After a rainy experience in Sydney, it was off to Melbourne Australia. Arriving at the airport, we had to wait on one of my sister’s suitcases that was delayed. However, from there it was off to the hotel.
Right away it was a step up from Sydney. It was a warm, sunny day. It was the first time we needed sunglasses in Australia. As our taxi left the airport and got on the highway, we looked off to the left and there must have been hundreds of kangaroos hopping in the distance to our left. I would have thought it was a mirage if the others did not see it as well. Amazing.
Our taxi arrived in the South Wharf area of Melbourne where our hotel was located. It’s a nice area on the south side of the Yarra River. Everything appeared to be recently built including a large shopping mall with over 140 stores next to the hotel. Further down there was a new casino as well.
The hotel was also recently built. Thus, it was very modern and convenient to the aforementioned shopping and several dining options right on the river.
After getting settled at the hotel, we decided to walk down the river and check out the area. It was a pleasant stroll along the river. There are several grassy areas where people were relaxing and just hanging out.
We ended up just eating at a burger place that came recommended by the concierge. The food was great along with very helpful service. As we were leaving there was a couple of columns that erupted with fire. Apparently every hour or so they light up. It reminded me of the scene from Wizard of Oz when the wicked witch first appears to Dorothy. I was once again reminded that we were not in Kansas any more.
After a nice evening, it was back to the hotel for an early bedtime as we had a 14 hour day in the morning traveling the Great Ocean Road.
Great Ocean Road
Early the next morning I had a good workout in the well equipped fitness center at the hotel. Then, we got ready and headed down to get on the small bus for our trip.
The good news was that we were the last group to be picked up. The bad news was that we had the last choice on the seats. My brother and I shared a seat on the wheel section of the bus which meant limited foot room. And, as the driver Paul explained, we had over 500 kilometers of driving that day.
Paul was an entertaining driver / guide from New Zealand. He gave us some history of Melbourne on the road to pass the time and played some of the more obscure Beatles songs.
We were headed to the Great Ocean Road which is a stretch of over 150 miles of road along the southeastern coast of Victoria Australia.  It is the world’s largest war memorial that is dedicated to Australian soldiers killed in WWI.  Many of the roads were carved out by returning soldiers from the war.  In many cases, they only used shovels to move earth and rock aside.  Apparently, they only made limited use of dynamite due to the negative effects on the soldiers who were too scarred from the battlefield.
Our first stop was at Bells Beach. Bells Beach is the location of the longest running surf competition.  I can see why.  There was some pretty impressive wave action in the surf.  My brother in law, Josh, kindly loaned us his GoPro equipment for the trip.  So, Christopher attached the super awesome 4K resolution GoPro camera to my backpack. The idea was to capture as much as possible for our family and friends back home (coming to YouTube at some point in the future).
I made straight for a hiking trail that wound its way to the top of a small cliff overlooking the beach area. I saw the first of many information signs that day the indicated to watch for venomous snakes.
The trail was nice and short to the top. The view was absolutely spectacular. Looking at our photos, the pictures were nice but that just don’t do it justice to being there in person. I was able to look down at Beth and Christopher as they visited other sections of the beach. I could have spent hours up there. However, looking at my watch I saw I had only 10 minutes to make it back for the bus departure. Thus, it was back down the trail and across the beach and back to the bus. Unfortunately, I was the last one back, so I hurried aboard and took my seat for the next stop.
We then made another stop or two on our way to the official start of the Great Ocean Road. We also passed through an area where they filmed parts of an Australian classic, Mad Max.
Along the way, we made several mini stops and hit the beach each time.  Each stop provided breathtaking views of God’s amazing creation.  One of the highlights along the road are the ‘Twelve Apostles’.  Originally just nine limestone stacks.  One collapsed into the sea back in 2005.  These stacks range up to 50 meters in height.
 
At many stops we would walk down some steep steps to the sand and marvel at the stacks.  Since the road was long and we had many stops, we would only have a few minutes before we would have to climb back up to the bus.  Thus, for the first time (and not the last on this trip) I would remark that I wish we could experience the tour twice.  Once to take photos and video.  And one to just take it all in.  By the time we snapped some photos and video, it was time to go.  Not complaining though, it was really special to be able to see this part of the world in person on such a beautiful, sunny day.
 
We also made some non beach stops along the way as well.  One was at a koala preserve where we ate lunch (no, we did not eat koala).  These are some lazy marsupials (no, they are not really bears).  They sleep about 20 – 22 hours out of a day.  We were fortunate enough to see one feeding on some eucalyptus leaves while we were there.  Apparently the leaves they ingest result in them living the lazy life.  We saw a few more and most were sound asleep up in the trees.
 
We also visited a rainforest and did a small hike through a circular trail in the woods.  We fortunately did not meet any of the ‘deadly animals of Australia’.
 
The last stop of the tour was at Loch Ard Gorge.  This section of beach just screamed to be a pirate locale.  It had a very narrow opening to a split beach with hidden coves inside it.  It made me think of one of the first novels I ever read, Treasure Island.  I could just imagine the buried treasure in one of the hidden coves.  It really triggered the imagination.
 
Tired and thoroughly satisfied with the day, we headed back to the hotel in Melbourne and arrived late in the evening.  What a great day.  So many spectacular sights and experiences.  This full day tour is a must do when in the Melbourne area.
Next up is our second full day in Melbourne in which we go into the city.