Magnificent Mornington Peninsula bounds Port Phillip Bay on one side and stretches into Western Port and out to Bass Strait on the other. The area is studded with towns, villages, vineyards, gardens and golf courses. And, of course, beautiful beaches ranging from wild ocean surf beaches to calm white sandy strips edging the bay.
The area starts at the city of Frankston and ends down the coast at the town of Portsea. To get an idea of its size, it is useful to understand the peninsula is divided into the northern peninsula (Mount Eliza, Mornington and Mount Martha) and the southern peninsula (Dromana, Rye, Sorrento and Portsea).
On the other side of the hinterland is the western port area, which includes Hastings, Merricks and Shoreham. All of this means that if you want to see the areas outside the town of Mornington, it's best to take a shore tour or arrange for private transport.
Being only an hour's drive from Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, the town of Mornington is a popular holiday and weekend destination for city folk drawn by the beaches and wineries.
The original residents were the Boonwurrung/Bunurong people until Europeans arrived in the 1840s seeking timber and pastoral land. Back then, the area was called Schnapper Point for the spot that now holds the pier. In fact, the township wasn't declared Mornington until 1861.
Within a few decades, it was discovered by holidaymakers who arrived by steamers that called at the jetty. Today, they are still drawn by the natural beauty of the landscape, the village atmosphere of the town and the picturesque foreshore.
Your ship will most likely anchor off the Mornington pier, at the end of Schnapper Point, and tenders will bring you ashore.
The immediate area consists of the main wharf and a picturesque timber fishing jetty. A charming older style wharf facility also houses two eateries. At ground level, you'll find Schnappers, a casual, family cafe that serves takeaway as well as eat-in meals. Think fish and chips, burgers, toasted sandwiches and soup.
Venture around the side of the building that faces the water and you'll see stairs that take you to The Rocks Mornington, a more sophisticated option for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Specialising in modern seafood, it offer superb views of the pier and coastline and keeps you out of the wind on blustery days. (1 Schnapper Point Road; +61 3 5973 5599)
Mornington is generally a safe and peaceful community, so you can wander the streets freely. However, always be aware of your personal belongings. Don't leave valuables unattended on the beach while you are swimming. Also, be aware of your wallet, purse or mobile phone when you are dining in cafes or walking through crowds, such as at street markets.
If you need to top up on cash, you'll find major banks with ATMs on Mornington's Main Street. The same banks also have ATMs in Morning Central shopping mall (78 Barkly Street). Keep the water behind you, walk up Main Street and take the first street on your left. Currency is the Aussie dollar. Visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com for exchange rates. Major credit cards are accepted at most retail and food and beverage outlets.
Australian English is the most common language.
Mornington and its namesake peninsula doesn't boast a particular souvenir. However, 200 vineyards are nestled between the fertile wooded uplands and the coast, producing renowned chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz. If you take an excursion to a winery, buy a bottle to share with family and friends when you return home. If you opt for other ways to spend your time in port, you can find samples of Mornington Peninsula wines at Liquorland, in Mornington Central shopping mall, (78 Barkly Street; 61 3 5975 2355).
The Main Street retail strip of Mornington is home to an abundance of resort-style clothing boutiques along with homewares stores selling items to decorate upmarket beachside retreats. These stores are perfect for adding that special item to your cruise wardrobe or buying a scented candle that you can light at home to remind you of the relaxing day you enjoyed in Mornington.