Met up with the Knapps around 7:45 on September 14th and we had breakfast at the hotel. Went to our rooms and got organized for our pick up to the airport at 10:10. Checked out and waited for our transport which did not come so grabbed at taxi around 10:30. Arrived at the airport and, while checking our bags, found out our flight was delayed because of the weather; earlier in the day, winds were quite strong in Sydney so a couple flights from Melbourne had been cancelled. Plane arrived and boarding occurred in an orderly fashion which was slightly different than in the US. We had purchased lunches at the terminal so ate my lunch and read during the flight. All of us commented on the numbers of restaurants and retail stores available to passengers while waiting in the terminal. Arrived in Melbourne around 3:15; retrieved our luggage and caught a taxi to our hotel, The Raddison on Flagstaff Gardens. Deposited our luggage in our rooms and went down to talk to the concierge about possible tours. Got signed up for the Ocean View Road and Billy Puffin Train/Penguin Parade tours on Sunday and Monday respectively. Also signed up for high tea at Windsor Hotel on Saturday. All of us were tired so went into the bar for Happy Hour and dinner. Back to the room around 8:00; decided to meet up the next morning around 8:00.
After a shower and coffee in the room, met up with the Knapps around 7:45. We walked to a restaurant called Operator 25 for breakfast.
The place was built in 1884 as a telephone exchange and housed Melbourne’s first switchboard. Good breakfast of granola, fruit, and carrot juice. After breakfast, went to the tram stop to catch the city center tram to the Victoria State Library (built in the 1860’s) where we joined a free walking tour of Melbourne.
Approximately 3 hour tour covering many of the local sights; Federation Square, Melbourne Laneways, Old Melbourne Gaol, Chinatown, and Carlton Gardens. Great tour and very knowledgeable tour guide called Tess. After the tour, we found lunch at RMB Cafe; I had chicken/mushroom ricotta which was very good and filling. It had started to pour down rain while we were seated outside so we moved in. After our late lunch, we caught the tram to Queen Victoria Market which, unfortunately, was closing.
We walked back to our hotel where we went to our respective rooms to dry out. Met and went down to the concierge where we checked about a night tour of the Old Melbourne Gaol; unfortunately, the tour was booked for every night until next Wednesday when we will be gone. We found out about a couple good Chinese places for dinner which we planned on doing the next evening. After some discussion, we went to the bar for some drinks. Decided not the leave for the evening since all of us were tired so, after a couple of drinks, adjourned to our respective rooms for the night.
On Saturday, the 16th, we found a breakfast place on the edge of Queen Victoria Market called Muleta’s; it was good food. Went into the LARGE market where we spent a few hours walking and purchasing. Left the market, went back to our hotel to change clothes, and caught a tram for a ride to Windsor Hotel where we had high tea; plates of canapés, quiches, sandwiches, buffet bar with all kinds of desserts, sparkling wine, and tea; an elegant experience. We walked to the Old Melbourne Gaol while stopping along the way to browse a few shops. At the Gaol, we saw a play regarding the jailing and execution of Ned Kelly who was an Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer.
And then we walked to dinner at a place called ShanDong MaMa which is located in Chinatown and recommended by our tour guide the day before. They are known for their homemade dumplings and did not disappoint us. After eating, we walked back to the hotel, had a drink in the bar, and adjourned for the night to our respective rooms. I rearranged my suitcase for departure on Tuesday since the next days were filled up with tours that lasted well into the evening. Turned out the lights around 10:00 since we had to be in the lobby the next morning by 7:20 for pickup of the Great Ocean Road tour.
The three of us were picked up by Grayline Tours for the Great Ocean Road; because of a bike race, the route was reversed from the normal one. Our driver/guide was James and he was very knowledgeable of the history of the areas and where to stop for pictures as we drove along. We had Aussie style Bush Billy tea mid-morning served with lambing tons, vegemite and crackers. The vegemite was quite salty and I did not eat much of it. Places we saw along the way were Loch Ard Gorge, Twelve Apostles, Gibsons Steps which are all part of the Shipwreck Coast; Apollo Bay, the rainforest of Ottway National Park and Port Campbell National Park.
A delightful, beautiful weather day that ended when we were dropped off at our hotel around 9:00; we went into the bar to get a drink to take to our rooms and retired for the evening.
We were picked up at our hotel on Monday for a full day of touring. In the morning, we drove to the Dandenongs Range and stopped for morning tea along the way. We boarded Puffing Billy, a steam locomotive which took us from Belgrade to Menzies Creek, a very scenic journey. Another stop was at the village of Sassafras known for its crafts and antiques. Returned to Federation Square in Melbourne where we boarded another bus for the afternoon/evening. We went to Churchill Island for afternoon tea, browsing the area, and visiting Churchill Island Heritage Farm; Heritage Farm. Went to Phillip Island Nature Park which is the natural home to koalas, seals, shearwaters, and Little Penguins. At Koala Conservation Park we were able to spot many of the little critters sleeping and eating in the trees.
And then we viewed the Penguin Parade which is where Little Penguins come home from the sea; they come in on waves, cross the beach to the sand dunes, and then waddle to their burrows. What an exciting sight! It started pouring down rain but we stayed at our seats and along the rail watching the cute little guys. Because of the rain, I did not take any pictures of the parade; here is the link Penguin Parade. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening; arrived back to our hotel around 10:00; went to our respective rooms to prepare for our 7:00 a.m. departure the next day.