The Divinyls lyrics “it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain” come rushing back as I stumble, fluffy white bathrobe gripped gingerly about me, through a low, warm pool set with 10 types of river stones. It’s about 10am and I’m relaxing through gritted teeth at the award-winning Peninsula Hot Springs (Springs Lane, Fingal; (03) 5950 8777; peninsulahotsprings.com), just a 1.5-hour easy drive from Melbourne, on Victoria’s picturesque Mornington Peninsula. My soft city constitution is no match for this kind of tough-love rock therapy, which works by stimulating reflexology points on the soles of your feet as you walk its course. So I slink off to a less-demanding natural hot spring and slide into 42-degree water. It’s heaven.
Discovered by brothers Charles and Richard Davidson in 1997 (and now a must-experience destination for locals and tourists), the Springs is the first stop on a two-day road trip through Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula: a 723-square-kilometre finger of land surrounded on three sides by Port Phillip Bay, Bass Strait and Western Port Bay. The Peninsula is one of those magical places that offers so much due to its unique geography: family beach fun, water sports and fishing on its bays; surfing, long walks and rugged vistas by the ocean; and wine, food and romance in the rolling hills of its interior.
Earlier in the day we drove the 20-kilometre coastline from Mornington and Mount Martha to Dromana, taking in beaches dotted with colourful bathing boxes and tea-trees. From there we began ascending the peninsula’s highest point, Arthurs Seat (314 metres). From December, less-energetic types can opt to ride the new Arthur’s Seat Eagle gondola (aseagle.com.au) to the top. A need for coffee had us stopping at Heronswood Restaurant (105 Latrobe Parade, Dromana; (03) 5984 7318), a gorgeous hillside eatery and garden shop highly regarded by foodies for its championing of heirloom vegetable seeds.From here we continued inland past the Enchanted Adventure Garden (55 Purves Road, Arthurs Seat; (03) 59818449; enchantedmaze.com.au), popular with kids for its ‘tree-surfing’ zip-line fun. Soon bushland gave way to farmland as we made our way down Browns Road to our relaxing rendezvous back at Peninsula Hot Springs.
But the journey beckons, so we bid the warm waters farewell and jump back into our RAV4, and head to Rye, a bayside magnet for campers and summer holidaymakers. Traffic can be an issue along Point Nepean Road in peak holiday season but travelling at a crawl at least gives you a chance to drink in views of the bay, visible through the branches of majestic moonah and coastal trees.
Heading west on the peninsula, past Blairgowrie, the villages of Sorrento and Portsea have a reputation for being playgrounds of the well-heeled, and certainly, the cliffs and byroads around here are dotted with expensive homes.