We spent a whirlwind three days in and around Melbourne, Australia.
“…there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.” This should probably be my theme song for travel. We fell in love with Melbourne. I want to go back for the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Attending the Australian Open had been on my bucket list. I thought for sure if I ever went to Australia, or certainly Melbourne, it would include tickets to tennis. As things turned out, our travel didn’t take us anywhere near Melbourne in January. Melbourne at the end of March ended up working out okay. Of course we totally wished we had had more time there.
We arrived our hotel mid afternoon on Friday. The boutique hotel our travel agent booked was really fun and we could actually see the tennis stadiums from the hotel. Great location near the CBD (central business district).
We ventured out to find something to eat and got caught up in all the amazing street art that graces the laneways (alleys) of Melbourne. Amazing art, legally presented, down the alleys of the Melbourne CBD.
It was a really busy Friday night in downtown Melbourne with lots going on including the Grand Prix just outside the CBD. We found a fun underground tapas restaurant and feasted on wonderful ceviche.
Saturday morning we were up and out for our scheduled walking tour of Melbourne’s Arcades and Laneways. But first, our hotel came with an amazing breakfast assortment. I have had avocado toast numerous times in the U.S. and in fact make it all the time for myself at home, but it is not often offered on American breakfast menus. I am here to say it is quite popular down under. Avocado toast everywhere!!! I opted for it every chance I got.
We loved our walking tour. We met up with the guide at Federation Square, across from the famous Flinders Street Railway Station.
Flinders Station is an icon of Melbourne and a popular meeting place, under the clocks. Our guide told us lots of stories about the station, there’s a ballroom inside, but possibly the most interesting is that during the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne, the Soviet Union Coaches were so concerned about their track & field athletes training along side other countries (fear of defection) that a running track was installed on top of Flinders Station for their private training.
Our tour took us mostly inside the shopping arcades and down the more interesting and popular laneways. Although most of the arcades and laneways have been around since the mid to late 1800’s, it has really been during the past 25 years or so that Melbourne has set itself apart from other Australian cities by allowing urban art to proliferate in the central business district and embracing a creative and unique culture. Melbourne also boasts a good number of amazing chefs and restaurants.
After lunch and a bit more walking around on our own, we headed back to Degraves Street for dessert.
Sunday, our last day in the Melbourne area, was spent on a wonderful tour outside the city. This would be our first glimpse at some of the unique marsupials found in Australia and a good opportunity to see and hear birds. Australia has A LOT of bird varieties.
We set out early, before the day got too hot as I think kangaroos spend a good deal of the day hidden in the shade on warmer days. We drove to Serendip Sanctuary where we saw a mob of kangaroos in their natural habitat. It was really difficult to get a good photo with my iPhone. There were others on the small tour who had fancy cameras and huge lenses and tripods and all that. One was a photographer for a magazine. We just snapped a few candids and enjoyed watching these amazing animals.
We drove around Serendip for a while spotting all kinds of birds and quite a few Emu. At one point our driver stopped, backed up, pulled over and let everyone out of the van. He had spotted a Tawny Frogmouth up in a tree. What the what?
Australia has the most amazing selection of birds. We also saw gorgeous fairy wren at a billabong (isolated pond) in the sanctuary, but photographing birds is no joke. I don’t know how people get these shots. I guess really expensive equipment and whole lot of patience?
We also saw gobs and gobs of cockatoos, which I used to think were exotic. Well, not anymore. They are loud, obnoxious birds that act like a common crow. Obviously they are prettier, but not very well mannered.
After Serendip Sanctuary, we headed to the You Yangs Regional Park in search of Koala. We walked through miles of bush. This area of forest is monitored closely by the Koala Clancy Foundation in an effort to improve habitat and save koalas from extinction. The koalas are tracked and identified by their unique nose patterns, located on maps using a GPS system and reported. The research is compiled into reports for study. Some of the koalas located in this area were injured, nursed to health and reintroduced back to the You Yangs. The purpose of this foundation in this specific area is for education, and improvement of habitat through invasive plant removal and tree planting. Over the years, the koala habitats have been significantly adversely affected by humans.
We also saw a big, old male, but I was unable to get a good photo of him.
I was enamored with this dead tree in the You Yangs Park. I still think it is pretty cool.
That ends our quick trip to the Melbourne area of Victoria, Australia.
On the ride back into town, our driver asked everyone where they were headed next. A couple of us were headed up to the rainforest near Port Douglas in North Queensland. He warned us of a cyclone heading that way and suggested we contact our travel agents, which we attempted to do when we got back to our hotel.
A lot more on that in my next and last Down Under travel post.