A Perfect Day Around the Bay

The best part of our job is to discover and trial the best travel experience for our guests. Recently we tried a new route visiting both the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsula on the same day. The suggested itinerary below includes our handpicked sites, restaurants, menu suggestions and even wine pairing. We did this not once, but twice to ensure our recommendations can consistently deliver.

The Sorrento-Queenscliff Ferry provides a great way to cross the Port Phillip Bay. Instead of doing the long drive through the congested Melbourne freeways, treat yourselves to amusing wildlife and beautiful landscape.

Viewing deck on the Sorrento Queenscliff Ferry
The front deck on the Sorrento Queenscliff Ferry.

Here is our suggested itinerary to spoil yourself and enjoy the best from both sides of the bay.

1. Wake up at our gorgeous cottages

Family and pet friendly, our cottages are just a short 15 minutes drive to the Sorrento Ferry Terminal.

private courtyard fully fenced
The Beach Club Cottage – 15 mins from the Sorrento Queenscliff Ferry Terminal.

2. Breakfast at the Vanilla Slice Cafe

Enjoy great coffee and the famous Sorrento Vanilla Slice before you cross the bay. If time allows, browse through the art galleries and historical sites around the Sorrento township. The ferry departs on the hour and you are advised to arrive at least 15 mins before. You can also book online, otherwise just queue up and pay at the drive through.

3. Hop aboard the ferry

Boarding the Sorrento Queenscliff Ferry in a car.

You can drive onto the ferry, or leave your car behind. There is parking available at the terminal. The journey takes only 45 minutes while you enjoy the view on the deck or stay warm in their comfy lounge. There is a full service bar in the lounge if you have room after the vanilla slice.

Sorrento Queenscliff Ferry
The Sorrento Queenscliff Ferry connects the Mornington Peninsula and the Bellarine Peninsula.

4. Visit historic Queenscliff

Tour the Fort Queenscliff, lighthouse, and glimpse the old days on The Queenscliff Heritage Walk.

5. Late lunch with a 270 degree view

The Bellarine Peninsula is famous for their mussels, freshly harvested daily. There is no better place to enjoy them than the Jack Rabbit Winery, just 30mins drive from Queenscliff. It offers both indoor and outdoor dining area with the same 270 degree sea view. We have been there multiple times in the last 6 years, and were never disappointed with their food, wine and hospitality. Their mussel recipe changes regularly, we had it in a red wine sauce, creamy parsley sauce, and a Thai fusion sauce with coconut cream before.

Tip: match the mussels with their pinot noir, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc depending on the mussel receipt of the day.

Photo by the Jack Rabbit Winery (actual view at the winery). They are serving sunset dinner until the end of daylight savings on Fridays and Saturdays (ends on the 4-April-2020).

6. Bring home some mussels

Available at good seafood stores around the Bellarine Peninsula, also on the Mornington Peninsula. We like them both and have a great recipe to prepare them.

Traveling with Pets in Summer

According to RSPCA, about 62% of Australian households own pets. There are an estimated more than 24 million pets in Australia. Dogs are the most common pet, with 38% of households owning a dog. There are estimated to be 4.8 million pet dogs in Australia; 20 dogs for every 100 people.

Dog owners often have a difficult decision to make when they travel, “what to do with their dogs?”. Options are expensive pet hotels which is often a germ bath; part time dog carers, and of course, bringing them along.

It is very sad to exclude your family member from your travels. There is extra work and attention required to bring your dogs with you but my experience says that it is well worth it. All you need is some careful planning. Here are some quick tips from my own experience:

  1. Make frequent stops on the road, not more than 2 hours in between breaks. This is also the maximum time suggested by Vic Roads for the reason of driving safe.
  2. Bring a few pieces of their favourite toys and their own bedding.
  3. Offer water at every stop or opportunity.
  4. You don’t sit next to your luggages, so do your dogs.
  5. Keep a running fan next to them.
  6. Plan ahead for pet friendly stops, including parks, restaurants with outdoor areas, beaches, and accommodations.
  7. Listen to them. When they look stressed, tired, not motivated, or have dry noses, it’s time to take a break and let them rest.

In my last trip, both we and our furry family members had so much joy using a cordless misting fan. It is battery operated and pumps water from a bucket or connects to a garden hose. We use it in the car (without misting), at the restaurant, campsite, basically at our every stop, Once the dogs have satisfied their thirst, we refill their large drinking bowl with water, then place the misting fan over it. This combo works like a dream.

dog enjoying a misting fan
dog enjoying a misting fan

Have you traveled with your pets? Please share your pictures and experience on our Facebook page.

Grilled Veal Rack

We are very lucky to have access to quality meat in the Mornington Peninsula like at the Hillock Downs. A veal rack is as hard to find as hen’s teeth. The Cottage Chef finds a nice rack today and here is her recipe.

Veal has its unique texture. The Cottage Chef decides to marinate it with Asian ingredients and grills them over charcoal.



One whole rack of veal

Marinate – green onion, shallot, ginger, Chinese cooking wine, corn starch, raw sugar, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, white pepper, cooking oil.

  1. Finely chopped all ingredients.
  2. Cut the racks into individual pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients and sauces and apply them evenly over the rack pieces.
  4. Leave to marinate for 1 hour.
  5. Grill over charcoal.

Tip: leave in the freezer for a day or 2, and you will get a different texture.

Wine match: Bass Phillip Crown Prince Pinot Noir


The Happy Cattle at the Hillock Downs

The Hillock Downs was as large as 1000 acres and it had been used as part of the training grounds for troops in World War 2, they have records going back 100 years. You can get more than fresh meat and vegetables at their produce store. You also learn about their history and the hard work they put in for our safe, delicious food.

Hillock Downs Produce Store
The Hillock Downs produce store occupies what was the old Dairy at the front gate entrance.

Rump steak was often chewy and The Cottage chef normally won’t prepare it as a steak. But at Hillock Downs she found the most tender rump steak ever.

The Hillock Downs cattle are raised and grown locally in Mornington Peninsula, they aren’t feedlot fed and are free to roam open pasture paddocks. They are turning off 450kg to 530kg milk vealer cattle at 9 to 10 months of age. There are no hormones and are antibiotic free.

This means young, tasty, tender beef, and we aren’t consuming antibiotic drugs in any of their meat product. This reduces our fear of introducing superbugs through antibiotics overuse.

Besides farming, owner Eddie volunteers with CFA, protecting the local community from fires. We got some useful tips to make our cottage and BBQ facilities safe during the busy summer season.

The Hillock Downs produce store is opened Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They only sell freshly butchered beef and they call it a day when they’re sold out. It has been popular among the locals. To avoid disappointment, contact them before you go. Sally, a.k.a the farmer’s wife who works at their produce store is very friendly and knowledgeable. She also grows the vegetables sold at her store. Hillock Downs is only a few minutes drive from our cottage. Get some for your BBQ during your stay, or to bring home, you won’t be disappointed.


Peninsula Fresh Organics

We aren’t running out of ideas for this subject line nor this is an ad. We aren’t paid to write this. But the name Peninsula Fresh Organics really sums it up, we do believe it is an accurate reflection of their produce and this post.

Staff loads the produce which are always harvested the night before
Staff loading the produce which are always harvested the night before

Fresh? If you aren’t aware until now, the vegetables sold at our regular grocery shops aren’t picked when they are ripe. In facts they are often harvested early to increase their shelf life. They ripen in the trucks and insides their boxes. Many of the favours and nutritions aren’t there. It’s very apparent when you are having them as salad, or making soup or sauces. At Peninsula Fresh Organics they pick the evening before.

Organic? Detox and fasting have been popular habits lately. People become more cautious of what they put into their stomach. I’m very supportive of food science and technologies. They allow food to be grown faster and bigger, solving many crisis. But the unnatural substance introduced do accumulate in our bodies. Instead of detoxing we can simply put less harm in. The higher price of organic produce can be preventive, I admit I cannot afford it every day. However let’s support our farmers occasionally, our bodies will say thank you. The Peninsula Fresh Organics website says that their produce are certified, I ain’t lab technicians but I believe in them.

Delicious? Please try it and we’ll leave the verdict to our readers. The Cottage Chef certainly think so, see her recipe here.

A good place to visit in the Peninsula? Definitely. They have been farming at their Baxter location for more than 40 years and into their 5th generation now. Through the entrance visitors will enter the rustic property with many antique tools on display, greeted by their friendly staff, and seeing freshly harvested produce being loaded onto shelves.

Our favourite are their round zucchini and heirloom root vegetables. Don’t miss it while you’re heading down to the peninsula. It makes a great first stop on the way from the city; load up with fresh fruits and vegetables for your stay, or enjoy them back at your home.