The day was cloudy and it threatened rain. This was not the way I wanted to experience my first ever cricket match. I had been invited by a friend, who is also a cricket coach and manager of several local players, to go and watch the big Boxing Day Test match between Australia and Pakistan. This is the cricket of legends – five days long, with tea breaks and stretches of boring nothingness that cause numbness in the backside for fans and it can’t be much more interesting for players.

So when, upon his arrival to pick me up, my friend suggested that a “better plan” for the day was a drive down the coast and lunch at a winery, I was IN.

The Mornington Peninsula is about a two-hour drive from Melbourne, down the south east coast. I hadn’t realized there was such a large winegrowing region so close to the city. On the way, we also passed a farm where cider tastings were offered. The day was suddenly getting much more interesting!

We arrived a little early for lunch so we decided to go to Sunny Ridge, a strawberry farm with a U-pick, a café and a little shop. Because it was Christmas holidays, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. The tables inside and out were packed with people of all ages and races. It was quite fascinating – it seems no matter your age, skin colour or religion – sweet, juicy, ripe strawberries are a huge draw and worth the drive from the city. There was a 15-minute line up to order and the menu items all looked delicious – Eton mess (a fruit and merengue concoction for which I have found an intense and enduring desire), strawberry skewers with chocolate sauce, strawberry ice cream sundaes; the decadent list went on and on.

Much to my dismay, after standing in line to order with my mouth watering in anticipation of tasting my first Eton mess in months, the young lady at the counter wouldn’t allow us to order food if we didn’t already have a table. WTH??? Yes, if you don’t have anywhere to sit, they won’t allow you to order food. AND they don’t have take away service, except for drinks. Sadly, we had missed the posted signs and our protests fell on deaf ears (she’d heard all the excuses before) and we were left to sulkily order a few lattes to go. I did buy some strawberries and a few pots of jam as presents but I have to say I was not very pleased at all to do it.

Thankfully T’Gallant Winemakers, the winery where we were eating lunch, was open and so we made our way there. They were also very busy but this time we saw the sign saying we needed a table before ordering so we grabbed one of the last places inside. The menu was fairly limited but all ingredients were local and fresh. I was quite hungry by this time and made quick work of a delicious thin crust pizza with tomatoes, capers and olives paired with a deliciously dry Pinot Grigio. Simple and delightful, it was a great way to recover my zen.

Next stop was Arthur’s Seat – the highest point on the Peninsula. Unfortunately (as my friend would remark MANY times that day) it was overcast and the view I was missing was supposedly quite fabulous, with rolling hills and a beautiful valley. We quickly got out as it started to rain again and took a look around (just to say I did). On a clear day, you can see all the way back to the city.

Our tour continued, meandering through the small towns and checking out the lavish seaside homes of the rich and famous, although I didn’t know most of them. One detour was to the Portsea Back Beach, made famous by the 1991 Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves film “Point Break”. The sea looked rough but there were lots of diehard surfers out there, braving the cold water to catch that wave.

A leisurely walk through the beautiful and relaxed (although also teeming with people) seaside town of Sorrento was a perfect end to our adventure. Of course, firstly, we had a quick local cider in the pub to get out of the rain.

No trip to Sorrento (so I’m told) would be complete without sampling their famous vanilla slice. And who am I to argue? Especially since I was still a bit upset about being robbed of my Eton mess earlier. A phyllo pastry shell filled with vanilla custard, it looks like a mille-feuille but without the cakey part. It was delicious but messy and difficult to eat standing up… Yep, you guessed it; all the tables were full and we had it to take away.

After such a wonderful day the drive home went by quickly. The area is worth experiencing, but I recommend making it a day trip or weekend outing with some friends. I’ll definitely make it a weekday or after the school holidays. Some things need to be slowly savoured and while sitting down.

Random Thoughts:

  1. If it rains, the cricket stops and the field is protected with a large tarp. Everyone sits around waiting for the weather to clear and the game resumes. Or not. Not exactly my idea of a good time. 
  2. On weekend evenings, T’Gallant has live music on the patio overlooking the vines, so definitely check it out if you’re in the area.
  3. This is a nation brimming with sport fanatics. There were several large screens on the walls of the Sorrento pub and all of them played a different sport – two kinds of horse racing, greyhound racing, cricket – I’ve never seen such dedication.

The better option

Since you're already here...

Why not do a thing? You could do lots of things, but while you’re on this site, the bestest thing you could do for yourself ever is to learn how my writing best suits you!