January & March 2018
The Southern Coastline
Coming from the state of heat and drought, we enter Victoria with the immediate feel of relieve. It’s cooler, it’s greener… we are loving it!
Unfortunately there’s a flipside to everything, in this case tourism. The beautiful coastline, the lush green national parks are ridiculously popular with travelers from all over the world, Asians and Europeans in particular. Yearly over 2,8 million people visit the state of Victoria and not all of them know how to behave ór drive. Stopping in the middle of the road whenever they see a koala.
Throwing trash out the window, because where else should they leave it… Luckily there are tourists who know how to behave too 😉
We discover that tourists only go where other tourists go, so we leave the beaten track and enjoy some diverse and unspoiled parts of Victoria.
Our stay with Jos his cousins brought us unexpected fun and made us do things we’ve never done before! What a fantastic time in this small but oh so surprisingly interesting state…
Cape Bridgewater - Portland
Crossing the border to Victoria is like entering another country, eventhough there is just a small sign, the differences are huge. We get some petrol at the first and only gas station we pass in Nelson, a small friendly town. Right after this break the delight starts as we pass Lower Glenelg National Park. A lush green and hilly area with a few fantastic governmental campgrounds.
Unfortunately we are in the middle of the Australian summer holiday so high-season is reaching it’s absolute peak. Everything is fully booked.
After a break we decide to drive on to Cape Bridgewater, a coastaltown south of the National Park.
Cape Bridgewater is famous for it’s caves and ocean wildlife viewing points. We stay at a small school camp campground with great facilities and amazingly close to a gorgeous beach. Unlike other campsites in the area we pay only $ 20 per night.
A short hike up to the Seals viewing point ends in a change or course after we see a sign that the viewing point is another 5 kilometers away. On our flipflops we climb down to the breathtaking beach and do a stroll along the coast instead. Not a good time to see seals anyway…
Close to the campsite there is another oceanic viewpoint called Blowholes where we hope to see some fauna.
Whales are often spotted here… so thats worth a wait. After a while we finally see some movement, seals! Fantastic! We walk around the area to the Petrified Forrest which looks amazing. The petrified tree trunks are actually sandstone pillars build up by the salt and chalk in the water. Muchos interesting!
About 20 kilometers from Cape Bridgewater is the town Portland. A touristy coastaltown with a small port and a lovely town centre. We get some groceries in the large supermarket there and drive back inland again.
When visiting the state of Victoria, the one thing you should not miss is the Grampians National Park. That is what we were told. And of course we listen… let’s go!
From the coast we drive to the park in about two hours. This looks amazing! Believe it or not we are quite lucky with the weather again. In the next four days there are temperatures of 38 and up on our program. So there is no way we can hike. Sad but true. We do not want to skip another park because of the heat so we just drive around and do some short walks here and there. Phew, not comfortable at all…
The park is indeed absolutely stunning, green winding roads through the mountains, incredibly tall trees protect us from the sun and deep gorges make us feel small and vulnerable. Actually we would love to spend a few days here! Looking for a campground our hope drops, everything is fully booked…
A bit disappointed we finish our fantastic drive through the park and return to the coast where we’ve found another cheap campground which hopefully isn’t full.
Along the way to the coast we find a free campground with enough room available. It’s already five o’clock so we decide to stay here for the night.
The campground is in the middle of a small town next to the public pool, which unfortunately is closed. The amenities are open so we can take a nice refreshing shower. We cook a great meal and go to bed early after another tiring day.
When we wake up in the morning it’s raining and the small campground is filled with campervans. We pack up and leave to a hopefully drier spot to enjoy our breakfast.
Killarney - Port Fairy
We arrive in the popular town Port Fairy, a cute town with a great atmosphere. Here you can find many small cafes, artshops, fishrestaurants and a few overpriced caravanparks. When I say overpriced I mean $ 56 for an unpowered site. With this you do get a pool and hotelstyle amenities. We do not even have a choice, every campsite is fully booked so we stay a bit further away in a tiny town called Killarney.
Arriving there early is definitely an advantage, for there are only two sites available at this the cheap cricketground campsite.
We camp just a hundred meters from a beautiful beach. The facilities are old and don’t look very appealing but it’s only for a night or two and the beach makes up for everything. Unfortunately the wind is firm and the water is freezing but we enjoy ourselves anyway by walking along the beach with our feet in the fresh bright blue water.
The campsite has about 40 sites but only one toilet which seems a bit weird to us. The three showers are obviously not cleaned very often so after three nights we’ve had enough of this dodgy campsite and pack up.
Warrnambool is a bigger city with everything on it. You could call it the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, so visiting it is quite popular. Unfortunately this town has very strict rules when it comes to camping. Free camping is not aloud in and around Warrnambool and the war of the many expensive caravan Parks exceeds our budget quite a lot. A merely $ 65.00 for a small unpowered campingspot is considered standard here.
We just get some groceries and check out the incredible beaches. Our stop in Childers cove, just a bit further east is really worth it. The closer we get to Melbourne the more tourists we see. Ánd it’s top season now that it’s January…
The Great Ocean Road
This immensely popular route along the enchanting coastline is about 250 kilometres long from Warrnambool to Geelong. Of course you can easily drive this in one day, like some people like to do it. But if you just take your time, you’ll see so much more than impressive cliffs and blue water. There are hidden gems everywhere, a forgotten graveyard for boatcasualties and tiny private beaches without anyone else around.
The birdlife is unique and if you turn inland just a bit you’ll find breathtaking waterfalls and rough forests to your disposal.
After driving along this route we can recommend you to drive in opposite direction, from Geelong towards Warrnambool. There are many rest areas and viewing points that are just not reachable when you have to cross the road. Also driving on the left means drive on the far end of the ocean when you drive towards Geelong, especially sitting in the passengers seat you’ll miss the best parts!
Brucknell Park Scout Camp
Phew, we’ve seen enough and drive on towards Brucknell, just 20 minutes from here where we find more atmosphere in the Brucknell Scout Camp in the midst of a Park filled with birds.
We can choose our own spot on the ground and decide to stay in between some trees. Fires are allowed in the fire pits and the firewood is free. We pay $ 10.00 per night and end up staying four nights. The area is absolutely amazing but the flies carry us away.
Nevertheless we have a fantastic time through New Year’s Eve poking the fire, hiking and reading. There is a growling koala up in the tree behind us, burling to the female.
The birds are so enjoyable and come in many colors. A blue Fairy Wren keeps us company, he hops around like a baby bunny with it’s tail straight up in the air. This must be the most adorable bird of Australia!
About an hour land inward there is the town of Colac where we will meet Jos’ cousin Liz and her husband.
Here we can finally get some groceries again and together we visit the small but lovely botanical garden.
The town is slightly bigger than most in this area, it’s build next to the large Lake Colac, which is popular for its fishing and water sports. The town has bars and restaurants and some shops. The newly build Coles is even bigger than the one in Warrnambool.
Visiting this town while exploring the coastline isn’t an obvious choice but it’s definitely a nice change from the high tourism along the Great Ocean Road.
This small town along the Great Ocean Road has a beautiful wetland recreation area. There is a campsite surrounded by trees, birds and… kangaroos! We find a cool spot under a large tree and go for a walk through the wetlands. It’s beautiful here and there is even a beach. The water doesn’t look too fresh though so we skip swimming for now.
The next day temperatures will rise up to 42 degrees. The wind coming from the desert is firm with speeds up to 65 kilometers an hour and it’s hot like a blow dryer.
An incredibly uncomfortable day, the heat is insane. We’ve had days like these before but at some point in the day you’d just want to die…
This afternoon the wind will turn from the inland to the sea. This will lower the temperatures by 20 degrees so they say. We can’t wait to see if that’s true.
Around four o’clock the wind reaches its peak and small whirlwinds blow people’s belongings across the campground.
It’s unbelievable, but in less than 20 minutes the temperatures indeed drop 20 degrees to a cool 22… we are flabbergasted…
At night there are kangaroos gathering around the campground looking for food, it must be 60 of them… flabbergasted again! The campsite itself isn’t very special but our spot is very relaxing so we end up staying there for three days.
Cape Otway National Park
Along the lowest point of the Great Ocean Road there’s the big national park Cape Otway. Home to great wildlife and a fantastic place to hike. Unfortunately like every other place in this country, it’s dry and bare now that it’s summer.
The gumtree’s do give some shade and color but it’s probably best in spring. We drive through the park and spot some koalas high up in the eucalyptus trees. They look so adorable… but we’ve seen them much closer.
On the coast of the park there’s an old lighthouse with a nice walk surrounding it. The coast is rough and doesn’t only have high cliffs but awesome beaches as well.
On the government website we book a campsite in the park called Parker Hill, but when we get there the disappointment is so big we decide to drive on and find something else.
The spot we’ve chosen has no shade and there’s just black sand so camp on. The other spots look so much better but they are all taken. Too bad… don’t take site 10!
From Cape Otway we drive through what might be the most impressive part of our roadtrip so far. The route through Beech Forest along the C159 towards Apollo bay is absolutely stunning. Zigzagging roads with steep hills and deep green gorges. There aren’t many possibilities to stop so we had to resist temptation not to drive back and do it all over again…
We stop in a small road entrance for a coffee and a rest and enjoy the many birds. There is even one that sounds like dial-up internet. For real!
Jamieson Creek Bush Campground
Along the magnificent but popular Great Ocean Road the campsites are extremely full and rediculously expensive. We find an awesome free campsite with a small private beach where we have the time of our lives. Strange enough the campsite doesn’t have toilets but ahh who needs them if you have the great outdoors. The campsite is a bit higher than the road and gives a magnificent panoramic view.
Big Hill Track Campground
Just a few kilometers land inwards from Lorne we find a fantastic shady free campsite in the midst of the forest. Large trees around us and we only hear birds singing.
Melbourne is huge, with a population of just under 5 million this is the biggest city in Australia after Sydney. It covers an area of 10,000 square kilometres which is about a quarter of the Netherlands. Around the much smaller city centre there are many suburbs that on their own can pass for a complete village.
We visit the city centre by train. Car parks are very expensive with a tariff of $ 15-20 and hour. The train from Cranbourne station costs us $ 4.30 per person one way. We buy a Myki card and top it with the money we need for the trip. When we enter the trains we swipe the card and now we can travel around for two hours.
We need to switch trains and take the bus because of construction, but when we finally get there we immediately like what we see. There are so many classical old buildings and the skyline of modern architecture is amazing. We get off at the Parliament building and take a free tour through the magnificent building from 1856. Very interesting, especially because Jos his cousin used to work here as a minister for education.
Inside the city centre the tram is free and eventhough a fantastic authentic tram could take us all around the highlights we wander around the city by foot. Amazed by the impressive St. Patrick’s and St. Paul’s cathedrals and the unbelievable amount of shops.
South East Melbourne
We stay with Jos his cousin Liz and her husband Eric in their home in Cranbourne southeast of Melbourne. Cranbourne is a large suburb with different shopping centres and is just an hour and 15 minutes by train or car from the city centre. This green and diverse eastern part of Melbourne gives us enough to do during our three week stay.
In the first 10 days Liz and Eric take us everywhere with their car. We visit the Healesville Animal Sanctuary and feed the cockatoos and parrots in Dandenong ranges.
We visit a tasty winery and follow the touristic coastline down to the gorgeous Mornington Peninsula where we enjoy it’s amazing beaches.
At Arthurs Seat we take the new chairlift down and up the mountain and enjoy and an awesome experience and an incredible view! We walk around in Cranbourne’s beautiful botanical gardens (in the rain – Victoria weather means 4 seasons in one day) and every night we enjoy a typical Ozzie dinner cooked by Liz.
Jos his other cousin Hank has a big opium poppy farm closeby and we get a nice tour around the premises. Unfortunately the poppy’s have just been harvested so there’s not much to see but the background information is incredibly interesting.
Another of Jos his cousins Joe runs a potato and onion distribution company where we also get an interesting tour. The potato’s are washed and sorted, never seen so many potatoes in my life. We get a nice filled box to take home. So amazing to see what has become of those Dutchies that went overseas.
All in all we are so well taken care of here, we must have gained about five kilos from all the food.
After 1,5 week, Liz and Eric travel to Holland while we stay behind and take care of their home and garden for 10 days. Not bad at all!
Bunyip National Park
Surrounding Melbourne there are many impressive National Parks with more than enough hiking trail. We decide to go to Bunyip National Park and follow the Mortimer Track. It’s a 9 kilometer trail trough tall trees and passing breathtaking views. Many birds keep us company and the weather suits our clothes. The terrain is quite flat which makes this easy to moderate hike great for a morning or afternoon walk. At the start of the Mortimer Track there is a small camping area with long drop toilets so from here you can start early in the morning if you’d like.
Bunyip National Park is amazing and has many more trails. We’ve found a website where you can find all kinds of hikingtrails in Australia. Click here for inspiration.
After our amazing trip to Tasmania we stay at Jos his cousin Alda and her husband Graham for a few days. They have a fantastic old Art Deco house in Warragul and show us around the beautiful South Gippsland area.
Home at Alda and Graham it’s time for something more relaxed. We have lots of fun talking and after a great meal we enjoy playing guilty pleasures on YouTube whilst doing some wine tasting… let me tell ya, it was quite hard waking up in the morning 😉
We drive towards the Yarra Ranges, a big mountainous area north east of Melbourne. We stop at Noojee Trestle Bridge, an old wooden manmade railway passage. Very impressive how this is handmade!!
We follow a short trail over the bridge and into the forest. It’s beautiful here…
When we drive through the stunning scenery and reach Toorongo Falls Reserve, South Yarra. There is a hike to the waterfall which we follow and of course we are not disappointed. Phew Australia has got some breathtaking nature!
The trail takes us through a canopy of ferns and tall impressive trees.
The path divides the rough steep hills from the deep valley and is coloured by the sunlight peeking through.
Some enormous bull ants cross our path. They are huge! Don’t let ‘m bite ya, Graham says… they’ll give you and excruciating pain. Ah, good to know…
Alda and Graham entertain us with their funny stories from years ago. Our last night here already, we’ve had such an unforgettable time with them. Five days filled with laughter and astounding landscapes.
When we leave they give us a huge bag of liquorice (!!!) straight from the factory and we’re on our way!
Walhalla Historic Township
We leave Alda and Graham and focus on our next destination. A stay with Jos’ other cousin Alda and her husband Kim in Sale. It’s only a two hour drive between the Alda’s and we have all day so we make a detour and drive to Walhalla in the Baw Baw region. An fairytale village in the midst of incredible scenery. After a lot of hairpin bends we reach the entrance of the village. There is the old Goldfields railway station with a classic steam train and a few cafes. The town isn’t too big with it’s 30 inhabitants so we walk through before we know it. This used to be a popular goldminers town with a population of 3500.
After a short break we drive further through the razor sharp bends and along the deep gorges of this area. It’s absolutely breathtaking here!
We hope to see the old gold mining train passing by on a fantastic bridge at Thomson railway station but unfortunately we’ve just missed it. The historic train dates from 1905 and still rides between Walhalla and Thomson.
Throughout the east of Victoria there are a lot of Rail Trails, old railway lines that used to lead through smaller towns and have been shut down. They now form a nice track for hiking and biking.
Jos his other cousin Alda lives with her husband Kim in Sale in the Lakes Area of East Gippsland. They would love to show us what their lives are like here in Australia so they take us to all the places they usually visit.
We have dinner, or as they say ‘tea’ at the 90 mile beach close to Lakes Entrance and afterwards Kim gives us a night tour passed the Esso refinery where Kim works as a trainer in emergency rescue.
Our first morning we go with Kim to the pistolclub. This is the countryside so shooting is a popular hobby here.
We’ve never shot a gun before and we are so not a fan of weapons but still, there’s a first time for everything so we join him gladly. We shoot a cardboard target with a 8mm .38mm gun and then shoot some metal targets with an air riffle. Eventhough we would never ever shoot on anything that breathes, the shooting is pretty cool to do.
After shooting and a small snack we go kayaking on Cowwarr Lake. We check the kayaks for spiders and let them into the water. The weather is beautiful, blue sky, 30 degrees and a slight breeze. We slide through the water and enjoy the peace, all we hear is the birds. Some contrast with the shooting range.
Afterwards we have a BBQ on the lakeside. Alda has brought some kangaroo meat for us to try. Shit, do I want to eat a kangaroo?! Such a weird idea to eat a kangaroo but well, we have to try… and it tastes absolutely delicious!
To make a fantastic day complete we enjoy a very tasteful wine at Avon Ridge Vineyard winery in Stratford.
We drive through the velvet hills towards Hollands Landing near the huge Lake Wellington. We are going on a boat trip today and we hope the sun will join us. Eventhough the forecast is quite good, the sky is filled with clouds and the sun is nowhere to be found.
When we arrive at the boat ramp we unload the boat and get everything ready to go. We sail over Lake Victoria and have a short stop in Loch Sport, a tiny town in between the lake and the ocean.
The clouds seem to be getting thicker and thicker so we decide to sail back to the boat ramp and do some fishing.
It’s cold in the boat but the surroundings are beautiful, large birds flying up from the reed and small island along the shore. This must be so amazing when the sun shines!
On the pier Kim takes out his fishing rods and hooks up a little dead squid. Yuck. He places the rods in position and tells us what to do. Oh dear, I don’t think I can manage when we really catch something. But as this is a trip where we want to try new things, we’ll just have to do this. Just to know this is not our cup of tea.
Luckily the fish don’t trust our squid and swim the other way. So we don’t catch anything. Our neighbor fisher though, he has caught a small bream which he has to throw back. You can keep only the larger fish, for the young ones are still growing.
Again, a day full of firsts. For dinner Alda has prepares a shark fillet which tastes very different from any other fish we’ve eaten.
We thought, if they are allowed to eat us… 😉
After a few fantastic days with Alda and Kim we cook for them on our last night. A nice vega Parmigiano di Melanzane accompanied by a tasty local blended red wine. Life is good.
Kim and Alda have a ridiculous big holiday home in Lakes Entrance where we can stay for four days. A very welcome luxury after eleven months of traveling.
Lakes Entrance is a small touristic town on 90 Mile Beach in the Lakes District where many Australians love to celebrate their holidays. This area is excellent for water sports and we see some boats and fishermen.
The house is less than 5 walking minutes from the beach so we make a long walk along the beautiful rough ocean every morning after breakfast. What else can you do here besides walking, yes reading! On the beautiful patio we hear nothing but birds…
What a terrible way to spend a few days by the coast.
Before we know it our time here in Lakes Entrance is up and we move on…
We haven’t camped for 2.5 weeks so we really need to get some groceries… this is our list that will last us a week:
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
200 gram green beans
4 pink potatoes (they are the best)
half a pumpkin
2 jerry can water 10L
3 liter long lasting milk
500 gram dried pasta
1 carton tomato sauce
1 can of mixed beans
1 spam (canned meat, yeah we really eat that stuff)
1 fresh bread
10 slices of cheese
Haha interesting isn’t it 😉 You can make so much great meals with these ingredients! In addition to that we always have butter, olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mixed (Italian) herbs, pepper grinder, curry powder, rice, coffee (we have a plunger), Weetix (or Weetabix or Weetbix: fibres, ideal for traveling and available anywhere in the world)
Alda and Graham advised us to go to Cape Conran, a 90 minute drive from Lakes Entrance through beautiful scenery, so no punishment at all.
We stop in Marlo, a small town in a area with lakes, thus lots of water sports, boating and fishing. We stop at the boat ramp and immediately see a seal! We are impressed. Open mouth, smiling like little kids. A seal!!
He looks big and fat and swims around the pier. When we talk to him he looks at us with his big shiny eyes. Incredibly cute.
After a few minutes a couple of fishermen arrive and clean their fish on the pier.
The seal obviously know what’s next because he dives happily through the water while catching big chucks of fish and then waits at the same spot over and over again. The seagulls and some cormorants pick up the smaller pieces like maniacs and a pelican doesn’t seem to think he has a chance and keeps his distance.
The spectacle takes about ten minutes and then everyone is satisfied. Peace returns. This absolutely made our day!
When we drive on to Cape Conran we stop at another boat ramp along the way. There are no animals here but the view is stunning. We decide to make a coffee and some lunch and while we sit and relax we see a monitor lizard of a meter long. When it sees us it climbs into a tree where we can have a closer look at it. So cool!
Our adventure in this state will come to an end. We leave Victoria and cross the border to New South Wales where we will try to sell our car. It was a fantastic roadtrip so far, we absolutely love Victoria!