11 July 2018

The Perfect Weekend Away on the Mornington Peninsula

This trip to the Mornington Peninsula, the area in which I grew up, reminded me there’s always new things to see and learn, regardless of how long you’ve called the place home.

Travel time: 1 hour drive from Melbourne CBD to Mt. Eliza (the beginning of the Mornington Peninsula).

Play time: Treat yourself to a weekend away

Things to do:

-       Warm your body to the core at Peninsula Hot Springs in Rye.

-       Take the coastal route and stop off at the various beaches with colourful bathing boxes.

-       Eat an award winning breakfast at Woodman’s Estate in Moorooduc.

-       See how many antique stores you can visit in one day!

Words by Casey Hawkins. Photos by Nate Polta.

Our Story

“Wowzers!” as my friend Tanya would say; what an incredible day I had on the Mornington Peninsula recently. Usually when I’m home visiting friends and family I don’t seek out new experiences; we go for lunches, coffees, or at best, walks around the area. But after a week of driving and sleeping in Nate’s 4X4, we figured we deserved a day of indulgence.

What could be more indulgent than a salon wash and haircut before an afternoon at Peninsula Hot Springs? A night’s accommodation in a lakeside chalet? An award winning breakfast in a country manor house surrounded by cows? Yeah, that’s what we thought, which is why we booked the lot!  

My day began at 9:30am when I drove my van to Tanya’s salon, Bodhi Waves in Seaford. It was nice to be back behind the wheel after riding shotgun in Nate’s Prado for hours on end. The salon shares a space with a ladies’ fashion boutique which was closed when I arrived. Tanya ran to unlock the door with a big smile on her face. From that moment we barely took a breath between conversations. When I left an hour or so late, I looked like a gypsy goddess with my hair curled and braided at the front.

We arrived at Peninsula Hot Springs around 2pm. We got a park so close to the entrance which got me hopeful there’d only be a small number of people visiting due to the rain. Unfortunately, this was a case of counting my chickens before they’d hatched. There were people everywhere! I think my wishful thinking had ignored the fact it was still school holidays in Melbourne.

We checked into what’s known as the Spa Dreaming Centre. It was more expensive than standard bathing but you get fluffy white robes and access to an additional bathing area for adults only. We signed up for the “Clay Ridge” experience, which is normally unavailable throughout winter (it was open to celebrate NAIDOC Week). As a lady described the purpose and benefits of body clay, I covered my arms and legs in an earthy red slop, which I was told improves circulation. I stood shivering in my swimsuit waiting for the clay to dry; it finally made sense why it was usually reserved for spring/summer. Once the clay had hardened, we had the option of exfoliating ourselves by scratching it off, or standing under a sulphur shower which smelled of egg. I reluctantly did a bit of both.

We went and ate at the restaurant before fully submerging our bodies in the baths. I ordered the fish of the day and Nate had a chicken pot-pie. I was relieved to find out the chefs knew how to cater for my Low FODMAP diet (no onion, garlic or wheat among numerous other staple foods). It meant I didn’t have to eye off the contents of my salad before digging in. Despite the big servings, we both felt light as well unrobed and stepped into one of the heated baths. Hours later, after the sun had gone down, our robes were beyond damp which caused me to shake once more.

It was around 8:30pm when I drove us to our accommodation,  Woodman’s Estate. By the time we arrived it was too dark to appreciate what we knew would be specular views of peaceful lakes and green pastures. Instead, we sunk down into the cloud-like couch cushions by the fire in the open lounge-dining area.  

Nate was already out by the lake taking photos when I woke up. He sent me a text requesting I walk onto the balcony overlooking a lake full of ducks and water birds. I put on a hotel robe before wandered out to find him waving at me from the other side of the lake. A minute later he was gone so I assumed he got the shot he was after. Just as I was getting dressed he came to tell me the owner of the estate agreed to let us use the rowboat. We managed to get ourselves onto the water using an old pair of wooden oars. I looked awkward as hell trying to row us closer to the manor house as Nate took photos.

When we entered the manor house we were asked to wait in the Drawing Room while our table for set for breakfast. Nate and I were surprised to see such a mixture of ages and groupings already seated; given the luxuriousness of the place, we weren’t expecting to see other young people like ourselves. We became gluttons the moment was sat down. We felt obligated to try everything from the buffet, as well as order from the menu. I brought a selection of baked goods back to our table. I knew I couldn’t eat them all so I took a bite of each and asked Nate to finish them. It wasn’t like I had to beg him or anything.

We said goodbye to the cows before heading back to our chalet to collect our belongings. I hadn’t noticed the big gates marking the entrance when we drove in at night. They weren’t nearly as grand as the manor house, but how could they be? Staying at Woodman’s Estate was the unexpected icing on the cake for this Melbourne girl.  

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