Melbourne in March

After nearly a year without seeing them, I couldn’t wait to spend some time with my Mum and Dad (Dee and Rob), and show them around some of Australia, during their two week holiday at the end of March. Their trip began in Melbourne, and after giving them a few days to recover from the flight, Rachael and I flew down to spend a long weekend with them, and show them around the city.

We arrived in Melbourne on Saturday morning, and arranged to meet at ACDC lane, which was officially renamed as a tribute to the Australian band in 2004. A dirty, graffiti covered alleyway wasn’t exactly what I had imagined for our initial meeting, but that is part of the charm of Melbourne I guess. Dee and Rob had just finished a laneways tour, and already seemed to know more about the city than we did – so much for showing them around!

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Bright and the Victorian Alps

We decided to take another detour from our mostly coastal route, to spend two nights exploring the Victorian Alps and the High Country.

Our journey took us along the Great Alpine Road,  a scenic drive through the diverse scenery of the region. Setting out at sunrise, we were rewarded with a perfectly clear morning, and after initially passing through rolling hills and forests, we were soon climbing into the mountains.

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As the van chugged up the steep inclines and around countless hairpin bends, we had time to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Continue reading

Wilsons Promontory

Another day, another National Park for us to explore, and yet again we had found a brilliant one. Wilsons Promentory, or the Prom as it is apparently known to the locals, is located on a peninsula 240km south-east of Melbourne.

We had found very little information on the park prior to our arrival, and had only heard about it from several other travel blogs that we have been reading, which highly recommended it. Given it was on our route anyway, we decided to spend a day exploring what it had to offer. We were rewarded with a day of breathtaking scenery and views, and close encounters with lots more wildlife.

Our visit started in Tidal River, the middle of the park and the location of the visitor centre and most of the camping facilities. With a number of trails beginning here, we chose to start with the Loo-Errn track. This wooden boardwalk over delicate wetlands, took us along the banks of the Tidal River, past several fishing platforms and a paddle boarding lesson.

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We then followed the trail to Pillar Point, an outcrop of granite boulders which provide spectacular views of both Norman and Squeaky beaches, located either side of the headland.

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Meeting the Penguins on Phillip Island

As soon as we arrived in Victoria it became apparent that one of the highlights of our visit would be Phillip Island, which is situated just 1.5 hours south-east of Melbourne. Philip island is most famous for its colony of little penguins, which are the smallest species of penguin in the world, and grow to an average height of just 33cm! The penguins spend 80% of their time at sea, traveling up to 50km a day and only return to the beach approximately 1 in 5 nights to rest.

We purchased general admission tickets for the penguin parade for $25 (£16) each, although there was a penguin plus option which promised to provide better viewing platforms, with more up-close encounters with the penguins. However, at $50 (£32) each we decided against this.

We arrived at Summerland Beach at 5pm and joined the crowds at the huge auditorium, which holds up to 3,000 people. Thankfully, given it is not peak season it was only half full, so we were able to get a great view.

Once seated in the auditorium we waited for the sunset. The sky was particularly clear, providing us with a great view of the full moon. Although, this did mean the beach was lighter and subsequently the penguins arrived later than expected.

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At just after 6pm we watched as hundreds of little penguins emerged from the sea. It was amazing to watch as they waddled together, scrambling over rocks and making their way up the beach. Unfortunately for the purposes of the blog, there was a strict no photography rule. Continue reading

Exploring around Melbourne

As with each city we have visited so far, there was plenty for us to explore around Melbourne. Of course, this also included plenty of wineries, this time in the Yarra Valley and these were some of the best yet. Brisbane certainly has a lot to live up to in this respect!

It was just a 45 minute drive from our campsite to Lilydale, which is the gateway to the valley. We drove to Yarra Glen, where most of the attractions seemed to be centred. It is well into Autumn here now, and the different coloured leaves made for some great scenery.

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We started by sampling some of the non-alcoholic local produce, including  at Yarra chocolates, as well as a great selection of goats cheese at Yarra Valley Dairy. We followed this up with some very enjoyable freshly picked figs from Yarra Farm Fresh. Continue reading

The Suburbs of Melbourne

While we both absolutely loved the centre of Melbourne, some of suburbs we visited we probably even better. Our campsite in Preston was just a short 15 minute walk from the nearest tram stop, and this made exploring the city very straightforward. Although the campsite was considerably more than we have paid elsewhere at $45 (£28.50) per night, it was well worth it for the location and it even had a swimming pool!

By far the coolest area we visited was Fitzroy, home to Melbourne’s creatives. So basically lots of tryhard hipsters with beards, but that was fine with me.

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The streets Fitzroy are full of independent cafes and bars, which pretty much all look well worth a visit. Amongst lots of other shops, there is some great vintage clothes stores which we were sure to take a look in. There is also an incredible amount of street art, with many buildings covered, and some alleys entirely filled with it. In many ways the area felt very similar to some areas of London, and it sounds like Melbourne is well on its way to having the astronomical property prices to match! Continue reading

Melbourne – the Best City Yet!

It’s fair to say we definitely have a favourite city of the trip so far. We spent a total of 5 days exploring Melbourne and the surrounding area, but could have happily stayed for much longer, and we are looking forward to returning over Christmas.

We could tell soon after arriving that we were going to like it. We started with a walk along the banks of the Yarra river, which flows through the centre of the city. You are immediately struck by the imposing skyline, with buildings towering over you on both sides of the river.

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The tallest of these buildings has a public viewing platform on the 88th floor, the Eureka sky deck. We purchased tickets for $15.50 (£10) each, and made the extremely short elevator journey to the top. Continue reading

The Great Ocean Road

We had finally made it to the Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions, and something we had both been very excited to experience since starting to plan our trip.

The 243km road follows the spectacular coastline between the Victoria towns of Allansford and Torquay, and was built between 1919 and 1932 by returning soldiers from WWI.

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We decided to spend almost 3 days travelling along the road, making sure we were not rushing, and could see as much of it as possible. With either viewpoints or attractions  every few hundred metres along large sections of the road, there is far too much to put it all into one blog, so this post will give an overview of our highlights.

The most well known and photographed of the road’s attractions are the Twelve Apostles. Confusingly there are only actually eight Apostles remaining, with the rest long since collapsing into the sea. We decided to view these at sunrise, to avoid the tour buses, and provide us with what we hoped would be spectacular views. This involved getting up in a pitch black campsite at 5am, the highlight of which was me slipping over in a muddy puddle, while Rachael stood and laughed.

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Despite our early start there was still plenty of people who had arrived before us. We joined them in making the short walk from the visitor centre to the boardwalk, where we battled the strong winds to reach the viewing platforms.  Continue reading

The Grampians National Park

High on our list of things to do in Australia was hiking in the Grampians National Park, which is located in Victoria, 250km north of Melbourne. We decided to spend two days exploring as much as we could of the huge park.

First up was the Pinnacle walk, a 4.2km trail which is one of the parks most popular. The walk ascended first through the Grand Canyon. Although it did not appear to resemble the American version and is on a much smaller scale, it was still very impressive and made for a great walk.

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While the distance doesn’t sound long, the walk was mostly uphill and we had to scramble our way over the rocks at certain points. We reached the pinnacle lookout, where the incredible views of the Grampians National Park and surrounding area stretched far into the distance. Continue reading