Our first impression of Melbourne has been as expected, an art and food capital of Australia. After checking into our Airbnb, we went to Downstairs Bistro & Lounge for dinner, and enjoyed a lovely meal with great service. We spent the night repacking, and the next morning headed out with the Echidna Walkabout Tour to explore the Great Ocean Road!
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a roughly 250 kilometer road built right along the cliff edge of Southern Australia (map below). This area has a temperate Mediterranean climate, with very windy coastlines and inlands of dry and hot weather. Rainfall varies depending on location, and all sorts of environments exist here, including wetlands, rainforests, dry forests, beaches, and more. The road was built by returned soldiers between 1919-1932, and is considered the largest war memorial in Australia, dedicated to those soldiers killed during WWI. It has been extremely useful for the timber industry, and now is a huge tourist attraction.
Great Ocean Road map (http://www.atn.com.au/topdestinations/victoria/great-ocean-road.html)
Our first official stop was at the You Yangs Regional Park, a granite range Southwest of Melbourne that is part of Parks Victoria. We spent the morning exploring, and didn’t see much during our first walk, but throughout the day saw countless kanagroos and wallabies, several koalas, and various birds. One of my favorites was spotting two red and blue parrots! Their colors are so vibrant and beautiful, especially to see in the wild.
A “mob”of kangaroos
Koala in You Yangs Park
We spent a couple hours searching for wildlife and koala hunting (or more appropriately, blob hunting through the treetops. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at a cook-out area, next to a grassy field where a group of kangaroos were residing. They staying during the whole lunch, which our guide said was a first for him! Our guide also used water and leaves off a hand-picked branch of a Eucalyptus tree to make “Hillbilly tea.” By swinging the teapot around in a circle like a softball pitch, the leaves and particles are pushed to the bottom of the pot, giving the tea a clear pour. It was fun to watch and delicious to drink!
Lunch with the kangaroos
After exploring a bit more, we headed to a neighboring park, Serendip. This park is used for wildlife research, captive management, and breeding of threatened species. Just as we entered, we came across three emu’s taking a stroll! We watched them for a while, then walked around the lake and through a dried-up lake. Southern Australia has been in severe drought, and the area we walked through used to have water up to shoulder-level just a year ago. In fact, the park system had resorted to putting some feed out for the emu’s earlier in the season since conditions were getting so harsh. However, luckily for the land, our arrival also brought rain, which made the community and animals in the area quite happy! We spotted wallabies, various birds, another koala, and even two possums at this park!
Our evening accommodation was in this tiny town, at a beautiful bed and breakfast called the Little River B&B. We had a fantastic suite-like room, and the property was uniquely decorated with old-fashioned trinkets. We took a walk down by the river that ran behind the property, and got a look at the old-fashioned homes that made up the small village. For dinner, the tour made reservations for us at the Little River Hotel, a restaurant right next to the b&b. Although it was a pretty basic pub-like restaurant, the staff was very accommodating and the food was fantastic.
After dinner, we settled in for the night and got ready for another full day ahead!