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Southern Beauty in the Mornington Peninsula

An excursion to the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria has a bounty of fun and fabulous offerings.

The Mornington Peninsula is one of Melbourne’s summer playgrounds, and almost certainly its most inclusive. The progressive local council believes so much in disability access and inclusion that it provides local businesses with up to $5000 to improve the accessibility of their business. Their Disability Access and Inclusion webpage has heaps of information about accessibility on the peninsula, including five downloadable township mobility maps, the location of four Changing Places toilets, and a list of businesses where you can recharge your scooter or wheelchair. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a weekend away, with or without children, the Mornington Peninsula has to be a top pick for an excursion from Melbourne.

Wildlife Encounters

Moonlit Sanctuary in Pearcedale makes a great first stop from Melbourne to the Peninsula. With a strong focus on education, you’ll learn a lot about Australia’s iconic mammals, as well as Australia’s most-loved birds and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Check out the range of animal experiences it offers, including “close encounters” with wallabies, koalas, dingoes, owls, pythons and wombats. 

Moonlit Sanctuary’s commitment to accessibility is clear from the website alone; there is an accessibility tool to assist with website accessibility, as well as a dedicated Accessibility tab under the Visit menu that has all the information you need to plan your visit – and it makes for a nice change to see photos of visitors who use wheelchairs. There’s accessible car parking and level access throughout, with compressed gravel paths linking the various enclosures and accessible toilet facilities. There are also wheelchairs available for loan free of charge. While assistance dogs are welcome, there are areas in which they are not allowed.

A man in a wheelchair leaning down to pat a kangaroo at Moonlit Sanctuary
Meet Australia’s cuddliest mammals at Moonlit Sanctuary on your way to the Mornington Peninsula. Credit: Moonlit Sanctuary

All Aboard!

If heritage railways are your thing the Mornington Railway runs steam- and diesel-engine services on Sundays. All three services have wheelchair-accessible carriages, but phone ahead to ensure that there are enough wheelchair spaces available.

A steam train in motion on tracks through a grassy area
Catch a classic steam train with a wheelchair-accessible carriage on the Mornington Railway.

Flying high 

The gondola ride at Arthurs Seat Eagle in Dromana, with its fabulous views over the treetops and Port Phillip Bay to Melbourne’s CBD skyline, is the Peninsula’s signature attraction. There is accessible car parking at both stations and parking is available for mobility scooters at the Base Station (mobility scooters are not permitted inside the gondolas).

Slow-moving gondolas and level access are great for wheelchairs (up to 80cm wide) and walking frames, as well as strollers. There’s ramped access at both Summit and Base Stations, giving access to the observation decks, and there’s even a Changing Places facility as well as a regular accessible bathroom. You can find out more on their website.

Arthurs Seat Eagle gondola hanging over the Mornington Peninsula with an incredible view of the town and water
You’ll get a view of the Mornington Peninsula like no other from Arthurs Seat Eagle.

Lighting the way for 80 years

Right at the tip of the Peninsula – naturally – the classic Australian white-and-red Cape Schanck Lighthouse has guided boats and ships into Port Phillip Bay since 1859. The Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve is managed by Parks Victoria, which has put a huge focus on accessibility in recent years.

On their website, apart from information on access, there’s a fabulous orientation video produced by wheelchair user, Ryan Smith (one of several produced for Parks Victoria), so you’ll know exactly what to expect. While wheelchair users won’t be able to ascend to the top of the lighthouse, the grounds, museum and the main lookout, with incredible views over the Bass Strait, all have level access. A second lookout, with views over the eastern side of the Victorian mainland, is accessible via the first section of the Two Bays Walking track.

A woman in a wheelchair on the gravel path headed towards the Cape Schanck Lighthouse
Get picture-perfect views of the Bass Strait from the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve.

Sea and sand 

A trip to the Mornington Peninsula during summer would not be complete without dipping your toes into the sea. Happily for wheelchair users, the Mornington Peninsula Shire has installed beach matting (until April) at the following beaches: Mt Martha, Rosebud, Mothers Beach, Rye front beach and Sorrento front beach. There is limited access (rails and ramps), but no beach matting at Point Leo and Mills beaches.

A woman seated in a beach wheelchair on Mills Beach, with other beach visitors and buildings visible behind her
Beach days are the best part of a summer getaway to the Mornington Peninsula.

For the kids 

The Shire Council has installed pictorial communication boards at three playgrounds: Civic Reserve, Mornington, Rosebud foreshore and Pelican Park, Hastings. Download the boards for use anywhere, and there’s a handy video explaining how to use them. It has also invested in Liberty Swings, specifically designed for wheelchair users, at Marine Parade (Hastings) and Lawson Park (Rosebud) playgrounds, for which you’ll need a Master Locksmiths Access Key (MLAK). These can be borrowed from Pelican Park Recreation Centre or the library (Hastings) or the Shire customer service desks in Hastings, Rosebud and Mornington, or call 1800 810 698.

A large wooden ship structure in a Mornington Peninsula playground
Kids of all abilities can enjoy playgrounds throughout the Mornington Peninsula. Credit: Mornington Peninsula Shire

Indulge in Mornington Peninsula

As a premium holiday destination, there are obviously countless places to eat and drink, but a couple of places stand out if you’re looking for a treat without sacrificing accessibility.

Formerly stables, St Andrews Beach Brewery is now a state-of-the-art brewhouse. There are three separate entertainment areas, all of which serve food and drink and are wheelchair-accessible – you can check out the menus ahead of time online, too. Beer aficionados can stock up in the shop. There’s an accessible toilet and disabled parking bay directly out front.

Right on the main drag in Flinders, duck into the Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery to indulge your sweet tooth. Gourmet Tasting Sessions are held every day at 11 AM, noon and 1 PM and cost $3 per person (no booking required). For connoisseurs and the hopelessly addicted, there are also bookable tastings and workshops.

View of an ice cream counter with multiple selections of ice cream available in bright colours
Indulge your sweet tooth at the Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.

Staying overnight? 

If you’re looking for accommodation, there are a few options with accessible rooms. Our top pick is SeaWise Apartments in Blairgowrie. Their commitment to and understanding of the needs of people with disability is shown by the prominent Disability menu on their website that leads you to detailed disability-specific information, not only about its three disability-friendly units, but also about nearby services and activities. There are photos and floor plans to help you plan your visit.

The 4-star Flinders Hotel has 40 rooms, two of which are accessible.

If you want to splurge, choose the luxury 184-room Cape Schanck Resort, with its own spa, tennis courts, golf course, pool (with hoist), gym, games room and a broad range of accommodation options, including eight fully DDA-compliant rooms and one partially accessible ocean villa. 

A man pushing kids in a swing in front of the Cape Schanck Resort
The Cape Schanck Resort has everything you could need from holiday accommodation. Credit: RACV

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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