Magical Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula


By Kylie Mitchell-Smith

As the southern states come out of the depths of winter, and the spring flowers begin to bloom- it’s the ideal time to visit Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula.

Explore the vibrant, city of culture and take a side trip to the picturesque East Coast, indulging in hot springs, farm gates and award-winning wineries, along the way.

More recently an array of international hotels and restaurants have re-opened in the city, which has enabled Melbourne to bounce back to its former glory. We choose to stay at the Pan Pacific hotel, located in the lively South Wharf precinct.

The hotel boasts uninterrupted views across Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River, with the city lights beyond. Affordable and convenient, the hotel is ideally located on the edge of the CBD- just a short stroll, tram or boat ride into the city centre. We suggest indulging in the decadent high tea and seasonal menu curated by famed Chef Deepak Mishra, in the hotels Dock 37 Bar.

Melbourne is rich in-migrant history and is home to some of the most authentic European cuisine. Such as the Grossi family, headed up by lauded Chef Guy Grossi, a culinary collective that includes Florentino restaurant, a luxurious Italian dining experience-this year marks the 95th year of Florentino- that’s a good innings.

Downstairs from Florentino is Grossi Grill, a sophisticated yet simple take on Tuscan food, think pasta, pane and vino, the kind of place where one dessert and Aperol spritz is never enough.

The historic Bourke Street location is home to the bustling Cellar Bar ‘a little piece of Italy’-where good coffee, freshly baked sourdough and delicious cannoli are on order. Next door is Ombra Salumi Bar, the spot for an afternoon aperitivo, cured meats and pizza- located up the road from Pelligrini’s, also a Melbourne institution.

After all that food (and drink), it’s time to wander the many laneways that make up the fabric of Melbourne. We suggest starting at the top end of Spring Street, next to the Theatre District, meandering down Flinders Lane to Swanston Street, stopping off at the many, boutiques and bars along the way.

Walk down Hosier Lane (Graffiti Lane) and admire the talent of the many street artists that adorn the rustic walls. Stop off for tapas and vino at Movida, an authentic Spanish bar that delivers day and night.

At the end of the laneway, you’ll find Federation Square in all its glory, the perfect place to watch as the sun set over the garden city. Located upstairs is ACMI (Australia Centre for the Moving Image) a free exhibition that showcases all things digital and the future.

A trip to Melbourne isn’t complete without a visit to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) across from the picturesque Royal Botanic Gardens. The cascading water glass entry opens to some of best touring exhibitions from across the globe.

Extend your weekender away in Melbourne and take a short trip to the Mornington Peninsula- where stunning beaches, international golf courses, award winning wineries and restaurants, await. We choose to stay at Peppers Moonah Links Resort, naturally beautiful, the hotel is located adjacent to, two world class golf courses.

The luxury accommodation is tastefully fitted out with earthy tones and raw materials to complement the pristine, natural surrounds of the Peninsula. Open plan and contemporary in design there is an on-site Al la carte restaurant ‘Pebbles’, and ‘Spike Bar’ that overlooks the dreamy Moonah trees and valley vistas.

Dinner is served at ‘Pebbles’ restaurant where Chef Dipen Patel fuses flavours from across the region, a culinary journey that honours the local provenance. We try the Tea Tree Smoked Chicken, McCrae Wild Mushroom Rigatoni, Saltbrush Polenta Chips and Mornington Peninsula honey crème brulee with honeycomb almond biscotti- delicious.

A short drive to the newly opened Alba Thermal Hot Springs, where all our day spa dreams come true, we spend a day bathing and soaking up the spring’s natural surrounds. Book a decadent treatment in the Alba Spa and dine in Thyme, with a locally sourced menu curated by well-known chef and author Karen Martini.

The final stop on our taste and tour of the Mornington Peninsula is the world class winery and vineyard Point Leo Estate- home to an impressive and evolving outdoor sculpture garden. A destination winery, that includes the popular PT Leo restaurant, cellar door and interactive sculpture park.

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