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Judith Muir, Polperro Dolphin Swims

Travel less than an hour from Melbourne and find yourself on the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, where rugged cliffs hug wild ocean coastline, lifesavers patrol, and perfect broad, sandy beaches stretch for miles.

'Walk on the wild side,' is the advice from Judith Muir, who has run Polperro Dolphin Swins and Marine Education for over 20 years from Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula, and who exudes infectious passion for this patch of the world. 'Encounter the pumping surf on the wild Bass Strait coast and within minutes tramp the calmer and protected shores of Port Phillip Bay,' enthuses Judith.

The Mornington Peninsula is a narrow finger of land between two vibrant water systems, Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait, and it's only 115 kilometres or just over an hour from Melbourne's city centre.

Like many Mornington Peninsula locals, Judith could wax lyrical forever on the unique coastal landscape that's long been the playground of the wealthy merchants of Victoria, yet somehow remaining low-key and low-profile. Villages like Sorrento bustle year-round, while hinterland hamlets like Red Hill and Merricks attract wine-lovers from around the world. In the end, it's what you can do against this spectacular backdrop that most excites Judith, like Polperro's own environmentally-sound dolphin swims.

'The bay is delightful year-round as a world-class diving experience,' she says. 'You can enjoy the bay's warmer waters over summer, while the cooler water in winter provides crystal clear visibility. As well as the wild dolphin encounters for which Polperro is renowned, reef and seal swims are often part of Polperro trips as well. These are revelatory experiences, even for most locals, as the bay's rich aquatic life is a surprisingly well-kept secret.'

Prepare to be amazed by the rare species that can be spotted along the Mornington Peninsula, like sea dragons and Burranan (bottlenose) dolphins.

Discover

Judith's Mornington Peninsula must-dos

Point Nepean

'Visit historic Point Nepean, the cradle of Victoria and maybe find out about your ancestors who arrived here in the years of the early settlement.'

Gourmet peninsula

'The food in Mornington Peninsula is amazing, with the bountiful hinterland known for its providores.'

Swim with the dolphins

'Swim with wild dolphins and with Australian fur seals in their own habitat on their own terms.'

Judith's nature playgrounds

Time to soak up the peninsula

Judith is adamant that you need to stick around Mornington Peninsula for a while, 'to relax, eat, swim, cruise and soak up the area in all its moods and seasons.'

'Walk deserted beaches that are streaming sunlight and blazing sunsets in winter; see wild sunrises welcoming the day and anyone up early enough to enjoy the privilege. Choose to come swimming with wild dolphins and be assured of finest environmental standards and passenger care; learn to dive; kayak or take a ferry ride or simply choose a great book and sit on the beach to laze away the day. Walk the beautiful national parks uninterrupted along the wild coast, or walk bay to bay from Port Phillip to Westernport amid mobs of kangaroos.'

While Judith will tell you that there's no such thing as a bad day on Melbourne's coast, where the feeling of peace defies the weather and where the summers seem endless, she also encourages visitors to leave time to travel and time to simply enjoy and reflect.

'Remember this: Australian miles are seemingly much further than British miles! The entire British Isles fits into the area that is Victoria. One cannot consume nature on a timetable.'