Melbourne sits at the north point of Port Phillip. The Mornington Peninsula sits an hour southeast of the city and the Great Ocean Road runs to the southwest. We traveled to both. In addition to fabulous scenery, a highlight of each included seeing unique Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. Friends from back home introduced us to a lovely couple from Melbourne, Pete and Margie, who graciously spent the day driving us to and around “the peninsula.” The area is known for its historic seaside villages — full of galleries and cafes, pretty beaches and amazing scenery. Most visitors are Melburnians who camp, rent villas or stay in private beach houses. It was during this trip that we saw the colorful beach houses mentioned in a previous post. On a last-minute, impromptu stop we also saw a group (or mob) of kangaroos! I approached them slowly. They stayed still and posed for the crazy lady with the camera. Two had a little joey in their pouches!
A few weeks later, we took the Great Ocean Road, this time with me behind the wheel. The weather was beautiful and the drive spectacular — instead of a planned one-day loop, we ended up staying overnight at the far end. The 151-mile, zig-zagging drive along the coast was well marked for lookouts and we hit most of them. Every time, we took a corner there was another breathtaking sight! Away from the coastline, we passed through the rain forests of the Otway Range to the southernmost tip of Australia. This was when Frank tried driving — his first time on the left side of the road. It didn’t take long (a half hour?!) before I drove him nuts with my nervousness — there’s a reason he taught the boys to drive and I didn’t. His timing, however, was perfect as he decided to pull over just as we saw a group of people staring up at the fragrant gum (eucalyptus) trees. Koalas!! Although there is no word for a group of koalas (they are pretty solitary animals), that is what we saw. In a one block span, we saw about ten koalas up in the trees! Many were sleeping, which they do for 18-22 hours a day. That’s because the eucalyptus leaves are hard to digest and sleeping conserves energy. We were told koalas get drunk on eucalyptus leaves but found that it was just a myth. We were lucky to view many other koalas who were actively climbing around. They seemed unfazed by the tourists who were so excited to see them!
After a good night’s rest and a yummy breakfast in Warrnebol, we drove back across the state of Victoria, passing through acres and acres of rolling sheep and cattle farms. The area has been settled by many Irish immigrants and is said to be similar in landscape to Ireland. The wooden street signs (named for the various ranches) were a testimony — Flanagan, Duffy, McCormack, etc. It was a lovely and leisurely ride. We went along the base of the Grampians before heading back to the city, happy to savor the landscapes by avoiding the monotony of a “more efficient” highway route.