Parents’ Visit – Wrap Up

This post is a little late. It’s been just over a week since Ben’s parents took their leave from us to explore the Western side of Australia with their friends. We had a wonderful time hosting them and getting to show them some of the areas in and around Melbourne. Ben took some time off work and a friend generously loaned us his car for a few days so we were able to drive out to see some sights.

Some highlights of their visit…

We spent a nice day having lunch at St. Kilda beach and then made our way back into the city for afternoon desserts at Hopetoun Tea Room which has been operating since the 19th century.  The next day we had breakfast at one of our favorite spots – Chez Dre done properly with dessert – and took off for Mornington Peninsula. We stopped at a couple wineries, the strawberry farm (complete with jam purchases of course!) and then headed to Phillip Island for the penguin parade. Unfortunately, I did not come home with a new pet wallaby but it wasn’t for lack of effort!

No trip is complete without a drive down Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles! Along the way we spotted some koalas and drove through Otway National Park to take a tour through the Rainforrest Treetop Walk. Once we got to Port Campbell, the wind had picked up quite a bit and it had gotten cold so we decided to leave viewing the Apostles and other stack formations for the next morning.

Thankfully, the temperatures picked up a little the next day but the wind was still pretty fierce and… “the sea was angry that day my friends!” I thought the experience might be a bit spoiled without the beautiful weather we had back in December but it was still just as spectacular. The storm-like weather conveyed the sheer power of the sea crashing into the formations and it took your breath away.

The final outing was a trip to Healesville Animal Sanctuary about an hour outside of Melbourne. Here, we got to see some of the same animals we had encountered throughout our travels – just closer up – as well as others native to Australia that you may not see – and may not want to see – on your average excursion. Admittedly, all of us were most excited about seeing the duck billed platypus which did not disappoint but was much smaller than we had imagined.

Alas, it was time for the parents to depart Melbourne for adventures out west. Fortuitously, the night before their departure, the skies lit up with fireworks which we all enjoyed from our apartment balcony. Ben and I have learned that there is no shortage of fireworks in Melbourne over the summer and it’s something we’ve come to enjoy. I think these in particular were for the Moomba Festival but we’ll all just say that they were arranged special for Ben’s parents 😉

Overall, it was a lovely visit. They brought a little bit of home to us and for that we are very grateful. I’m sure they are having an amazing time exploring Aussie’s Western coast – something Ben and I hope to be able to do soon!

Phillip Island – Kangaroos, Koalas and PENGUINS, Oh My!

Yesterday (Sunday) we were able to get a little farther out of the city.  We took a group tour to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade. Along the way, there was also a stop at a small animal sanctuary where the group had lunch and we finally got to get up close to see and pet some kangaroos!

The tour was organized by a Meetup group we joined online. There are hundreds of different types of these groups for various interests and ages and people in Melbourne seem pretty active in them. We figured it’s a good way to explore the city a little more and maybe meet some new people. This particular group is focused on International Newbies [to Melbourne] and they organize all sorts of events, generally at a discount. Most of the members are in their 20s and 30s. It turned out to be a pretty fun day.

If you’ve never seen the “True Facts” videos on Youtube before, then here’s a little treat for you to learn a little about marsupials. The last bit about the Koalas is the best but now I can never look at them the same way! Disclaimer: the language and video content is intended for a more “mature” audience so I wouldn’t sit down and hit play with your little ones but then again who am I to tell you how to raise your kids 😉

The animal sanctuary was small but had a variety of inhabitants. I generally get sad at places like zoos. I don’t really like seeing animals in cages but I do feel better when I know that an organization is strongly affiliated with a conservation group.  Here at least the kangaroos and wallabies are roaming around free. And they are ADORABLE. Aussies consider kangaroos to be the equivalent of vermin –  they are overpopulated and can be a nuisance. But to me, it was one of the highlights to get so close. Who doesn’t think of kangaroos when they think of Australia?!

The best part of the day by far was the Penguin Parade. Every day at sunrise and sunset the penguins gather up in groups to cross the beach to get into and out of the ocean for feeding. The penguins are about a foot and a half tall and scurry across together in groups of 10 or so to avoid predators such as sea hawks.

A group of penguins will gather on the beach until they feel they have the right numbers. They hide amid the seaweed and then start inching forward together. Then they’ll make a run for it. The cutest is when you see a scraggler get left behind who then decides whether to brave the trek alone or run back to join another group.

Since pictures are absolutely forbidden once the penguins arrive on the beach, I had to pull a couple from online. Apparently, you can have yourself superimposed on an image of the penguins at the visitors center for a fee but we declined. And no worries, I suppressed the very strong urge to steal one and hide it under my jacket!