Part 3-Melbourne, the GBR and the BRIDGE
Melbourne-Arrived at this lovely city filled with history and known for its love for great COFFEE (Melbourne is known as the Australian coffee capital). Booked our stay at the wonderful TreasuryonCollins (https://treasuryoncollins.com.au/),a modern apartment style hotel located in the middle of the central business district and across the street from the historical ANZ Gothic Bank (I got lost just wandering in this magnificent building filled with iron columns and painted ceiling).Getting around Melbourne is quite simple,and to make it even easier,the trams around the entire city are FREE.
Penguin Parade; Initially, I was not keen on going to Philips Island to watch the world’s smallest penguins (mini blue penguins)waddle up the beach, but this experience was amazing. The drive to Philips Island was a pleasant 2hr journey on the fun (TheLittlePenguinBus/http://thelittlepenguinbus.com.au/).On our way to the final destination,we stopped at various spots and got a look at the penguin burrows. This was a small taste of the parade that was about to start. As the sunset,I was simply stunned as small groups of penguins made their way from the ocean up the beach and towards the burrows. I viewed this experience from an underground viewing area where there was an infra-red camera spotting the groups coming up on to the beach from the ocean, the penguins ignore you as they walk by. I left with a smile on my face.
Next day took a walking tour of Melbourne and visiting the numerous alleys filled with colorful graffiti, walking the parks and listening to stories and legends about Melbourne. I Strolled the historic Hosier and Rutledge alleys which are the epic centers of Melbourne‘s art scene. To end the day, I took the free tram to the Victoria docks –the oldest and largest surviving single dock in the world and enjoyed the view.
Our final day in Melbourne had arrived, and we were ready for the “Great Ocean Drive”. A long 12hr+ plus day, this 250 miles journey starts in Melbourne and ends at the site of the twelve apostles (only 8 remain). These craggy limestone stacks rise from the Southern Ocean and were our ‘must see’ for this trip. We drove though a rain forest, along rugged coastline and through a national park. There was much to see, and our trip was filled with numerous stops. We lunched at a local bar/cafe along the route. We finally reached the apostles – huge limestone pillars/structures that were once connected to the mainland. However, wind and waves carved them into arches. Only 8 remain (the other 4 have eroded and fallen from the natural elements), but perhaps more are in the making. We were able to walk down to the ocean but needed to be careful to not get washed away by the powerful waves.
Now we were ready to fly to the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Bridge:( Day 1-7 again)
Flew from Melbourne to Cairns (pronounced “cans”) – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns is a small beach town located on the coast but has no natural beach – there is a small man made sand beach, but the coastline is all coral. The town is very tourist friendly and easy to navigate.
Day #2: wanting to have a different experience getting to the outer banks of the Great Barrier Reef, I made arrangements to fly to an outer pontoon. I arrived at GBR helicopters (there were 3 passengers in our helicopter). Following our safety brief, we were led to the dock helipad, and off we went for our 25 minute flight to the Barrier Reef. Due to high winds, we flew at only 500 feet, which gave us an amazing view of the reef and the small cays – an exhilarating flight – and we eventually landed on a floating pontoon on the outer barrier reef where we got on a small boat in order to get to our reef platform. The platform was quite large, with a an underwater submersible and an area to snorkel, dive and swim along the reef. Once in the water, numerous large fish would swim right up to you, and during my snorkel experience I got to see a huge turtle feeding on the bottom. The ride back to shore was a rough 2hr trip on a catamaran (sure missed the helicopter!).
Day #3: visited the Daintree Rainforest, riding the Sky Rail to the Kuranda Village. As we approached the village, we stopped at Barron Falls and walked on the glass observation deck. Following lunch and buying a bottle of mango based wine, we then rode the scenic Kuranda Railroad back into town. For our evening meal, my merry little group decided that we would indulge in Kangaroo cutlets and Bay Bugs... yummmm
Day #4: fly to Sydney, our final stop, stayed at 28 Hotel (https://www.28hotel.com.au/) great central location.
Day#5: Bridge day: my friend and I made our way to Sydney harbor by way of public transportation and got ready to climb the famous harbor bridge. Following numerous safety briefings, to include a weigh and calorie check, we were dressed and ready. Walked through a few walkways, and then we were on the bridge and ready for the climb. The climb is a mixture of steps and walkways, and throughout the experience you are connected via a metal cable to the bridge railing. The view of the entire harbor and city is breathtaking; once at the top, you circle back down. Awesome day I will always remember – not as scary as you would think.
Day#6: My final day in Sydney – so the wife and I grabbed the ferry for the ride to Manley Beach. As we sailed on the ferry out to Manley, we got a great view of the harbor bridge and famous Sydney Opera House. Once at Manley we walked along the “Corso”, a large pedestrian only strip that takes you right to the water/beach. Back in Sydney harbor, we walked around the Opera House before making way back to our hotel.
Day #7: Upon arriving at the port area, we were early and so we wandered the Rocks Market area for a bit. Boarded our cruise ship for the trip to Bora Bora and back to Honolulu.