Last Day In Melbourne: Wandering The Streets + Williams Bar & Cafe @ Clarion Suites Gateway

We’ve come to an end to our fantastic time in Melbourne and the Victoria region! We (being me and the two other Indonesian media) spent the last couple of hours in town wandering the streets looking for souvenirs, before rounding it off with dinner at our hotel. Enjoy the random photos:

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Melbourne’s CBD is very walkable and it isn’t too big, but whenever we got lost we would just look for Flinders Street Station. One of the busiest railway stations in Australia, the station serves the entire metropolitan rail network. Built in 1909, it is listed under the Victorian Heritage Register.

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Architecture in Melbourne is a mishmash of old and new, its wide streets flanked by ultra modern buildings and heritage ones.

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A street artist working with chalk to create beautiful and realistic art pieces on the sidewalk.

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Venturing into one of the city’s shopping arcades (aka old versions of our modern shopping malls), home to hundreds of chic cafes, eateries, shops selling souvenirs and trinkets, boutique clothing stores, jewellery shops, art galleries, etc. Great place for hipsters and the intrepid traveller on the lookout for something unusual.

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A restaurant selling rather exotic meats, including crocodile, ostrich, emu and kangaroo. I’ve had kangaroo on my last trip to Melbourne (it’s red and has a somewhat spicy flavour). Moo says we had crocodile once when I was very little, but I’ve forgotten all about it.

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Street art peppers the alleyways around Melbourne.

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Dinner that night was at our hotel, the Clarion Suites Gateway, at the hotel’s in-house restaurant called Williams Bar and Cafe. Had a milkshake to cool down from all the walking; it was nice and frothy.

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The food took forever;  the waiters came out to apologise, citing that the chef had a lot of orders to make for dinner service. Baked scallop appetisers; scallops were sizable and sweet.

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Eggplant chips were rather soggy and greasy, nothing like the ones I enjoyed at Pontoon @ St Kilda. 

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Seafood pasta which came loaded with humongous scallops and crab. Tastewise it was decent but the portion was very large, probably enough for two, and there was a lot left over.

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L’s baked salmon

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T’s chicken parmigiana with potato wedges.

And with that, we bid adieu to this amazing city. Thanks for the memories, Melbourne! If fate decrees, we shall meet again. 🙂

 

Spotting Wild Koalas (And An Emu!) @ Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, Australia

Sitting within the grounds of a 30,000-year-old extinct volcano the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is home to some of Australia’s most iconic creatures endemic to the region – namely koalas, emus, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies and more. It was a shame we had to rush our visit to less than 30 minutes (coz we had to arrive back in Melbourne to send off some members of the media to the airport), but even then we were lucky enough to spot not one but TWO types of the unique fauna that roam the reserve.

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Unfortunately the short time we had meant I didn’t manage to get too many pictures. 😦

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As we drove slowly past a section of bush, an eagle-eyed member of the group called out to everyone in the van. “Look, in the bushes.” We craned our necks forward and there, sleeping peacefully on the branch, was our first koala. It looked sooooo fluffy! But while they seem all cute and cuddly, koalas are known to have sharp claws (for climbing trees) and teeth. Another fun fact: koalas are not the brightest; their brains making up just 0.2% of the weight of their body.

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Near the visitor’s centre, there were several more up in the trees – a smaller one, presumably female, and a larger one at the bottom. They weren’t doing much; just lazing up in the trees, but I guess there isn’t much to do except eat, sleep and watch tourists gawk at you all day.

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After a quick sojourn to the souvenir shop, we were all ready to leave – but not before one more surprise. As we drove to the exit, the van slowed down and we saw this guy (or gal?). Emus are the second largest living birds after the ostrich, and like their cousins, can run very fast and have large claws on their feet (I always think of them as modern dinosaurs). We quickly whipped out our phones for a picture, the emu leisurely strolling along the tarmac before ducking out of sight into one of the bushes.

Fun fact: Emus cannot walk backwards.

If you’re planning a visit to the Great Ocean Road, I highly suggest spending more time than we did so you can explore the place more fully. There are various picnic spots and facilities scattered around the park, as well as guided walking tours. Of course, as with any wildlife reserve, observe the rules when interacting with any animals you may encounter.

towerhill.org.au

 

Breakfast @ Alcove Cafe, Port Campbell, Victoria

If you’re spending the night in Port Campbell on your Great Ocean Road journey, The Alcove Cafe is a nice place to grab a quick bite before you leave town. They open from 6AM daily, and the menu has gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options.

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Like many of the buildings in this quaint seaside town, it looks and feels rustic and homely. The prices are, however, quite steep as they cater mostly to the tourist crowd.

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The interior is casual, filled with knick knacks, quirky decor and lots of fun wall art.

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One of my favourites!

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The ice cream bar wasn’t open yet as it was still early, but we could see the creamy concoctions all lined up, just begging to be tasted.

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Opted for a yoghurt bowl with berries, muesli and bananas. It was humongous, and could have easily fed two to three people.

The cafe offered a selection of pastries and bread as well at the counter, plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

THE ALCOVE CAFE 

34 Lord St, Port Campbell VIC 3269, Australia

Opens daily 6AM – 3PM

Driving The Great Ocean Road Of Australia: A 12-Hour Itinerary

Possibly one of the most scenic coastal driving routes on the planet, the Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre stretch on the southwest coast of Australia, passing through deserted beaches, craggy cliffs and lush rainforests. Built by Australian and New Zealand World War I soldiers who returned from the war between 1919 and 1932, it is also the world’s largest war memorial. The most well-known attraction along the route is the 12 Apostles – a collection of 12 (now only seven remain, because they crumbled into the sea from erosion) limestone stacks rising majestically out of the azure blue waters of the sea.

Ideally, three days is perfect to drive and visit the many quaint seaside towns along the route – but since our itinerary was super packed, we had to fit everything into one. If you’re pressed for time, this itinerary might be useful for a small but all-round taste of what the route has to offer.

8.40AM – SEAPORT FERRY

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Most travellers start their journey from Melbourne and make their way to Apollo Bay, but since we departed from the Mornington Peninsula, we took the Seaport Ferry from Sorrento, docking at Queenscliff. The check in + ride took approximately an hour and 15 minutes, and we went up to the rooftop deck for beautiful views of Port Philip Bay dotted by boats and yachts. The inside of the ferry was cosy as well, with a cafeteria selling refreshments.

From Queenscliff, we drove two hours to the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. Along the way, we took in the gorgeous coastal sights of Australia’s southwest coast, dotted with beaches and natural cliffs lined by stunning blue waters.

11 AM – GREAT OCEAN ROAD MEMORIAL ARCH 

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The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch marks the ‘start’ of the road, and is one of its most photographed attractions. There are plenty of parking spots for a quick stopover, statues of the soldiers labouring on rocks, as well as information boards on the story of how the road was built. Visitors can also walk down to the nearby beach.

Constructed as a tribute to some 3,000 ANZAC soldiers who returned from fighting in World War I, the GORM arch is the third one to be erected after a truck and a fire caused damage to the previous ones, respectively. It is made from wood with sides of stone and cement, and the original wooden sign from 1939 still hangs above the archway.

12 PM – LORNE / TEDDY’s LOOKOUT

If you want an elevated view of part of the Great Ocean Road, Teddy’s Lookout at the small (but touristy) town of Lorne is a good place to stop by. The beach in town is popular with sunbathers, picnickers and surfers. Naturally, where there are tourists, there are also local scavenging wildlife, such as seagulls…

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…literally all over the green near the beach. They’re used to human presence, and are not afraid even if you walk very close to them.

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Thankfully we didn’t have to hike all the way up, as cars are able to access the hill where the lookout point is.

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The top of Teddy’s Lookout features a small viewing platform with sweeping views of the surf breaking at the mouth of the Saint George River, as well as gorgeous emerald green hills and the road snaking at their feet. Not sure how the place got its name but whomever Teddy was sure knew where to get the best views in town!

1.30PM : LUNCH AT LA BIMBA, APOLLO BAY 

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Like Lorne, Apollo Bay is a seaside town, popular among tourists as a base to explore the rest of Ocean Road. As such, you will find lots of restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels and accommodation here. Apollo Bay is big on natural beauty, so apart from its pristine, warm beaches that are great for surfing, angling and swimming, visitors will also find lush rainforest and magnificent waterfalls here. Being a coastal village, the seafood is fresh, but expect prices to reflect its tourist-centric industry.

A good place for lunch is La Bimba, which offers great views of the seafront as you dine on contemporary Australian cuisine with produce sourced locally. Will put a separate post on the food, so stay tuned!

4.15 PM : CALIFORNIAN REDWOODS @ OTWAY RANGES 

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One of my greatest regrets from my trip to San Francisco was the fact that I didn’t manage to see the giant Californian Redwoods. This trip was my second chance, and the experience did not disappoint.

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Located five minutes away from Beech Forest, the Redwoods of the Otway Ranges were planted by the local government some 85 years ago. Today, they tower over 60 metres high, forming a shady canopy with minimal sunlight hitting the forest floor. Staring up with mouth agape, I was struck by just how large and tall these trees are – despite being comparative ‘babies’ to older redwood trees that can live up to 2,000 years old. Redwoods are basically living fossils, and some have survived longer than many human civilisations. When you think of the sheer history and the things these trees have lived through, it’s just… overwhelming.

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The landscape, surrounded by ferns and shrubbery as well as small, flowing streams with crystal clear water, create an enchanting atmosphere.

6 PM: 12 APOSTLES HELICOPTER TOUR

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We finally arrived at the highlight of our trip at Port Campbell National Park – the 12 Apostles. And we had the best seats in the house to catch the most beautiful scenery in Australia – aboard a helicopter!

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It was my first time flying in a heli and what an experience it was! Strapped into the backseat, the roar of the rotors was deafening even with headphones on, so it was difficult to hear what the pilot was saying. Even so, the views spoke for themselves, as we gently swerved over the majestic landscapes of foamy white waves crashing against the cliffs. At certain points, the heli banked sharply, blurring the line between the sky and the sea into an endless blue – it felt like floating in space, but also quite dizzying.

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It was a short ride lasting less than 20 minutes, and we were back on the ground in no time. After some more photos, we departed for our night’s accommodation in Port Campbell.

So there you have it – a 12-hour or so itinerary for those who want an all-round experience of the Great Ocean Road and its awesome sights. I hope this guide and the suggestions of places to visit has been helpful, and Happy Travels!