Melbourne

My time in Melbourne literally flew by! When planning, I thought 7 days would be too much, but it’s given me an opportunity to take it slow and explore the city at my own pace.  I am sad to be leaving tomorrow though, because it’s my favourite place in Australia so far.

I spent the day exploring some of the various communities around the city, including Fitzroy, hipster capital of the world.  I was on the lookout for the elusive hipster walking their plant (apparently a thing they do here!), but my wildlife luck seems to have dried up.

The important thing for you guys to know is that I got some really delicious gelato today – macademia crunch and salted coconut & mango.  It was so difficult to choose though, so I recruited a few friends and my parents to help me decide (I’m not joking).

I spent some time in the old exhibition center grounds, which were just lovely, until it got to hot to be outside anymore.

I’d be more upset to be leaving Melbourne if I wasn’t heading to Tasmania tomorrow.  I’ve been excited about going to Tasmania since I started planning this trip back in May, so I’m incredibly excited for this next bit of the journey

The Great Ocean Road

Seriously, each day is better than the last! I decided to splurge on this day trip and go with the top rated company, Escape Discovery.  It was a small group tour (max 11 people), which means they are able to take you to more places.  It was 100% worth paying a little more for, and I had just the best day.

We got out of Melbourne around 7:30 in the morning, before traffic got busy.  We had a full bus, so I got to sit right in the front beside our driver, Rob, which gave me the absolute best views all day. (Though this meant I couldn’t fall asleep on the way back).

Our first stop of the day was at Urquhart Bluff, where we got to dig our feet in the sand and enjoy some uniquely Australian treats.

The Great Ocean Road was built by WWI veterans (took them 13 years!), so the official start of the road has a statue commemorating the soldiers who built the road.

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Our next stop was at a beach in Anglesea, before getting an aerial view of the beach at Lorne. We even had a cockatoo drop by for a visit. I know I have a lot of beaches coming up in the next few weeks, but so far, these are the most gorgeous.

We made a pitstop on the way to Apollo Bay for lunch for a gorgeous view of the coast.

We then hit up Kennett River after lunch to see if we could spot Koalas in the wild.  Usually they’ll spot one or two at the most, but my wildlife luck continued and we found 5! On top of that, 3 of them moved while we were watching (which usually only happens in the evening).  It was cool to see them so close in the wildlife parks, but it was even greater to see them in the wild.

We stopped by the Otways Rainforest (one of the only tour groups to do so), to see the massive trees.  They are the second largest, only the California redwoods stand taller.

And then we were off to the main event – the 12 Apostles.  These are limestone stacks that have slowly eroded away and are just so majestic.  There were never twelve, however one just collapsed a few years ago, so there’s now only 8 instead of 9. Even with 8 you feel so small standing near them.  Nature is amazing.

It started to rain just as I was heading back to the bus, which was actually a good thing.  It was so hot all morning, that it was nice the weather was cooling off a little.

We weren’t quite done yet.  From the 12 Apostles we moved to the Loch Ard Gorge, named after the Loch Ard, a boat which sank and left only 2 survivors.  There were some people swimming there, and they’re just plain crazy as it was freezing cold (especially with the rain).

Next up was The Arch.  Previously these two stacks had a piece of limestone connecting them and forming an arch, but it has since eroded away.  However, the name has stuck, so it continues to be known as The Arch.

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Our last scenic sight was the Razorback and the rock formations beside it.  Can you spot the gorilla, lion’s head, hedgehog and salt & pepper shaker?

We stopped in Port Campbell for dinner, and then starting making the 2 hour trek back to Melbourne.  We were on rural roads for about 45 minutes, so Rob told us to keep an eye out for wild kangaroo. The sky was dark because of the rain, so the kangaroos may be moving around earlier than usual.

I kept looking and looking, and then when I gave up, one jumped into the road in front of us, panicked, then jumped back into the forest (thankfully). Thank goodness it was still light outside, or else he wouldn’t have seen us coming. Also lucky I was sitting in the front because no one else caught it.  It did happen incredibly fast, so I feel lucky to have seen a kangaroo in the wild, and also avoid an accident. Here’s a view of the road where the kangaroo appeared.

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Sorry to repeat myself, but it was such a great day! The only thing that brought it down, was that I am currently covered in mosquito bites which is unpleasant.  But the views were worth it.

Melbourne

Today was such a slow day for me, and I appreciated the pace, as I was still extremely tired from yesterday. After a morning in the hostel, I finally emerged to do a 2 hour boat cruise on the Yarra river.

Since I was by the river, I stayed for lunch, and managed to get a great table right by the river’s edge.

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Next stop was the Eureka Skydeck, which had a viewing platform on its 88th floor (the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere!).

My original plan after this was to head to the botanical gardens, but it was really hot outside.  So I walked along the boardwalk (where they are prepared for Chinese New Year) and then slowly made my way back to the hostel to start planning my travels after I return from New Zealand in February.

Tomorrow is another very long day as I head to the Great Ocean Road with Escape Discovery, so I want to be well rested.

Phillip Island

Today was perhaps my most favourite day thus far.  I booked a half day trip with Escape Discovery to Phillip Island to watch the daily Penguin Parade at dusk, and they added in so many other great experiences. I could have gotten a cheaper tour, but it was 100% worth paying a little more to have the best experience.

The bus was picking my up at 1:45, so I decided to take it easy in the morning, since we wouldn’t be getting back to the hostel til 12:30 am. I treated myself to brunch and just wandered around the city until it was time to leave.

Our first stop was at the Phillip Island Wildlife Park, a family run free-range wildlife center where you can feed the kangaroos and wallabys and emus. I did feed the roos and emus, but I was not happy about it. I was happy about all the animals we got to see though, including dingoes, tasmanian devils, wombats, a kangaroo with a joey in its pouch and koalas that were moving (a rare sighting indeed!).

Our next stop was dinner in Coews, where we also had time to check out the beach and local market.

We went to The Nobbies next, an ecotourism site on the western edge of Phillip Island.  We had been told we may see penguins, but it was unlikely.  Good thing all our animal encounters worked opposite they usually do, because we saw 2! Plus, the views were just gorgeous, so we just really lucked out.

And then we got to the penguin parade!  What happens is that there are thousands of penguins that have made this area their home.  Every night at dusk those who have been feeding make their way back home.  They come in groups (some big, some small) and so now its an ecotourism attraction.  No photography is allowed so we don’t disturb the penguins, but I got to see them come up from the beach and walk along their well-worn path to their homes and it was so fantastic! Some of the penguins are getting ready to molt and are double their usual weight and can’t even wobble.  They have to take so many breaks and they are adorable.

Here’s a few pictures of the area, including a little wallaby that came by to visit before the penguins arrived.

 

The Australian Open

People at work really like tennis, so I decided to come to Melbourne while the Australian Open was on.  I purchased a grounds pass back in October, but of course, today was the one day it rained!

I was concerned that it would be cancelled, but the grounds pass includes one covered stadium, so at least I’d be able to see a few matches. Doors open at 10, but I was up early, so I went down at 8:30 to see what was up. Turned out people were already in line!

Since we were in line for 1.5 hours (in the rain), I started chatting with the people around me.  There were two ladies in front of me from Sydney, who come down every year for the first week.  They took pity on me when I said this was the first time I was watching tennis, and let me tag along with them for the day. Thankfully Claire had explained how scoring in tennis worked the day before, so I wasn’t completely lost.

The first match of the day was the Women’s Singles – Round 3, between Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) and Jelena Jankovic (SRB). It was a long game!  Finishing 3.5 hours later, Svetlana won.  I was interested in the beginning and end, but it got realyl slow in the middle.

About half way through that match they opened the roof, so we knew they were playing on the other outside courts.  However the next match at the Hisense Arena was one where I actually recognized the player’s names so I decided to stay. Most of the people in the stands agreed.

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It was the Men’s Singles – Round 3 between Andy Murray (GBR) and Sam Querrey (USA).   I could have gone without all the fans screaming “Go Andy!”, but it was 100% a more exciting match to watch.   Andy won in just 3 sets, but there were some plays by both Andy and Sam that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

There was one more game in this arena, but by this point I’d been watching tennis for 6 hours and needed a rest. I hadn’t realized it this morning because it was raining and we went straight into the arena, but the grounds were huge.  There were massive eating and drinking gardens, 10 outdoor courts, and even a live music stage in addition to the 2 main Arenas.

They actually had Jimmy Eat World playing at the stage tonight. 11-year-old me would have been thrilled by this, so I stayed to watch.

 

Melbourne

I started today off with a 3 hour walking tour, which gave me a good overview of the city.

The tour was comprised of people of all ages, travelling in pairs, couples and groups.  So I started chatting with Claire (from the UK who has been travelling for the past year) and Steph (from California, travelling for the past 2 months).  After the tour, we got some food from a laneway cafe, then hit up Federation Square where they’ve been playing the Australian Open live on a big screen.

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I stayed for a bit, and then slowly made my way back to my hostel.

Claire mentioned earlier that you could go to the top of the State Library and get a view of the library from the inside, so I gave it a look. I would be pretty happy to study here, I think.

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The reason I left the Federation Square so early, is that I decided to treat myself to an Amanda Palmer concert that night.  While I had never listened to her music, I really enjoyed her book (The Art of Asking), and I think her husband Neil Gaiman is great, so I thought why not do something a little out of the ordinary for me.

It was fantastic! It was 3 hours of just great music, stories and performances.  Neil actually popped in and out, but when he was there he was literally 2 steps away from me.

Melbourne

Today I spend 8 hours on a bus, going from Canberra to Melbourne.  I know I had longer bus rides with my mom in New Zealand, but it felt particularly long today, perhaps because the wifi was broken.

It was a 20 minute walk from the coach drop-off to my hostel, but I was glad for the opportunity to stretch my legs and see some of the city.  For the first time, I had absolutely perfect weather – not too hot and not too cold – so I stopped by Flagstaff Gardens on my way and sat on a bench, started a book, and watched people actually enjoy being outside.

Once I checked in, I heard about the Queen Victoria Night Markets, held only on Wednesdays in the summer, so I went to check it out.  The pictures don’t do it justice!  It was packed full, yes, but it was also filled with amazing food and so many homemade products.  It definitely worked in my favour to arrive today.

I walked a little more in the city (on my way to get groceries), and I don’t know what it is about Melbourne but I really like it. My hostel also has a great rooftop patio, with a not too terrible view of the city.

I just don’t think there’s many places out there where you can find Darth Vader playing guitar on a street corner.

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I’m planning on doing a walking tour tomorrow to see more of the city and get myself situated, and then I’m supposed to go to the Australian Open (tennis) on Friday if it doesn’t rain, so I’m excited for the days to come and for the opportunity to do more.