Bucket List: Travel to Victoria, Australia (Melbourne Area)
Add the Coastline of South Eastern Australia to Your Bucket List!
South Eastern Australia is one of the greatest places on earth and is definitely worth adding to the bucket list! The trip was adventurous with incredible wildlife sanctuaries, glimpses of parrots flying in the wild, koalas in the trees, wallabies, echidnas, mobs of kangaroos off the beaten path, and we even found the elusive Kookaburra! These creatures were witnessed the way nature intended, roaming freely and in the wild. For a closer look and more organized experience, these animals can also found in some of the most amazing zoos and animal parks in the area. Many places even allow feedings and interactions with the animals.
I was astonished to discover how wonderful Australia really was when my family and I traveled there for a wedding a few years ago. We squeezed a lot of sight-seeing into a 10-day trip, but we probably should have planned for a full 2 weeks. Nonetheless, our vacation was more incredible than I had ever imagined!
Here's a list of attractions that we experienced while visiting South Eastern Australia in the Victoria, Melbourne area. We rented a car and had to get used to driving on the left side of the road and right side of the car, for that matter. We were given the word of caution about the poisonous spiders, snails, and plants (among other dangerous Australian animals) to look out for during our trip. We were told to always check our shoes before putting them on. Thankfully, we never encountered anything that posed a threat.
Places to Stop Along the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a scenic byway from Torquay to Warrnambool, which has breathtaking views and many attractions to experience along the way.
We stopped at these great locations along the Great Ocean Road:
• Barwon Heads Beach: great surf and beautiful views
• Bells Beach: a favorite spot for surfers and beach dwellers
• Anglesea: for lunch and then over to the golf course to see the kangaroos
• Kennett River: for viewing wildlife (amazing birds, koalas, echidnas & wallabies)
• Great Otway National Park: drove through the lush ferns of this beautiful rainforest
• 12 Apostles: Visited at sunset for the spectacular views
Barwon Heads Beach and Bells Beach
At Barwon Heads Beach, we noticed signs that warned visitors not to touch the snails because they could be poisonous. In some of the small sandy tide pools, we found live sea anemones. We opted not to touch anything at all since there are other sea creatures in Australia that are poisonous besides snails. We proceeded with caution and took some very wonderful pictures.
At Bells Beach, we saw dead pufferfish that had been washed ashore. The views were spectacular! This beach is considered to be one of the top 10 surfing beaches in the area.
Anglesea Golf Course
We made a quick pit stop to get a glimpse of the Anglesea Golf Course, where there is no shortage of wild kangaroos hanging around. It was a comical sight! It didn't appear that we could get into the golf course without a membership, but we could see the kangaroos from behind the gates. It was worth a quick look!
Kennett River's Amazing Wildlife
When we first pulled onto Grey River Road for our Kennett River experience, we saw other tourists feeding apples to wild parrots and birds of Kennett River. The birds were landing on their heads, arms, and shoulders. It was a hilarious and unforgettable experience!
Driving through the back roads of Kennet River proved even more amazing. We saw koalas in the trees and opened the car windows to hear the koalas grunt. We also saw a few other animals, such as an echidna that walked across the road in front of our vehicle, a wallaby hopping along a trail, and a kookaburra resting on a dirt mound on the side of the road. It was a picture-perfect day!
I have no fear of losing my life — if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.— Steve Irwin
Great Otway National Park
While traveling down to the southernmost tip of the Great Ocean Road, we drove right through the lush green tree ferns of Great Otway National Park's beautiful rainforest. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to stop and explore this park because we were running out of daylight on our way to see the Twelve Apostles in time for sunset. It seemed as if we were driving through a time warp to a whole different world. It was amazing how quickly the landscape changed while driving through this area. We really wished we had more time to stop and see this fascinating park.
Twelve Apostles Marine National Park
We got to see the picturesque views of these intriguing rock formations by the sea created from years of land erosion. The Twelve Apostles were stunning, especially at sunset! Many photos were taken because they were just so spectacular. Definitely, pay attention to the warning signs that are posted. They don't want you getting too close to the unstable cliffs and they ask that you stay behind the fence. The signs actually say "You may fall and DIE!" Which seems very blunt, but true.
NOTE: We found it very difficult to find a place that was still open for dinner after sunset in the surrounding areas, so plan ahead!
Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Places to Stop in Mornington Peninsula
After our adventures on the Great Ocean Road, we traveled to Mornington Peninsula, where we found even more adventures, including:
- The Briars: gardens, wildlife sanctuary, and visitor center
- Arthurs Seat State Park: located on a hill overlooking stunning views
- Ace-Hi Ranch: offering a variety of activities
- Bushranger's Trail: for a hike with great views and wildlife
- Ashcombe Garden Maze: flower garden and hedge mazes
- Moonlit Sanctuary: visit a unique collection of nocturnal animals
The Briars (Mount Martha)
The Briars in Mount Martha is a 1800s homestead and gardens featuring a visitor information center, wildlife sanctuary, boardwalk, woodland walks, gardens, and vineyard. We did some hiking through the trails, took in the beauty of the natural surroundings, and made a pit stop at the visitor center.
Arthurs Seat State Park (Arthurs Seat)
Ace-Hi Ranch (Cape Schanck)
While visiting Ace-Hi Ranch, we could have chosen from a variety of activities, such as horseback riding, rock climbing, or archery, but we chose to purchase animal food and entered the gates to feed the kangaroos, emus, and wallabies. It was a memorable experience, but a little unnerving, since the very large animals quickly approached us looking for their food. We were inside the gates with these large animals among us, with no one else in sight. Luckily, the animals seemed to be used to being around people, so we were definitely more scared than they were. But as always, I would suggest using caution around any animal, especially in this situation.
Bushranger's Walking Track (Cape Schanck)
We took a quick hike down part of a trail called Two Bays Walking Track and discovered mobs of wild kangaroos! On the hill above us, we saw one group of kangaroos and on the hill beyond a small valley, we found another group where we could see two of the kangaroos in battle. Luckily, we were far enough away from that situation. As we walked along the trail out to the open fields, we made sure to be respectful and kept our distance from the kangaroos. Wild animals are very unpredictable, so we proceeded with caution.
Ashcombe Maze & Lavender Gardens (Shoreham)
Move over corn maze! I've never seen anything like the beautiful gardens of the Ashcombe Maze. There were a few different adventures to try. This attraction featured a Hedge Maze, Lavender Labyrinth, and Rose Garden Maze. It was a fun day, although the hedge maze made me feel a little claustrophobic since the walls were so tall. It was definitely worth the visit!
Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park (Pearcedale)
We visited the Moonlit Sanctuary after sundown to witness and interact with some of their nocturnal animals. The Tasmanian Devils were feisty little critters with big personalities and so much fun to watch (caged and out of reach, thankfully). We had the option to hold a python and feed wallabies by hand. The entire evening at this special place was quite fascinating and is a must see!
Phillip Island, Australia
Traveling Toward the Phillip Island Area
After our adventure through Mornington Peninsula, we drove on toward Phillip Island. On the way, we stopped at Maru Fauna Park to try some close animal encounters, then reached our destination at Phillip Island to see the amazing penguins!
Maru Fauna Park (Grantville)
This was a pit stop we needed to make while traveling toward Phillip Island. We opted to stop at Maru Fauna Park and checked out the many animal encounter packages they had available. We petted a dingo, fed a koala, and held a wombat, which was feisty and squirmy (and not recommended). The caretaker had to hold the wombat still for us to pet it. This may be why it doesn't look like they offer that animal in the close encounter package anymore. They have a very interesting setup and was worth the unforgettable experience. We even saw these seemingly innocent, but very ferocious Tasmanian Devils. You can't get too close to them because they will bite. Luckily these two were caged, but they posed nicely when we took their picture!
The Penguin Parade on Philip Island is one phenomenon that we couldn't miss! We sat in the sea-side bleachers at dusk and waited for just the right moment to see hundreds of little penguins swimming to shore, after hunting for food. They waddled their way into the sand dunes to find their nests. We will remember this experience for the rest of our lives. It was truly amazing! I wish I could have taken more pictures, but the one above of the little penguin under the boardwalk was the only one that came out since it was just barely light enough in that spot before the sun went down.
VIDEO: Travel From the Great Ocean Road and Mornington Peninsula to Phillip Island!
Wine tasting in Yarra Valley
We enjoyed wine tasting and the spectacular views while visiting exquisite vineyards in Yarra Valley. The two places that we had time to visit (Domaine Chandon Winery and Rochford Wines) in Coldstream, VIC were sensational! It was such a wonderful area to visit and the wine was fantastic!
The Healesville Sanctuary had an impressive collection of animals. Thankfully, they offered exhibits for some of the animals that we hadn't seen yet on our trip. This zoo had a fascinating display of critters, including flying foxes, platypuses, koalas, wombats, echidnas, and so much more! It was a great way to spend a good part of the day.
As for the city of Melbourne, we merely grazed the surface by stopping in to attend a wedding at a local beach-side banquet facility (now closed) near St. Kilda Pier, so we weren’t able to see the many other Melbourne attractions the area had to offer, but from what we could see, Melbourne was a beautiful and very interesting place that was at least worth an entire day trip. The roads that we had to navigate through to get there were confusing with intricate intersections that were questionable as to who had the right of way while driving, so it may be better to use public transportation if you are not comfortable driving in a city and/or don't have very much experience driving on the left side of the road.
Our visit to South Eastern Australia was truly amazing and unforgettable! We even learned some Australian lingo from my relatives who live there, such as:
• sunnies = sunglasses
• brekkie = breakfast
• pin or sign? = debit or credit?
• How are you going? = How are you doing?
• petrol = gasoline
• mozzie = mosquito
Australians are very conservative with their water (toilets have a 2-button flush system for doing number 1 or number 2), since the region is so prone to drought. They keep large basins to catch rainwater in to use for tasks, such as washing cars or doing laundry. They are also concerned with the amount of trash that is regularly discarded. We actually found it difficult to find a trash can in public places, so we had to take our trash back to the rental house with us for disposal. We tried our best to be mindful of anything else we needed to discard. NOTE: It is worth looking into the possibility of road closures or construction before a trip to this location since this dry region is so susceptible to wildfires. Thankfully we didn't experience anything of that nature during our visit, but the risk exists and is worth noting.
© 2017 Joan Dragonfly