Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

By Michael Harden
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Eggs from the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Eggs from the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria [©Mornington Peninsula Gourmet]

Silverbeet from the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Pumpkins from the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is renowned for its fabulous local produce

The Mornington Peninsula has undergone enormous changes in the last decade or so. The amazingly beautiful region, surrounded by the waters of Port Phillip Bay, Bass Strait and Westernport Bay, has always been popular with holiday makers attracted by a combination of coast and countryside, lush forests of pine and eucalyptus, sweeping hills, sandy bay beaches and dramatic ocean views. But as the roads have been improved and the commute from Melbourne reduced to an hour, more and more city folk have opted for a sea change, turning their weekenders into permanent residences.

This influx of people from food and wine mad Melbourne has transformed a sleepy rural area of small scale cattle farms, horse studs, fledgling wine industry, vegetable growers and orchards to a creative hothouse of increasingly excellent cool climate wine, specialist crops, small-scale artisan produce and restaurants run by chefs committed to creating a regionally specific cuisine.  

Ask any long-term resident about the changes and you will get a mixture of regret at the loss of a slower paced rural lifestyle and pride at the quality and amazing diversity that their relatively small land mass is able to produce. But as the Peninsula’s reputation as a unique food and wine region grows and the quality of the produce, wine and restaurants expands, there is a growing understanding that the area is simply refining its natural strengths and recognising its true potential.

Historically, the current changes are more of a logical progression than dramatic shift. The original inhabitants, the Bunurong people, hunted and gathered food in the bush and on the shore, leaving huge piles of shells as evidence of their taste for seafood. Only 50 years after explorer Matthew Flinders landed at Bird Rock near Mornington in 1802, the Mornington Peninsula witnessed a flurry of activity as settlers felled timber for an insatiable Melbourne market, established crops of wheat and oats, grazed cattle, planted orchards of cherry, pear, apple and quince trees and fished the surrounding waters for crayfish and mussels, snapper and shark. There were even small vineyards planted in the late 19th century, though the erratic climate and even more erratic wine market meant that these attempts were abandoned footnotes to the 1970s when the first disaffected city folk with long pockets and winemaking dreams began planting the hinterland with vineyards. So the Mornington Peninsula has always been something of a food bowl, but it has only been during the last couple of decades that people have begun to refine what they are planting to suit the vagaries of a maritime climate.

Vineyards and wineries have been the most noticeable evidence of this considered approach with chardonnay and pinot noir emerging as the Mornington Peninsula’s signature wine strengths. But the existence of farms and orchards specialising in strawberries, cherries, chestnuts, avocados, organic vegetables, olives and apples and small artisan businesses specialising in local meat, making cheese and brewing beer make the Mornington Peninsula a particularly exciting destination for any food and wine lover.

Five Great Farmgate Products

  • Organic honey and honeycomb from Bungower Park, Derril Road Moorooduc.

  • Free range eggs from Summerhill Farm, Barkers Road, Main Ridge.

  • Olive oil from Summerfields, Hunts Road, Bittern.

  • Organic vegetables from Bryant’s, Old Cape Shank Road, Rosebud.

  • Blueberries from Drum Drum Blueberry Farm, Davos Street, Main Ridge.


© Michael Harden 2006

First printed in Food and Wine Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

Regions

  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)

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Mornington Peninsula (Vic): Peninsula Summer Music Festival - 1-10 Jan 2020

Jancis Robinson

This summer, the Mornington Peninsula will once again be filled with the sounds of world-class music at the annual Peninsula Summer Music Festival »