Thursday 9 March Mount Gambier to Portland, Victoria
After we had crossed the state border into Victoria & on the outskirts of Portland, the next town, we were surprised to see a lone adult koala crossing the road directly in front of us!! We had to brake in order to not run him over. I took a photo of him – gorgeous cuddly!! We stopped for fuel ($1.24 litre for diesel) & drove into the town. It’s a port with container ships but did not look that busy. We spied out a fish & chip shop on the seafront for later & then found a campsite. When we returned later at 8pm the fish shop had closed so instead we went to a restaurant further along the seafront & had barramundi, chips & salad. Back at the campsite we had a game of cards.
Friday 10 March Portland- Warrnambool
Sunny & hot again. After breakfast we drove to Cape Bridgwater to see the blowhole, petrified forest & seal colony. The blowhole was not very spectacular – more like a wave crashing against the rocks. We had to take a wooden boardwalk down to the viewing area & were attacked by annoying biting flies, especially as we were wearing shorts. The petrified forest was a misnomer – it was limestone rock eroded by sea water & then eroded by wind to form weird vertical tube-like shapes which were several metres tall. We saw no seals or other marine life. On the return journey we found the seal colony car park and found that to walk to it along the headland took 3 hours. We didn’t have time was we had food to buy & we were aiming to get to start the Great Ocean Road scenic route along the coast the next day.
We returned to Portland & did a big food shop at Aldi (did not know that Aldi supermarkets were in Australia). When we left Portland, unbeknownst to us all at the time we got speeding fines from a camera which clocked us doing 6mph over the limit & this fine ($197 = £106) was posted to our home address in England as Britz had given the police our address. As our post was being re-directed to Craig & Leanne’s house they got the fine a couple of weeks later & e-mailed us about it. Obviously we had to pay the fine to the Victorian police.
Drove to Port Fairy – a lovely little town on a river with a heritage wharf with small yachts & motor launches moored. Some of the old wooden houses looked fab with beautiful cottage gardens, white picket fences & wooden verandahs with wrought-iron work. Thought it looked a bit like New England – very pretty. Stopped at a bakery for a late lunch with seating outside & bought pies & cake. The chicken & leek pie was the worst pie I had ever had – it was mainly a glutinous white sauce. The town was busy as a 3 day folk festival was about to start with thousands of people expected. The tickets were more expensive than the Glastonbury festival. There was an afternoon concert for children with musicians singing silly songs. We couldn’t stay in the Big 4 campsite here as it was fully booked, so we decided to drive on to Warrnambool & look for a campsite near there, although we knew there wasn’t a Big 4 there.
At Warrnambool we called in at the tourist info & the helpful lady there found us the last 2 available pitches at a Top Tourist campsite in town. We stayed one night & they both had en-suite loos/showers etc on the pitches. We got 10% off & the site was packed. Keef cooked pork & vegetables in a Japanese sauce with rice & I did some papaya & passionfruit for dessert. There were still people arriving with trailer tents in the dark – lots of families with kids as it was a Bank Holiday weekend in Victoria – Labor Day.
Saturday 11 March Warrnambool &, Great Ocean Road to Princeton
Cool but & sunny today. Set off along the Great Ocean Road, one of the top scenic coastal drives in the world and visited all the places of interest & viewpoints. This was the 3rd time Keef & I have visited. The Bay of Islands & Bay of Martyrs were spectacular rock formations along the coast. At The Grotto further along the route we saw an echidna waddling along a grassy bank next to the steps leading to the grotto. Took lots of photos. Saw a thin (pencil) black snake on the same bank.
By midday the weather had warmed up & it became hot & sunny. At one of the viewpoints & spotted a creature in the grass next to the path & took a photo – it looked a bit like a rodent. It got very busy at Loch Ard Gorge as there were lots of coaches. Also very busy at the 12 Apostles – now there are only 6 rock stacks left as the rest have fallen into the sea with erosion. The visitors centre no longer has info on the rock stacks & erosion (2 cms of coast eroded a year) as it’s now a kiosk selling snacks & drinks. There were lots of signs warning about venomous snakes around the car park. It started to drizzle with rain as we left the 12 Apostles.
At the end of the day we stopped at a campground in Princeton which was reached down a very short dirt road & a bridge over the Giltbrook River. The campsite was a council owned recreational ground & was only $20 a night but had no electric hook-up. We parked next to some tents. It was raining by now, but overnight it became torrential. Keef & I slept well with the rain drumming on the roof.
Sunday 12 March Great Ocean Road to Geelong
Awoke to see ponds had formed near our van. Some of the tents had leaked & the occupoants had spent the night in their cars. Left Princeton & drove down a secondary road to Cape Otway, through the Great Otway National Park – 11 kms. We looked out for koalas but did not see any. Near the Cape there were a lot of dead trees with no leaves. There was a charge of $19.50 (£11.70) each to visit the lighthouse which was set back from the entrance so you could not even see it from a distance. Being a Bank Holiday weekend the car park was jammed & Keef & I did not think it was worth the money to see the 1856 lighthouse. We’d been inside the similar aged lighthouse on Rottnest Island which was free to visitors. Chris & Allyson decided to do it so we agreed to meet up later in Apollo Bay further along the GOR. Keef & I returned along the road & kewpt stopping in lay-bys to look for koalas but saw none.
Apollo Bay had changed considerably since we were last there in 2008 & not for the better in our opinion. Now so touristy & full of coaches, fast food joints & not attractive. Keef & I went into the tourist info centre & asked the lady if the Kennett River campsite was still operational & she confirmed it was. We then went to a supermarket to buy milk & bread & had lunch in our van. C & A used their walkie –talkie to say they were in Apollo Bay & we met up. They stayed in Apollo Bay to get some lunch & we went on to Kennett River & unfortunately found the campsite was full. While we were waiting for them to arrive by the campsite Keef & I saw some koalas in the gum trees & took some photos. One was asleep & the other was higher up eating leaves.
Chris & Allyson arrived & were excited to see some koalas. A man alerted us to some other trees where a koala was eating leaves & moving around lower down the branches. At one point I thought he was going to fall but their claws are very sharp to help them cling on. Took lots of photos & video. Love those koalas – they are so adorable. Lucky to see 3 koalas at Kennett River. We carried on along the Great Ocean Road to look for another campsite & it was so busy everywhere. Gorgeous views of the blue-turquoise Southern Ocean with cliffs & waves crashing on beaches.
After the town of Lorne (like Oxford Street at sale time) we decided to turn inland as it was so busy & we knew we’d never get a pitch at any campsite along the rest of the route judging by the packed sites around the Lorne area. We drove over the Otway Ranges & I saw another koala asleep in a tree branch above the road. Eventually the National Park ran out & we came to hills with fields & farms. We tried at Winchelsea to find a campsite but no luck – we were advised to go along the Princes Highway 1 towards Geelong & stay at a service station area for the night. It was free & had some toilets. Keef & I did tuna & salad wraps & papaya for dinner. Tomorrow we head into Melbourne.
Monday 13 March (Bank Holiday Monday) Mount Macedon & Hanging Rock to Melbourne
Another hot & sunny day. Set off north of Geelong to Mount Macedon on the Great Dividing Range. Lots of open bush as it was a national park & therefore very susceptible to bushfires. Drove through the town & on to Hanging Rock. Now you have to pay for car parking so we had to get a day ticket $10 as there was a barrier across the entrance. Keef & I went to the visitor centre again (we last climbed the Rock in 2008) & read about the book & film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. It was the remains of a volcanic caldera that once erupted a long time ago. Chris & Allyson followed the path to the top & they said it was busy as it was the Bank Holiday. We said we would do the picnic when they returned.
Keef & I read our Kindles in the field where our vans & other cars were parked. We got quite a surprise when a large grey kangaroo suddenly bounced between the two motorhomes. It saw us sitting in our picnic chairs, skidded on the gravel edge of the car park road right next to us & then did a U-turn & hurriedly jumped back past our van when I exclaimed Oh! The roo had obviously panicked when he saw us. We knew there were kangaroos in the park as there were notices but we certainly didn’t expect to see one so close in a field with lots of vehicles parked round the edge. It’s strange how you come across wildlife when you least expect it, like the koala walking across the road.
After Hanging Rock we headed south to the Big 4 campsite at Coburg, North Melbourne. We booked two nights at this campsite so we could visit Melbourne tomorrow. We could not get two pitches next to one another though. I did two loads of washing & hung it between the van & a tree & some of it was dry by the evening.
Tuesday 14 March Melbourne
Walked through Coburg residential area to get the tram into the city centre. A very hot day 32-33c especially as we were doing a lot of walking. Did not like the graffiti on walls, houses, shops, flats & anything that was stationary – looked tacky & unkempt. We saw Federation Square, then walked along the River Yarra to the 1950s Olympic Park, entertainment stadiums, tennis centre where the Australian Open is held, & the cricket ground. Next week-end is the Oz Grand Prix motor racing round Melbourne. Had a rest & drink to cool off in the café at the cricket ground. Allyson & Keef, who were ardent cricket fans, took lots of photos of statues of famous cricketers including one of Shane Warne complete with mullet hairstyle. A security lady was doing bag searches on everyone who went inside the building.
We caught the tram from the cricket ground back to the city centre & then took the old style tram which is free around the central route. We got off at the Greek Quarter expecting to have a late lunch there. Unfortunately it had virtually disappeared as there were only two restaurants left and they were closed. The tram commentary said that Melbourne had the highest concentration of Greeks in the world after Athens.
Instead we went into a Greek cake shop & had drinks, savoury filo pastries & baklava, which were tasty. Then we decided that as it was after 4pm it was not worth tramping the streets in the heat until the restaurants opened in the evening, so walked back towards Collins Street & the tram back to Coburg. On route we stopped at a pub for some cold drinks. I had pear cider and the others had beer. The pub was called James Squire who was a convict sent to Sydney with the first fleet for robbery. He set up a brewery with some hops & became a successful brewer in Parramatta. We returned on the tram in rush hour but Keef was offered a seat because he had a walking stick with him. Then a long walk back to the campsite – in all we walked 6½ miles today in the heat !! We were very tired. Did a snack supper of tea & cheese & biscuits & apple in our van as it was too dark to sit outside. Had a lovely cool shower- bliss!
Wednesday 15 March Melbourne to Gippsland & Traralgon
Left Big 4 campsite & got fuel then the sat nav took us through the outskirts of Melbourne which took about an hour- a big city. Headed down the Mornington Peninsula from St Kilda (lots of tall palm tree, a funfair, beach & beautiful homes) which had a bit of a Miami vibe. We did some food shopping at Woolies in Frankston & Chris bought some more toilet blue liquid stuff at Bunnings $17.50 as our supply had run out.
We ate lunch at Mornington on a picnic table & the seagulls were pestering us as we ate our roast chicken rolls. Looked at the map & decided that if we wanted to spend 2 days at Lakes Entrance then we needed to get a move on as it was 3 o’clock & we were still on the Mornington Peninsula. Decided to cut across country inland to a Big 4 campsite just off the Princes Highway at Traralgon. This was a brand new campsite $32.40 with a swim pool & excellent camp kitchen. Had burgers, potato salad, Greek salad & strawberries & nectarines.
By now it was dark. I chatted to a woman from Scotland who had lived 37 years in perth & never been to Rottnest Island or Monkey Mia! Played cards.
Thursday 16 March Traralgon to Lakes Entrance
Keef did a bacon & egg cob for breakfast in the new camp kitchen. Drove along the Princes Highway to Sale, which used to be a busy Victorian inland port. Cargo & people used to arrive by boat through Lakes Entrance & there was also a railway line which went all the way to Melbourne. My ancestor Edwin Masters was a ship’s captain on the Emeo which carried wood & coal from Lakes Entrance to Sale in Victorian times. He lived at Lakes Entrance & died in1921. I only discovered this in my family tree research after Keef & I had already visited Sale & L/E in 2008.
Saw some sulphur crested cockatoos in a tree at Sale harbour. Drove to Lakes Entrance & went to the lookout to see the sea lakes & isthmus & further down the hill we saw the entrance channel to the three lakes. We were hoping to stay at the 4* Big 4 in Lakes Entrance for two nights. It had 3 swimming pools but unfortunately it was full. We ended up in a Tops Park in the town which was small & cramped but at least they had two pitches next to each other. We decided to stay 1 night rather than 2. We walked along the foreshore & across a pedestrian bridge & saw some black swans.
We crossed over the narrow sandy isthmus to the beach which was called 90 Mile Beach. Another ancestor of mine, Capt Alfred Masters who was a brother of Edwin, & had been a master mariner in the Merchant Navy in England, drowned off this beach in 1892 when his schooner carrying cargo sprang a leak & he couldn’t swim to shore. Captain Masters was only 33 & engaged to be married. The bush along the coast was not a good place to walk through due to venomous snakes & paralysis ticks.
The weather was turning very windy & cool so Keef & I walked back to the motorhome whilst Chris & Allyson walked 6kms along the isthmus track. They said that there were signs warning people about snakes so good job I didn’t go. Keef & I used the camp kitchen (which was very good) & did chicken, jacket potatoes, carrots, beans & onions.
Friday 17 March Lakes Entrance to Mallacoota
Another day of warm weather but not as hot as previous days. We stopped four times on the journey mainly travelling along the Princes Highway. We stopped briefly in Orbost to see the tiny pioneer wood house which was original. The house once had a family with 10 children. It’s now the tourist info & the lady there recommended we go on a loop road to Marlo and Cape Conran which we decided to do. We followed the road by the bank of the mighty Snowy River (made famous by the Oz poet Banjo Patterson in ‘The Man From Snowy River’ which I read at school in Sydney). The river starts in the Snowy Mountains in NSW & empties into the Bass Strait, Victoria. Marlo was a tiny place with a little pier and we were surprised to hear a huffing noise from under the jetty. It was a large seal who was looking for fish. We saw him at very close range & he was looking at us. Liked his big eyes & long whiskers & we took some photos. The sun came out & the sea looked blue with the breakers crashing on the shore. Right near the mouth of the Snowy River we saw an old man panning for gold by using a suction tube to get the sediment from the river bed and putting it through a sieve.
We went to Cape Conran but did not see any koalas. Did a short walk onto a beach which stretched for miles along the coastline. This area of coastline in Victoria is called the Wilderness Coast & mainly national park. Saw a dead seal on the beach. We rejoined the Princes Highway & stopped after Bell Bird Creek to do a rainforest walk. This was in an area called the Benum River Rainforest which was a tiny pocket of temperate rainforest with tree ferns, creepers and trees with a small stream. The walk was about a mile and some of it was boardwalk & the rest was forest track & dirt road. Luckily didn’t see any snakes. We were looking out for a duck billed platypus in the small stream and though we saw some holes in the bank we did not see any. I saw a small lizard on top of a mossy fallen tree trunk and Allyson took a photo of it.
We continued along the Princes Highway & drove through virgin bush where the eucalyptus trees stretched for miles. This was called Alfred National Park & Croajingolong National Park. We drove down a side road to Gipsy Point which K & I had visited before – a quiet little sea inlet with a few homes, holiday cottages & boat jetty. The tourist brochure said that lyre birds & sea eagles could be seen here. We did see 3 large kangaroos lazing on a lawn in front of someone’s house.
We carried on the route to Mallacoota & on the outskirts of the small town I saw a whole group of kangaroos in a field. We just got booked in at the Foreshore Camping Ground ($32 a night per pitch site) before they closed at 5pm. Nice views across the inlet to virgin bush, some tiny islands and the Howe Range hills in the distance. Had sausages for dinner. We are staying two nights here.
Saturday 18 March At Mallacoota, Victoria all day
After breakfast Chris & Allyson walked to the shops in Mallacoota and Keef & I went for a long walk (about 2 hours) around the campsite. This was a big site with 769 pitches but the facilities were very old fashioned but adequate. It was popular with fishing people who even brought their boats with their caravans. At one of the many boat jetties we saw a very large stingray come up to the surface looking for fish & crustaceans. It had orange spots/splodges on its brown back, orange under its wings & was about 3 feet across. Unfortunately Keef was not quick enough to get a photo before it swam down from the surface & away. We then walked out of one end of the campsite towards Shady Gully looking for koalas in the trees. We returned to the jetty on the way back but the ray had moved on. Then we called in at the camp reception office to ask about koalas & other wildlife.
The man there was very chatty (he was a retired volunteer) but he did not know the type of stingray that we’d seen. Then he said that a koala had been spotted high up in a tree on the other side of the campsite so we walked along looking at the trees in the area specified. We saw it asleep & Keef took some pictures. We could hear the surf loudly crashing on the beach part-way across the inlet. By 1pm it started drizzling so we returned to the motorhome.
Chris & Allyson returned and said they had found a good café to have breakfast tomorrow morning & they had seen a nice eco driftwood sculpture that they wanted to buy in a local art gallery. For lunch we had tuna wraps & salad. It was drizzly all afternoon so I did some cross-stitch embroidery (a Christmas sampler). Wi-fi was difficult to get into & was very erratic. We’ve had this problem in nearly all campsites where the free wi-fi is very restricted or it does not work unless you’re seated on the top of the nearest telecoms mast!
Just as dusk I went back to look for the koala but he had moved away from the tree. On the way back to the motorhome I saw 11 kangaroos (including a rare albino one) feeding on a grassy plot across the road from the campsite & I took some photos. Chris & Allyson cooked fish on their campervan pull-out BBQ, with veggies & wine. Shame that the weather had turned overcast & showery later in the afternoon. We had some heavy rain during the night.
Sunday 19 March Mallacoota to Pambula Beach, NSW
Weather brighter & some hot sunshine later in the morning. We drove into the town & went to the café called Lucy’s for cooked breakfast which was tasty & coffee. We then drove through the residential area of Mallacoota where there was a sign by some woods which showed lyre birds were around, but we didn’t see any. Keef thought he saw a snake by someone’s front garden so we turned round the block to have another look but it had gone.
Stopped at a car park at Double Creek where there were some very noisy bellbirds but no koalas