Victoria

Grampians

The Grampians is an amazing little National Park with tons of short hikes and plenty of camping options. It's an amazing park that you can tackle in just a few days.  If you're into exotic rock formations and picturesque lookouts then, we would highly recommend this awesome little park. 

We drove straight out of the Great Ocean Road, via Port Campbell, straight to the Grampians National Park. It was refreshing to go from dodging selfie sticks, to standing on mountain tops, in just under a few hours.  We stayed in this park for two days and were able to have an awesome experience. Here are a few tracks you should not miss if you visit this park.  

Mount William - More of a stroll than a hike, you basically drive to the top of this road then walk up a steep paved road to the summit.  It takes about 30 minutes to get to the top, but the views are well worth it.  

Grand Canyon - Another stroll in the park and probably the easiest stroll in the park. This 30 minute loop takes you through amazing rock formations in a slot canyon that looks other world like.  You can also access the Pinnacle lookout here, which is a rock formation that jets out from the cliffs over looking the valley.

The Balconies - By far our favorite rock formation in Australia.  If you go, you'll see why they call it the Balconies or the "Jaws of Death." We had actually used this area for a place to cook dinner while we waited for the crowds to die down for sunset.  Once the sun set, everyone leaves to head to their campsites. We packed up a few items and hung out on the balconies from sunset until the milky way graced us with yet another amazing star show.  Since it was so late, we ended up camping in the parking lot and catching an amazing sunrise at the balconies as well.

MacKenzie Falls - Once again, the Grampians delivers with another short amazing hike.  The walk to MacKenzie Falls is short and worth it.  Get there early in the morning, if you want it to yourself, because it's a major attraction of the area.    

There are plenty of other amazing hikes in the area and the park is currently working on a multi-day track that spans the entire park and it should be open by 2018.  The first half is already open if you wanted to hike to the first campsite and then back out the next day. Check at the i-center for more info. We highly recomend adding this park to your Aussie Bucket list.

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Loch ard Gorge


The first part of the Great Ocean Road was amazing. The two lane road tightly hugged the picturesque turquoise coastline as it snaked around lush green cliffs dropping straight into the ocean. 

We spent our first night on the Great Ocean Road in Lorne. The first day there was a nearby music festival and great summer weather. The beaches were definitely being taken advantage of by locals, festival goers, and tourists alike. I hadn't realized such a small beach town could adequately accommodate such an influx of visitors all at once. They must have come enjoyed the beach and weather and then passed thru to the rest of the Great Ocean Road because by the time sunset came around there really wasn't too much going on....although, I was surprised there was a bar pumping out dance music on the esplanade. Not sure if anyone was actually in there, but past that there was really no cars or people on the esplanade after a certain hour.

We sussed out a cozy secluded spot for the night in the hinterlands. We knew the weather was going to be stormy and rainy the next day so we planned on taking advantage of the waterfall territory Lorne is also known for.

From Lorne, there are about 12+ waterfalls that you can either start your walk from Lorne or drive to the trail head a couple kms up the hill. We started with Erskine Falls. From the parking lot, it is a couple minute descent down some stone stairs to the viewing platform.

The weather got real hectic and in passing some rangers, they had advised most everyone to head back down towards Lorne as the amount of rainfall was making some of the trails unsafe.  We headed to another waterfall anyways. We noticed people must have cleared out and followed the advise because there was virtually no one on the trail. We had the waterfall all to ourselves and the weather had actually cleared up to sunnier weather.

Once we felt satisfied with our waterfall chasing, we continued on the Great Ocean Road to see how else it was going to surprise us.

The Great Otway

This Park was an unexpected treat. We stopped thru this park solely because it was on our way to the 12 Apostles and the rest of the iconic Great Ocean Road.

We had researched a couple roads that never failed on Koala spotting and they were tried and true. We parked our car at the first location and got out and walked a couple meters before spotting one in a low branch on a tree near the road. Stoked on seeing our first Koala out in nature, we wanted to test out our luck on the other known spots in the Otway. The second road we took was the road that takes you to the lighthouse. If you take this road, look for cars and tourist pulled over pointing up at the trees. We stopped every time we saw this and saw heaps of Koalas. We saw baby koalas climbing around being independent while their mom slept on a nearby tree branch. It was such a cool experience. I always look at animals and think I wonder if they are as stoked to see a human as I am to see them. I often hope so, but who knows...they probably feel Hollywood stars feel where every move they make is photographed and watched by someone :-/

After Koala spotting success, we continued on to Hopetoun falls. The parking lot was tiny and packed with cars and more and more kept arriving. The walk down to the base viewing platform descended many flights of stairs.

After hanging around the waterfall for a bit, we headed back up the stairs to the car park and to find a place to have a nice picnic. We read about a California Redwood Forrest that was planted in the early 1900s with a nice picnic area. So we headed there. We whipped up some lunch, impressed some older ladies with our portable stove as we made healthy and fresh veggie bowl. One of the ladies had come over to tell us how inferior her sandwich felt next to our colorful vegan dish. We told her how they worked and how convenient they were and I am pretty sure she went straight to the nearest K-Mart to pick one up. :)

We finished our chin wag with the ladies and headed into the the Redwood forest. The drive to the Redwood forest and even into Hopetoun falls snaked its way thru some of the most beautifulvibrant fern and Gum tree forest. A bit of fog made for a great ambiance as well. It was crazy how quickly the terrain changed into a little rainforest oasis right when you got over the hill from the great Ocean Road. Even if you didn't get out of your car in this area, the scenic detour would no disappoint.

The Redwood plantation was genuinely awesome. The ground was soft and hollow just as any other redwood forest I had ever been to in California. The air was crisp and misty like Redwood forest usually are. It felt like you were transported to another place when inside the plantation. There were some nearby gums that were equally as old as some of the redwoods and still the Redwoods dwarfed them. If you have never experienced breaking your neck looking up at the tallest growing trees in the world, I would recommend it. In your mid-neck break gaze towards the top of the tree keep in mind that this plantation is quite "young" for the species of trees. And some of them in California are hundreds of years old tripling the girth and height and they really do make you fall a bit backwards trying to look towards the top of the tree.

All in all, we were grateful that the Great Ocean Road had broken away from the ocean and made it's way thru the Great Otway. It is some beautiful country to be experienced in there.

We made our way towards the 12 Apostles. This part of the trip was probably the most tourists I have ever seen in one area. Seriously, I am sure it pulls in more visitors than the Sydney Opera House or Harbor Bridge or maybe even the Great Barrier Reef for that matter. There were tour buses after tour buses parked at this place. It was too crowded for our liking. So we decided to wait out the crowds by cooking an early dinner in the van. We've noticed in more remote places that involve a drive back for tourists, people seem to clear out around 6 pm or just before dusk to avoid road encounters with kangaroos and other wildlife. And that's around magic hour for pictures anyways. We stayed out and around in the area till the Milky Way came to hang out. The stars were so bright without any light pollution near by that we would turn off our head lamps and be able to navigate down the path pretty easily just by starlight!

We sussed out a sleeping spot that was close enough to make a sure we were the first ones to the parking lot at Loch Ard Gorge in the morning. We got up 40 mins before the sunrise to make sure of it as well. We had the place to ourselves till about 8am when cars began arriving. It was really a magical time. The day previous had me wondering if I was allergic to crowds of people ;)  With the popular area all to ourselves, we were really able to explore and enjoy the epic scenery nature has carved out of the cliffs with it's pounding ocean without getting smacked in the head with a selfie stick every 5 minutes.

Dandenong Ranges

dandedong ranges victoria australia (1 of 1).jpg

Maybe looking at the Dandenong Ranges on the map is the only reason we under rated this place. We figured any National park that accessible to a major city has to be over run with tourists or it just couldn't be that cool. The second we rounded the couple turns leading into the National park we found we were completely wrong on both accounts and stoked we made the detour. The road snaked thru the Dandenong Ranges canopy of towering Mountian Ash trees, Palm Ferns and at their base, heaps of vibrant green elegant ferns. The drive in got us even more pumped for what some of the trail head descriptions promised. 

We had actually detoured to the Dandenong Ranges with the slight hope that we might see the elusive Lyrebird. We heard about the fern dwelling bird known for their mimicry of other birds' calls and any other sound for that matter, we researched a little further to hear what their song sounded like and realized that they are some of the natures best beat boxers. They can mimic not only bird sounds, but cellphone sounds, car alarms, construction noises, etc. They have the vocal equilevent of a photographic memory. It is actually mind blowing. The males have showy tail feathers they use during their dancing ritual along with their songs, if you are lucky enough to get both song and dance. 

With our minds blown and our sights set on seeing one of these amazing creatures, we headed to Grants Picnic area and started the Lyrebird trail just before sunrise. We figured that is when the birds are guaranteed most active. We started the trail and I know both our hopes were sky high to see this bird. Maybe 15 minutes into the trail, we both anxious to see one, start joking about one just jumping out on to the trail and dancing for us. Turns out one really wanted to. We thought we had heard a Koala sound and we followed where that was coming from then it quickly changed into a collection of different bird calls and we knew we had stumbled on a Lyrebird! It was crossing the trail in front of us when we finally spotted it. It saw us when we saw him and he booked it up the fern hill. We lost him pretty quick but his song echoed through out. 

Ten minutes later, we hear the same back to back sequence of bird calls and we follow the trail around towards the sound. Another Lyrebird! This one found a nice little fallen down tree. He was using it as a stage where he stayed and had a little concert. A couple minutes later on the other side of the trail one started mimicking the first one's song. We could see both birds being either territorial or exchanging digits and we didn't even have to veer off the trail. For our first experience in the Dandenong Ranges that we had overlooked we were over the moon with excitement about our experience. I seriously don't think I was breathing and I know my jaw wide open the entire time because I did't want to scare them. I didn't want it to stop. I was beyond amazed watching different parts of his chest or throat move to make such complex sounds.  

Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island

Phillip Island VIctoria

Before arriving to Melbourne, we knew there would be no options for surfing. And we aren't the biggest fans of hangin' out on beaches, in a bay, with no waves, nor coastal breezes. So, we decided to post up on the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island for a few days to get our fix before heading to Melbourne. 

Phillip Island

We headed to Phillip Island in hope to see some penguins on the Western tip.  We did see a few little penguins shacked up in their homes and waddling around so far away you had to imagine what they were doing.  We also saw about 200 asians getting dropped of in tour busses taking iPad pictures.  With that being said, we left the cold parking lot with a cloud of dust behind us.  

We then searched all around the island in search of swell.  We headed to Woolamai Beach and accidentally caught the most epic sunset we've ever experienced. There was absolutely no one on the beach or in the parking lot. So naturally, we busted a sneaky camp after watching the sun put on a show.  This is a good surf spot, as well, it's one of the better surfing options in the Melbourne area for all surfers.

 

Mornington Peninsula

The next morning we headed to the Mornington Peninsula just west of the Island.  This peninsula is pretty awesome.  You have the calm beaches on the Port Phillip Bay side and the surf of the back beaches on the pacific side.  There are tons of awesome walks on both sides of the peninsula.  The north end back beaches have a more rugged coast with lots of coves with cool rock formations and tidal and rock pools. The southern back beaches near St. Andrews offer more surfing options and classic sandy beaches.  The Port Phillip Beaches are the place to go for safer swimming/boating and to avoid the wind.  BBQs at Sorrento Park were provided and are a popular activity.  Make sure you enjoy a sunset over the ocean from the back beaches like Bridgewater Bay or another more off the beat cove. 

The Peninsula is your closest and best best other than Torquay for good surf and "real beaches" near Melbourne.  

Wilsons Prom

Wilsons Prom Victoria Australia

If you're traveling across the south coast, make WIlsons Promontory a mandatory stop.

The Prom, as referred to by the locals, was one of our favorite spots in Victoria.  We don't have tons of pictures from this amazing location mainly because we spent the entire time hiking and surfing.  

From amazing surf, awesome beaches, and even small mountains, The Prom reminded us of a small Tasmania.  We later found out that Tasmania actually broke off from The Prom.  So, this place has it all.  We weren't able to spend as much time here as we would have liked to but, it's one of the most beautiful national parks in Australia. Squeaky Beach is easily the most popular beach around the area. If you haven't heard the quartzy sand squeaky beneath your feet yet, then you could go with the crowd and check it out, but while everyone was there we were hanging out at Picnic Bay with hardly anyone but surfers. Most tourist that ended up at Squeaky Beach stop by Picnic Bay and walk to the vista and then move on. So this spot feels like you are all alone if you make the truck all the way to the beach. Whiskey Bay feels even more secluded. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, these are your beaches. 

If we could have gone back, we would have planned on backpacking on a few of the amazing trails. Most of the Prom is inaccessible by car, which is what makes it so special and unspoilt. From The Prom, you can access mainland Australia's most southern point, by foot.  We had just gone on a hunch for surf and we were blown away by it's beauty and remoteness. 

Although The Prom can be one of the windiest places in Australia, on a beautiful sunny day, The Prom is a place not to be missed by any traveler on a Austrialian Road trip. The crystal blue waters and surrounding island landscape will leave imprints in your memory forever.