Exploring the Great Ocean Road and a Sampling of Melbourne
30.12.2013 - 02.01.2014 66 °F
When I last wrote, I was summarizing our final day in New Zealand onboard an Air Emirates flight to Melbourne. For the record, please know that the entire Butz family votes heartily for Air Emirates as the best airline- great service, food, entertainment, just a really good experience. (even leg room)
We arrived late into Melbourne and strode directly across the airport to stay for a single night at the Park Royale hotel, which worked out perfectly. The next morning, December 30th, we rented our car from Avis and headed out to the Great Ocean Road and the town of Lorne- but not before watching some early Monday morning football and seeing the Ravens lose out a chance to make the playoffs. (Max and I had to follow the bottom ticker for updates, as they were inconveniently showing the Jaguars/Colts game!!!)
Our trip to Lorne was about a 2 ½, and the first half of it was very boring. We were driving across a desert-like expanse, eyes peeled for Kangaroos, until we hit the town of Torquay and the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. The scenery at that point was fantastic, I only hope our pictures do it justice. The Great Ocean Road is a long expanse of towns and highway that follow along the southern tip of Australia and border the southern ocean (as a resident of Lorne told us later: “It is the cleanest ocean in the world, mate, just goes round and round and is touched by no real industry or land mass…” For the rest of the trip, it was pure bliss driving as we took in the beautiful beach houses and the crazy “caravan parks”- it seems like the entire population really knows how to enjoy their beaches, no matter what the socio-economic status!
We checked into our hotel after arriving too early (a recurring theme- we wasted time by eating some fish and chips and taking the kids to a small, steel, aerial park called “Go Monkey!”) and promptly rented surfboards and headed out to the beautiful Lorne beach. The waves were just about perfect for the kids to surf, and each one of them is really starting to progress! One of the highlights of this day on the beach was all of the different groups of kids playing cricket. A lowlight: the flies, which were aggressive and ubiquitous!
Later, after dinner cooked indoors in our apartment, the entire family went out for a walk (and some baseball) on the beach, looking for the deadly “blue octopus” we had been told lives in the tidal pools near the rocks (saw none, but it was fun looking!)
The next day was my birthday, so I was more than happy to dictate the terms: We were driving to see the 12 Apostles and going on a few hikes along the way to spot wildlife! We had an absolutely beautiful day to start, and our first hike resulted in the magnificent: Our first Koala Bear sighting! We walked through a caravan park, and onto a road that went straight up into the hills. Initially, we saw two Koalas sleeping in the nearby trees, but as we kept walking we (particularly Lisa) became more and more adept at spotting them. Near the top of the hill, we went off the path and came face to face with a Koala eating, stretching, and it was just riveting! That hike, those Koalas (and a killer red parrot that flew in from nowhere to join us!) were an absolute highlight.
We drove on to see the 12 Apostles, which were as breathtaking to me as the Grand Canyon. Years of being pummeled by the Southern Ocean had created these land masses, and the highlight of this was taking Gibson’s Steps down to the beach and walking along the ocean.
The trip back felt long (too many winding curves) and we saw plenty of Kangaroo Crossing signs BUT NO KANGAROOS! (we even took a side trip towards a natural reserve, were treated to a Koala crossing the road, but no roos!)
I really enjoyed a birthday dinner with the family and then we went out to watch the fireworks on the Lorne beach. Definitely one of my most memorable birthdays!
New Years Day was fairly uneventful and brought a ton of rain- it literally rained all day and all night. Lisa did some shopping, I spent time with the kids at the pool reading a book, (we took them to a trampoline park, in the rain, earlier) and we finally roused ourselves for a hike to Erskine Falls late in the day. The kids are all journaling as part of their missed school work and I noticed on the plane to Sydney yesterday that Max called this day “boring,”- I have to somewhat agree!
The next morning, January 2nd, we needed to start very early in order to see any of the city of Melbourne. We all got up and were in the car by 7:30am, leaving the Great Ocean Road and headed into Melbourne. What a cool city! We drove to St. Kilda, walked along the city pier, and then headed downtown. There was a museum called the “Center for the Moving Image” that had a big show on the history of music videos- we were pretty intrigued and spent the bulk of our time in Melbourne in this very cool museum. The city is huge, and the décor is incredible, right down to the graffiti-ed alleys (see pics). In the afternoon, we flew to Sydney.
I am writing this morning from the roof top of our hotel, a Holiday Inn. We are minutes from the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House and I have fantastic views of both. We have not yet really begun to explore this city- we arrived last night and went over to a show at the Sydney Opera House. The building is very cool, and the performance we saw- Five Australian superstar singers backed by a 16 piece band doing the entirety of two Beatles albums- was just perfect. Despite having been woken up early in the seaside city of Lorne, Max, Sara and Sam stayed up (and were into) the show until the final songs! We slogged our way home and everyone will sleep in this morning as we prepare to explore Sydney today and tomorrow.