Dermott Brereton grew up not far from Victoria's Mornington Peninsula
, and he has fond memories of the family piling into the car in the 1970s and heading to their weekender. He still loves it and keeps going back.
The peninsula has three coastlines to explore: Port Phillip Bay, Western Port Bay and Bass Strait, and the green hinterland in between.
An institution for many years, the Portsea Hotel is on the beachfront and surrounded by national parks, rugged coastline and views to Port Phillip Bay and beyond. Its large beer garden is a favourite with summer crowds, but it's not exactly empty in winter. Children play on the beach while parents enjoy a cool drink before having a meal alfresco when it's warm, and cosy indoors when it's cold. The Bistro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
For a family break, this is one of the best houses on the Peninsula. It's a walk from the beach along a secret path through national park. It sleeps up to 16 people. There are lots of sofas, a kitchen and dining area, second dining area and outside entertaining space.
There are loads of games, books, toys and DVDs and an upstairs rumpus room. The beach has rockpools and a huge dune provides loads of fun.
There's a welcome basket on arrival, and all you need to take is your linen and towels.
At the very tip of the peninsula, Point Nepean was once a military zone and quarantine area and out of bounds for over 100 years. It defended the colony of Victoria against foreign attack and disease.
In 1988 it opened as part of a new national park and is fantastic for walking, cycling or exploring on its open-air transporter, Point Explorer. The explorer is a good way to travel the 10km return journey along the Peninsula, and you can hop on and off the tractor train whenever you want. Historic military tunnels adjoin fortifications on coastal beaches, and bay and ocean views are pretty spectacular.
If you are on board Point Explorer and pass through the former quarantine station, you will hear how life was there early last century.
The discovery of gold in 1851 brought a steady flow of immigrants into Port Phillip, and crowded on-board conditions meant cholera, smallpox, typhoid, scarlet fever, influenza and measles were of epidemic proportions and led to many deaths.
Cheviot Hill is Point Nepean's highest spot. Cheviot Beach is where then prime minister Harold Holt disappeared without trace in 1967 during a swim in rough seas. It's one of those days Australians who were around at the time remember exactly where they were when they heard the unbelievable news.
Eagles Nest and Fort Pearce are places for exploring two gun emplacements. Completed in 1910, the fort also has underground ammunition storage, connecting passages and an observation post.
Get up close, learn about and feed some of Australia's most endangered and rare animals. More than 200 animals covering 30 species live there and are taken care of by an enthusiastic and dedicated team. You'll be fascinated by the world's smallest gliding mammal. The tiny feathertail gliders are smaller than a mouse and the little suckers on their feet allow them to scamper across the windows of their enclosure.
During the day you will see kangaroos and koalas, rare gang-gang cockatoos and fat-tailed dunnarts, but for something special, take an evening wildlife walk.
At dusk you will go on a magical lantern-lit tour of bushland and meet a variety of Australian animals not usually seen in zoos or wildlife parks.
Related gallery: Mornington Peninsula's amazing maze
Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, around an hour from Melbourne.
Moonlit Sanctuary is open between 10am and 5pm every day. Entry costs $13.80 for adults and $8.70 for children. Evening Tours start at dusk every night. They cost $27 for adults, $16 for children and $90 for a family of five. Bookings are essential. If you have Mornington Peninsula Attraction Pass, there will be an extra charge for evening tours.
Mornington Peninsula Attraction Passes combine four attractions including Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, Cape Schanck Lighthouse and Museum, day admission to Moonlit Sanctuary and admission to Point Nepean National Park with commentary tour. There are discounts at Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm and Peninsula Hot Springs. They cost $49 for adults and $39 for children and are valid for three months. They are available at the Mornington Peninsula Visitor Centre.
Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Melbourne from:
- Adelaide $79
- Hobart $85
- Sydney $90
- Canberra $99
- Brisbane $129
- Darwin $179
- Perth $245
There are limited seats that may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at November 04, 2010, and are subject to change.
Prices correct at November 4, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
3746 Point Nepean Road
Ph: (03) 5984 2213
23 Ti-Tree Avenue
Ph: 0400 018 211
Point Nepean National Park
End of Point Nepean Road
Ph: (03) 5984 4276
550 Tyabb Tooradin Road
Ph: (03) 5978 7935
Mornington Peninsula Visitor Centre
359B Point Nepean Road
Ph: 1800 804 009