Tours and Excursions in Melbourne

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2. Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
We organised this trip ourselves and everything went fantastic including the weather. Winter in Australia - great. Hire Car from Avis, picked up at the airport (very good value) and booked into the Kingsgate Hotel, close to the Casino Complex by the river. Casino underground car park ideal for hotel.

Melbourne has an electronic toll system (City Link), which you would think is straightforward - wrong!  Getting a 24hr pass by phone was next to impossible, the automatic service was useless and when we did get an operator he was no better. Advice: Get your pass at a kiosk or the Airport, we found one at the Shell Garage on the WestLink. The city itself has lots to offer with the Rialto Tower, Old Melbourne Gaol with its Ned Kelly connections and much more. The river bank walk by the Casino is great at night although do not go beyond the Flinders Street railway station - not very pleasant when we were there.  (By 2007 that section of walk is just fine, it will take you along the side of Federation Square and after a while you can cross the river into the Botanic Gardens.  Much quieter and more tree lined than than Southbank or Crown Casino.)

Drive out to Geelong, onto to Torquay and let the journey begin. If you are a fan of the series Seachange drop into Barwon Heads, if not it is still worth a slight detour. This road is fantastic to drive especially during the off-season. On out through Anglesea and with some small and pleasant towns to greet you and spectacular views between them - enjoy!

2 and a half- Great Southern Touring Route, Victoria, Australia (by ms_jes)

Since we were starting from the southern suburbs of Melbourne, we decided to drive over the Mornington Peninsula and take the car ferry to Queenscliff.  It cost $50 but was worth it for the views and to avoid going through Melbourne. 

Anglesea, Lorne, and Apollo Bay are all the expected beach spots, with plenty of gorgeous sand and breathtaking views.  And more than enough people!  But just down the road from any of those tourist centers you have your pick of pristine, almost-abandoned surf beaches.  Even Bells Beach is fairly quiet, probably owing to the 60 meter path down a cliff you have to walk down to get to the sand!  The stretch of road from Lorne to Apollo Bay is killer!  I felt well-prepared from years of driving in my Rocky Mountain home, but if you don't have twisty road experience there are several white-knuckle moments.  The whole thing is much more comfortable in a small car, anyway, but a van will just barely fit.  That section takes about 2 hours, more if you get stuck behind someone slow, so just plan to take it easy and don't fall off a cliff!

Past Apollo Bay the road twists up away from the coast and gets a bit faster and easier to drive, going through some beautiful fern filled forests.  Look for koalas in the trees!

The road goes back to the coast at Princetown, and soon you come to the Twelve Apostles.  You can easily see the pile of rubble of the one that fell down recently.  Gorgeous views, but don't let your hat fly away- its WINDY on the south coast!  Loch Ard Gorge is well worth a stop, with hikes and caves and a blow hole in the area.  London Bridge, the Grotto, the Arch, and the Bay of Islands are all very scenic stops, and less crowded than the main attraction at the Twelve Apostles.  But take along something to shoo flies with- they'll actually fly up your nose if you're not careful!

We stayed the night at Warrnambool and learned the hard way that during the high season you HAVE TO book ahead.  Nothing like rolling into town to be greeted with a sea of "no vacancy" signs!  But we didn't have to sleep on the beach after all, the nice people at the Old Maritime sent us over to the nice people at the Kepler House.  We paid a LOT for the last room in the place, but it was worth it.  Late night dinner options are pretty limited, especially after 9, but Pinky's Pizza is open on Liebig Street and there are a few places serving desserts or drinks.  For breakfast the Figseller Cafe serves enormous plates of very good food, and you can sit in the lovely courtyard in the back.  Service is slow, but its the country after all, no one's really in a hurry.  Prices are a little high, but justified considering the huge portions,

We gave Flagstaff Hill a miss, since we didn't have any children in tow.  Also avoided all the kiddie carnival rides set up on the road to the beach for the same reason.  Thunder Point is beautiful and there are places to hike.  Stingray Bay is fun for swimming, if you can stand the icy Antarctic water.  There are islands you can wade across to, and the shallow water is perfect for playing games and splash fights.  Surfing lessons are also available, but that's another lesson in booking ahead during the high season.  They were booked out the day I was there.

The turnoff to Tower Hill is very nondescript and not well signed.  You'll feel like you must have turned in the wrong place!  But just keep going and you'll come to the carpark.  Look around for emus and koalas.  The other "wildlife" is not so nice- be sure to take something to shoo the flies away, or even get a netted hat.  Hikes around the old volcano are good, there are 4 different routes of varying difficulty.  The setting is beautiful, even though with the recent drought there isn't much water in the lake, and the visitor center was closed for fire danger. 

We skipped Port Fairy in favor of heading north toward the Grampians.  Dunkeld makes a pleasant stop along the way.  Its small and low key, but pleasant and has a good vibe. 

Hall's Gap is a pleasant little mountain town, and a breath of fresh air after so much driving.  We stayed at the Kookabura Lodge, with gorgeous views of the mountain from the back rooms.  (we finally learned our lesson about booking ahead!)  Dinner was at the Quarry restaurant, but again, be sure to book ahead.  Also notable in town is the Brambuk Cultural Center.  There are lots of educational displays on Aboriginal history and various cultural activities.  In the gift shop "shoplifters are subject to traditional Koorie law."  I have no idea what that might mean!  The bush food cafe is great- try the emu sausages or crocodile ravioli or kangaroo steaks!  Tasty!

A little mountain driving will easily took us to Boroka Lookout, the Balconies, and MacKenzie Falls.  At MacKenzie Falls I highly recommend the walk to the falls base.  Its steep and there are a lot of stairs, but the view from the base of the falls was my favorite place all day.  The walk to the Falls overlook is much easier, and also nice.  Silverband Falls to the south of Hall's Gap is a unique waterfall.  There is no pool or river at the base, the falls go straight underground. 

On the way through Stawell and Ararat be sure to make it to at least one or 2 wineries!

March 04, 2005 new by pat_boland (1 point)
January 09, 2007 change by ms_jes
May 18, 2005 change by giorgio

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