The beaches are empty, ice cream vans silent and the deck chairs stacked away but tourists, many of them Millennials, are still visiting the Mornington Peninsula in droves. Peninsula Link and growing interest in high-quality wine go part-way to explaining this surge but the real kicker is in beautiful winter images amassing on social media.
Millennials love to travel, and their wanderlust for wine, food and adventure is found in imagery that connects people more than ever before. Redefining a region once known for a sign “Sorry Closed” hanging over a frosty door, now streams of wintery snapshots celebrate drinking Pinot Noir while wearing a beanie.
Just outside the sleepy township of Balnarring, the $50million Jackalope Hotel is full of cutting-edge design. Here, the Rare Hare cloakroom is festooned in rabbit pelts and is possibly the most photographed cubic-metre on the Peninsula. Hot spots such as eateries and cellar doors like Foxeys Hangout, Polperro and Port Phillip Estate have created a warm pictorial narrative via Instagram and Facebook.
Western Port is suddenly the go-to-place for a winter escape and this spike has neighbouring cellar doors booming. One operator reports an increase in sales by over 150%. Winter is the most romantic season. It's nature all clear, grey, delicate and fragile. The sea has a gorgeous greenness with a wide-screen palette of soft colours and the evocative light is easy to photograph. This season, hundreds of visitors are roaming around wrapped in scarfs, hanging out in cellar doors or around sculptures and flowering gums. A sophisticated narrative of warm winter feasting has put the region right out there on Instagram, Facebook and the Twittersphere.
Wine tourism is a bit like social media. If you are all alone on Facebook it’s of no interest. But if you are many, and the offer is multifarious and exciting, things start to happen. Jackalope and other new eateries have got Peninsula visitors buzzing. Soon, the $40million Point Leo Estate winery, sculpture park and restaurant will open with the ex-Rockpool chef, Phil Wood on the pots and pans in a dining room overlooking the vast ocean beyond Western Port Bay. The more wineries, restaurants, hotels, tourist offices, and shops that are involved and cooperate, the better it works. The wine tourism pioneers of this region remain a close-knit and collaborative group. It’s been a long wait, but now there’s genuine excitement about the offer and all everyone is saying is bring it on!