MELBURNIANS tend to fall in love with one side of Port Phillip Bay — either Mornington or Bellarine Peninsula.

It’s akin to barracking for a football team — you choose a side or it’s thrust upon you by parents and it remains the holiday destination of your choice for decades to follow.

But unlike football teams, we can embrace both.

I recently joined a road trip to explore the two destinations, thanks to the team at Mercure hotels and Tourism Victoria.

The picturesque Mornington Peninsula has some stunning waterfront restaurants and luxury clifftop mansions but there is more to the coastal hub than meets the eye.

Main Ridge Dairy ticks all the boxes, even for young families. They have goats close enough to feed and photograph near the main entrance — and they’re child-friendly.

A relaxation session at Peninsula Hot Springs is the cherry on top of a fabulous Mornington road trip.

Co-founder Charles Davidson has hit the jackpot after his humble beginnings in 1992 when he was inspired to explore the natural hot springs concept.

The springs have since become a haven for people of all ages — with more than 20 bathing pools, including a 360-degree view hilltop pool, the Spa Dreaming Centre and a Turkish steam bath.

Bellarine has played second fiddle to Mornington as a sightseeing and holiday destination but that won’t be for too much longer.

The tables are turning, and with Geelong winning Australia’s Best Pie for 2013-14 at Rolling Pins Pies and Cakes and the establishment of Little Creatures Brewery, it could be a lot quicker than we expect.

The preloved feel of the vintage brewery had residents bursting with excitement when it rolled into the former manufacturing hub two years ago. Now it is the one-stop shop for affordable food and alcohol and has become a landmark, with monthly craft markets on Sundays from 8am to 4pm during summer.

Regardless of any preconceived ideas you may have about either side of Port Phillip Bay, it’s worth visiting the opposition — their world is your oyster.

Brittany Shanahan was a guest of Accor Hotels Australia and Tourism Victoria. Originally published in Leader Newspaper (see below).

Leader Newspaper travel piece

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