With a name like Tootgarook, it’s no surprise this Victoria locale is a unique destination. Situated on the Mornington Peninsula about one hour south of Melbourne, this quaint community (it’s home to less than 3,000 people) offers a serene retreat among lush, natural beauty.

By Matt Pruys

The Beach

Tootgarook Beach is situated alongside the shimmering Port Phillip Bay. It’s an extension of the neighboring Rosebud West Beach, and the shallow waters are safe for children and adults alike. Much of it is less than 8 kilometres deep and its greatest depth is 24 metres. Don’t forget a blanket to lay out for a relaxing afternoon of sunbathing, and pack a picnic beforehand to enjoy out on the warm sand while watching the sun set over the horizon. You can join in on one of the friendly beach games - this is a prime gathering spot for locals, who welcome visitors with open arms. Visitors can also take advantage of the seasonal boat launch ramp.

Nearby Locales

A vacation in this locale gives you a placid and pleasant experience away from the dizzying whirl of city life. But it also offers access to many exciting locations - just drive along Point Neapean Road, which follows the waterfront, to find several other charming coastal towns. Directly to the west, you’ll find Rye, a small community that’s home to the White Cliffs, Dunes Golf Links and other fun attractions. Keep going to find Blairgowrie, where you can shop at a popular commercial centre, watch the watercrafts of the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron and explore the Mornington Peninsula National Park. East of Tootgarook are the towns of Rosebud and Rosebud West. Take a walk along the 2-kilometre shopping strip, which is lined with plenty of boutique stores and markets, small gardens and wood-carved monuments of local heroes. The strip is bookmarked by two large shopping complexes - the Rosebud Plaza and Rosebud Beach centres. While you’re visiting, don’t miss out on the stunning view of Arthur’s Seat.

Food and Drink

While this community may be small in size, it’s big on flavour. The most popular eatery in the town limits is Onshore Restaurant, located on Point Nepean Road. It focuses on modern Australian cuisine with a simple menu based on fresh, local ingredients. Try the Veg Out salad, which combines pumpkin, beetroot and feta cheese, or order up the penne pasta dish served with a sauce of caramelized onion, mushroom and tomato. The kitchen also makes delicious desserts, such as a vanilla cream and berry meringue. The nearby towns also offer some hot dining options. Rosebud West, for instance, is home to Flatheads Bar and Grill, a casual restaurant with a focus on steak and seafood. The chefs support local producers by concentrating their dishes on Mornington Peninsula meats and produce as well as area-made wines and beers. The menu changes by season. In winter, for example, you might find the Sri Lankan fish curry or Tasmanian salmon, while summer offerings include a king island porterhouse and seafood risotto.

The Wetlands

One of the community’s main attractions is its expansive wetlands, which spans 38 hectares. The Tootgarook Swamp, also known as the Borneo Swamp, is the Port Phillip Bay region’s largest shallow freshwater marsh. The ecosystem thrives on groundwater and is set on fibric peat, making it a major source for carbon.

The swamp also has a rich history. It was once the home to the Kulin nation’s Bunurong people and now has 10 different indigenous archaeological sites - these tribe members lived off the land as hunters and gatherers for thousands of years. The wetland plants and animals were a valuable resource and still are today, which is why the Save Tootgarook Swamp initiative is working to stop pollution and slashing as well as commercial and residential expansion into the swamp.