We arrived in Melbourne after a 12 hour coach ride from Sydney, the longest journey we'd had so far. We arrived at 6am and although we had been warned that the weather in Melbourne was very unpredictable, often with four seasons in one day, we weren't ready for the arctic (well 13 degrees) conditions that faced us. After about 20 minutes trying to work out the tram system and one trip in the complete wrong direction, we made it to our accommodation, for once not a grubby hostel but the lovely shared home of Catriona and Ben (who we love so dearly for putting us up!). It was fantastic not to be sharing a room with 6 - 8 snoring backpackers and actually be able to spread our things out.
Catriona was the best host and tour guide ever and spent the next two days whisking us around the city, taking us to the iconic Flinders Street Station, Federation Square which had crazy architectural buildings and was home to art galleries and museums in addition to the funky little boutique shops on Chapel Street, Smith Street and Brunswick as well as Fitzroy and St Kilda beach and pier, which wasn't quite as stunning as the beaches we had come accustomed to in Sydney but still a real bonus for a city to have a beach that close by.
On our third day we headed to Philip Island, a two hour drive from the city, to explore the beautiful beaches and watch the legendary penguin parade. At approximately 9pm, just as the sun was disappearing, we witnessed a miracle - hundreds of tiny Fairy Penguins, only about a foot and a half in size, emerged from the sea and waddled up the beach to their homes in the hills behind us. At first we spotted their tiny little heads sticking out of the sea as they formed into small groups in the swell. The penguins are very timid creatures and have no training in navigating themselves up the beach so they form into groups for safety. Gradually they came closer and closer to the shore and finally onto the beach, where they waddled in single file up the beach. However, just as they were making headway one would get scared and bolt back in the sea, resulting in the whole group waddling as quickly as they could back into the sea and the whole process starting over.
We sat and patiently watched hundreds of penguins follow the same pattern, eventually making it up the beach. We then walked up a boardwalk that took us behind the beach to see the penguins continue their journey, just feet away from us. As we climbed further up the hill we saw their tiny babies waiting for them at the top. As the parents got closer the babies would cry out, in order for their parents to recognise them, since they are all pretty much identical. When the parents finally found their offspring the babies would use their tiny little beaks to rub their parent's neck, helping them to regurgitate their food and feed them. Again, this was taking place just feet away from us and was incredible to see. After hours of oohing and ahhing, from not just Catriona and Jackie but Steve too, we reluctantly left them too it and drove back to Melbourne.
Before long it was time for us to sadly leave Cat and Ben (Miss you tons guys) and drive the infamous Great Ocean Road. We met up with some great friends that we had made whilst travelling down the east cost, Chris and Jim and a Canadian guy, Mitch. We had hired a car for two days and packed ourselves into it (it was a pretty tight fit with five of us) and sped off towards the iconic road. The Great Ocean Road is voted one of the best drives in the world so we had very high expectations that we were hoping it would fulfill.
On our first day we decided to head as far West as we could then spend the second day working our way back through the points of interest on our way home. The drive was breathtaking and just got better and better. It was a narrow winding road that curved along the coast line and in and out of quaint little towns. We were lucky to have a beautifully sunny day which only made the sea look more turquoise and inviting. We drove through the Otway National Park rainforest, which was beautiful and so unique to have coastline on one side of us and lush rainforest on the other. We were also surprised to drive through rural patches with rolling green hills and valleys.
We arrived at our hostel for the night in Port Campbell and couldn't believe our luck, it was a little lodge right on the sea front with sea views from our bedroom and a decent sized garden with a BBQ, not bad seeing as we had booked online without any pictures. We dumped our stuff then headed off further West to see the stunning Bay of Islands and Port Fairy, huge limestone cliffs and rock formations which looked so dramatic against the bright blue sea and white wash. We then finished off by heading to a view point to watch sunset over the 12 Apostles. As the sun went down it lit up the Apostles although unfortunately there was some cloud cover so it was very much 'blink and you missed it', the sunset was still beautiful to see though and we snapped away happily with our cameras, beers and wine in hand.
We headed back to the hostle and made good use of the BBQ, well until the gas ran out, then we finished off BBQ'ing our sausages and burgers under the grill. The rest of the evening was spent...you guessed it, playing drinking games, our favourite!!
The next morning we made our way back along the coast line stopping off at the lock and gorge, the Otway lighthouse then finally some beautiful waterfalls in the Otway National Park which we climbed down off the walking track and right up to, with Mitch actually going one step further and diving in, brave guy as they were freezing.
As the sunset we made our way back along the road and, with the exception of a quick dinner stop, continued all the way to Melbourne where we rested our heads for just a few hours for the very last time in Australia, as we were off to New Zealand the very next day.