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Mornington Peninsula
by Andrea Frost
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue One

When you mix two of the most enthusiastic niches in the lifestyle stakes - surfers and wine enthusiasts on the one coast, you'll discover a community in constant pursuit of the good things in life - good food, top wine, big beaches, lazy afternoons and long, long nights. Summertime on the Peninsula, it really is where the living is easy.

The best way to get your bearings on the Mornington Peninsula is to picture it as if you were looking at a model train set. A long, curved limb of land, it drops off to ocean on both sides. One side is Bass Strait - wild and wavy, where the surfers get their kicks, the other is Port Phillip Bay, flat and a great place to take the little ones. In the middle of the train set there's a hilly bit broken up with a patchwork of fields - they're the vineyards and around these carefully striped paddocks are the wineries and cellar doors and restaurants.

Down one end of the Peninsula, an extension of the bustling town of Mornington, are suburbs bound and guided by highways and roads. Within this lies what the Peninsula folk call the suburbs - Rye, Rosebud and Dromana. These stretch out and down to the beach, the flat one, which is lined by caravans and tents and wagons and windcheaters and Pat, Jude their kids and the rest of the indoor netball team. Zoom out again and go toward the opposite end. At the far tip of this stretch of land you may see something sparkling - it could be any number of things - bright young things, teeth, new cars, sunglasses logos, money or gold Amex cards. That's Portsea. But in between the grids and the glitter of the Mornington Peninsula, you're options are boundless, your tastes catered for, your budget acknowledged and your mind allowed to wander.

No matter where you decide to go on the Mornington Peninsula - the best bit is you can.

W I N E
In wine years, the Mornington Peninsula is actually pretty new at the game, having only cranked up operations in the early 70s. It's known as a cool climate growing area because, well, the temperatures get pretty chilly in these here parts. Most varieties are planted on the Peninsula but it's more famous for a couple of grapes in particular. First up, pinot noir which even gets its very own week of celebration during March. Wineries such as Stonier's, Main Ridge Estate, Paringa Estate and Red Hill all offer top examples of this blossomy drop.

The other grape is pinot gris, a light skinned sibling of the other pinot which makes a rich coloured white wine. The introduction of this new kid on the plot came about mainly from Kathleen Quealey at T'Gallant but is now grown by many vignerons on the Peninsula.

There are more than 150 hundred vineyards and 40 wineries on the Mornington Peninsula with open cellar doors and welcoming cellar hands at the ready.

Eating
The Mornington Peninsula is riddled with top spots to eat no matter what you're craving. Fine dining at a winery, boozy Sunday lunches, fish and chips on the pier, focaccias and lattes, or a chiko roll and a Big M on the way back from a surf - it really has got it all.

The increase in the number of winery restaurants makes eating while you're tasting much more than just sensible, its outright pleasurable. Dromana Estate, T'Gallant and Main Ridge Estate all offer more informal and relaxed lunches while Max's at Red Hill, Paringa Estate and Manton's Creek Vineyard Restaurant take it up a level for a more polished dining experience.

For those interested in getting away from the wineries for a meal, drive along the coast road and you'll get smatterings of fast food shops conveniently broken up by counter meals and take away everything. The main drags of both Sorrento and Mornington have an abundance of eateries for you to peruse and pick from. The choice really is yours.

Accommodation
Guest houses, camping grounds, bed and breakfasts, grand hotels, youth hostels and cozy little rental cottages. Lucky for you and whoever stays in your room, there's a string of accommodation styles to suit most. Mooraduc Estate and Mantons Creek Vineyard offer luxury accommodation at the wineries while grand old pubs like the Portsea and the Royal in Mornington offer renovated rooms. Bed and breakfasts flourish like vines and the gazillion kilometres of foreshore camping every summer shows just how popular that is. Just make sure you book ahead.

The Foreshore
To call it trailer park trash is just a little too easy. For thousands of Aussies every year, parking the Viscount in your regular lot for the summer, unfolding the deck chair and opening a tinny with much of Melbourne suburbia is both tradition and one of life's free lessons in growing up. For many, admit it or not, summer on the foreshore was Camp Hard Knocks. It's where we smoked our first ciggy, had a pash in an annex, got wobbly on wine and on big nights, hit the Rye carnival. Don't discount this form of accommodation, it's priceless.

A Cleansing Ale
Even the hardiest and palate-tough tasters long for a cleansing ale after an afternoon of tasting and talking grape. And locations to do so are in no shortage on the Peninsula. Many cafes and restaurants are licensed but there's nothing quite like an afternoon beer at a pub - it's what they were made for.

Coffee, Eggs and the Weekend Paper
The breadth of activities may be endless on the Peninsula, but there's one ritual that most visitors get stuck into - lounging 'round on a Sunday morning, sipping lattes, gorging themselves silly on Eggs Benedict while trying to shuffle the broadsheets. And why wouldn't you?

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