Camping on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula

Pink beach box

The existence of the Mornington Peninsula was brand new information to me, which is baffling considering how close it is to Melbourne. There it was hiding under Melbourne’s cloak, just far enough away to hover under the foreign tourist radar.

Melburnians are well aware of Mornington and regularly make the 90-minute drive to this beachy wonderland during summer weekends. And if the miles of foreshore campsites are any indication, the peninsula gets packed.

We turned into the Capel Sound Foreshore campground mostly at random and paid for our site at the ranger’s office. Still empty in mid-November, we had our pick and went with a powered site (off peak $33/night) close to the beach access trail and opposite a cozy little craft beer pub called Sound Bar.

camper trailer

The homestead.

It seemed safe enough, though a young family of four set up their tent next to us and had their esky stolen in the night. It was a sucky reminder that camping does leave you more exposed to opportunistic thieves, which of course we know only too well by now.

sunset Mornington

The campground did have awesome beach access though.

But enough about that! On to the highlights, of which there were many. Mornington Peninsula is famous for its bathing boxes, also called beach boxes. They’re the colorful little sheds lining the beaches, privately owned and rented out to visitors.

Beach boxes sunset

Also right behind our campsite.

Though Brighton Beach is one of the most well-known spots for beach boxes, there are over 1300 boxes on the peninsula so you can’t miss them. They range in size and function; some seemed to be used mainly for storage, others were impeccably furnished like individual rooms in a house.

The boxes are hot commodities, often passed down through generations and sold for shockingly high prices. So if you’ve got a spare hundred thou or three, you too could be the proud owner of a beach box.

bathing box

I love the tiny one.

Beach boxes

Beach boxes as far as the eye can see.

Close up starfish

BONUS SEA STAR. I was so excited.

Right at the southern tip of the peninsula is Port Nepean National Park. It’s where you can find the Point Nepean defense sites, which were established to protect Port Phillip Bay and, ultimately, the city of Melbourne.

When Victorian gold was discovered in 1851, heaps of people arrived by sea, bringing along a host of diseases like cholera, typhoid, and smallpox. As a result, a quarantine station was established. When the British imperial troops cut out in 1870, the colonies built a series of forts along the peninsula, creating what was thought of as a mini-Gibraltar in Australia.

Woman with fake horse

To create a more realistic atmosphere they have installed tiny flat horses at the quarantine site. Truly it was like stepping back in time.

Drive to the back side of the natural park to visit a natural formation called London Bridge. It’s an enormous sandstone structure and you can walk right into to it. Be careful, because the water rushes through as it pleases; I imagine it wouldn’t take much before you were swept right out to sea.

Portsea Mornington

One of my fave spots in all of Mornington.

Frame ocean

Risked life and limb for this interior shot though I don’t know why.

Water London Bridge Mornington

And if you can tear your eyes away from London Bridge, you’ll get more gorgeousness.

The glitzy towns of Portsea and Sorrento also sit at the southern end of the peninsula, and they were significantly busier than our quiet neck of the woods. From London Bridge we stopped briefly for an ice cream in Portsea, then returned on our last morning to catch a ferry across the mouth of the bay.

Mornington Beach

By the way, the water on the peninsula was unbelievably clear.

Rather than drive north through Melbourne, we took the shortcut—a 40 minute sail to Queenscliff. It cost $109 one way to cross with our Nissan Patrol, camper trailer, and two passengers. I believe it would have been slightly cheaper to buy tickets online but we weren’t that organized. Plus we got a free Sunday newspaper so I was happy.

The ferry was a perfect option for us because we were due to catch a flight out of Geelong, which is half an hour’s drive from Queenscliff. We only passed through Queenscliff, but it looked like a nice little seaside town.

By then I was too excited about our next destination to worry too much about missing out, because we were TASMANIA-BOUND.

More about that soon.

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