A Weekend Guide To Victoria’s Best Kept Secret
Vintage caravans, hot springs, coastal hikes and wineries.
There’s so much to do on the Mornington Peninsula, and you won’t want to do any of it. At least, I didn’t want to. Inside a vintage Airstream caravan at one of Australia’s best campgrounds, the paper and a coffee from the general store across the road was more than enough as I dug beneath the doona by the window attempting the cryptic crossword.
As a busy person who struggles to slow down, something about those few square metres of solitude made me grind to a halt. Hours passed as my mind moved leisurely between my next meal (cheese), my next drink (wine) and the next clue (skin issue for second rate stars, 1-7*). Nothing was pressing. Nothing was urgent. I could hear waves breaking nearby, reaching their crescendo as they finished their long journey to the shore. If that’s not nice, then what is?
I was a guest of Happy Glamper, a company that sets up canvas tents and caravans in campgrounds on the Mornington Peninsula. The notion is a simple one; you book your campsite and let Happy Glamper do the rest. They arrive before you and lay out everything you need for the weekend (tent/caravan, made up bed, kitchenware), plus a few things you don’t, but sure are nice additions (decorative flamingos, board games, decks of cards). Once you leave, they pack it all down and drive it away.
Our tiny home for the weekend was a vintage silver Airstream named ‘Peggy Sue’, and she was set up at the remote beachside campsite of Point Leo Foreshore Reserve, which – during our autumn weekend visit – was quiet and about half-full with mainly families. Peggy Sue was actually the launch pad for the entire business, explains Jessie Curtis-Griffiths, who set Happy Glamper up with her husband back in October 2013.
“We imported our Peggy Sue in 2012 and, in order to justify spending all that money on something for our own pleasure, we decided to hire the Airstream out for event bookings. Bookings were few and the distances we had to travel were too much for a hobby business so we launched Happy Glamper to keep it local,” she says.
Happy Glamper seemed to arrive at just the right time. In 2013, Instagram’s popularity had exploded, ‘influencer’ was turning into a legitimate job, and people were on the hunt for unique backdrops to discover ‘first’. In a world of increasing social media savvy, the combination of very photogenic lodgings on patches of alluring nature was – needless to say – a winning combination. The company’s ultimate advertisement is their Instagram feed, with almost 50,000 followers, where they repost the photos that their guests can’t help but share.
The exploding popularity of ‘glamping‘ as a concept – essentially nature on a silver platter – came soon after, and Curtis-Griffiths has some insight into why these spaces seem to be having their moment in the forest-fringed sunlight. It’s about getting the best of both worlds: “They want to experience the outdoors and be exposed to the elements – fresh sea breeze, sand under their toes – but have a safe, warm cocoon to retreat to. When you take away the work in camping for someone, they relax and enjoy themselves straight away.”
From my spot in bed, with sunlight streaming in through Peggy Sue’s window and absolutely nothing on the agenda, I reckon that sounds about right.
*By the way, the answer was ‘blisters’ (or B-listers).
The Mornington Peninsula
When you do leave the campground, the trick to enjoying the Mornington Peninsula is to take it slow. The natural beauty of the area is its biggest drawcard, with sandy beaches and swollen surf on one side and the tranquil Port Phillip Bay on the other. Cutting between them you’ll find pine forests, quaint towns and rolling green hills dotted with wineries and fruit fields (stop for a wine tasting – Paringa Estate is great – or to pick your own strawberries).
The excellent Mornington Peninsula Brewery fills a large warehouse space, and it should be your first port of call if you arrive after work on Friday like we did. It’s the perfect reminder that you’ve left the city: the pace is cruisy, the pizzas are filling and the extremely kind staff know their shit when it comes to brewing. The beer is top notch too; some of the finest in Australia. A tasting board will give you the full sweep of flavours on offer, which change regularly.
You can’t do the Mornington Peninsula without visiting the Peninsula Hot Springs. They’re busy because they’re awesome. The pools vary in temperature and size, so you can walk around for a good half day giving them all a go like some kind of buffet of bliss. Arrive when it opens at 7:30am and head straight for the Hilltop pool, which gives you 360 degree views over the rolling greenery that typifies the region. Wowser.
Flinders, near Point Leo, is everything a quiet coastal town should be. Set back from the water, the main street is lined with a few bakeries, a mix of top-end and rustic cafes and restaurants (Pier Provedore was great and affordable), some surf shops, a quality fish’n’chip joint and one of those country-style general stores that seem to stock everything, from your typical supermarket fare to local gourmet produce. It’s a lovely place. The Flinders Pier is also worth a wander.
To get your heart rate above resting pace, the Bushrangers Bay walking track is a two hour six-kilometre return hike starting and ending at Cape Schanck Lighthouse.
It’s an easy hike that hugs the coast with a few steep sections. Allow at least 45 minutes to explore the bay itself; the sandy inlet, popular with surfers, has a whole lot of tidal pools and rocky outcrops where you can spend some quality scrambling time.
(The writer was a guest of Happy Glamper. Unless otherwise labelled, all images: Patrick O’Neill.)
For more information on Happy Glamper, click here.