Fast forward fifty years and the site of Flinders (yes, named after Matthew Flinders) was established as a fishing settlement and sits at the point where Bass Strait meets Western Port. This extensive tidal bay is home to three marine national parks and is part of the UNESCO Western Port biosphere reserve. To this day Flinders village remains a slightly sleepy but pretty streetscape, but don’t be fooled into thinking there is not much here as it is in fact filled with cafes, galleries, tiny boutiques and within a few kilometres there are wild coastlines, protected beaches and wineries.
A few of our Flinders favourites are:
Food, glorious food
Step inside Mornington Peninsula Chocolates and you are in chocolate heaven. Their hand-crafted delicacies are lauded far and wide; the Lime Ganache is a triumph and a must-try is the Chilli and Tequila chocolate. There is a window where you can often see the chocolatiers in action creating their masterpieces, and a café serving real (and I mean really real) hot chocolate and macarons. How could you go wrong?
Down on the corner Georgie Bass Café & Cookery (I wonder who inspired that business name?) offers a lazy breakfast or leisurely lunch menu, and both a dog and bike friendly option with water bowls for pooches and a pump/repair station for cyclists. You could also join one of the many cooking classes for hands on experience and personalised tuition by award winning chef Michael Cole. This bespoke cooking school only allows a maximum of 12 to attend so you are sure to learn a lot. Their classes always feature a pile of local produce and some even include a foraging wander at their farm.
Over the road the brand new Zigis Bar at the Flinders Hotel offers delicious ocean inspired bites on their menu and a very impressive curated drinks list. There is often live music. The hotel has won awards and the adjoining bistro offers a great outdoor deck area to kick back and catch up with friends. It’s open 7 days so is a good option any day of the week.
Rockpool Rambles and a Secret Winery
Fishing is still important to the area as Western Port offers pristine waters and extensive fish breeding grounds - it’s part of the UNESCO Biosphere reserve. Sheltering from the wilder Bass Strait weather behind the protection of the West Head headland is the Flinders Pier. It’s a pretty beach for a swim with good fishing off the pier, great snorkelling, and plenty of photo opportunities. See if you can spot a Weedy Sea dragon.
On the other side of the headland on the Bass Strait side you will find the Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary. This important rocky mushroom shaped ledge protrudes hundreds of metres out into the sea and is home to some incredible sea stars, nudibranchs (colourful shell-less molluscs), anemones and sea-life so it makes for great rock pool rambling opportunities at low tide. Choose your time carefully as at high tide it all disappears!
A bit further afield on the road towards Cape Schanck lies the intermittent Flinders Blowhole with its elephant shaped rock headland. It’s a short walk from the small car park through pretty farmland. At high tide the crashing waves force their way into a funnel shaped niche and spurt up into the air, but at other times the coastal scenery is well worth the trip anyway. At time blustery winds, big waves and slippery rocks are all present – so be careful. Check out the aptly named Little Bird Rock (where seabirds nest) and the many rock pools hidden by the cliffs.
Under five kilometres further on is the turnoff to Meakins Road and the most southern vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula. Nazaaray Estate is a little bit off the beaten track, and the narrow dirt driveway makes you feel like you are discovering a secret vineyard. Its proximity to Western Port and Bass Strait mean that the vines have to dig deep into the soil to cope with the winds – making their fruit more flavoursome and their wines even better. The 1930’s train carriage cellar door is a treat and you cannot doubt that they are passionate about their cool climate wines and winemaking. The Indian heritage of the couple who own and run the winery comes through in the food matching offered, quarterly Sunday Tiffin lunches and occasional Bollywood style events held.
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