Thursday, June 22, 2017

Great Ocean Road Trip (Day 2 in Victoria)

We visited Melbourne City area on our first day in Victoria, Australia. Second day, Great Ocean Road. We booked our day tour with Go West Tours a few days before we departed to Melbourne. The tour operator's prompt responses, plus, good rating on Tripadvisor helped us with our decision. 

Melbourne, second day, 7:30 am. We arrived at Rendezvous Hotel at Flinders Street. Our tour guide and driver- Joel, fetched us at 8 am. The tour was well-arranged, with several stops along the way- Torquay for breakfast at around 10 am, Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch for photo at 11 am, Kennett River for wild Koala at 12 pm,  and lunch at Apollo Bay at 1 pm. After lunch, we took 1 hour drive to Great Otway National Park to look for the second largest tree in the world.  

Then, we took 1 hour 25 minutes to reach Port Campbell National Park to see the famous "Twelve Apostles"- gigantic sea-water carved limestone stacks along the sea side. We enjoyed the majestic view of these limestone stacks at the observatory platform for around 40 minutes before we took Gibson's Steps to the beach at 4:30 pm. We made our last stop at Loch Ard Gorge, which was 10 minutes away from Gibson's Steps. We headed back to Melbourne at around 5:45 pm, took a short dinner at Colac around 7 pm, and reached Rendezvous Hotel at around 9 pm. 

We reached Torquay at around 10 am and stayed for 30 minutes. We had our breakfast- tea, coffee, chocolate drink, and cakes beside the beach. Torquay is one of the surfers' paradise along Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road stretches 243 kms, starting east from Torquay to Allensford on the west. Click on this image for bigger panoramic view.

Great Ocean Road was built mainly by the soldiers returned from World War 1. The construction started in 1919 and completed on 1932. It was part of the effort of the country to cope with employment of the returning soldiers, and at the same time, improving land connection of the coastline towns. The work was not easy as the construction was done by hand, along with simple tools such as axes, pickaxes, explosive and shovels. The Memorial Arch of Great Ocean Road was built to commemorate sacrifices of the workers thorough the construction. The first memorial arch was built in 1939. The current one is the third, after the first two destroyed by wild fire.

A memorial statues beside the Great Ocean Arch. We took a quick stop around 10 minutes there, just to take photos.
Our next stop, wild koala watching at Kennett River. There was a small cafe nearby the car park (upper left). The eucalyptus trees along the viewing area attract wild koalas to feast, and then sleep on these trees (upper right). We successfully spotted three koalas. They had one thing in common- rolled themselves comfortably for a day time nap (lower right). In contrast, the cockatoos were more active and interactive. 

Well, people paid more attention to the birds than the koalas.

After lunch at Apollo Bay, the road led us into a forest area (upper left). We took a 20-minute walk into Otway National Park to see the second largest tree in the world- Eucalyptus Ragnans (upper right). The largest living specimen of the eucalyptus is in Tasmania, reaching approximately 100 meters in height (lower right). The hole at the tree is definitely too big for a rabbit.
Some cool art by nature found in Otway National Park.

3:45 pm, we reached the tourist center nearby the Twelve Apostles observatory platform (upper row). The observatory platforms is 500 meters away- flat, and accessible by wheel chair (lower right). The walk path cuts through the native vegetation nearby the cliff. These limestone stacks are a part of Port Campbell National Park.

Limestone cliff and the gigantic pillars carved by nature were stunning. The wind was strong and the sound of the wave splashing on the pillars could be heard clearly. Lucky for us, it was not cold. The observation area was not very crowdy as well.

The observatory platforms are built strategically to see the limestone stacks by the sea. Out of 12, 8 stacks are remaining, eroding 2 cm per year by the sea.

Gibson Steps is nearby the observatory area of Twelve Apostle limestone stacks. Named after the building- Hughes Gibson, the stairs take us down the cliff to the beach, where we can see the limestone stacks and the cliff from sea level.

The steps might be intimidating from the top, but it takes less effort to get down to the beach. Well, climbing up is where the real challenge awaits. The staircase was carved through the limestone, steep and narrow. So it will be good for us to leave the heavy backpacks in the bus.

Nice view from the beach. The two off shore stacks are named Gog and Magog (not a part of 12 Apostles).

30 meter high cliff spanning till the edge of the sea level. We stayed for 30 minutes at the beach before heading to our last stop at Port Campbell National Park- Loch Ard Gorge.

We reached Loch Ard Gorge around 5:10 pm. It was getting dark. There are four different paths that lead us to different places. Due to the time constrain, we chose only two- Razorback and Loch Ard Gorge.We came across  these two limestone stacks, which once was connected to each others on our way to see Razorback.

The Razorback is a big limestone stack, with the razor-like edge facing the direction where the waves hit the stone. This limestone stack is located at the end of the left path. Click on the picture for bigger panoramic view.

Back to the car park, we took the path led to the Loch Ard Gorge- named after the ship wreak at the gorge in 1878. The incident killed 52 passengers on board, while two survivors of the ship successfully made their way to the gorge and took refuge there. The story about the ship wreak and the survivors can be obtained here.

Is this the cave that two survivors from the ship wreak rested? We couldn't find any clue there. This cave is located on the beach side of Loch Ard Gorge, where it can be accessed through wooden staircase.

Loch Ard Gorge was our last stop at Great Ocean Road. We took the inland route back to Melbourne City. As the night fall, we couldn't see much except the faint lights from the farm houses and the street lights along the the road. 

Great Ocean Road is indeed a must visit site nearby Melbourne. Despite a day long trip by bus, it worth the money and the time spent. We can see different scenery- from the city, suburban area, to small surfing town, sea side, farmland and forest, the trip covered them all.

The whole trip require a lot of walking, especially at Otway National Park and Port Campbell National Park. Non-slippery shoes are necessary to walk on the forest and seaside terrains.  Food and drinks can be bought at Kennett River, Apollo Bay, and Colac. It will be great if we can bring some snacks and drinks with us. Sufficient drink to keep us hydrated and snacks to maintain the energy level are required. Rest rooms are available at Torquay, Kennett River, Apollo Bay, the tourist center at Port Campbell National Park, and the eatery at Colac. All the attractions along the road are open to visitors without entrance fee. We are thankful that Go West Tour arranged the whole trip well, by taking a stop almost every hour.

This is one of the hardest-to-built stretches of Great Ocean Road. We were allowed to hoop down and walked around for 3 minutes there. Click on the picture for bigger panoramic view. 

Beautiful farmland with cattle and sheep can be seen along the Great Ocean Road.

Different views from Melbourne city (upper left) to the suburban area (upper right), to the farming area (lower right) and sea side, all can be seen in Great Ocean Road trip.

We had a long trip to Great Ocean Road on our second day in Melbourne. Third day, Healesville Sanctuary.

Walk Around Melbourne City (Day 1 in Victoria)

Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia. The city grew from a small settlement beside Yarra River that flows into the Port Phillip Bay, with the name Melbourne was given in 1837, after the name of the British Prime Minister William Lamb Melbourne. The city started to grow rapidly around 1850s during the gold rush in Victoria, and the momentum continues till the recent day. During our four-day tour, we visited Melbourne city area, Great Ocean Road and Healesville Sanctuary. We start with the city area first.

Autumn is a great time for a city walk. We started our tour from Royal Arcade at Burke Street to Block Arcade at Little Collin Street. From there, we walked to Yarra River, enjoying the beautiful view along the river, and then we went back to Block Arcade for lunch. We visited Melbourne City Hall, St. Paul Cathedral, Federation Square, and made our last stop at Melbourne Central Station. The whole trip took around 6 hours 30 minutes (starting at 10:30 till 5:00 pm).

Melbourne Royal Arcade is the oldest arcade in Australia. Completed in 1870, the building was designed by Charles Webb with a fusion of Italian, French, and English traditional styles.

Even with a few renovations and upgrades, the originality of the building was carefully maintained. We can see the tiles on the floor in this photo are similar to the photos taken by Herald Sun in 1940.

 Shops selling food and souvenirs are available along the Royal Arcade.

Gog and Magog are two mystical residents of the Royal Arcade (upper left). Both of them strike on the chimes every hour, day and night, since 1892. These two giants are still loyally guarding the  Gaunt's Clock, but the tenant below has changed from a button selling shop (photo taken from Herald Sun in 1940) to a jewelry shop.

We left Royal Arcade, crossed Little Collin Street, and entered Block Arcade on the opposite side of the street.The sign for Block Arcade at the street was a bit small.

From Little Collin Street, we need to pass through an alley with cafes and gourmet eateries to reach Block Arcade.

We can easily differentiate Block Arcade from Royal Arcade from the tiles on the floor- Block Arcade is well decorated by colourful mosaic tiles, while Royal Arcade uses black and white tiles. Block Arcade was celebrating its 125 years of establishment (1892 - 2017) during our visit.

Sunday afternoon, around 2 pm. We queued for 5 minutes in front of an eatery for lunch. People were buzzing around Block Arcade, looking for empty seats.

From Block Arcade, we crossed Flinders Street to reach Yarra River. We crossed the river using the pedestrian bridge to Southbank Promenade. 

Southbank Promenade is a nice place to walk around. The yellowish deciduous leaves enriched the autumn mood to the city.

Crown Resort- a combination of casino, hotels, and entertainment complexes is built beside the promenade.

The view along Flinders Walk on the other side of Yarra River.

Street performers (upper left) and seagulls (upper right) could be seen along the promenade. We can always opt to cycle along the river side as well (lower right), as the bicycle lane is available for cyclists. 

After lunch at Block Arcade, we took a short walk down Collins Street to Melbourne City Hall (at the intersection between Collins Street and Swanston Street).

Melbourne City Hall was completed in 1887. Joseph Reed, the designer of the building also designed the State Library of Victoria.

St. Paul's Cathedral is a huge building located at the intersection of Swanston Street and Flinders Street. By foot, it is just 5 minutes away from City Hall. The current building was completed in 1891, with integrating the ideas of two designers- William Butterfield and Joseph Reed (Joseph Reed designed the Royal Arcade as well). As the spires were constructed some 35 years later in 1926 using different type of stone, the colour of the spires are darker compare to the rest of the building. 

The cathedral is open to public. But all visitors are required to be quiet and be respectful to the people who come to pray. No photo is allowed at prayer area. More information about the cathedral is available at the official website of the cathedral.

Flinders Station is just opposite of the cathedral. It was under restoration during our visit. From the cathedral, we could see station with people cycling around or travel by electricity-powered city tram. The city tram is free of charge, so it might be a good idea to hoop onto a tram and take a free tour around the city.

After a short visit at St. Paul Cathedral, we crossed the Flinders Street to the Federation Square- a place with many events, exhibition, and performance. We might be able to get a free guided tour there as well. We didn't stay long at the square.

From the Federation Square, we took around 10 minutes walk down Swanston Street to the State Library of Victoria. Designed by Joseph Reed and completed in 1854, the library holds more than 2 million books.  We took a short rest outside of the library.

Last stop of the day- Melbourne Central. 4 pm, it was the time when the big Seiko Clock at the central court performed its hourly routine- a drop down compartment with puppet cockatoos and minstrels playing the song Waltzing Matilda. We shopped around Melbourne Central for around 30 minutes. 

All the puppet performers hidden in the clock.

The 50 meter tall Coop Shot Tower was built in 1888. It is located at the center court of Melbourne Central. A glass roof had been built on the top of the tower.

Melbourne is a beautiful city with a blend of old heritage Victorian Architecture buildings and modern sky scrappers. The city is well planned in the way that the old was preserved, while the new tall buildings are not overshadowing the old ones. It is such a great metropolis that we can amazingly find various types of food- Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Lebanese, English, Indian, Italian, you name it, so it is unlikely we will get starved on the street. On top of that, the street was clean, safe, and relaxing. Well, we don't really need to worry to get hit by a car or bicycle, but do watch up for the quiet eco-friendly electricity powered trams. 

The old among the new ones (upper left). Well, we just highlighted an extreme one, hah! We can find many types of food on the street (upper right). Well, at some points, we can see some extra-ordinary objects, such as horse wagons (lower right) or a ruin of an old library. 

A blend of new and old buildings in Melbourne.

That's our first day in Melbourne. As we stayed in our uncle's house, he brought us for some fine Malaysian dinner at night, which we would like to share it later. Second day, we had Great Ocean Road in our itinerary.