Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Friendly Reminder

And now a friendly, and not so subtle, reminder from the state of Victoria.

All of these were seen along the road on our drive from Warnambool to Avalon airport (a trip that only took a little over 2 hours). I didn't even bother to snap pics of all the repeat signs we saw along the way.

I wish I had thought to take pictures of all the "warning" signs we saw on this road trip. There were some really graphic ones on Phillip Island persuasively telling us about the dangers of motorcycle riding. But the above signs are a pretty good representation of the government of Victoria looking out for your safety on the roads. Get the message?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Great Ocean Road- Part 2

The final leg of our Great Ocean Road trip started in Port Campbell, a sleepy little town of about 500 people. It is a good place to stay only in that it is very close to the 12 Apostles. Other than that, it doesn't have much to offer. After our experience in Lorne, the information centre in Port Campbell was a real disappointment, but we did pick up a few maps with lookout spots designated on them. And so we were off- on the road again!

There were so many gorgeous, marked places to stop along the road. The photo above shows the "London Bridge" so named before the first arch fell down into the sea. Below: After a short hike down to a near by beach we spotted heaps of penguin footprints in the sand. A colony of Little Penguins lives in this area!

Another beautiful lookout was "The Gorge". My sweet husband hiked down a ton of stairs to see if it was worth the view, and since it was I hauled my big pregnant self down there where a nice Uni student (from Wisconsin!) snapped this family photo for us.

We drove on to a cute little town called Port Fairy for a delicious lunch and then backtracked a bit to Tower Hill, a state game park reserve. There is an extinct volcano at this site, and the Little Princess really wanted to climb to the summit. However, I wasn't really up for that, so we all enjoyed an easy rainforest bushwalk and spotted some wild emus and even a little wallaby along the way.

From there we headed to our final destination; Warnambool. This small city is located along the "Shipwreck Coast" and featured a recreation of an 1800s fishing village called Flagstaff Hill. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to see the village during the day, but we went back at night for a lantern walk and a cool laser show recreating the shipwreck of the Loch Ard. We all really enjoyed the show and left with a real appreciation for the brave travelers who made the daunting journey to Australia in the late 1800s. We would have liked more time to explore Warnambool, but we were up and out early the next morning for an easy 2 and a half hour drive back to Avalon airport and our flight home to Sydney.

We can't recommend this trip highly enough. We all loved it! It was such a great mix of beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife, interesting new experiences, and fun times together as a family. It's a trip we'll always remember.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Great Ocean Road- Part 1

The final leg of our Australian holiday was a tour of the Great Ocean Road. It is often described as the most beautiful coastline in Australia, and after seeing it I have no doubt that description is true. It was absolutely amazing!

We took the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff to start our tour. It was the first time we had ever been on a vehicular ferry. It was a lovely experience, and we were glad we chose this route instead of driving back through Melbourne.

Once in Queenscliff we set off on the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop was the famous surf spot, Bells Beach. We happened to show up in time to see part of the Rip Curl Pro surfing competition. What luck!

We also stopped by the Anglesea golf course to see the wild kangaroos. They were all over the course! That night we stayed in Aireys Inlet, a lovely little town with a charming lighthouse and a local "hotel" (this generally means bar in Australia) with good food.

The next day was probably the highlight of the trip. We drove through Apollo Bay and stopped at the information center in Lorne. There, we got great advice about places to stop with the kids. We headed for Teddy's Lookout, a beautiful spot with more picturesque views.

Then on to the Kennett River walk. We drove about 5km down an unpaved road and, sure enough, spotted several wild koalas up in the gum trees. This was quite a thrill! We were able to get so close to these adorable Aussie icons.

At the end of the road we discovered a hidden rainforest. It was amazing- huge ferns, a beautiful rocky creek perfect for throwing stones.

We were also able to squeeze in a little bushwalk at the Maits Rest Rainforest. Notice the big "holes" in the trees. Giant trees fall over in the rainforest and other trees grow around the fallen trunks. Eventually, the fallen tree deteriorates, leaving a large "hole" in the living tree.

Just before sunset we arrived at the Twelve Apostles; an amazing collection of rock formations jutting out of the sea along the coastline. This is probably the most photographed spot along the Great Ocean Road, and I can understand why. It's simply beautiful.

After a very full day we were happy to settle in for the night in Port Campbell. Part 2 of our Great Ocean Road Adventure to come . . . .

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Penguin Parade

After touring Melbourne we headed east to Phillip Island. It is an easy 2 hour drive. Our main goal was to see the Little Penguins- and the tour was one of the highlights of our trip. There is no photography allowed because apparently the penguins get freaked out by the paparazzi. So here are a couple pics I found online that show how cute these little fellas are.

The photo above shows the viewing area where we were seated for the Penguins Plus tour. We were right in the front corner, just a couple feet away from the sand. We could not have had a better view of the Little Penguins as they marched up the sand and stopped to preen themselves right in front of us!

It was pretty late night for the kids, and the Little Buddy entered full meltdown mode which was only calmed by purchasing the very last tub of popcorn at the concession stand. He refused to share even one stale kernel with his poor sister.

On the way out we spotted this sign. You can be sure we all looked under the car twice to be sure it was clear before taking off.

We loved the Penguin Parade experience. Definitely not to be missed- you'll never see anything like it in the Northern Hemisphere!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On With The Show

I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled blogging about our awesome family holiday last week to tell you to rush out to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It ends this week- don't miss it! More on our holiday to come soon . . .

Call it a blogging milestone. I received my first freebie through this blog. And let me say- it was a really good freebie: a family 4 pack of tickets to the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

We decided to head out in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and, as an added bonus, I think we also avoided the really big crowds. The Sydney Royal Easter Show is like an American County fair on steroids. It's huge! The Show (as it is affectionately called by Sydneysiders) is held at Sydney Olympic Park. There is a kiddie carnival area, a huge coca-cola carnival area, plenty of farm animals on exhibit, arts & crafts, a main arena and of course food, food, food.

The kids loved the kiddie carnival rides and the fairy floss (cotton candy). We walked through exhibits of pigs (some as big as 400 kgs!), goats and cows, skillfully dodging the stray piles of dung waiting to be removed. We were disappointed that we missed the world's tallest horse who had to leave The Show early for some undisclosed reason. The farmyard nursery was one of our favorite stops. Feeding the lambs and the goats, seeing little chicks just hatched from eggs, patting the puppies. So much fun!

On our hunt for the Showbags we stumbled upon an exhibit featuring the most amazing decorated cakes! There were cakes that looked like horse heads, babies, Alice in Wonderland, and even a bottle of pills for facebook addicts. Too funny!

We stopped for food and the kids were thrilled to discover Dagwood Dogs- the first corndog we've seen in Oz. I was equally thrilled to find a burger from one of my favorite restaurants- Ribs & Rumps. Yummm!

We finally found the Showbag hall and it was like walking into goodie bag heaven. There is no American equivalent to the Showbag. There are showbags filled with candy, toys, magazines, even dairy products and soft drinks. The Little Buddy picked a Go Diego Go Showbag filled with a backpack, lunchbox, vest, hat and stickers. This stuff is big with the preschool crowd! The Little Princess chose the Girl Power Showbag, stuffed with pre-teen magazines, lip balm and keychains. It was like Christmas all over again.

After securing the Showbags,we made our way to the main arena where we watched a bit of a polo match and saw the giant robotic dinosaur blow fire and eat cars. Who thinks of this stuff? The night ended with a fabulous fireworks display and laser show.

The Sydney Royal Easter Show is definitely an event not to be missed. But you'll have to hurry if you want to get there this year. The Show ends April 14th. And if you do miss it, there's always next year.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Melbourne Here We Come

As part of our ongoing quest to see as much of Australia as possible, we took off on Easter Sunday and flew to "Mel-bin" for the first leg of our week long family holiday.

There was a near disaster at the car hire counter when the frazzled attendant informed me that the full size car I had reserved was not available and I would have to take the equivalent of a 2-door Speck instead. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with me. Fortunately, another car showed up just as things were about to go from bad to worse, and soon enough we were heading toward Melbourne and ready for adventure!

After checking into our hotel (isn't it funny how kids are ALWAYS excited about a new hotel room?) we decided to take a walk through the city and grab dinner in Chinatown. Let's just say it looked a lot closer on the map, and my big pregnant self was seriously struggling to keep up! We finally found the restaurant recommended in our guide book and decided to eat there even though it was way too quiet and fancy for our crabby, tired three year old. Predictably the dinner ended with a minor meltdown and a sleepy boy in the taxi back to the hotel. I vowed to seek out kid friendly restaurants for the rest of the trip!

Checking out Carlton Gardens near the Melbourne Museum

The following day was packed with sightseeing in Melbourne. Everyone enjoyed riding on the city's tram system. We visited the Old Melbourne Gaol (jail) which was seriously creepy, and the Melbourne Museum which was full of great exhibits. (Somehow we missed the stuffed race horse Phar Lap- bummer). We even took in a How to Train Your Dragon at the IMAX (which was the perfect place for the Little Buddy to get his afternoon nap).

We finished the day with a stroll around Federation Square and a trip to the Skydeck of the Eureka Tower for stunning night time views of the city.

The next morning we headed straight for the Royal Botanic Gardens. My kids love Botanic Gardens (they would be thrilled to spend every weekend at the one in Sydney) so we knew this would be a big hit with them. What we didn't know was that the Melbourne gardens have an amazing Children's Garden. It is filled with streams, pathways, bamboo hideouts, tree "caves" and water features. We couldn't drag them away. It was little piece of paradise right there in the city! Yes, we are those kind of parents who let our Little Buddy run around in his underpants when his jeans got soaked. But- hey, we weren't the only ones!

Unfortunately, we never got to see the rest of the Royal Botanic Gardens. We had to head out to Phillip Island to catch the Penguin Parade that night!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Thanks Easter Bunny

At 6:00 in the morning we were awakened by excited children announcing that the Easter Bunny came through again this year and left a clue about where to find their baskets. We rolled out of bed (even though it was only 6 am) and followed them around the house as they eagerly read the clues and finally discovered the big prize under the kitchen sink. Thanks Easter Bunny!

Easter is a huge 4 day weekend in Australia. Sadly, it is mostly secular. And sadly, the selection of Easter candy is basically limited to Cadbury chocolate eggs. No peeps, no (gasp) Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, no big bags full of Jelly Bellys or Hersheys candy coated eggs in pastel colors. I haven't even seen the Easter variety of M&Ms here. Luckily for us, our awesome rellies in the US sent care packages containing everything we needed to make it a "traditional" American Easter. Thanks Easter Bunny! Happy Aussie Easter- Oy Oy Oy!
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