Though heading down the coast to Sorrento and Portsea over the summer months can feel like Melbourne on the Riviera (the whole town’s relocation destination), there are plenty of good reasons why this is the case. From rock jumping and great surf at the back beaches, to long days lazing on the front beach and lingering at cafes, there’s no wonder so many birds of a feather flock there together. With food, adventure and fun in mind and a long weekend ahead, here is our guide to some of the best spots in these busy beachside villages.
The Sorrento Hotel is a Mornington Peninsula institution, with a position perched up on the hill overlooking the bay to match. Rob and Anne Pitt run a tight ship at the hotel, offering premium accommodation and a relaxing spa alongside the pub, cellar bar and restaurant. On the menu, you’ll find classic pub favourites alongside modern, international fusion flavours. The action moves to the pub after dinner, where live bands and dancing folk fill the small space.
While it might be best known as the place to go for a good time when the pub closes, the Continental Hotel also offers great breakfast. As the name suggests, you’ll find all the brekkie options you’re after in a classic setting. With comfortable and affordable accommodation for backpackers, it’s a good place for the young to call home for a weekend.
Few things compare to drinking in a sun-drenched beer garden with views of the bay. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – with accommodation upstairs – this iconic hotel is one of the busiest summer spots on the coast. There is plenty on during summer, including this weekend’s Portsea Beach Club on Sunday to celebrate our long summer weekend with a Sunday session.
With an array of cakes, salads and sandwiches ready to go, great coffee and a gourmet selection of breads, local cheese and wine, Stringers is a favourite among locals and weekenders alike. There’s also a cosy courtyard out the back, making it the perfect place for both those on the run and those with a little more time to while away in the sun.
2 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
(03) 5984 2010
Set back from the crowded main street in a classic former beach house, Smokehouse offers the best pizza in town. The food is no fuss, with a menu that focuses on simple and fresh pizza, pasta, seafood and steak. With the perfect blend of Italian and Mediterranean fare and a great wine list, the place fills up fast during summer so be sure to book ahead.
182 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
(03) 5984 1246
Run by Australian and Italian duo Brett and MG, Acquolina provides a truly authentic Italian experience in a warm and inviting space, with a courtyard out the back that you’d be forgiven for mistaking for Italy. During winter, Brett and MG shut up shop and head back to Italy for wine sampling and staff hunting, bringing back over 60 labels of the best Italian wine and an all Italian staff. There’s an abundance of choice on the menu, but the hero is the rich homemade pasta that changes daily. Coupled with thick Italian accents and an intimate setting, Acquolina is the quintessential Italian trattoria.
26 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
(03) 5984 0811
Newly opened sister site to St Kilda restaurant of the same name, Itali.co fuses traditional Italian fare with modern tastes. The clean, white fit-out makes for a simple and relaxed atmosphere with outdoor tables capturing views of the beach and ferry. The mushroom and truffle cream pizza is a winner, as is the tagliolini pasta with blue swimmer crab. If you’ve got room, finish with poached pear and saffron with homemade chocolate ice cream.
1 The Esplanade, Sorrento
(03) 5984 4004
The Sisters Kitchen Garden
In keeping with the setting of the nursery that previously occupied the site, The Sisters Kitchen Garden has an abundance of produce freshly picked from the portable veggie patches surrounding the cafe. Head there for a brekkie of eggs and more, or try the slow cooked lamb with Moroccan cous cous or a chicken, roast vegetable and quinoa salad for lunch. There’s also a tempting cabinet of sweet and savoury options to save for later.
149–151 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
(03) 5984 4646
Three Palms is favoured for its relaxed vibe, good food and beach shack atmosphere. While many only go there for drinks, the zesty menu offers a sensational clutch of flavours, with meals designed to share. Start with the yellow fin tune ceviche with ginger and lime dressing, before tucking into lamb skewers with tabouleh and Malaysian kingfish curry. Groups flock to the outdoor area on hot nights, where the graffiti covered walls, a beach bar and fairy lights fill the casual space.
With brands like Camilla and Marc, J Brand, Anna & Boy, Free People, Kenzo, Jac & Jack, Equipment and Tibi, Deb’s Boutique offers a range of beautiful pieces, from the most basic staples to bikinis, accessories, jackets, dresses and shoes. Whether you’re after a chic beach dress or a pair of jeans suitable to take back to the city, you’ll be hard pressed to leave Deb’s empty handed.
24 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
(03) 5984 1617
Emia is a vibrant, colourful store with a focus on natural fibres, wearable shapes and unique style. The collection of lifestyle pieces, fashion and accessories is sourced from all corners of the globe, making for a diverse range. With labels such as Lottie Hall, Mist, Senso, Wildfox, Bec & Bridge, True Religion, Paige Denim, Vivienne Westwood, D-CO Copenhagen and House of Harlow, Emia offers a perfect blend of designer pieces and bohemian aesthetics.
White Nest offers a curated collection of art, design objects, fashion, books and interiors from around the world, with lots of pieces imported from Paris. A fantastic source of inspiration for visitors, White Nest is a destination for special gifts and unique pieces to reinvigorate a room or a wardrobe.
2843 Point Nepean Road, Blairgowrie
(03) 5988 9676
Point Nepean National Park
Point Nepean National Park lies at the Port Phillip Heads, where the ocean meets the bay. It’s the second oldest permanent quarantine station in Australia and comprises over 50 heritage-listed buildings. With a series of military forts dating back to the 1880s, Point Nepean National Park is an explorer’s paradise. Hop on a bike (that you can borrow from the information centre) and discover the tunnels, forts and gun emplacements around the park. Those less inclined to pedal can jump on the transportation service the runs several times a day.
Peninsula Hot Springs
The Peninsula Hot Springs is a place of retreat, with lush grounds, an indulgent spa, public and private hot springs and a cafe serving light, post-pool snacks. If it’s a romantic getaway you are after, there’s a bathe and dine package that includes a main course, glass of wine, tea or coffee and bathing in the Spa Dreaming Centre on Friday and Saturday nights.
St Johns Rock Jump
Thrill seekers will love the popular rock jump at the end of St Johns Wood Road in Blairgowrie. It tends to get pretty busy down there, but it only adds to the fun of watching people do all sorts of tricks off the rocks. There are two levels, so we recommend starting with the lower jump before getting too confident you can flip off the top.