WEEKEND SERIES: Sorrento

MONOTONOUS weekly routines can often dampen your mood regardless of rain, hail or shine. And the best way to rejuvenate is with a relaxing weekend trip down the coast or up to the country.

You don’t have to wait for that ‘big’ overseas trip you’ve been mentally planning or the couple of weeks annual leave you’ll take off in six months to get away and freshen up. During the next six months I’m going to bring you my top five tried-and-tested weekend getaways a.k.a the Weekend Series.

Pit stop numero uno: Sorrento. 

Sorrento – based on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula – is renowned for its striking limestone buildings, up-market shopping strip and Searoad Ferry dock (which takes you to Queenscliff in 40 minutes) about 100 kilometres down the coast from the heart of Melbourne.

While the destination is breathtaking so too are the stops along the way.

Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove is a great place to share a glass of wine over lunch with the girls or to enjoy a bite to eat while the kids stretch their legs in the garden. There are two dining options available – restaurant and piazza cafe.

If you’re after a fine-dining experience the Montalto restaurant is the place to be. But if you’re after delicious food that doesn’t come with a high-end price tag, grab a table at the piazza cafe.

Doors open at 12pm on the weekend and they do not take reservations so get there as early as you can to avoid disappointment. I grabbed a table for two and ordered a margarita pizza (pictured below), marinated chicken wings and saganaki. Traditionally I have also been a white wine drinker but after tasting Montalto’s Pinot Noir (pictured below), I could easily be converted (I ended up buying a bottle!).

Montalto Winery in Red Hill South. Pictures: Brittany Shanahan Photography

 

After lunch you can check out Montalto’s Cellar Door (open 11am to 5pm daily) and taste a selection of wines for $5, which is refundable against any wine purchase.

To then burn off your food and wine consumption, walk through the 1km Montalto Sculpture Park (pictured above). The trail – which comprises of 20 permanent sculptures – meanders through grassy lawns, gravel pathways and wetlands boardwalks. You can also purchase a glass of wine to take with you on the walk, if you’re up for it.

If you’re after an ostentatious vineyard, driven by modern architecture with sea views, visit Port Phillip Estate in Red Hill South. The dishes are substantially more expensive than those in Montalto’s Piazza but from personal experience, they were devine.

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Main Ridge Dairy. Pictures: Brittany Shanahan Photography

Less than 10 minutes drive down the road is award-winning farmhouse cheese factory, Main Ridge Dairy. The 130-acre farm has more than 200 goats which you can play with before heading into the factory to enjoy a $10 cheese platter.

The caprino and marinated chèvre were my favourite cheeses and we decided to purchase a packet so we could take them home.

Another 10-minute drive towards the Mornington Peninsula Freeway you’ll find yourself at the entrance of the Enchanted Adventure Garden.

There is something here for everyone – from the green thumbs to dare-devils. Tube slides, garden mazes, a canopy walk and an indoor 3D maze are some of the activities you can enjoy with your $29 entry fee.

If you’re keen to push your boundaries and test your fear of heights, tree surfing and the big zip, is just for you. Both activities have additional costs – $60 and $39 respectively for adult admissions – but also include park entry.

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Enchanted Adventure Garden in Arthurs Seat. Pictures: Brittany Shanahan Photography

 

The grand tree surfing course has five different levels up to 10 metres high and includes stepping platforms, swinging rope bridges, tunnels, rope nets, cargo nets, swings and zip lines. There is also an eight metre long Tarzan Swing which is the most difficult challenge. You must be taller than 135 cm tall to complete the course.

Although I have a slight fear of heights it looked like heaps of fun – so I built up the confidence and booked my ticket. It was a challenging course that required concentration and balance, but I took comfort knowing if I slipped, I would essentially be on a big swing with good views.

Watch some of my experience below, and yes, not the most graceful landing I’ve ever achieved.

Now, depending on the time of year you decide to getaway for the weekend, your accommodation options could be limited, particularly during summer when holidaymakers flock to the peninsula. The best idea is to plan a couple of weeks ahead if you can or pay exorbitant prices.

Whitehall Guesthouse in Sorrento is where I’ve spent a weekend on the peninsula. It’s picturesque vintage facade teamed with limestone bricks and modern decor makes any guest feel right at home. The bedroom was quite large with its ensuite. Cheaper rooms are available without an ensuite but you’ll have to use a shared bathroom. If you don’t want to do this I would suggest paying that little extra.

A buffet breakfast – which included cereals, toast and fresh fruit – is served between 8.30am and 10am. It was a great place to stay, especially if you have to accommodate for groups.

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WHITEHALL GUESTHOUSE (ensuite) in Sorrento. Pictures: Brittany Shanahan Photography

 

If you would prefer fancier accommodation, and don’t mind driving a little further to get to Sorrento, I would suggest staying at the Mercure Portsea Resort and Golf Course. It’s an oasis on a golf course. I loved every minute of my stay but it did come at a higher price (compared to Whitehall Guesthouse) and generally sells out well in advance. So make sure you get in early!

There is an abundance of restaurant options available on the main strip (Ocean Beach Rd) in Sorrento. One of my favourites would have to be Morgan’s Beach Shack.

“No shirt, no shoes, no problem” is painted on a timber sign inside the relaxed shack on the corner of Point Nepean Rd and Ocean Beach Rd overlooking the Sorrento foreshore. The food and drink prices are very reasonable and the views are terrific, particularly at sunset.

Other alternatives include Itali.co Sorrento, Loquat Restaurant, Stringers Store, Smokehouse Sorrento and the Sorrento Hotel.

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Morgan’s Beach Shack. Pictures: Brittany Shanahan Photography

 

The Mornington Peninsula is the market capital with one occurring nearly every week during the summertime. From second-hand goods to fresh produce to arts and crafts, there are products to tickle everyone’s fancy. Make sure you check out the list and stop at one, either on your way down or during your stay, because they’re definitely worth it. Click here for the full list.

Of course a relaxing weekend would not be complete without a stop, for a bathe or massage, at the famous Peninsula Hot Springs. If you’re watching every dollar it doesn’t mean you have to skip on R and R. You can spend several hours jumping from pool to pool and it will only cost you as little as $20 (for an adult entry).

If you’re in the mood for a massage they can cost upwards of $120. If you haven’t had one before, or not for a very long time, this is the place to do it.

Finally the cheapest and sometimes the most beautiful site to relax and unwind is at the beach. The Sorrento Foreshore and Back Beach are two of the closest options available on the Mornington Peninsula. Regardless of which one you decide – you’ll have a blast. For a full list of the Mornington Peninsula beaches click here.

The reason why I love travelling down to Sorrento is because your options are endless and there are many activities you can do depending on what type of weekend you’re after and who you’re travelling with. You’re not limited to one restaurant, one hotel and a couple of shops that only trade until midday. It’s one of my favourite destinations and you could never get bored.

A handful of the 240 beach huts located on the Dromana foreshore. Picture: Brittany Shanahan Photography

Want to share your Sorrento experience? Comment below.

 

SORRENTO

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Brittany Shanahan travelled at her own expense.


 

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