About an hour and a half due south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, the holiday town of Dromana provides a stunning snapshot of some of Australia’s most diverse terrain.
It’s like the generic beachfront town of blissful childhood holidays: caravan parks, sandy hair and fish ’n’ chips on the jetty. Children revel in the gentle turquoise water of the bay, lively locals while away sunny afternoons on the local hotel’s open deck and the more sedate perch on the pier, waiting for playful – or doomed – garfish to tug on their fishing lines.
There’s more to Dromana than simple coastal pleasures, though. In fact, few places bring Australia’s varied landscapes together more strikingly: Arthurs Seat, a 314-metre-tall granite hill, rises spectacularly above the peninsula, offering unrivalled 360-degree views. Walk, drive or take the gondola to the top and view rolling paddocks and giant eucalyptus trees on the way. At the summit, you’ll see the serene bay on one side of the peninsula and the untamed ocean on the other, while hidden small-batch vineyards dot the spaces in between.
With so many things to do and see, allow us to be your guide to the perfect weekend in Dromana.
Lakeside Villas at Crittenden Estate
Linda, wife of winemaker Rollo Crittenden, runs Lakeside Villas on the Mornington Peninsula vineyard. The property is made up of three separate one-bedroom cabins jutting out over the lake, each with a sense of seclusion. The villas are equipped with a full kitchen, spa bath, king-sized bed, walk-in wardrobe and all the standard mod cons. A wood fire and locally sourced reclaimed-wood lamps and towel racks create a bucolic-chic vibe. Watch the sun rise over a glassy lake – and the ducks begin to stir – without even leaving your bed.
25 Harrisons Road, Dromana; 0400 339 995
Relax and be pampered
Balance is the mantra at Peninsula Hot Springs, along with relaxation, of course. Just 20 minutes’ drive from Dromana, Victoria’s first natural hot springs and day spa centre has taken influences from Japan, China, Finland and Turkey to create a truly international bathing experience. The springs are divided into two parts: the Bath House and the Spa Dreaming Centre. The Bath House offers more than 20 bathing options, including Turkish steam baths, saunas, cold plunge pools and a (hugely popular) hilltop pool. But the Spa Dreaming Centre is where the real relaxation happens. Each pool here blends flawlessly with its natural surroundings and there is a clear emphasis on tranquillity. A number of treatments are available to invigorate the mind and body – the new Synthesis mud wrap is particularly rejuvenating if you don’t feel like a massage or facial. To add some fun to your time at the springs, book a visit to Clay Ridge in the Bath House. A number of clays with different restorative properties have been sourced from around Australia; you paint yourself and each other before washing the clays off under a geothermal mineral shower.
Springs Lane, Fingal; (03) 5950 8777
Enjoy a local tipple
The Mornington region has more than 50 cellar doors operated by winemakers, cider-makers, brewers and distillers. Crittenden Estate’s Wine Centre is a standout. The family-owned winery is now run by the second generation – in top spot is viticulturalist and winemaker Rollo Crittenden. The Wine Centre has restructured the tasting format, with guests seated around small tables and directed through tailored wine flights. It encourages discussion and enjoyment at your own pace – and these cool-climate wines certainly are enjoyable. The Pinocchio Rosato is crisp and full-bodied – perfect for a summer evening – and the pinot noirs outstanding, especially the flagship Cri de Coeur.
25 Harrisons Road, Dromana; (03) 5981 8322
Your stay at Lakeside Villas at Crittenden Estate includes a breakfast hamper on the first day. For a relaxing start to your weekend, take advantage of the full kitchen in your villa and cook up a feast of local bacon, fresh eggs, bread and tomatoes or try the homemade muesli. There’s a coffee machine for morning espressos, best enjoyed on the deck overlooking the lake, surrounded by grapevines and beautiful weeping willows.
It’s not just the spa experience at Peninsula Hot Springs’ Spa Dreaming Centre that’s amazing. The food is, too. The spa offers bathing and treatment packages that include a dining option, which can be chosen from the à la carte menu. The food is as varied and balanced as everything else at the spa: dishes include grilled barramundi on cold soba noodles with mango salsa; Thai beef salad; and jerk chicken with brown rice and pomegranate salad. After a meal and a refreshing kombucha, head back to the baths feeling sated but not heavy.
Between the beachfront and the wineries in and around Dromana there’s a veritable glut of dinner options but Petit Tracteur Bistro is hard to go past. The little sister of the two-hatted Ten Minutes by Tractor restaurant has a French-inspired menu created by chef Stuart Bell that uses local produce in dishes such as Niçoise salad and duck à l’orange. Add a selection of local and international wines and you have the perfect complement to the view of the vineyards, garden and emerald-green hills.
Top image: Peninsula Hot Springs
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