Is there life after Santa Barbara? Or is there any place in the world like it? Well, although not exactly like it, I did find two places in Australia that remind of our home town. The Mornington Peninsula — just south of Melbourne and Noosa, just north of Brisbane — are very different places, yet they have many of the characteristics of our gem along the Central Coast.
Australia’s population is mainly found in and around three cities Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. The latter is home to more than 4 million people among whom are more than 400,000 golfers. Fortunately for this group they have the Mornington Peninsula about 90 minutes from the heart of downtown and full of golf. This is a tranquil setting that seemed to be a mix of San Diego and Monterey. The Southern Border is framed by the rugged Tasmanian Sea while the calmer inside wraps around Port Phillips Bay. The farther out you go, the more rural it becomes with the greatest collection of golf courses on the planet.
This area is also home to vineyards and gum trees, which will look very familiar. That is what the Aussie’s call our eucalyptus trees. The golden-brown hills lined with gum trees and gazing out to blue water will remind Santa Barbara residents of the ride north along the Gaviota Coast.
There are very few hotels to pick from when exploring this area, but a good choice would be Peppers Moonah Links Resort. This property is set adjacent to the two championship layouts at Moonah Links, home to the Australian Open Golf Championship. This resort is a bit inland but within minutes everything the Peninsula has to offer. Visit Peppers.com.au for complete details. Make sure to take in the quaint seaside villages of Sorrento and Portsee. The Cape Schanck Lighthouse is also a must, and this will remind you of Point Reyes just north of San Francisco.
Most will base themselves in Melbourne on the way in and on the way out before journeying to the south. There is train service from Melbourne to the edge of the Mornington Peninsula, but it is probably best seen by car.
Noosa is Australia’s most desired vacation spot. The beach feels like Tahiti, but the shopping and restaurant scene is more like La Jolla or Palm Beach.
The two-hour drive in takes you through semi-tropical jungle-like territory. The town is similar in size to Santa Barbara, but it would be like having State Street on the ocean. Noosa’s main drag is Hastings Street with one of the world’s best beaches right behind. Hastings is lined with luxury hotels, shops, and restaurants. The neat thing is all this development is camouflaged from the beach by thick native trees.
Noosa Springs is the place to stay for golfers. It has one of Queensland’s best-kept tracks. The resort is very elegant with large condo units waiting. If you hear strange noises at night and early morning, it is the koala bears that inhabit the local brush. Noosa Springs is only a mile or so from the beach. This is where the jet set hangs out in Queensland, and you will hear many different languages spoken. Go to NoosaSprings.com.au to find out more.
The beach is what really draws people here — enough waves to attract surfers on Noosa Sound, but peaceful enough around the bend closer to Hastings Street. There is a great hike out to the point, but be careful as Queensland is famous for its snakes. In the water, surfers need to be wary of the large bull sharks that often inhabit these waters.
Both of these trips will require a rental car. Hertz has a large fleet at both Melbourne and Brisbane airports. Take your time driving as this will be on the “wrong side of the road.” Brisbane is a modern city, and you will find it the easier of the two to navigate. Melbourne is crowded and will require a bit of study. There is a seven-mile tunnel under the city that takes you out toward the Mornington Peninsula. You might consider taking the train out as far as you can and then renting a car. Once on the peninsula, the driving will be quite relaxing.