I don’t know where I got the idea that Victoria isn’t much of a beachy state. Since I moved to Melbourne last year, I’m constantly surprised by the number of beautiful beaches and swimming spots surrounding the city. The Mornington Peninsula is one such beach hotspot, with more than thirty villages and stretches of beautiful coastline, providing seemingly endless options for an easy day trip from Melbourne. My dad was in town over the weekend, so we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather on Sunday and find a pretty beach town to spend the afternoon in.
I didn’t find the official Mornington Peninsula tourism website particularly helpful in narrowing down a long list of villages to visit, but luckily I had a bit of help from one of my blog readers! Sue kindly left a comment on my first post about the Mornington Peninsula, suggesting Two Buoys Tapas Bar in the small beachtown of Dromana. I’m so glad Sue commented, because otherwise I would not have had any reason to pick Dromana from the long list of options.
The inland route to Dromana from Melbourne takes around an hour. Farmland, mostly with livestock, accompanies you most of the way to the Mornington Peninsula. Only as we approached Dromana did the countryside briefly swap vineyards for cows, horses and the occasional herd of deer. Once we exited the freeway, a few blocks back from the beach, we drove past streets full of quiet holiday homes before reaching the waterfront.
The town along the water was a single street lined with shops. Most of them, I was disappointed to notice, were chains. Cellarbrations, a Commonwealth Bank, an Amcal Pharmacy, Thirsty Camel, and a smattering of real estate shops. It was a lively, but not particularly attractive line of shops, that were more modern than the elegant sandstone and old world shopfronts of Sorrento or Mornington. Dromana was a Victorian seaside resort in the 1880s, but not much of the architecture from this time remains. Fortunately, the rainbow row of Bathing Boxes along the beach have been beautifully preserved.
Before we hit the beach, we had lunch at Two Buoys, a tapas bar recommended to me by one of my readers, last time I wrote about the Mornington Peninsula. I am so grateful that she did! We probably wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise, as it’s set back a little from the rest of the shops along the waterfront, and looks more like a regular, casual fish & chips restaurant/cafe, than a tapas bar, from the outside. We shared crab sliders, chicken wings, arancini and calamari with a delicious lime, chili and coriander mayo, washed down with beers for the boys and a local, Mornington Peninsula pear cider for me. All the dishes were delicious and served with a little twist, which was a nice change from the standard beach town fish & chip shop ( as much as I love them!).
Once we’d refuelled, we couldn’t wait to get down to the beach. Gentle hills wrap around the either end of the wide, shallow beach. Calm, aquamarine shallows stretch out in every direction, with only a slither of dark blue water on the horizon. The euphoric shade of very bright blue made me happy, just be looking at it. The shallow bayside water was more like a giant swimming pool than the rough and tumble of the surf I’m used to in Queensland, but it is a nice change. Sometimes, swimming in the Australian surf is like trying to fight your way through a mile-wide washing machine. I could see myself spending lazy days bobbing in the bayside water at Dromana.
We walked up the pier, which was dotted with fishermen (and women) who had pulled up a fold out chair and kids using the pier as a diving board. Three tiny dinghies and motor boats bobbed along the shoreline, their shadow visible through the clear water. A father and son zipped around on an enormous jet ski a little further out. Swimmers mainly stuck to bobbing in the water because there’s no need to exert yourself too much in the calm bay, without the onslaught of the surf.
The beach is dotted with sunbathers, with pink leathery faces and brown leathery limbs glistening in the sun, with deep wrinkles creased into their weathered foreheads. The smarter ones, in a very Victorian fashion, erect colourful beach umbrellas and pitch tents. Pop up beach tents seem to be a singularly Victorian fascination and on this particular beach, I could see why. A smattering of brightly-painted bathing boxes lined the back of the beach, with their cheaper, modern equivalents pitched in a higgledy-piggledy row in front of them. The Bathing Boxes are popular on beaches in Victoria and South Australia, most famously on Dendy Beach in Brighton.
So far, Dromana is easily my favourite beach in Victoria. The sand is softer and more fine than the coarse, shell-speckled beaches of Brighton, and much lighter and prettier too. The shallow water is idyllic, and looks much cleaner than the water in St Kilda, probably because it’s much further away from Port Melbourne. Unlike Sorrento, there weren’t any sailboats crowding around the pier, which made it ideal for swimming, or more accurately, just bobbing in the water.
In fact, it’s one of my favourite beaches in Australia! More so for the water, than the sliver of beach itself, but it’s still in the good company of Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Whitehaven and Catseye Beach in the Whitsundays and the sprawling, white beaches of Stradbroke Island. Admittedly, the Dromana beach doesn’t quite have the chops of these enormous Queensland beaches, but the water and surrounding landscape is so beautiful that it’s one of my favourites. It even has a little bit of the colourful beach culture of the beaches in Monterosso in Cinque Terre, which is elevated from memorable to unforgettable by legions of brightly-striped beach umbrellas.