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Flinders and Surrounds with Eve Wilson

Travel

For our travel feature this month, we head down the coast to explore Flinders, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Our tour guide for this quick getaway, 100kms from Melbourne, is Eve Wilson. Eve shouldn’t need any introduction – she’s the immensely talented photographer responsible for so much of the beautiful imagery you see on TDF – from our home tours, to our food shoots, as well as creative profiles and studio visits.

For the first time today, our number-one-lens-woman is authoring a feature that she’s also photographed! And you couldn’t find a better guide, because Eve grew up in Flinders.

Below, Eve lets us in on her top local eateries, produce providers and cultural hot spots, plus there’s a bayside walk to take your breath away!

8th December, 2017

Our Flinders and surrounds tour guide, photographer Eve Wilson, pictured at the Flinders’ foreshore. Photo – courtesy of Eve Wilson.

Eve Wilson
Friday 8th December 2017

My parents moved to Flinders in the 70s, seeking a quiet beach-side lifestyle. My Dad went on to open a surf shop, Balin, with friends, and my Mum worked at the local school camp. It was a pretty idyllic place to grow up; we really felt like we had the run of the town, exploring the creeks, beaches and paddocks on a regular basis. It was a tiny town in the 80s, and only a handful of kids were around the same age as me, so we were all friends and spent weekends riding from one house to the other. We’d pick blackberries in summer and sell them to the local restaurant, then spend the earnings on lollies at the general store!

Nowadays, I try and get down to Flinders as often as possible. My family are still there, and now that I am living in the inner city, that’s where I go when I feel that I need to get some country air and slow down every once in a while. I also want to give my daughter the opportunity to enjoy the country, go to the beach and just get dirty!

I am sure that time slows down to at least half-speed as soon as you pass Red Hill, and I always feel instantly relaxed as soon as we arrive in Flinders. You can get a bit of everything here – amazing local food and wine, rolling hills, beautiful beaches – all within a few kilometres.

This time of year, I’m alway stopping for big tubs of cherries at Red Hill Cherry Farm (or a close second: strawberries and the strawberry ice cream from Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm) en route. Of non-edible pickings, there’s also garden blooms from the Main Ridge Rose Farm. Of course, you can’t beat summer snorkelling at the Flinders Back Beach, and at low tide you’re almost always guaranteed to see a stingray, and also get a chance to walk out on the rocks at mushroom reef. Showing my daughter the crabs and sea life that I used to hunt for as a child here is pretty special. In autumn, the wineries are beautiful, with the vines all yellow and red, plus it’s not too hot nor cold to be sitting outside and enjoying a glass (or two). Even in winter, the area has its charms. We often take the dog on walks along the dog beach, then it’s home to sit by the cosy fire. Although it can get a lot busier than it used to be, Flinders still manages to feel small and remote most of the time.

I love the memories that each place holds for me and while shooting this story, I had the chance to have lovely conversations with new and old friends. These chats always led back to a connection with my family, friends and my husband – it’s such a nice community and everyone is connected in some way. Ahhh… it really tugged at my heart strings, pulling me back. Maybe one day!

Eatery
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Inside Cook & Norman Trattoria in Flinders. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Eve’s order at the trattoria: Scallop Risi e Bisi. Photo – Eve Wilson.

The owners, Rowan (also the head chef) and Janine, are lovely and it’s a friendly place to have dinner. Photo – Eve Wilson.

EATERY • Cook & Norman Trattoria

The building that houses this amazing restaurant has a history for me, although from before I was even born. My Dad and his business partner operated their surf shop, Balin, from here in the 70s!

Flinders is a bit of a sleepy town in terms of night-life, and new restaurants don’t pop up very often so it’s nice to see a something like Cook & Norman settle in. The owners, Rowan (also the head chef) and Janine, are lovely and it’s a friendly place to have dinner. The pasta here is always great, and on my recent visit I sampled the Scallop Risi e Bisi (rice with peas), which is a traditional dish of Veneto, the region from which Janine’s family hails – it’s a must-try!

These guys also run an adjoining café, Sirollena, which is open on weekends and has the best pastries and cakes, all made in-house. I’ll always find a way to get something sweet there when I’m in town.

1/52 Cook St, Flinders VIC 3929
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

The gardens at Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove. Photo – Eve Wilson.

A quiet spot at Montalto vineyard. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Experience
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Montalto Picnic and Sculpture Garden. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Montalto Picnic and Sculpture Garden. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Montalto Picnic and Sculpture Garden. Photo – Eve Wilson.

 EXPERIENCE • Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove

I have been enjoying Montalto for years. This usually includes sitting out in the piazza with friends and a few bottles of wine, enjoying the vegetable garden and views of the wonderful sculpture gardens.

They also offer beautiful picnics, and have gorgeous tables overlooking different parts of the winery. Stop buy the cellar door to grab a bottle of wine and wander through the sculptures to your secluded table!

33 Red Hill-Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South VIC 3937

Coffee
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Merricks General Wine Store. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Merricks General Wine Store. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Merricks General Wine Store. Photo – Eve Wilson.

 COFFEE • Merricks General Wine Store

I really like that The Merricks General Wine Store still reminds me of the original general store. My favourite things about this place would have to be the little coffee window and the attached gallery, showcasing local and Australian artists. There’s always something on, from Mirka Mora to local Peninsula artists.

When I was visiting they had an exhibition by a young local artists Baden Croft and Jess Milne. Baden’s large, textured oil paintings really caught my eye.

In summer, it’s so nice to sit amongst the big trees and green vines. I’m mainly there for the coffee!! But the food is also lovely, as are all the staff.

3460 Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks VIC 3916

Dine + Stay
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Doot Doot Doot restaurant with it’s jaw-dropping 10,000 globe chandelier, at Jackalope Hotel. Photo – Eve Wilson.

The view from the vineyard-facing rooms at Jackalope Hotel. Photo – Eve Wilson.

On the terrace at Jackalope Hotel. Photo – Eve Wilson.

The Vineyard room at Jackalope Hotel. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Stay
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The incredible grounds of Jackalope Hotel. Photo – Eve Wilson.

STAY • Jackalope Hotel

Jackalope is the perfect luxury getaway. My husband Jonny and I got married here in 2010, when it was Willow Creek Winery, so coming back was a real treat. It’s changed a lot, but it still has the old charm that we loved.

The interiors are spectacular (especially THAT expansive chandelier in the restaurant, Doot Doot Doot) and the renovated homestead now hosts the bar, which is a great touch.

I also love the fact that if you didn’t want to, you’d have no need to leave while staying here; from your room to a drink at the bar then dinner at Doot Doot Doot, it’s the total package.

I recommend running the giant Japanese bath half way through your meal (it takes 45mins), so that it’s ready when you get back to your room. The bath salts are even scented with grapes from the vineyard!

If you do decide to take a drive down the road, you’ve got an abundance of wineries, beaches and cafes close by to enjoy.

166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North VIC 3926

Michael ‘Harry’ Harris sells mussels at Flinders Pier. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Mussels at Flinders Pier. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Mussels at Flinders Pier. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Mussels at Flinders Pier. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Mussels at Flinders Pier. Photo – Eve Wilson.

SAMPLE • Mussels at Flinders Pier

Michael ‘Harry’ Harris has been around for as long as I can remember; my Dad had a mussel plot that Harry tended to for a long time. He supplies many of the great restaurants on the Peninsula, but best of all, he’s at the Flinders Pier every summer selling mussels straight from his boat. You can’t get much fresher than that! Pop down to the pier for a snorkel or to jump off it, then take home some fresh mussels for dinner.

These days you can get them, cooked by the man himself, from his mussel truck Conchilla, which operates from the carpark at the end of the pier in the summer months. There’s no need for getting your hands dirty!

The Esplanade, Flinders VIC 3929

Bushranger’s Bay Walk. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Bushranger’s Bay Walk. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Activity
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Bushranger’s Bay Walk. Photo – Eve Wilson.

 ACTIVITY • Bushranger’s Bay Walk

A spectacular walk to hidden landscape gems, this is my 2nd favourite spot along the area’s coast line (the first I’m sorry I’m not allowed to share).

You start inland and walk along a tea tree-lined path and then, before long, that coastal views open up and the bay is right beneath you! It’s the perfect mix between green, rolling hills and wild, ocean views.

From Cape Schanck to Flinders, there are stunning rugged cliffs and small beaches, some of which are only rocks. It’s wild and not really the best swimming destination, which means it doesn’t get over-crowded, even in summer – making for a very peaceful walk. A stroll along the edge of the tide line can reveal lots of washed up treasures, like sea urchin shells, shark eggs and ever cowrie shells if you’re lucky. *All just for looking at, please don’t remove them from the beach*

The best time to go is at sunrise in summer, it’s early, but you’re well and truly rewarded with a cool walk, dappled light and lots of wild life – kangaroos cross the track every morning and evening so you very likely to meet a few along the way!

Cape Schanck Lighthouse, 20 Cape Schanck Rd, Cape Schanck, 3939.

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