Autumn approaches. Temperatures have started to feel genuinely cool. It is a myth that it is perpetually summer in Australia. With the exception of Tasmania, there’s nothing between Melbourne and Antarctica. With that in mind, I’ve been approaching each remaining beautifully warm day as if it could be the last. This weekend I was presented with a fantastic opportunity to make the most of the final days of summer.
Mornington Peninsula is south-east of the city of Melbourne and I would say from my experience largely disregarded by the tourist industry. There were tour buses in the area and perhaps the season may have had something to do with it, but I’ve not heard any of my backpacker pals talk of trips out to the peninsula. People seem to be too occupied with the Great Ocean Road to consider coming out east.
On Friday night, Elena picked me up after work and we drove down to her family’s summer house in Dromana. With plans to head to the view points on the way up Arthur’s Seat, head to the Point Nepean National Park and the Peninsula Hot Springs an early night was in order to give us the highest possible chance of getting up in the morning to crack on with the day’s business.
With an early start achieved, we headed up the winding roads of Arthur’s Seat, passing several view points on our way to the top. I don’t know for sure, but I reckon on a perfectly clear day you might just be able to see the city some 70km across Port Phillip Bay, then again it may just be too far away but I liked the idea. The views we did have both from the top and the various stops along the way down were pretty spectacular.
Once done with the views we headed further around the peninsula to it’s very tip and the home of the Point Nepean National Park. Formerly a Quarantine Station and later several gun emplacements and forts for the defense of the entrance to the bay. With plenty of walking trails that lead to various sights to choose from, for us it was obviously going to be about walking to Fort Nepean at the end of the park.
Our journey took us along a close to completely deserted beach. The sand was soft and it certainly trumped most of those in and around Melbourne. The only downside is that just beyond the shore were strong rip currents that would no doubt drag you out and dump you into the Bass Straight where you’d most likely be picked up by the huge waves and dashed across the rocks. Swimming out here is not recommended.
Off the beach we cut through the peninsula and walked through the bush, occasionally finding abandoned fortifications in the form of gun posts and observation points that may have once had useful views of something, somewhere. Soon, we could hear the ocean outside of the bay crashing on to the opposite shore and it wasn’t long before we could see water on both sides and our destination in sight.
From Fort Nepean we had some pretty spectacular views around the bay, and again I wondered whether or not it would be possible to see the city on a perfect day. Regardless of that, I’m fairly certain we were able to see as far along the coast as Cape Otway, and if not that then it at lead had to be the lighthouse at Airey’s Inlet along the Great Ocean Road Along with the views, the fort had abandoned tunnels, bunkers and gun emplacements that were all well worth an explore. Beyond the coast some surfers had chosen to ignore the unexploded bomb warnings and crossed the fence to catch some of the incredible waves that were cresting just off the point.
After we’d walked back to the car we had a bit of time to kill so had a wander around the picturesque and no doubt very expensive Sorrento before heading to our last stop of the day; the Peninsula Hot Springs. After a day on our feet, I think we were both looking forward to the prospect of relaxing in the geothermal waters pumped into the facility pools and spas.
On our way over I was expecting the hot springs to be a classy affair with Bentleys parked up in front but it seems that the reality is that the hot springs are one of the main tourist draws of Mornington Peninsula. The pools are carved into a hillside with the highlight being the hill-top pool with impressive views of the surrounding countryside. I thought we might have been able to catch the sunset from here, which we would have, had it not been for the tens of other people with the same idea. It was probably the only pool in the complex with a queue. Still, we found ourselves a good pool to sit and relax after our long day.
Even though I did enjoy the hot springs, I came away a little disappointed. My expectations were definitely too high which didn’t help but when you get down to it; it’s an overpriced heated public bathing pool. There were too many people around to truly relax and were it not for lucky timing, I’d expect you’d have to do a bit of roaming around before you found a pool with enough space to actually sit back and enjoy the waters.
Minor grievances aside, the weekend was an enjoyable one. It was great to get out of the city and it served as a strong reminder of how much I enjoy going places and doing things.