After our two week tour through the outback we were ready to ‘do it ourselves’ again, and having met my Mum in Adelaide on January 16th we rented a car and cruised towards Melbourne stopping at some really cool places along the way.
However, before we left Adelaide we had a walk through the city and were impressed by the architecture and laid back vibe of the city. We briefly checked out the natural history museum, art gallery (which features some impressive works depicting South Australian history), and had a stroll through the botanical gardens. The highlight though was the Central Market which was a bombardment of smells and colours from the food on offer from around the world – there is almost too much choice!
There are some Adelaide photos here.
In the late afternoon we rented the car and drove about 100km south to the small port of Cape Jarvis, at the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, from where we took a vehicle ferry over to Kangaroo Island. It was a scenic 45 minute ferry ride, especially when we sighted a pod of dolphins not far from the boat. We disembarked the ferry at Penneshaw.
Immediately it felt like a nice place with quiet roads and spectacular scenery. The island is about 160km long and we drove west about 20km to Island Beach where we stayed in a lovely two bedroom cabin surrounded by bush land just off the quiet beach.
It felt very remote, a world away from bustling Adelaide, and it was a great place for spotting wildlife – this wallaby was right outside the bedroom window.
We had two fantastic days on the Island which allowed us to get around a bit and see the main sights. On our first day we drove all the way to the Western side of the Island stopping along the way to see the Sea Lion colony at Seal Bay, the sand dunes at ‘Little Sahara’, for lunch at the picturesque Vivienne Bay, and did a walk through a forest looking at Koalas. The highlights though were the ‘Remarkable Rocks’ and ‘Admirals Arch’ sites in the Flinders Chase national park. Remarkable Rocks are a cluster of weather eroded granite boulders on top of a rocky dome that arcs down to the sea – indeed quite remarkable!
Admirals Arch is an archway dug out by the oppressive waves, which is scenic enough but as it is also home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals it is all the more impressive – we enjoyed watching the young seals playing in the surf.
On our second day we stayed in the east of the island, firstly we visited the American River which is a heaven for birds and on the suitably named Pelican Lagoon there were loads of Pelicans. We also drove up to the north shore to Emu’s Bay, which has a tranquil beach with turquoise blue water – very picturesque. Our final stop at the island was its capital, Kingscote, which is way more developed than the rest of the island where we enjoyed a cappuccino (luxury!) and a cake before checking out the town’s penguin colony and a pelican feeding – they went crazy for the free feed!
We took a late ferry back to the mainland and stayed in a quaint log cabin at a sheep farm just outside Cape Jervis where we disembarked the ferry. We thoroughly enjoyed Kangaroo Island, the abundant wildlife was fantastic – Mum saw as much as have seen in 8 months in Australia in two days! There’s a load of photos from Kangaroo Island here.
Next morning we were up early as we had a big drive ahead to get over to the town of Penola, which is located in the Coonawarra wine region that produces a fair proportion of Australia’s wine. It took us most of the day to get there following the coastal road (not a great view), but we broke the journey up and especially enjoyed stopping at the village of Hahndorf, first settled by Germans, for some German baking products!
When we finally pulled into Penola we were glad to get out of the car, but enjoyed some wine tasting at the Balnaves winery selecting their Cabinet Sauvignon to go with our BBQ! There are 24 wineries in the area and there are vineyards as far as the eye can see. We stayed in a very plush cottage in the town, much more luxury than we are used too!
With the big driving day we could now take our time and we checked out the World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves. The caves are have the heritage status as fossils have been found here of giant ancient marsupials that have given scientists a view into Australia’s history, but with lots of stalagmites and stalactites the expansive caves are pretty amazing themselves.
Next we crossed into the state of Victoria and headed into the Grampians National Park, a range of mountains that are rich in flora and fauna. On the way through the park we stopped at some waterfalls, including the large McKenzie Falls, and some lookout points that gave us some a view over the mountains – here’s me and Mum and Reids Lookout.
We stayed overnight in the small village of Halls Gap which is nestled in a valley between the mountains. It was a lovely peaceful place and the local wildlife (Kangaroos, Wallabies, Kookaburras) came into the town and were easy to see which was a nice bonus – there were lots of ‘roos grazing on the cricket pitch!
Next morning we went for a walk through the bush to a peak overlooking Halls Gap known as ‘the Pinnacle’. It was quite a strenuous walk even more so in the intense sun, a bit too much for Mum, up a rocky gorge and between large boulders. The view at the top was worth it though, even Mum agreed it was worth the effort!
After the walk and a well deserved lunch we drove south to nice seaside town of Port Fairy. It’s a rustic place with a decent beach on a secluded bay and the nearby Griffith Island is home to hundreds of Shearwaters – sea birds that go out to see all day but return to their nests as darkness falls. It was quite a spectacle as one moment the sky was empty and the next it was full with these graceful flyers – not so graceful with their landings! I couldn’t get a photo of the birds but Lisa took this nice sunset shot.
There’s some more photos from this leg of the trip here.
Next day we visited the nearby Tower Hill reserve where we saw lots of Koalas, Emus, and butterflies. We climbed the hill for some good views along the coast and over the reserve.
It was a short drive from the reserve to the town of Warrnambool where, according to a sign the Great Ocean Road (GOR) officially began (although we had been driving along a road next to the ocean for quite a while). The GOR winds its way about 250km along a very picturesque and rugged limestone coast. The road, originally an unsealed single lane, was constructed by veterans who had returned from fighting in Europe during First World War as a monument to their fallen comrades – today it is one of Australia’s major tourist attractions.
Due to the limestone cliffs and strong southern ocean seas there are some fantastic rock formations along the GOR that are the result of many years of erosion. At some points we were stopping 5 minutes to see some of these sites. Amongst others the highlights were the Bay of Islands (Islands of limestone), The Grotto (a scenic arch in a rocky cavern), Lord Ard Gorge (Scene of numerous ship wrecks), and London Bridge (a double arched rock platform linked to the mainland – one of the arches fell down in 1990).
We stayed overnight in a lovely B&B (thanks for the recommendation Dad) near the GOR’s most famous landmark – ‘The Twelve Apostles’. These rock stacks have been eroded from the mighty limestone cliffs – once there were twelve apostles but now only six remain as the others have toppled into the ocean. After some fish ‘n chips at the nearby village of Princetown we headed to the Apostles viewing area and joined the throngs of tourists taking in the view whilst enjoying a lovely sunset (not quite over the apostles but the light was great).
As an added bonus with the last few rays of light coming over the horizon a colony of little penguins came up the beach in front of the Apostles to roost for the night (they do this every night whilst raising a chick who remains in the nest during the day). As the name suggests they are tiny! Fortunately Mum brought her binoculars which allowed us a better view, with the naked eye you could only make out a dark line moving up the beach.
Next morning after a hearty breakfast and some good advice as to where to stop on the road ahead we set off on the GOR again. We didn’t go too far as we stopped at ‘Gíbsons Steps’ which lead down to the beach alongside one of the Apostles, which gave us a different perspective.
Further down the GOR we stopped at Johanna beach, which had some massive waves, here we met an old German couple who are touring Australia in their campervan that they have shipped over from Europe for the trip – we were surprised to see a German number plate this far from home! Later we had a nice walk through the rainforest at ‘Maits Rest’, which has some incredibly large gum trees.
We had an ice cream stop at the seaside town of Apollo Bay and at plenty of lookout points offering superb views along this impressive coast – we actually got a bit tired of lookout points! We passed under the GOR marker, which is a monument to the soldiers that built the road, and of course we took the touristy photo.
Just before the end of the GOR we stopped at the Split Road Lighthouse, which is where the kids TV show ‘Round the Twist’ was filmed. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside but the views around were good and a fitting way to end our GOR drive – we enjoyed it from start to finish, possible the most spectacular road I have drive along.
There are a load more GOT photos here. From there it was an hour or so drives up the highway to Melbourne where we stayed in a hotel just outside city centre.
We had wanted to visit Melbourne for ages, before we moved to Sydney we were seriously considering working in Melbourne instead. It is a nice city that felt a lot more European than Sydney and perhaps a little more laid back – we found the people to be very friendly. We spent a couple of days in the city, enjoying the luxuries of city life, i.e. cappuccinos and sushi! We followed a city walking tour route that took us around the main sights of the city centre – Federation Square, Parliament House, the Royal Arcade, Flinders St Station, and the Old Treasury Building which is now an informative museum on the city’s history.
An old friend, Tim, whom I met when I did the Conservation project on the Galapagos Islands lives in Melbourne and it was great to be able to meet up with him after 5 years to catch up. We had a look round the Queen Victoria night markets and went for some dumplings in China Town.
Our second day in Melbourne was ‘Australia Day’ (26th January), which marks the day the first fleet of settlers and convicts arrived on Australian soil in 1788 (at Sydney). It was a day of celebration (although the Aborigines call it invasion day) with parades from immigrant communities from around the world, music festivals, etc – an excuse for Aussies to have a few drinks, not that they need it!
We found time to visit the National Gallery of Victoria (silly name) to view some of the paintings there from around the world before taking a tram north of the city centre to Brunswick St where there are a load of shops and cafes. We met up with Tim again and he took us to the Italian district on Lygon St to an excellent Italian cafe called Brunetti – there were so many great looking cakes it was hard to choose what to have! In the evening we went to the banks of the Yarra River which flows through the city to watch the Aussie Day fireworks display, which capped off a nice day.
We liked Melbourne, it doesn’t have the shiny glitz of Sydney, but it felt a bit more real and I think one could have a nice life there. Next morning we headed to the airport and caught a flight to Hobart, capital of Tasmania, and we are taking a campervan round the very scenic island – I’ll write about that in my next post.