An hour outside of Melbourne, the beaches and vineyards of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula make for a perfectly cozy winter escape.
The Mornington Peninsula is to Melbourne what the Hamptons are to New York: A beachy escape that swells with city dwellers in the summer months (December to February), and empties out in the winter (June to August). An hour’s drive south of the city, it’s known for its beaches, vineyards, golf courses, and nature. Like many beach-forward destinations, you’re not going to get the same fun and sun in the cooler months—but instead, you’ll find a cozy escape without the crowds.
The Jackalope Hotel is expensive year-round, but starting costs jump from $540 to $675 depending on the season.
Airbnb prices don’t vary much, but you’ll find far more availability in the winter months.
Flights from New York to Melbourne are consistently around $1,500 if you book in advance, except over the holidays (the height of summer in Australia) when prices go up to $2,500 or more.
Why It’s Still Great
Though the weather is cooler, and restaurants and vineyards have limited hours, there’s something to be said for fewer people and cozier vibes. The Mornington Peninsula’s vineyards are famous, and wine-drinking should never be limited to one season, anyway! Plus, the hot tubs at the Jackalope Hotel and Peninsula Hot Springs are much better enjoyed with a side of chilly Australian air.
How to Prepare
You’ll need warm, hiking-appropriate clothes for the day and nice clothes to take advantage of all the fine dining opportunities in the area at night. You should plan to visit over a weekend, as many places have limited hours during the week in the off season.
What’s On in the Off Season
Visit Just to Eat and Drink
If you go to the Mornington Peninsula and only eat and drink, you will have done it right. When the Jackalope Hotel opened in 2017, it was the kind of splashy, design-forward project that put Mornington on the international map. Book in lunch at the Rare Hare, the more casual restaurant on the property—or go for it at Doot Doot Doot, the fine dining experience. Make sure you have a glass of Pinot Noir from the property’s own Willow Creek Vineyard—the 11-hectare vineyard was planted in 1989 and is run by head winemaker Geraldine McFaul.
But you can’t go wrong at any of the other wineries either: Polperro, Port Phillip Estate, and Ocean Eight, among others. Make sure to book a table at Petit Tracteur Bistro (which has to be one of the world’s most perfect restaurants) and Many Little, which is great for lunch. If you get sick of wine, no need to stop imbibing—head to Red Hill Brewery for a pint.
It might be too cold to swim, but the hike along Bushrangers Bay offers striking ocean views, a decent amount of exercise, and wildlife. In April, we saw three kangaroos, one echidna, and one wallaby!
Have a Spa Day
What’s better than a massage after a hike and some wine? Soak in the hot tubs at the Jackalope Hotel or Peninsula Hot Springs, or book in a treatment at Red Hill or Endota Day Spa.
See Local and International Art
Pt. Leo Estate is 50 acres of vines and sculptures from major international and Australian artists. Stroll through the sculpture park for an hour, then reward yourself with a glass of their award-winning Chardonnay. At EVERYWHEN Artspace, view a variety of contemporary Aboriginal art from acrylics to barks, works on paper, and 3D—all curated from 40 Aboriginal-owned community art centers.