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From nature walks, incredible eats and fine wines to imbibe, this really is the coast with the most.
Stretching from Gippsland through to the Mornington Peninsula and Geelong and the Bellarine, this coastline is famous for its cool-climate pinot noir, rugged beauty, hot springs and picturesque vineyards. The foodie trails are equally as impressive.
Since 2017 the $40 million Jackalope Hotel and Point Leo Estate have repeatedly made headlines for all the right reasons, but there are countless other local gems. Martin Spedding moved from Sydney to the Peninsula nearly 18 years ago to make wine. He owns Ten Minutes by Tractor with his wife, Karen, the restaurant reopening in October 2019 after a fire tore through it, while the new cellar door, private tasting room and wine gallery launched in January 2020. Despite hardship, Spedding is more enamoured by the "Pinot Coast" than ever. "Probably the most surprising thing about the Peninsula, apart from it just being a beautiful place, is just how much there is in such a small area," he says. Here's a locally approved guide.
Cosy on the coast
In January of last year, chef Brigitte Hafner opened Graceburn & Tadesca, the Mornington Peninsula's own agriturismo on the historic Red Hill property that housed Noel's Cafe & Gallery. The main house (sleeps eight) and "The Glasshouse" (a shack-turned-retreat for two with a woodfire and bath) have been skillfully renovated under the guidance of architect husband Patrick Ness. There's a gallery and osteria that focuses on fire-licked dishes made from ingredients and animals sourced locally. An eclectic wine list stars Peninsula favourites, young Aussie talent and old-world bottles.
The cooler climate favours pinot noir varietals. Photo: Supplied.
Mike Aylward from Ocean Eight Vineyard and Winery pegs Orita's 2 as the most underrated fine dining spot. After 16 years running the original Orita's in Toorak, owner Hikaru Orita retired to Balnarring Village and opened Orita's 2 which serves "the best Japanese on the Peninsula." Nearby Red Gum BBQ smokes local meats over native hardwoods for six to 10 hours while Wombat Cafe and Store in Dromana is the Peninsula's first vegan café. Kids and adults alike will enjoy Jackalope's casual restaurant Rare Hare. For coffee and cake, Spedding's favourites include Nordie Café and Red Hill Cellar and Pantry.
The Arty Outdoors
Galleries and sculpture parks punctuate the Mornington Peninsula, including Pt. Leo Estate with its fine-dining at Laura and views across to Phillip Island. Down the hill, Montalto Restaurant in Red Hill South is the Peninsula's original sculpture trail with more than 30 permanent pieces. In Langwarrin, McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery features more than 100 outdoor sculptures by Aussie artists and a modernist gallery (entry by donation).
Work off your Wine
Take a hike on the Bushrangers Bay Walking Track, Cape Schank on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. Photo: Supplied.
Bushrangers Bay Walking Track is a six-kilometre sandy stroll named after two escaped convicts. "You feel as if you're a world away from anywhere," says Spedding. Golfers can enjoy a putt at one of the many courses then a pint at St Andrews Beach Brewery or at Jetty Road Brewery in Dromana. If it's wildlife you're after book in with Moonraker for dolphin and seal swims and sightseeing tours.
On Mornington-Tyabb Road opposite a small airport awaits a vintage-lover's dream. Explore The Vintage Shed, a huge tin warehouse selling all kinds of wonders from more than 60 different stallholders. Just across the car park is The Vintage Emporium, and along the Esplanade in Mornington hides Books by the Bay, specialising in second-hand and out-of-print titles. Find something you like and then cross the road to read it on Fisherman's Beach.
South Gippy, as it's known to locals, runs from Phillip Island down to Wilson's Promontory National Park, with the regional centre Leongatha. It encompasses quaint villages such as Loch and Meeniyan and rolling hills from Korumburra to The Gurdies and Fish Creek to Labertouche. The cool maritime climate tends to favour early ripening varieties such as riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir. There's an abundance of provedores from Udder and Hoe to Olive and Loch and Meeniyan Pantry & Cellar. Well worth a visit is Dirty Three Wines for the vino and the cheese and charcuterie platters, the Gippsland Wine Company, Lucinda Estate Winery and Waratah Hills Vineyard.
An hour south-west of Melbourne, the Bellarine Peninsula is known for food and wine, historic and quaint seaside villages and the stunning Great Ocean Road drive. The Bellarine Taste Trail takes in eateries, wineries and cider houses including Basils Farm, Terindah Estate, Marcus Hill Vineyard and Flying Brick Cider Co. to name a few.
Where to stay
Mornington Peninsula: The Jackalope Hotel is a quirky, luxury art hotel set against manicured vineyards with two restaurants, a bar and designer pool (from $675 per night).
South Gippsland: The Cabin at Ross Farm over looks two acres of open space, with uninterrupted views across the lovely Tarwin Valley (from $211 per night).
Bellarine Peninsula: The Lon Retreat and Spa features seven luxurious suites and a relaxing and indulgent Mineral Spa. It's located on 200 acres of rural conservation land in Point Lonsdale and is hidden away on a hill by the ocean (from $380 per night).
Stay close, go further. Plan your next food and wine trip to Victoria's Pinot Coast: visitvictoria.com/wineries