Travel to the End of the World

I’m riding to the end of the world,” I said as I started my last long ride before Ironman Cairns last year. I was riding to Portsea – the tip of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Portsea, about an hours drive from Melbourne, is a popular seaside destination for both locals and tourists and is a popular training playground for Melbourne triathletes. There are cafes, restaurants and bakeries – ‘Baked’ in Sorrento, on the way to Portsea, is a favourite stop on long rides. It’s breathtaking in winter and comes to life in summer with surfers, surf lifesavers, campers and holidaymakers all descending on the coastal town. It’s a place where you can feel the sun on your back and relish stunning views of crystal blue waters and millionaire mansions while enjoying a drink at the historic Portsea Pub. It offers the best of both water worlds – the surf at the ocean beach and the cool, calm serenity of the bay beach. Offering the perfect blend of activity and relaxation (the Mornington Peninsula is the home of the Peninsula Hot Springs), it’s the perfect destination for sporting enthusiasts. And with a new event coming to town – a Victorian Triathlon Series swim-run event on 9 December 2017 – Portsea is definitely a must-do destination to put at the top of your summer getaway list.

What’s the weather like in December?

Being the start of summer, the climate in Portsea in December can be variable. Average temperatures range from 12.1 to 23.1°C. So, if you’re thinking of adding this event to your calendar, prepare for all weather conditions. However, milder conditions often make for fast race times, which is a bonus. Also, make sure you bring your wetsuit. Victorian coastal waters aren’t generally warm at the best of times (we’re talking peak-summer), so you don’t want to leave the wettie at home. The average rainfall in Portsea is said to be around 53.9mm for the month of December, and it is supposed to rain, on average, about 8.3 days of the month. So again, prepare for all conditions and make sure to pack some wet weather gear as well. 

Getting there

Even though it feels like a world away, the rugged terrain and stunning coastal views of Portsea are only about an hour drive away from Melbourne.

Travel by car. The best way to get to the Mornington Peninsula and Portsea is by car. If you’re travelling from Melbourne, you will travel via Frankston – the fastest way to get there is to take the M1 and join the Eastlink tollway. Next, take the Mornington Peninsula Freeway and then the Moorooduc Freeway to quickly reach Portsea. Too easy. The freeways are well-signed making navigation a breeze, and with the new tollway and freeway, it’s a relatively quick and easy trip. Although, be warned: in summer, Friday night traffic may be a factor. If it’s a nice weekend you may find that almost all of Melbourne has the same idea about escaping for the weekend – the freeways can get a little traffic-crazy at this time of year. NB: There are tolls along the way to Portsea so make sure you have an e-TAG or that you purchase a weekend pass to avoid paying fines and extra fees and charges. For more information, visit www.citylink.com.au.

Public transport options. If you’d prefer to leave the car at home, your next option is public transport.  Jump on the Metropolitan train, which runs every 15-20minutes from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne. Take this train to Frankston and then connect through Hastings to Stony Point on Western Port Bay.Buses travel from Melbourne to all areas of the Mornington Peninsula, and local buses operate around each Mornington Peninsula village. Bus number 788 departs Frankston station for towns alongside Port Phillip Bay to Portsea every 45 minutes on weekdays and every one to two hours on weekends. Just make sure that you have a myki (a reusable travel card) and that it’s topped up.
For more information, visit – www.ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki. 

By ferry. If you’re in the Bellarine Peninsula, you can choose the scenic option and travel to Sorrento (next to Portsea) from Queenscliff on the Great Ocean Road, on the ferry. Searoad Ferries depart every hour, daily from Queenscliff Harbour. You can leave the car behind or take it with you – foot passengers, bikes, cars, towed caravans, trailers, motorcycles and more are all welcome on the ferry. This is a great option for those who are coming from Geelong and the surrounds.   

Where to stay

Portsea and the Mornington Peninsula offer accommodation for all budgets and tastes. From plush hotels, Airbnb’s, wineries, resorts, family-friendly motels to bed and breakfasts, camping options and more. There is something for everyone.

Enjoy the luxury of the Portsea Village Resort, the Mercure Portsea Resort and Golf Course, the Portsea Hotel, Hotel Sorrento or the convenience of Moody’s Motel, the Kanasta Caravan Park or the Rosebud motel – wherever you decide to stay, remember to book early so that you don’t miss out.

Food and Drink

Portsea and the Mornington Peninsula is foodie-heaven. From cafes and bakeries to wineries, breweries and fine dining – there is something to suit all appetites and tastes. Well-known winery, Merricks General Store is a wine store and Bistro and is a great option for lunch. It’s a perfect excuse for a summer day trip – what better way to unwind after the event? Love beer? Well, look no further. Known as the Peninsula’s original microbrewery, The Red Hill Brewery is a great place to enjoy crafted beer styles that taste great. Enjoy modern, casual beer with BBQ-style food. What more could you want on a summer afternoon? It’s the perfect place to replenish those glycogen stores after the swim-run event. You could even make a night of it. The Brewer’s Cottage is said to be a fully contained and comfortable three-bedroom holiday on the grounds of the Red Hill Brewery.    

For quick, delicious baked-goods, you can’t go past ‘Baked’ in Sorrento. It’s a favourite stop with Melbourne triathletes and is said to offer some delicious, mouth -watering bakery items. For the best ‘snot blocks’ (aka vanilla slice) in town make sure you stop at ‘Just Fine Food’. It is said to have good coffee as well. Speaking of all things quick and easy, a hidden secret on the Mornington Peninsula is St Paul’s General Store. Locals rave about it and its sandwiches, rolls, dim sim’s, egg and bacon muffins, coffee and more.

Hankering for some fish and chips? Fish Fetish is the Peninsula’s best-kept fish and chip secret, with regular customers saying it has the best chips in Victoria, “They’re super crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.” It’s a popular spot and can get quite busy, “In summer, there can be a 45minute wait on your order.”

For the best all-rounder, you can’t go past Italico. Locals report it’s great value – good food at a reasonable price. If you love all things Italian – food, the experience – this one is for you. It’s popular for both lunch and dinner, and a great place to carb-load before or to refuel after the event. It’s also said to have great coffee – win!

If you want to unwind after the event, Sorrento Hotel is a great option. It has a front bar and a back bar called Salt Bar, which is said to be “really cool”. It has good views and also a good lunch trade. But on a sunny afternoon, you can’t go past the Portsea Pub. The beer garden and views are “unbeatable on a sunny day”. What better way to spend a lazy summer afternoon than sipping beer in the beer garden, overlooking the spectacular Port Phillip Bay?

Do and See

While you’re on the Mornington Peninsula, why not make the most of it and visit some of the popular tourist attractions.

If you need to shake your legs out after the race, don’t say no to the hot springs and day spas – you won’t be disappointed. One of the most famous hot springs is the Peninsula Hot Springs, which is said to be Victoria’s only geothermal hot springs. It’s a multi-award winning complex that has over 20 bathing experiences with 360-degrees views of the Mornington Peninsula countryside. Bliss.    

This is one for the nostalgic romantics and the movie lovers. Dromana Drive In is an icon. Gates open 30minutes before the start of each movie. Buy tickets online – www.dromanadrivein.com.au. 

If you’re after some active recovery why not have a hit of golf? If you’re a golfer, you can’t go past Moonah Links. It is believed to be Australia’s most unique leisure resorts and combines two 18-hole championship courses with panoramic views. It’s located near the Peninsula Hot Springs, has an a la carte restaurant, luxury accommodation and a day spa – there is something for everyone.
For more visit – www.moonahlinks.com.au/cms/

Fort Nepean walking trail is a must-do as well. Walk along the scenic trail to the former defensive facility occupying part of Point Nepean. Explore the tunnels, and forts and gun emplacements from which the first allied shots of World War I and the first Australian shots of World War II were fired. It’s a little bit of history mixed in with the magnificent views of the Port Phillip Bay and the Bass Strait.

For some family, friendly fun hit up the Boneo Maze and mini golf – www.boneomaze.com.au. Boneo Maze includes mazes, mega games, mini golf, gardens, wetlands, guided walks, cages, an adventure zone and more. It’s fun for the whole family.

Up for something a little more adventurous? Try horse riding at the Gunnamatta trail rides www.gunnamatta.com.au. It’s a picturesque Mornington Peninsula experience – horse riding through stunning coastal bushland and breathtaking beaches. It will be an unforgettable experience (my mum still talks about the time she took us there as kids, and she was put on a horse named Pepsi!).

And of course, while you’re there, you can check out the bay and surf beaches, and the famous jetties and piers. My personal favourite – Gunnamatta ocean beach (“Gunnamatta doesn’t matter!”), which is not far from Portsea – so many summer weekends were spent down there with the family. Those were the long. hot summer days, which were followed by pizza at La Porchetta – ah, the memories!

Victorian Triathlon Series – Portsea / 9 December 2017

This year Point Nepean, Portsea will play host to a new sporting event as part of the Victorian Triathlon Series (formerly known as the Gatorade Triathlon Series) – an Aquathlon and Swimrun event to be held at Jarman Oval (the same venue where the Portsea Polo is held), Point Nepean on 9 December 2017. This event is all about ease of participation – leave your bike at home and spend a weekend revelling in the great outdoors, while soaking in the beauty of the Victorian coast. What’s more – it’s a Saturday event with a late start. Why wouldn’t you want to do it? And why not make a weekend of it by celebrating your sporting prowess at the iconic Portsea Pub after the event? It’s definitely worth adding this event to your summer racing schedule.


Event overview

Venue: Jarman Oval, Point Nepean

Date: Saturday, 9 December 2017

Courses:

• Olympic Distance Aquathlon: 1.5km swim/10km run (ages 15+)

• Sprint Distance Swimrun: 500m swim/5km run/500m swim/5km run (ages 14+)

Active Feet Fun Tri Aquathlon: 300m swim/5km run (ages 12+)

• Carmen’s Tri Kids Aquathlon: 150m swim/1km run (ages 7-12)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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