We left Melbourne last Wednesday (the 1st) in our new car, and drove down to Phillip Island. The island itself is a national park but the main attraction is the nightly Penguin Parade. The beach there is home to thousands of Little Penguins who spend all day fishing in the sea and come ashore at dusk to return to feed their young. It was fantastic to see them waddle ashore in their little groups, but it was really cold and raining!
On Thursday we went to Wilsons Promontory National Park which is one of the best loved parks in Victoria and a popular weekend retreat from Melbourne. It was beautiful and we did some walks to a few beaches and up a hill to an amazing view. Bit of a lack of nightlife there though, in bed by 10pm!
On Friday we spent the day in the car driving back through the city and west to Torquay which marks the start of the Great Ocean Road. We began the famous drive on Saturday and stopped at various lookouts on the way to Lorne, a picturesque seaside town where we stayed the night. From there we visited Erskine Falls in the Angahook-Lorne State Park which were beautiful.
On Sunday we moved on to Apollo Bay. This was the best part of the coast as the Otway National Park is there. We did a beautiful walk to Mariners Falls through a lovely fern gully. Also did a couple of other random rainforest walks and went to Triplet Falls in the afternoon. We visited the Otway Fly as well which is anv aerial walkway through the trees, some excellent views.
On Monday we continued along the Great Ocean Road. We went to the famous Twelve Apostles and various other rock formations including the Grotto and the Blowhole which were incredible. Unfortunately the weather closed in so we had to run for the car before the thunderstorm hit, just like home!
We reached Warrnambool which turned out to be quite a big place so we decided to try and wait out the weather there. We went to Tower Hill Nature Reserve and saw several koalas in the wild including a baby one, there were also lots of emus wandering around which was random!
After realising the weather wasn't about to change we left Warrnambool on Wednesday and headed north to the Grampians. The weather was very wet all the way there but miraculously the mountains themselves were under the one bit of blue sky! We drove to a couple of waterfalls one of which flowed into the ground and not a river (strange) and the main attraction The Balconies where you can stand on a tiny rock ledge several hundred metres in the air totally unprotected, it was an amazing view but the wind made it a bit scary!
We stayed overnight in a tiny town at a stupidly cheap campsite just outside the National Park and on Thursday moved on to Ballarat, in the centre of the Gold Country. In the 1850s gold was discovered in the area and 85% of the world's gold comes from Ballarat! The town was built in the Victorian era with a lot of money so the architecture was fantastic, the town is full of grand old buildings. Wandering around aimlessly in the rain was no fun so we went to the Gold Shop which was really interesting. The sales girl told us all about the different types of gold and showed us examples of expensive nuggets and jewellery. We held thousands of dollars-worth in our hands, a bit depressing really!
Ballarat is also famous for the Eureka Rebellion which happened there 150 years ago so on Thursday morning we visited the Eureka Centre as we felt we should find out about the event Australians refer to as the birth of their independence. It was very interesting. The British used to tax miners who were digging for gold and yet they didn't give them any rights including the vote. In 1854 they rebelled against this and although many of them died in the battle they won their case and from then on miners could vote. It was the first time people here had questioned ultimate British rule so the Aussies love the story!
We drove on to Bendigo which is another goldrush town with some more impressive buildings. There wasn't much to do there, especially in the rain, but it was a beautiful place.
We left on Friday morning and began the long drive to Canberra.