Melbourne, Australia and the Great Ocean Road
Leaving New Zealand was bittersweet because we loved it so much we wanted to stay, yet were excited to continue on with our trip.
We landed in Melbourne just as the sun was disappearing below the hills, and after grabbing our luggage we took a shuttle into the city, about a 40 minute drive from the airport.
Our hotel, Citigate Melbourne, is on one of the busiest streets in Melbourne, Flinders Street. Across from the hotel is the beautiful Flinders Street train station, pictured below:
I was not impressed with the tiny hotel room or the service, but I have to admit the location was ideal.
Melbourne is made up of some of the most beautiful buildings, and we were so impressed with the architecture exhibited around town.
On our first full day there we took the tram to right near Museum Victoria so we could check out the King Tutankhamen exhibit as well as their huge collection of stuffed animals. There is also a part of the museum dedicated to the history of the Aboriginal people that was very interesting and moving.
That evening we took the metro to Etihad Stadium to use our Groupon for Docked Wine & Tapas bar, which had AWESOME tapas! They were a little sneaky on how they present prices and portions, so make sure you check your receipt before you leave, and clarify that you want ONE plate of tapas because they brought us one per person, which is not what we asked for.
After that, we walked down to the Docklands and at BlueFire Grill Churrascaria. The service was awful and overall the food was just not as good as what we’ve had at churrascarias in Brazil or even at Fogo de Chao in Dallas.
The next morning we arrived at the Melbourne Zoo bright and early because I’d read on Trip Advisor that it is a great zoo and to get there early. We were not all that impressed with it, but then again I feel like zoos are a “seen one, seen them all” type of attraction. I did finally get to see a kangaroo in Australia, though!
After the zoo, we took the tram back to our hotel, wondered around a bit, took a nap, and started to get ready for our big night at the AFL finals game. The date for this game was only set the week before, so when our travel agent emailed us the details about our VIP access, we were horrified to see the fine print about “formal attire required – no denim allowed in the club”. We were prepared with a dress and slacks, but Wes didn’t have any kind of formal dress shirt or jacket, so we emailed our agent back and asked for “common folk” tickets. This meant that we could wear our poor clothing but miss out on the free dinner and drinks 😦
The MCG is a very nice stadium, and we did feel common in our blue jeans when we sat down; everyone was wearing dress clothes even in the cheap seats! We were wearing nice shirts with our jeans, though, so we didn’t feel too embarrassed.
This AFL game pit the Sydney Swans against the Hawthorn Hawks, and while we didn’t know a thing about the game we still enjoyed watching. It was interesting to see the difference in American sports fans and Australian sports fans. For example, there is no wild behavior such as standing up to cheer or yell in any way. There were polite claps and the occasional drunken yell, but it was very tame and almost boring for the most part. No one gets up while the game is in play, which means that when the quarter is over everyone gets up at once to get drinks or go to the bathroom, and if someone was five minutes late trying to get to their seat there were yells of “sit down, mate!” and “You’re in the bloody way!”. Thankfully, we were not targets of the wrath at any time.
The Hawthorn Hawks were running away with the game, so we left a bit early to grab a bite to eat and beat the crowd. We got lost on the way back to our hotel, but eventually made it. All in all, it was a good experience and now we can say we’ve seen Australian Rules Football in person! It was kind of like a cross between rugby, soccer, and basketball… definitely different!
We also tried Vegemite that night… not very impressed!
The next morning, Saturday, we were on a Go West Tours bus at 8:00 am sharp for our full day tour of the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop was the famous Bells Beach, a renowned beach famous for it’s huge swells and home to the world’s longest running surfing competition, the Ripcurl Pro Surf & Music Festival. The movie Point Break was also set here. It is a beautiful beach and the whole scene reminded me of Sandy Beach on Oahu in Hawai’i… but with bigger waves!
From Bells Beach we continued on a little ways to the Great Ocean Road memorial archway and learned a little bit about the Road and why it was built.
I just want to note that the entire drive along the Great Ocean Road is so picturesque that I went a little camera-happy. Please see the Melbourne-Great Ocean Road album and the Great Ocean Road album to get an idea of what I mean by that. I can’t post all 400 of the pictures here 🙂
Our next stop was a nature walk feeding tropical birds and observing koalas in the wild. Let me tell you about koalas. They eat eucalyptus, but eucalyptus is toxic to them, making them lethargic and overall drugged. We saw about 10 koalas that day but I only saw one move an inch, and thankfully it was to look down at me! I was careful not to stand directly under any, though, because our guide told us that koalas have very good – er – aim.
Our next stop was an hour lunch in Apollo Bay. We ate fish & chips at the Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe, walked down to the beach, shopped a bit, and then hopped back on the bus. By the way, they serve french fries with EVERYTHING in Australia and New Zealand. We were SO sick of french fries and craving green vegetables by the time we left.
After an hour drive we stopped for a hike through the Otways Rainforest, which was breathtakingly beautiful!
The next leg of our journey was a short one to the 12 Apostles, the part of the trip that I’d been looking forward to the most. The 12 Apostles are actually eight limestone rock formations on the coast, set closely together and absolutely breathtaking to see in person.
Next up was Loch Ard Gorge, a gorge named after the ship that ran aground there in the late 19th century. Only two people survived the wreck, a young unmarried woman and a single man. The man walked several kilometers to find help for her, but by the time he made it back to her she was gone. The woman hid from him, but eventually he found her and although they were pressured to marry (to save her reputation, since she’d been alone with him after the wreck) they did not. The man went on to survive several more ship wrecks, one of which finally did him in at the age of 50. The woman lived well into old age.
Our final stop along the trip was to see London Bridge, a unique formation carved out of limestone by the elements over thousands and thousands of years. It is so named because, before 1990, it formed two connection arches reminiscent of the London Bridge.
The tour was a wonderful way to end our magnificent trip; the bus was comfortable and while I would have appreciated a little more narrative from from the guide, it was informative and fun. I would definitely recommend it to other travelers… the Great Ocean Road is a DO NOT MISS if you are in Victoria.
The next morning we boarded the plane for our 14 hour flight back to LA, where we rented a hotel room for the afternoon so we could take a nap during our 6 hour layover before heading back to Houston. That was the best nap ever.
It has been very difficult to get back to reality after such an amazing trip, but we are coping! Next week I will post announcing the trips we are planning for 2012!
As always, please feel free to comment or email with any questions to MissusMcTraveler@gmail.com, and thank you for visiting!