A few years ago, Vipul and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in Australia and Hawaii. This was long before Varun – the days were long, carefree and filled with adventure. Long flight trips didnt exhaust us as much and we could travel light and spontaneously.
We visited several cities on one trip and some for a day or two just because we were interested in one point of interest in that city.
Vipul and I flew into Melbourne on Nov 21st from Seattle, arriving on 23rd morning around 9:30 am. Yes, you lose a day in travel as you cross the International Date Line but then you more than make up for it on the return flight. Immigration was painless, but customs took over 1 ½ hours. Melbourne is very stringent about customs and check for soil, fruits, food etc. We even declared our hiking shoes and personal medication – though it was probably an overkill. A short shuttle ride and we checked into our hotel Sir Stamford by 11:45 am.
We had booked the 3:30 pm tour to Philip island with Melbourne Day Tours but unfortunately it was cancelled as there were not enough people, and we were transferred to Grayline 1:00 pm tour. Our tour operator had left message for us at the hotel, so we had to quickly shower, change, eat and reach their pick up point in time. Luckily , there are tons of places to eat in around our hotel and also the pick up point was around the corner – which saved us some time.
The drive to Philip island – atleast the suburbs of Melbourne- was boring – and we dozed till we reached the Warrock Cattle farm. At the farm, we had tea and scones, watched native Australian animals and stretched our legs. It was fun to hand feed the kangaroos and the emu’s. We then went to see koala bears – lots of them in the nature park on the island.
Finally, we made our way to see penguins at dusk. It was cold at Phillip island. Brrr…the winds that blow there are straight across from Antarctica and we under estimated them.We considered upgrading to the ‘glass box enclosure’ just to get out of cold, but they only had one seat available. So we ended buying fairly expensive fleece blanket.
At dusk, the penguins starting coming out, in groups of three’s and fours and then in larger packs. It was adorable watching them wobble in and scamper back into the waters at the slightest noise or perception of danger. We moved to the board walk to see them up close. They were absolutely adorable! BTW, photography is not allowed as the penguins go blind due to constant flash exposure – the above is a picture of a poster.
After following them along for about half an hour or so back to their burrows, we headed back to the bus. The long flight and the long day finally hit us and we slept on the way back. The bus dropped us a short walk from the hotel and we were fast asleep in no time.
Its possible to do this trip on your own – but we didnt want to risk it being jetlagged after a long overnight flight from Seattle. And also I wasnt sure we understood the J-hook turns in Melbourne.
Next day, after breakfast, we walked to MCC stadium. The stadium is grand and the tour guide was fun. We had a team of senior citizens (60 yrs + old) cricketers from UK, so the guide went extra lengths to indulge them and their cricket interests. We briefly stopped at the museum the 3D hologram presentation of Shane Warne is not to be missed. After spening two plus hours in the stadium, Vipul was in cricket heaven! We walked back to tram station and went to St. Kilda for Lunch. Trams- they are such unique and aweosme way to get across the city.
After lunch we came back to South Dockland for a stroll and on a whim went up the Eureka Tower– amazing views, pretty cheap and no lines (compared to ESB in NY). We stopped at one of the many coffee shops along the river and had a nice hot chocolate (they come with marshmallows)…yumm!
We had a late evening flight to Sydney so it was time to walk back, collect our luggage and head to the airport.
I love cities where you can stroll along the river and take in the cityscapes. Paris, New York, Lucerne – Melbourne is no exception. A truly multi cultural city, we will definitely return to Melbourne. We didnt get to drive down the Great Ocean Road, visit the wineries and take in more of the café culture.I think Varun would love Melbourne too. Maybe we can plan another trip for our tenth wedding anniversary.