Five Out-of-Town Dates to Plan This Winter on the Mornington Peninsula
This coastal region has sculpture gardens on vineyards, walks through rugged landscapes and, of course, plenty of pinot.
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Cosying up next to your date on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the snow may be Hollywood's answer to a date in winter, but, in Victoria, plenty of romantic adventures in the chilly weather abound. Just an hour's drive from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula has plenty of wintry date activities that trump anything on the flicks.
You and your person can go truffle hunting, walk along a sculpture trail or eat some hearty dishes made from fresh, seasonal produce while you sip on cool-climate vinos — there's something for all the couples out there. We've put together a list of out-of-town date ideas to help you woo your significant other. So, turn Netflix off, put on a big coat and grab your date by the hand for an adventure down south.
FOR ART LOVERS
Wow your date by eyeballing some art at Mornington Peninsula's most impressive galleries and sculpture gardens. Start off at Pt. Leo Estate, where a mammoth cellar door is paired with a restaurant boasting seasonal produce. The estate's rolling vineyards overlook the ocean, plus there's a sprawling sculpture park, featuring 50 large-scale works, with panoramic Western Port Bay views. After you scope out the sculptures, you can have a cosy lunch at the restaurant, which champions seasonal produce. In winter, expect wallaby pies, wood-roasted snapper and quality local proteins like lamb and beef, cooked in a central woodfired oven. Then, head to Montalto for an afternoon tipple in the vineyard's cellar door before strolling hand-in-hand through the Sculpture Trail — a one-kilometre outdoor gallery of over 30 works.
Alternatively, escape the winter chill and head indoors at one of Australia's top regional galleries, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. Here, you will see artworks by both local and international artists. Plus, the gallery hosts both traditional and contemporary works in a variety of mediums — so there's something for every art aficionado.
For a heartwarming feed, head to Red Gum BBQ, which cooks up local meats barbecued over local wood. Share a plate of beef brisket with potato salad or the slightly spicy, slightly sweet pulled pork with mac 'n' cheese. You'll probably need a caffeine hit while exploring the region with your partner, too. So, stop off at Merricks General Wine Store's cafe to escape the winter air, with a hot mug of coffee and a sweet treat. If you're after something a little more substantial, the space also offers a hearty bistro menu and sells hampers of homemade goodies, too.
You can also get your hands dirty on a truffle hunting tour with MP Experience at Red Hill. After digging in the dirt, you'll finish with your choice of a cooking class or a five-course truffle degustation — both equally romantic. And, while you're in the area, it would be remiss not to stop into Green Olive at Red Hill, where you can wander through the farm, snack on tapas at the restaurant and sip wine from the cellar. Cooking classes are also on offer at Green Olive, plus you can even have a cosy overnight stay in its tranquil farmhouse.
FOR LOVERS OF A GOOD DROP
We all know nothing complements a winter date better than a nice glass of red, which is why taking a DIY tour of the region's wineries is a must. Kick things off at Montalto — an award-winning vineyard known for its pinot noir (in a region known for its pinot). You can warm up by pairing your glass with dry-aged duck with burnt onion and quince or the sirloin with oyster cream and wasabi greens, which have been cooked over an asado grill. if it's a sunny winter's day, head to Polperro next and stay nice and toasty next to a heater on the restaurant's expansive outdoor deck.
Next up is Port Phillip Estate, where you can drink wines made with minimal intervention. Marked by its sculptural limestone building, Port Phillip has sweeping views across its vineyards and the ocean and houses a cellar door, fine-dining room, a more casual eatery and luxury accommodation. Then, push on to Crittenden Estate, where you and your partner in crime can sip on Spanish, Italian and French varieties as well as the estate's foundation range of pinots and chardonnays and its few vegan vinos. Or, drop into Rare Hare and sit by the indoor central fireplace.
If you're more of a craft beer lover or after some good ol' fashioned firewater to warm you up, then follow the Beer, Cider and Spirits Trail. Stop into Mock Red Hill Cider before making your way to some of the region's best microbreweries — Twobays Brewing Co, St Andrews Beach Brewery and Red Hill Brewery, to name a few. Make your own gin at Bass and Flinders Distillery, then sip on some single malt whisky at Chiefs Son Distillery before rounding things off with some rum at JimmyRum.
FOR THE INTREPID
Just because it's winter, it doesn't mean all your one-on-one time needs to be spent rugged up indoors. With such invigorating scenery and rugged coastline, the Mornington Peninsula has plenty of sights that'll make you want to embrace the crisp winter air. If you're after some R&R, head to Victoria's Peninsula Hot Springs. Here, you can relax in the warm spring pools and get cosy with your date while still taking in the crisp winter air. If you'd rather stay dry, take a scenic horse ride. Don't worry if you are a bit of a novice — there are trails suitable for all so you can romantically ride side-by-side from the bush to the beach.
Alternatively, get walking. Take in ocean views and gaze at basalt cliffs as you stroll along the two-hour Cape Schanck to Bushrangers Bay Track or hike the 26-kilometre Two Bays Walking Track which takes you onto Kings Falls. For views across Port Phillip Bay, amble along the Arthurs Seat Circuit Walk, which is a leisurely 1.8-kilometre loop.
FOR THE KIDULTS
For the couples young at heart, brave the outdoors together and head to Ashcombe Maze. You can get lost in the hedge maze, which will be flowering with hellebores (winter rose), camellias and rhododendrons at this time of year.
If you're more of a thrill-seeking duo, take your date to greater heights and go Tree Surfing at Enchanted Adventure Garden. Here, your hearts will race with adrenaline levels as you clamber along the obstacle course through the trees — nothing says bonding like seeing each other's faces as you take a leap of faith, 12 metres up on a glorified Tarzan swing.
For more wintry places, spaces and events in regional Victoria, visit Your Happy Space.
Top image: The Peninsula Hot Springs.
Published on June 20, 2019 by Marnie Vinall