Mornington Peninsula in the bay of Victoria, is one of Melbourne’s most popular spots for a quick getaway. It’s only an hours drive from the city of Melbourne and has some of the most beautiful water and lovely calm beaches you will find around Melbourne.
Last weekend we took advantage of Melbourne’s sunny weather and headed down to the Peninsula for a day of exploring and aerial photography. As we live in the Western suburbs, we generally don’t get down to Mornington Peninsula that often – opting for a trip down the coast and along the Great Ocean Road if we’re looking for an ocean fix instead.
But it was such a perfect day, with the fog lifting by midday, the sun shining and the crystal clear water glistening turquoise blue. Although we live quite close to the beach, the water in this part of the bay is just amazing. The kind that makes you want to be out by the beach all day long.
There are so many different beaches along the peninsula it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start! Beginning at Mornington, the peninsula actually stretches around another 45 minutes of driving – right down to Portsea at the very tip – where the bay opens up to the ocean.
So where should you start?
Here’s our guide to the different beaches of Mornington Peninsula!
Mount Martha is the beginning of the peninsula beaches, with a long stretch of white sand, lined with multi-coloured bathing boxes along the shore. The water is calm, protected from dangerous currents and rips most of the year by Martha Cliff, but can drop off to be quite deep quite quickly.
This beach is longer than most others along the peninsula, stretching for 2km – divided into two halves by Balcombe Creek mouth. The drive along this part of the bay is particularly beautiful, with stunning views over the water as you drive around the cliffside.
One of the most popular places in Mount Martha is definitely The Pillars. From the road you must follow the tiny path leading from the road to the edge of the cliffs, that then take you to a pathway down the rocks and to a secluded little place where you can jump off the cliffs and into the water. This little pocket of the bay makes you think more of Mediterranean beaches in Europe than the coast of Melbourne, and the environment is definitely worth the struggle of getting down there.
Make sure you take all your rubbish and belongings with you when you leave to keep The Pillars as clean as possible. It is important to avoid littering and damaging the environment, or beautiful secret gems like this will definitely be closed by the council for preservation.
A little further along the road is Safety Beach, named after it’s calm and shallow waters. Safety Beach is a top option for families with children, as the calm and shallow nature of the water makes is safe for little kiddies to splash around in their floaties.
Bathing boxes also line the short of Safety Beach, with some of the most bright and colourful boxes in the peninsula located along this beach. The bathing box not only make for a pretty back drop at the beach, but are also a good meeting point to help everyone remember where you’re located after you get out of the water.
For a little physical activity, take a walk along the Safety Beach Bay Trail, which offers a beautiful scenic walk past the Safety Beach Jetty, Sailing Club and Martha Cove underpass.
If you’re travelling around Mornington Peninsula with your fur baby, Safety Beach is also a great option for you, with Tassells Cove – the local dog friendly beach – offering plenty of space for your little puppy to run and jump around in the water until they’re completely worn out.
One of the top holiday destinations, Dromana is a smaller town sitting between Safety Beach and McCrea, but it still has holidaymakers flocking to is shores in droves. If you want to visit during the peak seasons – summer time and the school holidays – you will need to make your bookings well in advance as this coastal town is regularly completely booked out.
Surrounded by bushland, Dromana’s coastline consists of grassy picnic areas, walking trails and lots of designated camping areas. The beach is calm and shallow, safe for swimming and popular for both families and fisherman in boats.
For views over the whole bay and even out to the city of Melbourne, take a drive into the hinterland and along the scenic route circuit of Arthurs Seat. From Dromana, follow Point Nepean Road up to the summit, where you will find a car park at the top that you can stop and enjoy the views from.
Another hot spot for children and families, Rosebud is one of Melbourne’s most popular holiday destinations. During the summer time and school holidays, this normally sleepy coastal town is absolutely pumping with thousands of people looking to escape the city and heading for a sea break.
Rosebud has become an even bigger hit with families, since the instillation of the new playground, with equipment and activities for kids of all ages. There’s enough to keep the kids entertained for hours (and give mum and dad a much needed break), with everything from baby swings and junior slides to rope climbing walls, net swings and even a flying fox.
Rosebud is also a big hit with those who like to fish, with the pier being a very popular fishing spot along the peninsula. You can spot lots of boats running in and out of the boat ramp into the bay in Rosebud, with a huge boat trailer car park right next to the ramp.
Rye Pier is a top spot for snorkelling along the Mornington Peninsula, with some of the warmest water in Port Phillip Bay and beautiful underwater views. The water plunges down to 6 metres deep, so it can even be a good place for divers. Follow the Octopuses Garden marine snorkelling trail, that you can just walk into from the beach, for your best chance at marine spotting.
Under the pier you will find all sorts of marine life making their home, including bottom feeding stingrays, seahorses, spider crabs and even octopus, as well as all sorts of different fish. The water at Rye is absolutely beautiful, so peaceful and clear, offering the perfect conditions for snorkelling.
Perhaps the cutest town of them all, I absolutely love the town of Sorrento. The main town is so cute, with an authentic charm and an instant holiday vibe. It is actually one of Melbourne’s oldest seaside communities. The main town is full of cute cafes, trendy boutiques and unique galleries filled with artwork from local Australian artists.
There’s also a cute restored railway platform which was used by the Sorrento Steam Tram between 1890 and 1921 to take visitors arriving by ferry to the ocean beach. It’s a nice step back in time and really adds to the character of this little town.
As well as the main beach along the peninsula, one of the main draw cards of Sorrento is actually the Sorrento Back Beach. Facing out towards the ocean, the back beach is the home of countless rock pools and natural formations, that make is a great place for exploring the tiny marine life that live in the area.
It’s a hit with the kiddies and can be super popular on warm days, so I would recommend getting there early if you need a park, as it doesn’t take long for the car park to be completely full. Take a walk around the rocky cliffs to get away from the crowds and explore some of the more untouched rock pools by yourself.
Diamond Bay just down the road from the Sorrento Back Beach, will have you feeling like you’ve found a piece of European paradise right here in Melbourne. It’s a great beach in this area for anyone looking for a surf break and some good waves without the crowds! Facing out to the ocean, rather than into the bay, Diamond Bay gets some great waves while also being quiet and secluded.
For the ultimate views over Sorrento, climb the steps up the cliff face behind the Esplanade. From the top the stunning views look over Policemans Point, and is a nice place to watch the ferries come and go from the pier.
Number 16 Beach
Another hidden gem that you’ll absolutely love around the Mornington Peninsula is Number 16 Beach, sitting in between Diamond Bay and Rye Back Beach. Another of the surf beaches in the region, Number 16 Beach is a hidden secret where you’ll find mostly locals enjoying the quiet shore.
Number 16 Beach is full of rock pools to swim in, hidden caves to explore and even rocky waterfalls right in the ocean that are made as waves crash over the rocks. It’s actually such a great little spot to spend the day and might just be one of our favourite places in the area.
At the very end of the bay is Portsea, considered the hub of Mornington Peninsula’s recreational scuba diving activities. From Portsea, you can jump on a dive boat which take you to some of the best marine national park sites in the area, both inside and outside of Port Phillip Bay.
Portsea is also a hot spot for marine life spotting, with the biggest draw-card being the family of approximately 90 bottle-nose dolphins that live and breed in the bay. If you’re lucky you can spot them jumping around in the waves! Portsea is also the home to countless other marine life creatures, including weedy sea dragons and puffer-fish.
The other defining feature of Portsea is it’s surf beach, which faces the ocean rather than the bay and is super popular due to it’s awesome surfing conditions and long stretch of sand. The surf beach is patrolled by lifeguards in the summertime, keeping everyone safe during the warmer months.
There are also heaps of walking trails, scenic coastal pathways and lookout view points with spectacular views around Portsea, making it the ultimate destination along the Mornington Peninsula and offering something for everyone. Make sure you check out the rocky archway known as the London Bridge on a short walk from the beach.
The Tip of The Bay
Right at the very end of the bay is Point Nepean, the infamous feature of Mornington Peninsula National Park. After more than 100 years of the national park being closed to the public, you can now visit and explore the history that lies here and dates back to the 1880s.
If you’re in the mood for a deeper explore and bit of a history lesson Fort Nepean at the very very last point of the bay – literally before it’s only ocean – is where you can find a preserved 18th century fortress with tunnels, WWII battlements and other military defence displays. Check it out for a different look at the bay and it’s history.
Beach Camping in Mornington Peninsula
One of the best things about Mornington Peninsula is it’s abundance of seaside camping sites. Unlike other coastal towns in Victoria, Mornington Peninsula Shire offers designated camping sites right along the beach, meaning you can wake up to the ocean right at your doorstep.
The campsites are close to all local amenities, such as local shops, cafes, national parks and reserves, shared bay trails and are right on the beach, with beautiful views to wake up to each day.
Rosebud is the largest of the foreshore camping reserves, with 812 camping sites stretching for 10 kilometres along the glistening water, all the way to McCrae. You can find showers and toilet blocks here, as well as barbeque facilities, kids playgrounds and a boat ramp. Rye and Sorrento both also offer foreshore camping, but are much smaller grounds, with 174 sites at Rye and 147 sites at Sorrento.
To Book Your Campsite
Some of these campsites are booked out for entire blocks of time, and even have yearly renewals for regulars so they never miss out on their spot. This can mean that it can be a little difficult to secure a spot if you’re a newbie, but not impossible, especially if you’re visiting away from those peak periods of the year (highly recommended).
For casual camping you can fill out the Book A Campsite form on the Mornington Peninsula Shire website. During the off peak season, rates start at $26 AUD for a non-powered site for one night or $40 AUD for a powered site, with discounts for weekly rates. If you’re travelling during the peak school holiday season in summer (generally mid-December to the end of January each year) non-powered sites start at $41 AUD per night, with powered sites starting at $50 AUD per night. You can also download the full rates table from the Book A Campsite page.
You can also get some extra information or apply for a camping permit in person from the Foreshore Camping Office at 1380 Point Nepean Road, Rosebud, or give them a call on 03 5950 1011.
SeaRoad Ferries – Sorrento to Queenscliff
If you want to continue your journey of beach hopping, rather than turning around and driving back to Melbourne you can actually hop on the SeaRoad car and passenger ferry, that completes the loop of the bay from Sorrento Pier to Queenscliff. Departing every hour on the hour from both ports, it takes about 40 minutes to cross the bay by ferry, offering unique views of both sides of the bay and the open ocean as you go.
Tickets are a little steep, with a one way trip costing you $65 AUD for a car plus one passenger, and then $12 AUD for every additional passenger in the car or $20 for a family of one extra adult and up to three children. If you’re exploring by motorbike, it’s a little bit better, costing $35 AUD for a one way journey, while bicycles are completely free (although that would be a very long ride back to Melbourne).
For those of you travelling with caravans, trailers or boats, there is an extra charge of $9 AUD per metre, with an increase to $12 AUD per metre for motorhomes and trucks.