Autumn descends upon Mornington Peninsula in early May—golden vineyards shimmer from a softer sun in the crisp morning air. Fall is an ideal time to visit this dynamic Victorian region, but with annual high temperatures ranging from 56° to 75° Fahrenheit, every season here offers its own magic.
Jutting into Port Phillip Bay, an hour outside Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula has long been a popular holiday escape for Australians. In recent years, morphing from a sleepy beach region to a luxury food and wine hub has landed it the most visited area in Victoria. While the beaches remain serene, interior areas such as Moorooduc, Red Hill South, Merricks North, and Main Ridge hold the key for viticultural paradise—ideal for enotourism.
Winery tasting rooms, known here as cellar doors, rely on wine tourism for economic stability. “We sell 40% of our volume through our tasting room, and we are not one of the busy wineries,” explains Kate McIntyre, Master of Wine and Marketing Manager of Moorooduc Estate. “We are a small collaborative region; most wineries are family run.” The result is warm hospitality in casual settings, with most wineries offering exceptional food; some also feature exquisite accommodations.
Must Visit Cellar Doors
Open seven days a week, Moorooduc Estate, offers a “simple place to enjoy great wine.” In addition to an array of exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, on Saturdays and Sunday’s proprietors Richard McIntyre’s homemade sourdough bread and Jill McIntyre’s homemade preserves, are available while supplies last. Do not forget a photo of Reg the Peacock for your Instagram story.
One of the first wineries to be established in the region, Stonier planted Chardonnay in 1978, followed by Pinot Noir four years later. Open daily, they offer a range of cheese from Red Hill Cheese, a local producer, along with a relaxing environment to enjoy their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wine.
Ocean’s Eight cellar door is open mid-day Friday through Sunday each week, offering stunning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and sparkling wine to enjoy.
Wine and Dine
Enjoying an outstanding glass of wine with a delicious meal within the vineyards is the focus of Ten Minutes By Tractor’s restaurant. Since opening in 2006, this restaurant’s focus is elevating farm to table dining through an innovative menu, attentive staff, and an award-winning wine list that features their exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, rosé, and sparkling wines, along with the top wines from the region. Additionally, spend the day relaxing with a tranquil spa and wine experience or sharpening wine skills with a terroir masterclass.
Yabby Lake Vineyard is known for crafting premium single-vineyard and single-block Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with Pinot Gris and Syrah. This boutique winery also hosts a restaurant serving lunch daily. The menu focuses on seasonal, yet refined local fare served in a beautiful dining room or outside on a deck overlooking the vineyards.
A Luxurious Escape
Whether seeking to avoid Melbourne’s hustle and bustle, or craving solace among the vines, Mornington Peninsula provides luxurious accommodations that also deliver exceptional wine and food experiences.
Nestled in the heart of the famous Red Hill wine region, Polperro Winery rests quietly on 25 acres, offering four beautifully appointed studio apartments accessible seven days a week from one night to longer stays. Bookings include continental breakfast, with packages avaible for yoga classes on the property, dining, and excursions. Polperro restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, with an aim to create synergy between the kitchen and the vineyard, promoting the relationship between people, landscape, and produce.
The innovative menu is crafted by the chef and the winemaker for an illuminating dining experience. Their beautifully crafted cellar door offers an intimate place to taste through a selection of Polperro and Even Keel wines, crafted by winemaker Sam Coverdale with a minimal intervention, sustainable philosophy that seeks to elevate the expression of their unique growing sites.
Port Phillip Estate describes itself as an alchemy of architecture, food and wine. Sustainability meets modernity as the limestone structure rises out of the undulating hills. Ascending through the cellar door reveals a dining room with panorama windows and spacious balcony, offering spectacular views of the vineyards and bay.
The casual chic dining room hosts a local terroir-driven seasonal menu for lunch Wednesday to Sunday, and dinner Friday and Saturday, reservations recommended, and features both Port Phillip and Kooyong Estates.
Descending into the subterranean belly of the winery reveals six private suites featuring a king size bed, luxurious bathroom, sunken living area, kitchen, and private terrace overlooking the vineyards. Each host indulgent appointments of cozy bath robes, pampering bath products, and contemplative art. Stay for a romantic night or a weekend.
An Experience To Remember
If Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch designed a hotel it would be Mornington Peninsula’s Jackalope Hotel. Louis Li, the son of successful hotel developers who came to Melbourne in 2007 as a film student, combined his passion for American neo-noir films with hotel knowledge to create a destination like none other.
Among the stunning vineyards, peaceful pond, and gently rolling hills rises a 23 feet tall, jet black, metal Jackalope (mythical rabbit with antelope antlers) greeting arrivals. Blending rustic charm, sleek style, and Blue Velvet/Pulp Fiction sensibility, this hotel defies logic, yet delivers on luxury.
Casual dining is offered for lunch at the cellar door restaurant, Rare Hare. Serving small plates with a local flare, beer from nearby brewers, and Willow Creek Vineyard wine, grown on the property. After lunch enjoy a stroll through the vineyards or a dip in the daring infinite pool.
Dinner at Doot Doot Doot is a must. The chic restaurant serves a spectacular splurge-worthy 5-course dinner nightly, add the wine pairings, under a stunning 10,000 golden, undulating light installation representing wine at mid-ferment, designed by artist Jan Flook.
After dinner, enjoy a night cap in the fashionable bar, Flaggerooot, or retire to one of the 46 luxury rooms to enjoy a glass of wine on the private terrace, or a deep soak with provided bath salts in the Japanese tub. There are no wrong choices here.
*All cellar doors, restaurants, and accommodations require advance reservations.