Travel Tips

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula in 2021

Named after the beautiful Italian coastal town, it’s no wonder most people consider Sorrento to be the highlight of the Mornington Peninsula. Characterised by heritage limestone buildings set above crystal blue ocean, this historic village will transport you to the Southern Mediterranean despite being located just 90 minutes from Melbourne.

Sorrento Pier welcomes ferry passengers from Queenscliff several times a day, eager to enjoy the Peninsula’s calm waters after leaving behind the rugged coastline of the Great Ocean Road. Throughout the year, tourists and locals alike flock to Sorrento’s main street for great food, art, history and shopping.

Sorrento Town Centre, Sorrento, Victoria.
Sorrento Town Centre, Victoria

Sorrento’s Best Cafés, Restaurants and Delis

A wander down Sorrento’s main street will offer you dozens of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Head to The Boss’s Daughter for the best coffee & breakfast, whilst a trip to St Pauls Rd General Store will satisfy your homemade burger cravings. For dinner, check out Bistro Elba for upscale modern dining and Hotel Sorrento for cocktails and rooftop vibes.

The homemade vanilla slice from Vanilla Slice Café is famous throughout the state and has people queuing down the street. However, it’s best to stick with the classic dessert when you visit because the rest of the menu is pretty average. During the hot summer months, cool down with handcrafted ice cream or sorbet from Mubble Gourmet Ice Creamery.

Brunch at The Boss's Daughter via The Boss's Daughter
Brunch at The Boss’s Daughter via The Boss’s Daughter

If you prefer to cook, you can get organic local produce from Scicluna’s. Their fruit and vegetables are the best in town, and they also do great meat, cheese and gourmet pantry items. Head to Seafood on George for locally caught scallops, prawns & mussels, and visit Stringer’s Store for a huge selection of delicious Mornington Peninsula wines.

Sorrento’s Best Accommodation

As a general rule, the further towards the pointy tip of the Peninsula you get, the more expensive the accommodation is. A stay in Sorrento isn’t cheap, but there are some beautiful accommodation choices available.

Stay at Hotel Sorrento for the best ocean views, or enjoy the gorgeous private pool at Sorrento Beach Escape if you’re traveling in a group. Choose Sorrento Beach Bungalow for a romantic couple’s retreat or Carmel at Sorrento for boutique apartments set in a 100 year-old limestone house. For a trip with the kids you can’t go wrong with Sorrento Beach Motel, and if you want to keep things cheap you can book a foreshore camping spot right by the beach.

Sorrento Beach Escape, Sorrento, Victoria.
Sorrento Beach Escape via Airbnb

The Best Beaches in Sorrento

Sorrento is ideally located at the western tip of the Peninsula, meaning it’s just a short walk from one side of the land to the other. And believe me, the beaches on either side of Sorrento are starkly different.

On the Port Phillip Bay side you’ll find Sorrento front beach, the most blissfully sheltered patch of sand I’ve ever come across. The calm water is shallow for around 150 metres, giving the beach a 1/10 hazard rating (the lowest score possible). This makes it popular with casual bathers and kids – think crystal clear water, white sand and sailboats dotted on the horizon. Take a stroll along Sorrento Long Pier for ultimate relaxation or grab a cocktail at The Baths for great ocean views.

Sorrento Long Pier Victoria
Sorrento Long Pier on Sorrento Front Beach, Victoria

For a completely different experience, take the twenty-minute walk up Ocean Beach Road via the town centre to arrive at Sorrento back beach on the south side. Surrounded by large rock formations, it’s the perfect place to explore reefs and rockpools which fill with enough water to swim in during high tide. Advanced surfers venture beyond the beach for unforgiving waves from the Bass Strait, whilst the beach area is moderately safe for rock-jumping and body boarding at high tide.

Sorrento Back Beach, Victoria
Sorrento Back Beach, Victoria

The Best Activities in Sorrento

As you can probably guess, water sports are amongst the most highly-rated activities in the area. Sorrento is a popular destination for snorkeling with dolphins & seals, sea kayaking tours & private fishing charters. If you have your own equipment and don’t fancy a tour, Sorrento front beach is perfect for stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and the back beach is great for surfing.

Sorrento Dolphin & Seal Cruise via WaterMaarq
Sorrento Dolphin & Seal Cruise via WaterMaarq

Shopping in Sorrento

For a small town, Sorrento’s main shopping strip is full to the brim with interior shops, designer boutiques & antique stores. Need a wardrobe upgrade? Clothing boutique Saltwater has your designer clothing needs covered, whilst Côte Salt is the place to go for coastal home decor inspiration including bespoke homewares and gifts. Alternatively, a visit to Marlene Miller Antiques will have you lusting over reclaimed vintage furniture, beautiful jewellery and household trinkets.

Côte Salt Homewares, Sorrento, Victoria via Côte Salt
Côte Salt Homewares, Sorrento, Victoria via Côte Salt

Sorrento’s Art, Culture & History

Visitors flock to Sorrento because of the excellent art scene, which is showcased at the annual Sorrento Arts Festival. Head to Manyung Gallery Sorrento for contemporary landscape paintings & sculptures, whist Nura Gallery showcases Australian cultural identity through art created by emerging talents.

I can also highly recommend the Sorrento – Portsea Artists’ Trail. The trail directs you to the view points where famous artists would have sat to paint their pictures of the Mornington Peninsula, and reproductions of the paintings are located next to the original scene.

Sorrento – Portsea Artists’ Trail via Virtual Sorrento

Sorrento has a rich history which can be explored at The Sorrento Museum. From the origins of the Bunurong People (the traditional owners of the land in this area), to early European settlement and the establishment of agricultural and fishing industries, the museum takes you on a journey through Sorrento’s interesting past. Don’t forget to visit Watts’ Cottage whilst you’re there to see an example of homes built by the first settlers using local materials.

It’s also worth checking out Sorrento Historic Steam Tram Station, the old steam tram line which was used to transport holidaymakers from the ferry terminal to the ocean beach over a hundred years ago. From the restored railway station, continue along the Bay Trail to visit Policemans Point and Sorrento Park.

A Steam Tram on Sorrento Main Street via Nepean Historical Society
A Steam Tram on Sorrento Main Street via Nepean Historical Society

You may also be interested in visiting The Collins Settlement, the archaeological site where the British attempted to create the first European settlement in Victoria in 1803.

Sorrento’s Best Walks & Hikes

The Sorrento Circuit Walk is undoubtedly the best walk in Sorrento because the 7km loop track takes you to all of the best beaches, bays & viewpoints in the area including Diamond Bay, Bay of Islands & St Pauls. If you don’t enjoy long hikes, choose the Millionaire’s Walk instead for an easy meander on the cliffs above Port Phillip Bay.

Discovering Diamond Bay on the Sorrento Circuit Walk, Victoria
Discovering Diamond Bay on the Sorrento Circuit Walk, Victoria

The self-guided Sorrento Heritage Walk is also a great way to learn about the history of the town. The comprehensive guide explains the significance of Sorrento’s old limestone buildings including The Continental Hotel and several churches.

Transport in Sorrento

Sorrento is located just ninety-minutes from Melbourne city so it’s really easy to hire a car and drive down to the Peninsula. Alternatively, the 788 bus runs between Sorrento & Frankston, where you can catch regular trains to and from Melbourne city centre.

If you fancy taking the scenic route to Sorrento, Searoad Ferries offers multiple crossings a day from Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. The crossing time is just forty minutes and offers beautiful views across Port Phillip Bay.

Searoad Ferries at Sorrento Pier via Searoad Ferries
Searoad Ferries at Sorrento Pier via Searoad Ferries