Travelling to regional areas outside major capital cities is another perfect way to experience local produce and new vegan food, while meeting their creators. Just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne CBD is the beachside region of the Mornington Peninsula, and a cruisy way to experience it is with Melbourne Vegan Tours.
Melbourne was recently voted the third most vegan-friendly city in the world, due to vegan travellers having easy access to the city’s huge vegan food scene. But what if vegan travellers want to explore regions outside of Melbourne without having to worry about getting around? Melbourne Vegan Tours have been operating within Melbourne’s key vegan areas in Melbourne and inner city. So, it was only natural for Jess Ivers and Dan Pinne to push their tour boundaries and encompass one of Victoria’s stunning regional centres. By curating their Mornington Peninsula daytrip, Dan and Jess have delivered a solution for travellers who want to explore outside Melbourne. Guests simply book in and choose one of Melbourne Vegan Tours’ three pick-up points. On the day, guests just have to board the mini-bus, sit back and relax while they’re chauffeured to various points along the Peninsula for some serious vegan eating and sampling.
Victoria’s beachside Mornington Peninsula has been attracting daytrippers, surfers and beach-goers for decades. It’s the Mornington Peninsula’s natural gifts that lure travellers to the area – dense native bushland, populations of native wildlife (marsupials and birdlife stand out) and the barrelling waves from Rye back-beach to Gunnamatta Ocean Beach. Outstretched views taken in at the peak of Arthur’s Seat capture the region’s natural vibe. The region’s connection to its natural environment has influenced an energetic food culture, and is inspiring a healthy sustainable vegan movement. Melbourne Vegan Tours’ Mornington Peninsula Tour is now supporting this movement, connecting guests (local to Melbourne, interstate or international) to the region’s vegan creators and producers. Rich vegan stories can be found outside Melbourne, and Jess and Dan have found uncovered some of the best.
For the tour, I chose to be picked up from one of the northbound service stations on the M3 freeway at 9.30am. This meant that I only had to travel 20 minutes from home before being greeted by Jess and Dan. All three pick-up points have easy access to safe parking, ATMs and toilets, and the choice in pick-up points. Melburnians and visitors to Melbourne can book in for the tour without having to travel a long distance before the tour starts. Travelling by mini-bus (safe driving courtesy of Dan) also allows guests to chat with each other about all things vegan and make new friends. What’s reassuring on this tour is that Jess and Dan create a safe travelling environment for vegan and non-vegan guests alike.
Not long after boarding the bus and travelling along the freeway in gorgeous, sunny weather, we arrive at our first stop of the day – Conscious Cravings in Moorooduc. This is a quaint, little cottage café with all-vegan offerings made from high quality organic or pesticide-free ingredients. The business started out making handmade raw tarts and desserts to sell at markets, before opening their premises; they became all-vegan last year. Conscious Cravings is small and cosy, though seating is not an issue. The sunny weather means the tour group can bask outside while enjoying a hot drink of their choice. Each drink is served in bespoke pottery cups and a strip of paper with an inspirational quote.
Soon after, the food starts arriving. There’s a pot of golden tapioca porridge for every tour guest, topped with toasted coconut and fresh berries. Even the compostable cups are made from plants! For seconds, slices of toasty pumpkin bruschetta anointed with toasted seeds, rosemary sprigs and lavender are served. There’s ample time to sit back, enjoy the food and buy a few treats to take away. Treats are stored in insulated cold bags for tour guests, making it easy to buy and store food during the tour. Guests are welcome to BYO containers.
Jess and Dan give a casual run-down of each stop on their Mornington Peninsula tour and introduce the staff to guests. It’s an approach that personalises this tour, as guests can begin to understand the business and the backstory for each. It’s only in recent years that veganism has started to bloom on the Peninsula, with thanks to locales like Soulful Vegan Food in Mornington. Soulful has only been in business for a little over a year – moving from market sales to strip-shopfront – and it’s thriving.
Soulful’s holistic approach to creating food intuitively is part of their success, tasted in their smoky Paprika and Sweet Corn Fritters with aioli, caramelised onions, side salad and a slice of grilled vegan haloumi. All guests on the Melbourne Vegan Tours tour gets their own bowl; Jess and Dan have consciously asked venues to choose a dish that speaks their business’ story. The sunny weather means the tour group can sit outside again, adding to the buzzing vibe indoors.
It’s at this point of the tour when guests are feeling comfortable – not too full in the tummy – as Dan takes the bus along the rolling freeways towards Dromana. Jess’ bubbly nature makes for a fun road-trip, too. I spent many summers driving these freeways for weekends away, and a sunny day always makes this trip such a relaxing one. What emphasises the relaxing vibe is a stop for an exclusive cheese tasting at The Vegan Dairy. Cheese maker couple Brittany and Bronson Bertschinger started The Vegan Dairy only three years ago, using their traditional cheese-making skills in a vegan forum.
There’s a gorgeous spread to greet the tour group, along with a warm welcome from Brittany who opens the factory, just for us, outside their usual open times. ‘Meet the Maker’ opportunities like these emphasise Melbourne Vegan Tours’ approach to connecting tour guests with the local creators. An intimate way to truly understand each business visited. There’s generous time to ask questions or learn about new products being developed. Plus, there’s time to buy cheese to take home.
Cheese and wine naturally go hand-in-hand, so this is the point in the tour Dan makes the quick drive to Trofeo Estate. The wines here are vegan-friendly (as well as gluten-free and sulphite free), created in terracotta wine vessels; a slow wine-making process that’s thousands of years old and suitable to the cooler climates like those in Dromana. Trofeo Estate specialises in pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz, so there’s ample time to sample the goods and buy some bottles to take home.
Our host takes us through the wine-making process that delivers smooth tastes, and we learn that the adjoining (omnivorous) restaurant sources ingredients from within a 10-kilometre radius of the winery. This is a common theme that’s uncovered from each stop along the Melbourne Vegan Tours Mornington Peninsula tour: sustainability is key. So, acting local – from sourcing ingredients to employing local residents – ensures the future of the vegan food culture that’s rapidly emerging.
What fuels the Mornington Peninsula is surf culture and sustainable food culture. It’s only fitting that Hunter Café and Store is on the itinerary. Aptly positioned near Rye back-beach, Hunter attracts the local surfers from the shore, mountain bikers from nearby hill-climbs, vegans from Melbourne metro area and from nearby towns.
Hunter only became vegan last year, and the shop also sells second-hand wares, artwork and photography from local artists. Hunter is further afield, but it’s a casual eco-conscious spot that’s growing to be a hit with the locals after the initial change to being all-vegan. The food (and tour) starts to wind down at this point, and suitably so. Guests who can fit it in share plates of loaded nachos while kicking back to grab a drink, peruse shop-wares and admire the interiors.
Before heading to the last food spot, Dan takes the bus towards Arthurs Seat to Murrays Lookout for a calming view of the Peninsula below. Like every step of the way, this is another generous moment to stretch the legs and grab some photos. Relaxation is the hero ingredient on this tour.
A trip to the Mornington Peninsula can’t end without experiencing Wombat Café & Store in Dromana. This is the Mornington Peninsula’s first all-vegan café and has been a trailblazer for the sustainable vegan food movement in the region. It only takes one to create a movement, and it’s safe to say Wombat has achieved just that. Dessert speaks to many people, and Wombat is the tour’s dessert stop; the cherry on the top for Melbourne Vegan Tours.
Share platters of a variety of Wombat’s desserts are delivered to the table, from ‘Snickers bar’ styled slices, huge berry cupcakes, and raw turmeric and berry slices are the perfect end to a meandering trip through the best vegan food the Mornington Peninsula has to offer. Partnered with a coffee, made from local Little Rebel coffee, or a rich hot chocolate that garners raving fans, it’s a fulfilling end to a food-filled daytrip. There’s plenty of time to snooze it off on the way back to Melbourne.
Melbourne Vegan Tours’ Mornington Peninsula Tour prices are Adult$179.00, 2 x Adults and 2 x Children$584.00, 1 x Adult and 2 x Children$405.00, 2 x Adults and 1 x Child $471.00, Group of 3 $161.00 per person, Group of 4 $152.00 per person. All prices include transport to and from, a goodie bag plus all food and drinks on the day.
Allergies can be catered for. Though, guests with allergies need to alert Melbourne Vegan Tours of any food/drink allergies at the time of booking.
Want to learn more? You can visit their website, or read my interview with Dan and Jess here or learn about my experience on their St Kilda tour earlier this year.
Keep up to date with all of Melbourne Vegan Tours’ happenings by visiting their Facebook and Instagram pages, too.
Melbourne Vegan Tours’ Vegan Mornington Peninsula Tour visits businesses at their discretion and businesses’ availability.
Justine de Jonge of Fire & Tea was invited as a guest of Melbourne Vegan Tours.