Guest Traveller Helen Ireland is a violist with the Flinders Quartet, one of Australia’s premier chamber music ensembles, and a member of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. As a mum to a kindergarten-aged boy, Helen jumped at the opportunity to experience her first ‘girls’ weekend’, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, just 90 minutes drive south east of Melbourne. With woollens, walking shoes and bathers packed, Helen and four friends ventured down to the seaside town of Blairgowrie situated between the waters of Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait. Here, Helen shares her recipe for a tonic for some R&R to restore one’s equilibrium…
The weekend really began on the main street of Blairgowrie’s neighbouring town, Sorrento. With its fashion boutiques, galleries and homewares stores, the attractive shopping strip on Ocean Beach Road has something for everyone and is a browser’s delight. We were there for another reason, however: Vanilla Slice, at Just Fine Food. Touted as being an almost-religious experience, the slice didn’t disappoint. A light custard and cream filling (the cream kept the sweetness in check and the banished any glueyness from the consistency of the slice filling), it had jam inside on the flakey pastry base and icing sugar on the top. It had us silent in reverence for what was before us. The weekend had started well. Fortunately, we followed up morning tea with a ‘Buddha bowl’ for lunch which balanced out the calorific damage done en route to the beach house.
A walk beckoned after lunch so we set out for one of Blairgowrie’s rugged, unpatrolled back beaches. Finding our way there was a little challenging at first but then we came upon an unmarked gate, leading to a track across the heavily-vegetated sand dunes and, 10 minutes later, we’d swapped bitumen for the almost-white sand of Dimmicks beach. Dimmicks – and Pearse’s Beach next door – are small ‘pocket’ beaches, backed by 10- to 20-metre high, dune-covered, red-brown limestone, or ‘calcarenite’, bluffs. The bluffs are fronted by rock and reef flats and, seeing as the rocky reef and beach would clearly be awash at high tide, we weren’t keen to venture too far for too long. It was such a different experience rock-hopping without a 4-year-old to look after. I enjoyed gazing into the intriguing rock pools, and collecting sea shells as souvenirs for my son.
We arrived at the Peninsula Hot Springs in Fingal, just a 9-minute drive from Blairgowrie, at 7.15am on Sunday morning. Getting up in the dark was definitely not something I’d imagined myself doing this weekend. Witnessing sunrise while immersed in natural thermal mineral waters flowing from deep underground was sold to me as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. I acquiesced. As we hiked up a stone path to the hilltop pool, fairy lights in the trees and a babbling brook set a magical scene. Soaking in the 40-ish-degree waters, we took in a 360-degree view across the rural landscape and hills beyond, and waited for the sky to light up. It may not be something I’ll ever do again however, seeing the sunrise and soaking for two hours in multiple pools scattered among the beautiful naturalistic landscaping was worth every minute of sacrificed sleep.
Helen’s Top Five Tips for Enjoying Blairgowrie, Victoria:
- Walk: If it hadn’t been a mid-winter’s day, we’d have probably walked more than just four of the 100-kilometres of the Mornington Peninsula Coastal Walk. Both bracing and spectacular, it is well worth exploring.
- Book ahead: It’s wise to go online and reserve a time to visit the Peninsula Hot Springs as it was booked out when we visited.
- Wine & Dine: Friends on the trip visited The Cups Estate in Fingal for a tasting and tapas lunch and couldn’t recommend it more highly.
- Eat: Vanilla Slice is $7.50 take away and $8.50 eat-in at Just Fine Food in Sorrento – which BTW doesn’t take table bookings.
- Listen: Flinders Quartet is one of Australia’s most-loved chamber music ensembles and performs around Melbourne, Victoria as well as nationally and internationally.