Our dad was visiting Melbourne for 10 days, a rarity as he usually has a 3-day turnaround. We decided to head down to the Mornington Peninsula. Although my dad and I have made countless trips together down to the Mornington Peninsula over the years, I was particularly excited this time because we had Sarah in tow ❤
We headed first to The Rock in Mornington. Schnapper Point Drive in Mornington is a great stop if you are heading to the more eastern/North eastern parts of the Mornington Peninsula (it’s about a half an hour drive away to e.g. Rye or Redhill from there). The Rock is one of our old favourites because it is semi-open air restaurant, one level above ground, granting diners a great view of the Mornington pier, the sea spotted with boats and a little beach slip. To our great disappointment, The Rock is not dog friendly (I repeat – NOT dog friendly).
But no matter, we diverted our attention straight to Schnappers, a more casual café on the ground floor at Schnappers Point which is obviously much more friendly to people with mobility challenges (to get to the Rock, you will need to climb one decent flight of stairs) but also very welcoming to dogs. In fact, we met three other pooches when we arrived – a sweet Italian greyhound (all Italian greyhounds are sweet!), a schnauzer and a little white fluffy.
Dog friendly overall rating: Good
Shared space for dogs and humans: As mentioned, a serene, picturesque look out to Mornington Pier. Exposed to the elements – as like most piers it can get pretty windy and the cold air from the South can cut, but if you catch sunshine, it’s bloody worth it.
Personal space for dogs: If your dog needs it personal space, it may struggle as the tables facing the pier are quite close together.
Dog loving staff: They seemed pretty used to navigating doggos.
Dog amenities: From memory dog bowls were available.
The food at Scnhappers: Exceeded my expectations! I had poached eggs and smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce and dad had, no surpise, the beef pie. Both were pretty good for a low key café.
To make most of the day, we decided to head to a winery. Montalto was the first wine-tasting place that came to mind – it has a big outdoors alfresco area where they serve casual food like pizza and the like, with a view of outdoor art work and countryside greenery, ideal for absorbing Vitamin D on a sunny day. Again, not the most handicap friendly place as you have to descend a few precarious sandy steps to get to the Montalto gateway. Halfway down the steps we were gently turned away because dogs are not allowed, but the hostess gracefully ushered us to their neighbouring and sister venue, Tuck’s Ridge.
If possible, the ambiance at Tuck’s Ridge is even better than at Monalto. You have a view of rolling hills of vineyards, a big overhanging tree (complete with a really romantic floating/swinging platform) frames the left side of your view with deck chairs casually dotted across the lawn. The outdoor area is complete with long picnic tables, perfect for a casual but classy setting.
Dog friendly rating: Very good
Shared space for dogs and humans: As mentioned, the view is amazing. Perfect for a lazy brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. Just such a great place to breathe in the fresh countryside air. Exposed to the elements – the space is not sheltered so get your hats, sunnies and jackets out (yup, that’s Victorian weather for you).
Personal space for dogs: If your dog needs it personal space, there is plenty of room at the ends of each table and under each table. If your dog is getting fidgety, take them for a wander around the big grass field.
Dog loving staff: They are true dog lovers, generous with pats, kisses and complements. They are so happy that the owners of Montalto have opened a sister restaurant that is dog friendly.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls available.
The food: Amazing. We had:
– pea and ham croquettes with smoked aioli
– spiced lamb shoulder with preserved lemon and garlic yougurt and
– shaved cabbage, soused onion, mint and almond (and from memory it had raisins as well)
The croquettes were definitely not your every-day croquettes – they were like fried mash potato, silky and almost runny on the inside, the ham was a good flavour punch, and the aioli was nice and rich and garlicky. The lamb shoulder was probably the best lamb I’ve ever had. The honest earthiness of the lamb achieved with the rotisserie was paired brilliantly with the cool yougurt. I most appreciated that the lamb wasn’t overly fatty. The fresh salad lightened the meal as a whole nicely.
I would definitely go back, and have even recommended that a friend hold their wedding there!
We had dinner at Pep’s beachfront (which I think now has been renamed/has changed ownership recently). It is right opposite the Rye Pier, it’s a corner restaurant – you can’t miss it.
Dog friendliness: Not bad
Shared space for dogs and humans: Not great. The space is pretty much right next to the road. Hoomans dine on cheap-ish cold metal chairs and tables (unlike in the picture – as I mentioned, I think it has changed ownership recently). Sits about 4 parties (so you might have to fight with other parties with dogs for a table!). Doggos lie on the exposed concrete floor. It is completely exposed, not ideal as the winds coming straight from the Pier are cutting and cold. We just gobbled our food up quickly and got out of there! Better if you go at lunch to get some sunlight.
Personal space for dogs: Not bad. I brought darling Sarah down to Rye Pier while the others waited for the food. I would highly recommend a wander down – the pier is humble but like many things in life, just beautiful in simplicity.
Dog loving staff: Quite friendly but the main gig is the inside more ‘fine dining’ restaurant.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls available.
Food: Exceeded expectations! We had:
– The calamari Fritti – yummy, decent serve
– Mussels served in tomato, chilli and parsley sauce: You won’t be able to resist eating this dish with your hands and licking the sauce off afterwards. A big warm-the-belly serve.
– Pasta with peas, ham, mushroom and a touch of cream: Hard to get this wrong, but it did the trick after a long day of touring the MP.
– Diavola pizza (Mozzarella, hot salami, peppers and chilli): This had legit hot, spicy salami. The salami was baked such that it was just slightly crispy on the edges, but still oozing its natural oils (like when you correctly fry chorizo). I was very impressed as the hot salami at other pizza places are usually not spicy/spiced, and either limp & anaemic or too crispy.
Finally, for lunch the next day, we went to a place which reputation precedes itself – Just Fine Food in Sorrento. I was introduced to the vanilla slice from JFF back when I was in university and I have been in love ever since. Once my dad and I even drove all the way down to Sorrento just to get some of these bad boys! A lot of time we will call ahead to reserve a tray, afraid that the early afternoon tea breakers would result in us leaving us empty handed.
Dog friendliness: Good
Shared space for dogs and humans: Most of JFF’s seating is outdoors. Usually crowded since it’s on the main shopping stretch of Sorrento, it’s a great casual café for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. The outdoor area is pretty basic, rough concrete style, complete with basic tables and chairs under umbrellas.
Personal space for dogs: There isn’t much space under the tables and the tables can be quite close together.
Dog loving staff: JFF is always busy, so the staff seemed more tolerant rather than friendly.
Dog amenities: No dog bowls available.
The food: My favourites are the vanilla slice (described above) and the passion fruit sponge (it is so light and fluffy!). We also had:
– curried egg sandwich: The relish was a bit on the sweet side, but the sandwich was still tasty. This was under the ‘Seriously big sandwiches’, but I think JFF underestimates my appetite!
– Cous Cous Roasted Pumpkin salad: This had yummy giant Lebanese cous cous (great texture with just enough give). Fresh, filling and healthy.
– Chicken and avocado sandwich: Can’t go wrong with this either!
Other doggo tips: We found out that doggos are not allowed on most beaches during the summer daylight saving months – a big big pooh bear!! But I found out from a friend that Somers Beach is a dog friendly beach (I believe it is on the non-bay side of the Mornington Peninsula).
All in all the great trip down to the Mornington Peninsula – I hope with the above you are more confident about the area and will bring your doggo down for a day trip or even an overnighter.
To more adventures with Sarah!