Last updated on May 8, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Melbourne

Where to stay on the Mornington Peninsula – Best 7 towns

The Mornington Peninsula is my local holiday area, so close to Melbourne, but a world apart from the chaotic city. I love it because you have access to the calm bay and the Ocean too for some surfing, besides an amazing countryside with so many wineries.

In this guide, you will find all the information to decide where to stay in the Mornington Peninsula, what town works the best for your kind of trip, whether you are travelling with kids or your partner, for a short or a long break, for some adventure or just a relaxing time.

But let’s start with a map and an easy table to compare the 7 best areas/towns before getting deeper with all the pros, cons and a few suggested hotels and Airbnb (swipe left or right on a mobile to see all the columns).

Best areas and towns to stay on the Mornington Peninsula
Best areas and towns to stay on the Mornington Peninsula

Where to stay in the Mornington Peninsula – Key Points

TownCostBest ForProsConsCharacterBeachRestaurants
Mornington$$-$$$Short Stay, RomanticClose to Melbourne, value for moneyBusy, far from attractionsEasygoing, historicalShallow, turquoise, bayGreat
Dromana & Safety Beach$$$FamiliesGreat snorkelling, quietBusy main beachFamily-friendlyClear, flat, bayGood
Rosebud to Rye$$-$$$Great Value, Long StayWell priced, lovely beachesQuiet, shopping streetFamily-friendlyBay and OceanGood
Sorrento$$$$Romantic BreakawayCharming, shoppingExpensivePicturesque, charmingLovely bay, great surfGreat
Portsea$$$$$Luxury, CelebritiesBig villas, Ocean beachExpensive, no bay beachesLuxury, exclusiveImpressive Ocean BeachLimited
Red Hill$$$-$$$$Wine, FoodWineries, countryside walksFar from beachNature, wineriesN/AFew
Flinders$$-$$$$Secluded, QuietQuiet, Flinders PierFar from everythingSecluded, hidden gemSheltered, not the greatestFew
The Pillars near Mornington Town
The Pillars near Mornington Town

My 3 best hotels on the Mornington Peninsula

Spectacular views from Arthurs Seat
Spectacular views from Arthurs Seat

Mornington Town – Great on a short break

Best for a short stay & romantic town

Pros

  • the closest town to Melbourne,
  • historical town,
  • great restaurants & cafes, value for money,
  • next to the best cliff-jumping spot

Cons

  • far from most of the Peninsula attractions,
  • busy with day trippers,
  • limited accommodations,
  • far from the ocean beaches

Mornington is the closest town to Melbourne, the first as you enter the Peninsula. I am usually there within an hour or 2 hours if cycling. So easygoing.

It’s one of my favourite towns for a day trip because it’s just so beautiful. There are many historical buildings, intermixed with a few new modern-designed constructions with plenty of shopping possibilities, great for a casual walk.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants, of which 400 Gradi is surely my favourite, an Italian-inspired place with a great section of pasta dishes and an extensive list of local wines.

The waterfront park is perfect for some time off with the little ones or a picnic, meanwhile, the underlying beach with shallow turquoise water, although not that big, works great on those hot days.

400 Gradi in Mornington
400 Gradi in Mornington

My tip: rent a bike and cycle along the coast towards Safety Beach and Dromana. There are so many unique coves. This is my favourite part of the bay coastline.

If you are driving there, take the road direction west, along the coast and just after Mount Martha Beach you will find, well-hidden behind the bush, The Pillars, the best spot for clif jumping on the bay side.

The water here is so amazing, emerald green, which goes in total contrast with the red of the coastline. It has to be said that it’s not anymore a secret spot, in fact, on my recent visit it was so busy with people queueing for a jump.

Overall, I believe that Mornington Town is a great choice for a short weekend, 1 or 2 nights, but I would not suggest it for a long stay because you would be quite far off from most of the main attractions of the Peninsula, like the Hot Springs or the Point Nepean National Park.

Here are 2 great hotels in Mornington

Mornington Motel ($$): Spacious, clean rooms with comfortable beds and great amenities including a DVD player and flat-screen TV. Lovely outdoor pool area.

Brooklands Of Mornington ($$): Located in a peaceful garden setting with comfy rooms, this property boasts a superb indoor heated pool and gym.

Mornington Park
Mornington Park

Dromana & Safety Beach – Great for families

Best for big houses

Pros

  • great snorkelling,
  • a quiet beach (Safety),
  • cable car access,
  • easy access from M1/Melbourne

Cons

  • the main beach can be really busy,
  • the town is just a shopping street on the main road

I love Dromana for its beautiful pier, actually, one of the best spots for easy snorkelling with kids because usually, the water is so shallow and safe. It works so well for family or group trips because most of the rentals are big houses with at least 2-3 bedrooms and typically a good-sized backyard.

Dromana Beach is long but not as wide, once again with crystal-clear water, a favourite of families with little kids because. It’s exposed to the Bay which means flat water or some tiny waves with a northerly wind.

It must be said that it can get really busy during the Christmas break and hot weekends. The main reason is the easy access from the city (less than 1 hour with the Dromana exit on the M11). For a quieter time, drive 2-3km north to Safety Beach where you will find a residential area without any real village.

The Dromana Pier at sunset time
The Dromana Pier at sunset time

From Dromana, there is also the starting station of the cable car that will take you to Arthurs Seat, the most elevated point in the Mornington Peninsula, where you will get the best views of the bay. This is the best spot on the Peninsula at sunset time.

Similarly to Mornington Town, also Dromana does not have any Ocean Beach. In fact, you will be around a 15-20 minute drive from the Ocean which is surely a big drawback if you are into surfing. 

The town itself does not have much charm, especially if compared to Mornington or Sorrento. It’s basically developed along the main road with a sequence of cafes, restaurants and fish & chips places besides a few shopping opportunities.

Here are 2 great accommodations in Dromana

Family Beach Home ($$$): Spacious and well-equipped, this 4BR property (up to 8 people) offers stunning views and a great location near beaches.

Santorini House – Safety Beach ($$$$): Exceptional value with a prime location close to the beach and local amenities. 4BR spacious accommodation (up to 10 people)

Dromana Beach
Dromana Beach

Rosebud to Rye – Value for money

Best for value for money long stay

Pros

  • well priced, both accommodation and food/drinks
  • easy access from the M11
  • lovely bay beaches and access to the Ocean coastline
  • hot springs

Cons

  • the town is just a shopping street on the main road
  • Rosebud is super quiet after 8 pm (hard to find any open restaurant kitchen)

The area that goes from Rosebud to Rye is one of the best value for money if you are after a 2-3 bedroom house. The selection is also pretty wide which makes this place a great destination if travelling with kids or a group of friends.

Add also that access is super easy, you will be right at the end of the M11 coming from Melbourne (60-75 minutes drive) but expect some traffic on long weekends.

Rye Pier
Rye Pier

Rye is exposed to both coastlines, the easy-going bay beach with shallow water, perfect if travelling with small kids and the wavy Ocean beach, great for surfing. On this side, you will find also the famous Rock Pool (on the back of Blairgowrie), one of the best spots for cliff jumping.

Similarly to Dromana, also Rosebud and Rye town centres are developed along the main road, practical but not as picturesque.

My Tip: organise your dinner at 7 pm at the latest, especially in Rosebud, because most restaurant kitchens close at 8 pm sharp

Here are 2 great places to stay

Skip, Shop, Splash ($$): Immaculate and comfortable 3 BR accommodation (up to 8 people). Excellent proximity to the beach and shops. Ideal for both families and quiet getaways.

Seaside Bungalow ($$-$$$): Lovely 3BR accommodation in a quiet setting with fully equipped kitchen. Great for families

Walking in Rye Town along the main road
Walking in Rye Town along the main road

Sorrento – The most charming town

Best for a romantic breakaway

Pros

  • charming town
  • plenty of shopping and eating places
  • lovely bay beach and great surf beach on the ocean side

Cons

  • one of the most expensive places to stay

Sorrento is the most beautiful, charming and picturesque town to stay on the Mornington Peninsula. I fell in love with it on the very first second of my first visit, over 20 years ago.

Most of the buildings are well-preserved 19th-century limestone structures, like the Sorrento Hotel, established in 1871 or the Athenaeum dating back to 1894.

Sorrento, founded in 1803, was actually one of the earliest European settlements in Australia, however, it was temporarily abandoned due to the lack of a freshwater source.

Sorrento Bay Beach
Sorrento Bay Beach

Being located almost at the end of the Peninsula, Sorrento has exposure to both the Bay, with beautiful turquoise calm water, and to the Ocean, for some surfing, although parking may be an issue in the summer months.

You will also have easy access to some great walks along the Ocean coastline like the one to the Bay of Islands, to Jubilee Point, and to Coppins Lookout.

It’s definitely my favourite town to stay on the Mornington Peninsula, however, it’s also the most expensive area, together with Portsea.

My Tip: There is a chronic lack of available accommodations in Sorrento, so book well in advance if you plan to stay here.

My Second Tip: If you are planning a drive to the Great Ocean Road the Sorrento is the perfect spot to spend the night and take the ferry the morning after to Queenscliff

Here are 2 great options for a stay in Sorrento

InterContinental Sorrento ($$$$): Prime location, modern and clean facilities, and comfortable beds. Stunning rooftop pool and SPA area.

Hotel Sorrento ($$$): Stunning clifftop views of Port Phillip Bay. Stylish and comfortable rooms, exceptional dining options, and a vibrant bar scene.

Riding in the Point Nepean National Park
Riding in the Point Nepean National Park

Portsea – A luxury stay

Best for celebrities and luxury

Pros

  • big villas and mansions
  • impressive Ocean beach
  • iconic Portsea Hotel for a beer
  • access to Point Nepean National Park

Cons

  • expensive
  • lack of bay beaches

Portsea is synonymous with luxury. This is where the rich and famous of Melbourne have their summer home. In 2003, Visy Industries chief executive Harry Debney even asked the Shire for a permit to commute to Melbourne by helicopter, riling the residents.

This is where you will find luxury villas and mansions with 4-5 bedrooms and usually a pool. A few accommodations may even come with private access to a beach and a pier, handy in case you decide to go with your boat.

There is not much of a town centre. The Portsea Hotel is the place to be, especially at sunset time where, on a clear day, you can see the Melbourne CBD. For anything else, have a short drive to Sorrento (5-10 minutes).

The Ocean Beach is stunning, the best you can find on the Peninsula in my opinion, however, don’t count on a Bay beach. There are a couple of small ones but most little coves are private and accessible only from the local houses.

From Portsea, you can easily access the Point Nepean National Park, a great place for a walk or for a ride. Cars have no access and have to park outside where you can rent a bicycle. This is a great place to visit doesn’t matter where to plan to book your hotel.

What’s the main drawback of Portsea? Of course, as you expect, it’s the most expensive place to be.

Here are 2 great places to stay

Alexandria House ($$$$$): Exceptional beachfront location with stunning sea views. Luxurious and contemporary 4BR accommodation (up to 9 people) with a private pool, garden, and terrace.

Sun Valley ($$$$$): 4 BR accommodation (up to 10 people with spacious gardens and outdoor play areas. Large spa and barbecue facilities.

Portsea Ocean Beach with the Lifesaving Club offering food with a premium view of the sea
Portsea Ocean Beach with the Lifesaving Club offering food with a premium view of the sea

Red Hill – For nature and wineries

Best for wine and food

Pros

  • the best destination in winter and spring
  • amazing wineries
  • relaxed stay in one of the many cottages
  • walks in the countryside

Cons

  • far from the beach
  • no real town

best destination in Autumn and winter, amazing wineries some of the best in the country, great Pinot Noir, relaxed stay in one of the many cottages around, walks in the countryside, check out Kings waterfalls, average price but far from the beach

Red Hill is my favourite place to stay in Autumn and Spring. Autumn is great because it’s the harvesting grapes season meanwhile Spring is outstanding for the beautiful colours of nature.

This is one of the most famous wine areas in Australia, where you can experience spectacular wineries like the famous Port Phillip Estate, with its unique architecture and acclaimed cuisine.

Port Phillip Estate
Port Phillip Estate

My tip: organise a taste of the Pinot Noir through 3 to 4 wineries starting from my beloved Nazaaray Estate Winery. This is the most iconic red wine grape variety in the Peninsula.

Red Hill is the place to be for a relaxed break, a quiet destination for a chillout weekend or a cozy week with your partner or your family. There are many walks around, like the one to the King Waterfalls, for some action, but besides that, it’s all about wineries and the countryside.

Unfortunately, there is not really a town centre, a place with cafes and restaurants. There are a couple of spots with a bunch of shops but too small to even remember them.

You will be also 15 minutes from both the bay and the Ocean coastline and that is why Red Hill is not my favourite destination in the hot summer.

Here are 2 great rentals in Red Hill

Port Phillip Estate ($$$$): Stunning modernist design and a serene garden view, Exceptional privacy with just six premium rooms. Incredible restaurant food and wine, and beautiful vineyard views. Truly a unique stay.

Cassis Red Hill ($$$$$): Exceptional views and luxurious comfort. Adults-only retreat with outdoor baths and breakfast hampers.

T'Gallant Vineyard
T’Gallant Vineyard

Flinders to Cape Schanck – The secluded destination

Best for some time off in a secluded destination by the beach

Pros

  • secluded stay, very quiet
  • Flinders Pier for snorkelling,
  • A great sheltered beach
  • nice walks

Cons

  • far from everything
  • beaches is good but not as great

Flinders is the only town developing on the peninsula’s Oceanside, before entering Western Port Bay. It’s also a world apart from every other destination I mentioned in this guide.

It’s so secluded that it’s missed by most visitors leaving the status of a hidden gem to Flinders. Interestingly enough, even on Google Maps, Flinders is positioned in the wrong place, inland, meanwhile, the town is actually developed on the coast.

There is a small narrow beach for some fun with the kids and a pier beloved by children and adults alike for a few jumps. This is in my opinion also the best place for snorkelling in the Peninsula with Sea Dragons and Stingrays not as uncommon.

Flinders Beach
Flinders Beach

My tip: order some mussels from the local shed down the beach. They are amazing!

I must say that the beach is definitely a good one but not as great as the ones on the Bayside.

Also in this case, you are a stone away from some great walks like the one to the Cape Schanck Lighthouse or to the Bushrangers Bay Rock Pool.

Here are 2 great options for a stay in Flinders

Flinders Hotel ($$$): Clean and modern rooms. The gourmet breakfast featuring local produce. Easy parking and great facilities.

JMP Holiday Home ($$$): Newly renovated 2BR property with comfortable beds and excellent amenities including a kitchenette and BBQ.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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