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Sorrento: An Upscale Artists’ Hideaway
Nestled on a thin strip of land where the waters of Port Phillip Bay meet the Southern Ocean, Sorrento is a small town with a rich historical and artistic legacy. This holiday destination is a favourite among Melbourne’s more affluent, who have built sumptuous villas overlooking the water. Sorrento is also a gathering point for local and international artists, whom you’ll run into around town, painting the landscape. Meanwhile, culture and history buffs can go for leisurely strolls through the limestone-lined streets of the first European settlement in Victoria. Elegant rentals are parsed throughout town and high on the cliffs, from cosy studios to five-bedroom family homes.
Between Bay and Ocean
By virtue of its location, Sorrento offers two beaches: one bordering the bay and one fronting the ocean, separated only by a few streets of shops and cafes. Each type of beach attracts a different crowd. The inner beach with its calm water is favoured by families with small children, whereas Back Beach provides prime surfing opportunities. Back Beach forms a natural curve and is patrolled throughout the summer and over the weekend. Behind the beach is Mornington Peninsula National Park, where you’ll find a number of trails, some of which lead visitors to the cliff tops. One such trail is Coppins Track, a 3km path lined by panels explaining the region’s history.
Culture and Heritage
Sorrento was the first European settlement in Victoria and numerous stately limestone buildings in town remind today’s visitors of the fact. Victoria’s judicial and administrative services once operated from Sorrento, well before Melbourne even came into existence. You can learn all about Sorrento’s prominent role in shaping the state by spending a few hours at the Nepean Historical Society Museum or strolling through town to see the early 19th century constructions. For even more history, head to Millionaires’ Walk, where the first Union Jack was set on Australian soil. Take advantage of the views along this cliff top promenade, which joins up with the Sorrento-Portsea Artists’ Trail. Stretch your legs and pass by the exact spots that inspired artists from all around the world to paint the region.
Sorrento’s charm extends to the numerous family-friendly activities throughout town. For starters, you can swim with area’s friendly dolphins and seals. Over the last twenty years, Moonraker Dolphin Swims, a family-owned, eco-friendly business, has been operating snorkelling tours alongside these local marine mammals. Alternately, hop aboard the Queenscliff-Sorrento Ferry and go for the 40-minute ride across the bay, which provides some of the best views of the coastline, or simply watch the ferry make its way across the water. After a day at the beach, you may wish to satisfy your sweet tooth at the award-winning Just Fine Food, a local bakery with a vanilla slice famous well beyond Sorrento.
Shopping in Sorrento
As a playground for the wealthy, Sorrento’s town centre unsurprisingly harbours a number of upscale boutiques, providing an afternoon of sophisticated, fashionable fun. In fact, there are over 60 trendy shops, showcasing the latest creations of international brands as well as unique pieces by local designers. Walk along Sorrento’s main street, stopping at some of the gourmet cafes for coffee breaks, and browse the shops selling everything from art by local painters to resort wear and handmade jewellery.
Getting to Sorrento
Getting to Sorrento is most easily achieved by car. The town is slightly over an hour’s drive from Melbourne. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can get to Sorrento via a combination of trains and buses. The journey will take about three hours and remains manageable for a weekend getaway or longer.
For more travel information on Sorrento, see our article on Melbourne's Bays and Peninsulas.