Dromana Habitat sneaks up on you. Driving into the industrial-estate-turned-tourism-drawcard on the Mornington Peninsula – just over an hour’s drive south of Melbourne – you don’t see any of the 15 makers and artisans until you’re right on top of them.

While the ’Ninch is known for its beaches, hot springs, wineries and restaurants, Dromana Habitat is reason enough for a daytrip. The businesses themselves aren’t new – with many operating in the same spot for years – but their decision to unite under the Dromana Habitat banner has triggered the launch of a fully-fledged precinct.

Ebony Flett is one of the drivers behind the collective of artisans, and the founder of Red Hill Candle Co, which moved from a home-based business into the estate during peak pandemic. There are 40 scented candles on offer, and her candle-making classes come with a glass of local bubbly from down the road. Flett recommends collecting a map and walking between each small business.

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“It’s pretty special to be able to get these experiences so close together,” she says. “People come for a workshop and then need to wait two hours for them … so we give them a flyer and they wander around and maybe grab lunch or do a rum tasting.”

You don’t have to look hard to uncover the story behind each business in the estate – all you have to do is say hello. There’s Lee May at Everwear Denim, who has gone from working at Alexander McQueen, making suits for royalty and rock stars, to creating bespoke jeans from Japanese selvedge denim on old-school sewing machines. Craig “Watto” Watson from Bass Surfboards shapes custom boards and hosts surfy movie and music nights. Plant people Jeff and Lauren Nielsen – at Verdant Dwellings – have created a green sanctuary, where you need extreme willpower to leave empty-handed.

Peninsula Fresh Seafood is an estate original, having been in its current location for ages. It’s just next door to Boatshed Cheese, where if you choose to dine in, you can order the Black Pearl Brûlée: an ashed, wrinkled-rind goat’s cheese baked until molten, and blowtorched for that quintessential brittle top.

Dietary requirements are catered for at The Vegan Dairy, known for chevre-style cheese made with organic cashews, as well as at Two Bays, which has a selection of coeliac-friendly and vegan beers on tap, plus gluten-free woodfired pizzas.

There’s plenty to drink elsewhere too, whether a gin paddle at stalwart Bass & Flinders Distillery; craft beers to a soundtrack of live music at Jetty Road Brewery; vino at humble family-owned winery and cellar door Rhino Tiger Bear; sparkling Peninsula wine beside a cheese platter at Rahona Valley; or specialty coffee at Little Rebel.

At Jimmy Rum Distillery, owner James McPherson leads tastings at the bar with contagious enthusiasm and humorous anecdotes. He has three mission statements: to present the diversity of rum, to prove that rum can be as good as any single-malt whisky, and to eventually export and show the world how good Australian rum can be.

“It’s definitely still a bit of a secret,” says Flett of the precinct. “The Peninsula has long been known as this winery region, but understanding that there are these new artisans and microbreweries and distilleries makes it a great pocket to explore.”

Dromana Habitat
40 Collins Road, Dromana

Daily 11am–5pm