud of the meticulous process involved in creating some very tasty beer. Enjoying a cold one can really work up an appetite, luckily there’s a full onsite kitchen slinging delicious fare – from JFC (Jetty Road Fried Chicken) to grilled saganaki and local oysters. This is an excellent venue for a large group, with ample seating inside and out, so message your mates and start making plans!
Wednesday - Thursday & Sunday 12pm-9pm, Friday - Saturday 12pm -11pm,
Jetty Road Brewery
12-14 Brasser Ave, Dromana VIC 3936
4. Alba Thermal Springs and Spa
Relax, take a breath, prepare to embrace your inner zen: Alba Thermal Springs and Spa is the destination for relaxation on the Mornington Peninsula. Set amongst the lush green wilderness of Fingal, the curved concrete building itself is something to behold. Inside, you have up to 35 different spa treatments available across 22 elegant rooms – from scalp therapy to full body wraps and massages, there’s something to pamper everyone. As for the springs, pop your phone in your locker and slip on a pair of slippers and a cosy robe before making your way outdoors to explore cold-plunge and geothermal pools; you could book a private rooftop salt pool or jump in the invigorating rain pool – choose your own adventure and the time you arrive; early risers can watch the sunrise, night owls can bathe under the stars). There’s also a restaurant, Thyme, curated by celebrity chef Karen Martini on site too. Alba Thermal Springs and Spa not only encourages calm and relaxation but is also committed to respecting the native environment they reside on. Ready to unwind? Us too.
Monday to Sunday 7am - 10pm
Alba Thermal Springs
282 Browns Rd, Fingal VIC 3939
After a day filled with the region's best beer, wine and food and a cheeky soak in a thermal spring, what better way to round it out than with an unforgettable stay in a luxury villa? Named after a quaint fishing village ‘Cassis’ in the South of France, this accommodation is an absolute gem amongst the wine country of Red Hill. Its owners, Gina and Simon, lived near Aix-en-Provence back in 2015, and their love for the simplicity of French life is evident in every aspect of Cassis. The interiors are reminiscent of a 17th Century farmhouse with rustic imperfections and a sense of welcomed calm. Ornate slate floors, raked timber ceilings and gentle earthy tones meet luxurious finishes in each villa – the attention to detail is something to behold. Take your pick from several villas, plus their nearby Vineyard Farmhouse only minutes from the luxury villas. This award-winning architecturally designed retreat is set on seven acres and boasts spectacular bay views overlooking the neighbouring vineyard – perfect for families.
164 Arthurs Seat Road, Red Hill VIC, 3937
Hero image source: Visit Melbourne