Melbourne & The Great Ocean Road, AUS

Australia! I went to Australia and it was amazing!

Australia was not on my list of places to visit in the immediate future however when given the opportunity to go, I took it right away. This trip was to serve two main purposes: 1) Explore an amazing country/continent and 2) Validate if all the rumors were true about deadly creatures hiding in your bed covers waiting to kill you 24/7.

We traveled from Montreal at the end of December 2012 and spent three amazing weeks visiting Melbourne, Sydney, and Cairns. Before leaving, we were potentially looking at visiting New Zealand or Tasmania as well (I wanted to do the Overland Track) however decided to focus only on Australia for this first visit. I know I will go back again so I will definitely visit New Zealand and Tasmania at some point!

I have decided to write three posts for this trip: 1) Melbourne & The Great Ocean Road, 2) Sydney & The Blue Mountains, 3) Cairns, Daintree National Park, & The Great Barrier Reef.

Melbourne

Melbourne is a vibrant, young, multi-cultural city. As you walk through the streets of Melbourne, keep an eye out for alleys with great restaurants, cafes and shops. The great thing to do in Melbourne is to put your map away and just walk and discover. During our stay here, we discovered the many districts or Melbourne, each with their own unique charm. Some of the main districts we visited were Central Melbourne, St Kilda, Carlton, and Fitzroy. Getting around Melbourne is easy and you can use public transportation such as buses, trams, and bicycles.

Central Melbourne offers wonderful museums, beautiful arcades, and Laneway art. Take a stroll by the water and enjoy a break in Federation Square or make a stop at the museum. You also have access to a tourist information center as well as the train at Findlers St. While you are wandering the streets of Central Melbourne, walk up some random alleys and you will discover the Laneway art… If you want to get away from the buzz of the city, I highly recommend St Kilda with the beach and Luna Park. You can get there by bus or tram however I would suggest you rent a bike near Federation Square and use one of the many bike paths and head to the beach!

When you are done with the city and beaches and want to get a true Melbourne experience, explore Carlton and Fitzroy and don’t forget to stop for a latte in a local cafe. I have never tasted such amazing lattes in my life…the foam is silky and creamy, the coffee rich and velvety, simply delicious! I am giving a special shout out to Amy at Auction Rooms Cafe…stop for a coffee or treat and mention my name!

Some of the things we missed that I would do next time: Peruse the various stalls at Queen Victoria Market, see the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island, and explore Wilsons Promontory.

BTW, no deadly creature yet…

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road

If you are in Melbourne, you cannot miss a trip along the Great Ocean Road. After much research, we decided to spend three days on the Great Ocean Road and rented a camper-van to accommodate all of us. It was such an exciting adventure and I am so grateful I was not the one driving along the twisty-turny roads. We rented our camper-van near the Melbourne airport and left immediately from there. I would recommend the company Apollo for your camper-van rental however do not expect a fast service when you go to pick-up your camper-van. We waited for over two hours before we finally got on the road…

The beast!
The beast!

We left Melbourne and went straight to Warrnambool cutting through the mainland. We thought it would be best to take the fastest route to get to our destination and take our time coming home. The drive there was much longer than expected and with our late departure, we arrived in Warrnambool just in time to set-up camp, take a stroll along the water and settle in for the night. One thing that surprised me of Australia was the campgrounds. Having traveled quite extensively in Canada and the US, I have always had a variety of choices when it came to camping; there was always a way to find a park that offered privacy, nature, and relaxation. In Australia however, all I could find were parking-lot campgrounds where you had no privacy and did not feel like you were camping at all. I guess I was expecting to drive along the Great Ocean Road and simply set-up camp in some deserted area next to the ocean…then again, we were travelling in a beast!

Before departing the following day, we decided to visit a small museum in Warrnambool. There happened to be an interesting expo on a place called Tower Hill. “Tower Hill is an enormous volcanic crater rimmed by beds of volcanic ash. The swampy floor of the crater is punctuated by conical hills which, after good rains, virtually become islands surrounded by a shallow lake.” (http://visitwarrnambool.com.au/things-to-do/tower-hill/#.UZ2KVLW1F8E). After seeing this expo, we all decided we wanted to take an impromptu journey to Tower Hill and scope the place out. Not only did it offer a great change to see some local wildlife, it also had a deep history with the Aboriginee.

We were so happy we took this side trip and it was worth the small detour. We walked around the extinct volcano and saw a lot of wildlife!

After Tower Hill, we headed to the Great Ocean Road. Our objective was to make it to Cape Otway where we had a reservation at Bimbi Park. As we headed towards the Great Ocean Road, I was getting more and more anxious to see the ocean. I had no idea what to expect and the tension was rising! When I finally got sight of the ocean and the cliffs I felt such a rush of excitement…we had arrived! Words cannot describe the beauty of the ocean crashing into the cliffs…

Our journey continued towards Bimbi Park and again we arrived quite late. What attracted us to this place was the website advertising that you would be sleeping under the koalas. Since our arrival in Australia, we had yet to see a Koala or a Kangaroo in the wild. As we drove away from the Great Ocean road and headed to Cape Otway, we got our first glimpse of a Kangaroo…actually, an entire field of Kangaroos! We stopped on the side of the road to get some pictures and just stood there for a while admiring them. Our stay at Bimbi Park was just as exciting. As we pulled-in to the park we were searching the trees for Koalas. At first we did not see any however we soon spotted one and it was like they all suddenly appeared. They were just sleeping or eating in the trees above us while we enjoyed a great BBQ and went to sleep. The only downside is the noise they make at night…they bellow for hours but I can forgive them because they are so adorable!

 

We were sad to depart and leave the Koalas and Kangaroos behind however we had to continue our journey home. We continued along the Great Ocean Road and saw more spectacular settings and enjoyed some pastries in a cute little coastal town. Our last stop before Melbourne was the beach. As we drove along we noticed a secluded beach and stopped the camper-van by the side of the road. We prepared some sandwiches and packed a small bag and headed to the beach. We played in the crashing waves for hours and enjoyed a stroll along the water. It was a wonderful way to end an epic journey along the Great Ocean Road!