After a (3hr) flight from Cairns to Melbourne, we checked into the Formula 1 Hotel at the Melbourne Airport (great little Hotel Chain, sort of like a box but serves its purpose). Started the next morning by getting an Avis rental car, which was a bit of a mess as their systems went down and they had to turn to the manual process of allocating cars. Needless to say, we got a car that wasn't in their system. Oh well, off we went!
The Great Ocean Drive
We drove from Melbourne to Port Campbell stopping off in Torquay to see the beaches, surfing and the "outlet" stores - not the same outlet concept/prices that we know of in North America. This area is home to Rip Curl and Billabong and two huge professional surf competitions - Bell's Beach is the most well known of the surf beaches. After spending time watching the surfers catch some wicked breaks, we continued our journey along the great ocean drive. Unfortunatley the weather turned for the worst and the 247km drive was done in thick fog that had been lingering around for a few days. On a positive note, the Wye River area,
which is know for Koalas hanging out, lived up to its hype. Low and behold there were heaps of Koalas chilling out in the tall and skinny gum trees. Koalas are known to wedge their wee asses into the V shape of the gum trees and sleep for hours - some 20hrs a day! The Great Ocean Drive is definitely a highlight and stopping off in the wee towns along the way is part of the charm. The towns of Apollo Bay and Port Campbell are definitely worth stopping in, if for nothing else, to stretch your legs or have some bad English fish and chips or pies. The area is very British which is reflected in the choice of deep fried or extremely deep fried food.
We finished our (1) day great ocean drive at Wannabool (Golden Chain - Anchor Belle, owner was a really good bloke). Unknown to us, we arrived on the last day of a (3) day Farmers Days. Hence we were lucky to get the last motel bed in the town of 30,000! Given the poor weather and the inability to see the remains of the (12) Apostles on the way down the down
the coast, we got up early in the morning and drove the exact route back - we had fantastic weather and ended up sleeping in Belmont (Golden Chain - Aristocrat), just outside of Geelong. In good weather the great ocean drive is fantastic and taking in all the scenic view points takes time. We spent a good 3-4 hours in the 20km stretch where the Bay of Islands begins and Clifton Beach ends. Clifton Beach was definitely the highlight, the waves were crashing and the under toe was extremely strong. The (12) or is it (10) Apostles is the "looker" but it wasn't the most impressive sight along the drive.
Having done the Great Ocean Drive we left Belmont and intended on catching the ferry to Sorrento and carrying onto Phillip Island to watch the Penguin Parade. The drive along the Mornington Peninsula was beautiful, however the weather again was cloudy and chilly. Unfortunately we were unable to find any accomodation in Phillip Island and decided to forgo the Penguin Parade (saw penguins in South Africa) and drive straight to Melbourne.
Melbourne was a real breath of fresh air. We stayed (3) nights
The Great Ocean Drive - Clifton Beach
at the Formula 1 Hotel (great location, only a week old, and a great price). Everywhere you looked there were Sushi, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants and take aways. Aw, now this is the ethnic cuisine that we had been expecting since landing on Aussie soil. Our first meal was a curry with the next couple of days being with a Sunday smorgsaboard of Dim Sum (Dragon Boat Restaurant), followed by a few dinners and lunches of Pho (Mekong Vietnam), and Thai Food (Ghin Khoa).
Really enjoyed Melbourne, it is a very livable city with so much at your finger tips. Just a few blocks from the central business district is Rod Laver Stadium and "MCG", the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. The city has a great vibe and it truly lives up to its reputation as a sports city. Unfortunately there were no Aussie Football games on which was a bit disappointing, but did manage to catch a few on tv. Although it doesn't have a great big harbour, the Yarra River and the Southbank provide for a nice setting and is host to numerous restaurants. The weather was dry, by no means hot, and it was great to
Nice Deep Sand
The Great Ocean Drive
met up with Ben and Lex, whom we had met on New Year's Eve in Saigon.
We are now leaving Aussie soil and off to the land of the Maori and the famous All Blacks.
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