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. 🙂

 

AC/DC Lane – Melbourne’s Tribute To Rock And History

One of the things I like most about travelling is exploring neighbourhoods solo.Experience has taught me that when travelling in a crowd, everyone has diverse interests, so walking around on my own gives me the freedom to focus on things that I like, without feeling rushed. That being said, it’s also important to be alert, since you are in a foreign land – but I felt super safe walking around Melbourne during the day, as there were lots of other tourists.

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I touched a bit about Melbourne’s laneways in a previous post, but let me take you down the city’s most popular one – AC/DC Lane.

Laneways have a long history, dating back to Melbourne’s early days during the Gold Rush. Narrow and often flanked by old brick buildings with walls sprayed over with colourful graffiti, the laneways were built as quick thoroughfares for horses and cargo. They quickly gained a reputation as slums, before gentrification saw it being filled with cool eateries, bars, cafes, indie shops and more. AC/DC Lane, formerly Corporation Lane, is one of these.

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Named after Australia’s most successful rock band, AC/DC Lane reflects its rock n’ roll roots. Both sides of the street are plastered over with colourful posters, band and gig announcements, alongside rock n roll / music-themed mural art.

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The star of the lane is Cherry Bar. Opened in 1999, it was a popular venue for rock bands and their crew, including Airbourne and Jet, both of whom wrote songs referencing the Cherry. You can say the Cherry Bar is to Melbourne what The Cavern Club is to Liverpool.

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Take your time checking out the fantastic street art on the lane.

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Bonus: View from the hotel room on Collins. Now this is a view I’d gladly get up early for!

 

Food Review: Yield Restaurant & Providore, Birregurra

Here’s something I’ve noticed both times I’ve been to Victoria in Australia.

People will actually drive several hours to a restaurant located in a small hamlet, a tiny town or literally the middle of nowhere (read: the time we got lost in the bush while trying to look for the Ruffy Produce Store), just for the food or the produce. There’s always an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from the surrounding localities.

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So when we pulled into Birregurra, a small town some 130 kilometres south of Melbourne, I was not at all surprised to find one of these restaurants, housed in a quaint single-storey building lined by a white picket fence. Formerly Birregurra Farm Foods, Yield Restaurant & Providore is the brainchild of Chef Simon Stewart and his wife Kara. The menu is set degustation, paddock to plate, with a strong focus on vegetables. Some of the dishes have a Mediterranean touch.

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Following in the vein of many of the regional restos we’ve visited so far, Yield carries a casual, homely ambience and decor, with friendly service that will make visitors feel right at home.

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We broke bread with a house-made spelt sour loaf. Breads are not as big in Southeast Asia as they are in Western countries, so it was my first time coming across spelt – a type of grain related to wheat which has been cultivated since 5,000 B.C.E. Like wheat, it is high in fibre, and also has other minerals and nutrients such as zinc, protein, manganese and phosphorus. The flavour was somewhat nutty and slightly sweet.

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Next was Red lentil, sunrose and dukkah (a Mediterranean condiment made from herbs, nuts and spices). The red lentil was mashed into a small cake and had great texture, similar to hummus.

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(Centre plate) Shanklish, fermented daikon and pickled onion

Shanklish is a type of cheese made from cow’s or sheep’s milk, popular in Levantine cuisine.

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One of my favourites of the afternoon was Haloumi, plum and walnut – the textures blended really well together, as did the flavours (sweet, natural nuttiness of the walnut, slight tartness of the plum and the savoury taste of the grilled haloumi)

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Sauerkraut, lentil and mint

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Simple but addictive potato, lemon and parsley. Loved the slight chewiness of the potato skins!

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Braised Wilgunya Black Angus: melt-in-the-mouth and oh-so-tender.

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And finally for dessert, stone fruit, caramelised pepita and fennel seed custard. 

I’ve always been more of a meat eater, but the dishes at Yield proved that it isn’t veggies I’m averse to – more the bland way in which they’re often prepared where I come from. I can see now why people drive all the way from the city just for a taste!

YIELD RESTAURANT AND PROVIDORE

43 Main Street Birregurra VIC 3242

Tel: +61 3 5236 2611

birregurrafarmfoods.com.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

Food With A View @ Forage On The Foreshore, Port Campbell

Located close to the end of the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell is a small coastal town popular as a base for tourists visiting the Twelve Apostles limestone stacks, which is just a short drive away. Despite its small population (around 5-600), the town is packed with attractions and things to see, from chic restaurants and cafes to vibrant galleries and shops, and of course, beautiful nature.

After a long drive from Melbourne with numerous stops along the way, we were glad to check in to our accommodation at Southern Ocean Villas. After quickly freshening up, it was time for the next item on the agenda – dinner!

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Walking to the town centre, we passed through quiet roads with quaint homes and lush green fields. For a city girl like me, who grew up surrounded by bright lights and concrete buildings, it was a nice and relaxing change of atmosphere.

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Housed in the town’s former post office, Forage on the Foreshore is all about fresh food foraged locally. With gorgeous sea-facing views, the resto exudes chill beach / boardwalk vibes, with a cheerful yellow and blue colour scheme.

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There’s a small souvenir shop next to the restaurant which sells handmade gifts and trinkets. Unfortunately due to the hour, it was closed. (That’s another thing about Western countries that I find in stark contrast with Asian countries, where most of everything is open until late at night) 

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View facing the sea and dramatic cliffs

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The interior is casual, wooden tables, chairs and floorboards, simple deco, a vintage vinyl record player and an open fireplace.

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As with many restaurants that we’ve dined on the Great Ocean Road so far, the menu is big on regional, seasonal produce so it changes from time to time. For starters, we had the Pickled Apollo Bay Octopus with Brucknell Kalamata Olives and Fire-Roasted Capsicum Sauce. Presentation was rustic, but pleasant. The sauce’s vivid red popped against the black plating, and looked great when paired with the greens and the octopus. Meaty and sweet, the protein was great for nibbling on, with a slightly chewy texture and great flavour.

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Digging in to the next appetiser: the Panfried Yumbah Greenlip Abalone with Garlic Butter on a Raw Celeriac and Roquette Salad. Again, slightly chewy as most shellfish done well should be, and I think garlic butter is a great flavour pairing to bring out the natural sweetness of the abalone. The celeriac and roquette salad added an element of crunch and texture to the overall dish. A winner in my books.

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Despite being summer, it was quite windy and cold by the seaside, so I opted for something warm and soothing for mains – Fresh locally caught fish, Mount Martha Mussels, Bass Straight Scallops in Fish Bone Broth. The bread that came with the dish was perfect to sop up the lip-smacking broth, and they were generous with the amount of seafood.

FORAGE ON THE FORESHORE 

32 Cairns St, Port Campbell VIC 3269, Australia

forageontheforeshore.com.au

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Sunset view; lovely pink sky.

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After dinner, we drove back near to the 12 Apostles to try and spot penguins returning from their catch for the day. It was too dark to see anything, but at least we enjoyed the breathtaking view of the sunsetting in the horizon, casting an orange glow across the dark sea.

 

Food Review: La Bimba @ Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road

It may not have a large population, but the bustling tourist town of Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is home to a good selection of restaurants, cafes and eateries. Among them is La Bimba, which serves up contemporary Australian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, sourced from local farmers and fishermen.

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Going with the sustainable theme, the interior of the restaurant features tables, chairs and other fixtures built from recycled timber from the region. The brick walls and wood create a cosy, homely atmosphere, coupled with awesome sea-front views and plenty of natural sunlight filtering in from its tall windows.

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Since ingredients are seasonal and subject to availability, the menu changes accordingly so diners will always have something new to try. During our visit, we started off with some samplers of Beetroot Carpaccio, Ricotta, Hazelnut and Saltbush, as well as Beef Tartare, Horseradish, Creme Fraiche, Saltbush and toast.

Refreshing and sweet, the beetroot carpaccio is a great alternative for vegans, balanced out by the slightly sour ricotta cheese, as well as the natural nutty sweetness of the hazelnut and the earthy, leafy flavour of saltbush – a common plant found in the bushlands of Australia. The beef tartare was also good, with none of the bloody, iron-like taste that usually comes with raw meat.

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Served in a crockpot, Portalington mussels, garlic, chilli and cilantro. Simple but hearty, the mussels were plump and juicy, bathed in a garlicky juices. 

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For sharing, Kipfler potatoes, cultured cream and seaweed powder. The peels were left on, giving the taters a smokey taste, while the seaweed powder added a touch of brininess.

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The Corner Inlet Flathead with harissa and coriander was sizable, with firm, fleshy meat.

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Pumpkin, macadamia, grains

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The 1KG Tomahawk steak was a spectacle to behold, swimming in its own juices on a metal serving plate. While the meat was cooked perfectly, it was a lot to finish, even for our group of 8.

If you’re into fresh, local food, then La Bimba ticks all the boxes. Grab a seat by the window to enjoy the sea breeze.

LA BIMBA

125 Great Ocean Rd, Apollo Bay VIC 3233, Australia

Opening hours: 9AM – 3PM, 6PM – 8.30PM (closed Tuesdays)

labimba.com.au

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!

 

Quirky Sculptures @ The Pt Leo Estate Sculpture Park, Mornington Peninsula

Enjoy good food, wine, art and the outdoors all in one at the Pt Leo Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, home to not one but two award-winning restaurants, a winery and cellar door, as well as 60 sculptures spread across 135 hectares of land. The sculpture park was one of our last stops to the area, and being located close to the edge of the peninsula, afforded beautiful views of the coast.

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The design of its restaurant is modern and contemporary, with lots of wood accentuated by touches of sleek black. Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay for a meal, but we did manage to explore parts of the massive sculpture park.

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The Pt Leo Estate is fairly new, having opened in 2017. Owned by the Gandels, who made their fortunes in retail, the ambitious project had a cost of over AUD 50 mil. The park, dotted with sculptures from international as well as Australian artists, can be enjoyed on well-paved walkways that wind through the hilly green. There are two circuits, one which takes 30 minutes to complete, the other 60.

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One of the most striking sculptures in the park is a nine-metre ‘sleeping’ head by Catalan artist Plensa. The sculpture is such that the three-dimensional sculpture projected a 2D ‘flat’ effect when seen from different angles, which was, to me, quite a trippy viewing experience.

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You can get up close to most of the sculptures and touch them; except the ones taht are fenced off.

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Surrounded by vineyards and flanked by the coast, the sculpture park and its quirky, oft times beautiful structures made for the perfect outdoor art gallery. If you’re dining at the restaurant, entrance is free. Otherwise, its AUD10 per pax.

Opening hours: 11AM – 5PM (Sculpture park and cellar door); Restaurant opening hours: 12 – 5PM Sun – Wed, 9.30PM Thurs and 10.30 PM Fri-Sat.

PT LEO ESTATE 

3649 Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks, Vic

ptleoestate.com.au

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