Following our extended road trip along the Great Ocean Drive, we were forced to re-adjust our mindset from wide open spaces to the more congested ‘city life’. It was now time to hit the bright lights and big city of Melbourne. On our previous trip to Melbourne over two years ago, we opted to base in the northern local suburbs of Carlton/Fitzroy, home to the worlds best brunches. This time around, we once again purposely avoided staying in the crowded CBD (Central Business District) and chose to stay in an Airbnb along the beach in the town of Elwood.
After five days exploring Melbourne, we got back on the road and right back into nature, which has become our comfort zone. Most people have never heard of Wilsons Promontory National Park nor its’ infamous Squeaky Beach and that was reason enough for us Flashpackers to go check it out. It was a 3 hour drive south of Melbourne and home to some fabulous walks & beaches. The best ones being Norman Beach, Squeaky Beach & Picnic Bay. If you fancy nature, great beaches and wildlife, Wilsons Prom delivers on all fronts.
Our next stop was a visit to Phillip Island. My expectations were on the lower side as I had a feeling this popular island with its close proximity to Melbourne would be a bit touristy for our taste. However, much to my surprise, Phillip Island turned out to be a real cool place. I had no idea the beaches would be so nice. The beaches on Cape Woolamai (The Collonnades, Anzacs Beach, and my fav swimming beach, Woolamai Beach) were awesome. Smiths Beach, a short distance away was another great beach. If you are a surfer, these beaches will make you smile.
So glad we opted to drive to Phillip Island instead of taking the touristy penguin parade day tour from Melbourne. In order to get into the rhythm of the island, we allocated four full nights but easily could have stayed longer considering the great beach weather. Having our own rental car allowed us to explore all of the beaches and sites on the island at our own pace which could not have been achieved taking a day tour from Melbourne. The other must-see is the Phillip Island Nature Park which is located on the bottom of Cape Woolamai. It is home to a great walk on top of the headland overlooking Woolamai Beach. The views looking south down Cape Woolamai from above the beach on the walking track are really amazing.
We did the loop walk to the Pinnacles Lookout, Beacon Lookout & Old Granite Quarry and the reward when finished was a glorious day hanging on Woolamai Beach. We bagged the famed penguin parade because we just could not bring ourselves to pay to see penguins when you could see them come ashore for free if you know where to go. The other big site is the Nobbies to see the rock formations and seals. We caught this area on a super windy day and the wind was so fierce it almost blew my poor little Barbie on her ass. It was a real trip watching her cut her way thru the powerful natural wind tunnel.
Returning to Melbourne, we opted to stay near the beach again but this time around with the youngun’s in the hipper small seafront town of St. Kilda. City life tends to suffocate us and the relaxed vibe of St. Kilda proved to be a great place to base. Best of all, on the days we wanted to take in the frenzied city life, it was a simple 25 minute straight shoot tram ride from town. Our time was spent hanging out on the beach and visiting the many nearby markets (Prahran Market, Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne Market) munching on a wide range of international food. The other big activity besides taking in the beach scene was renting a bike and cycling the long coastal bike path. We were also fortunate enough to arrive in Melbourne at the beginning of Aussie football season and we caught an AFL (Australian Football League) game. I loved the convenience of being able to get some action down on the game right from the automated betting machines inside the footy stadium. It sure would be great going to an NBA or NFL game and being able to get your action down right at the game without having to call your local bookie.
Unfortunately, our time is up in Australia and our Great Aussie road trip has sadly come to and end. For the past four months, including our extended stay in New Zealand, we spent just about all out time surrounded by wildlife and in the thick of nature. It is very difficult to articulate the peaceful feeling traveling around both Australia and New Zealand but if I were to put our journey thru these two countries into words, the following come to mind…….Calming, Safe, Normalcy, Relaxing, Stress Free, Clean, Trusting, Reliable, Green, Protected, Welcoming & Good Vibes.