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Our 3 week self-drive trip started in Melbourne and ended in Sydney. Roads are relatively quiet and well maintained. They are well signed too but we did take our own Garmin satnav with us which was a great help. We chose our own tailor made itinerary and it proved to be the perfect holiday combining all the top sights, great scenery and amazing wildlife. One I would seriously recommend.
Port Campbell – Yarra Valley – Phillip Island.
After a night at the Holiday Inn close to Melbourne Airport we collected our hire car, a Toyota Camry with hardly any miles on the clock and took a leisurely drive west to Port Campbell. (Europcar offer a great all inclusive service even on one way rentals). This is part of the stunningly scenic and somewhat off the beaten track Great Ocean Road drive.
Do visit the Great Ocean Road Eco Wildlife Park, family owned and about 20 minutes’ drive east of Port Campbell. You can really get up close to rescued kangaroos, wombats, emu, dingoes and other interesting creatures. There is even a small snack bar and rustic lounge.
The coastline has the most amazing cliff top views and stunning almost deserted beaches. Lots of history too as many early settlers arrived along this rugged coastline. Some did not make it and a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Loch Ard in 1878 bears testament to the hardships of times past.
Our next stop was just north and east of Melbourne city in the wine growing area of the Yarra Valley. High standard hotels and inns are on offer such as the Black Spur Inn. However, we chose the Sanctuary Motel close to Healesville town with its own excellent value restaurant and small pool. Our cabin was rustic, clean and excellent value. Sam and his English wife really do care for their guests and 2 nights just seemed too short a stay.
The Black Spur drive, a winding road through thick forest, is one of the most scenic in the state of Victoria and it is just 30kms long on a well surfaced road. The road heads out into rich farmland, scenic valleys and rugged highlands.
A visit to a vineyard is essential where you can taste exceptional value wines. There are many in the Yarra Valley and the Sutherland Estate Vineyard was our choice. We sampled a selection of excellent wines and included in the modest cost was a superb array of cheeses from local farms.
We then drove south east to the coast and Phillip Island; an area renown for quality dairy products and farm produced cheeses. We found that locally produced food is an integral part of Australian life and the quality and variety cannot be surpassed. With place names like Cowes and Ventnor you really feel at home. Swamp wallabies, fur seals and a rich birdlife can be viewed. The highlight of our stay here was the Little (Fairy) Penguins the smallest in the world. They arrive every evening as the sun sets after one or more days at sea to rest in their dune burrows. The state run wildlife centre operates an excellent viewing facility and well worth the money.
Metung and Murramurang (coast and alpine drives).
After an easy 4 hour drive we arrived at the coastal village of Metung, gateway to the East Gippsland lakes. The Moorings has superbly comfortable suites some with views over the water. There is a choice of dining plus a small supermarket. All our chosen accommodations provided in room fridges and some form of catering items. There are numerous beach and coastal walks in the area and one can take a short boat trip over to 90 miles beach one of the longest in the world. Emu and kangaroo can be seen in the area.
Drive inland for an hour or so and you reach the foothills of the Australian Alps. The small towns of Omeo and Buchan offer good dining. There is an amazing cave walk (guided) at Buchan located in a small state park, this is a “must” see excursion. Numbers are restricted and only an average level of fitness is required.
We enjoyed a long day’s drive deep into the Snowy Mountains home to the highest peaks in Australia. Good tarmac roads (but with some numerous bends) offer stunning views. There are pleasant walks to suit all fitness levels too. The Snow Gums are an amazing tree with a root system that withstands forest fires and periods of drought. The branches die off and are bleached white and then the vegetation regrows over time, a very hardy tree indeed.
After our 3 night stay we headed further east to another coastal hamlet / National Park of Murramurang Resort just a few miles outside the larger town of Batemans Bay. We chose a quiet and scenically located resort that caters for holidaymakers with towed caravans but we chose one of the many chalets right on the beach front. Our 3 nights here was far too short, a week would be ideal. The chalet was peaceful (as was the whole resort) air conditioned with a small lounge/dining area and two bedrooms. A kitchenette allowed us to cater for ourselves.
Wild eastern grey kangaroos wander at will and if your wish is to see wildlife up close, this is the place. You are encouraged NOT to feed them but they still check you out just on the off chance. We had to close our sliding door to the veranda rather quickly on one occasion otherwise we would have had a rather inquisitive female with her young joey join us! You will see a variety of birds too. Our highlight was a family of Rainbow Lorikeets that would feed out of our hands.
Pebbly Beach is a short drive up the coast to Durras North all in the National Park. In addition to a variety of birds you should see a family of kangaroos feeding on the vegetation and occasionally out on the beach enjoying the seaweed. Large monitor lizards may also be seen.
Sydney city and Ayers Rock (Uluru).
The final part of our drive was a 6 hour steady run to Sydney where we left our car, a low mileage Toyota Camry, which had served us well.
Sydney is a very friendly city with most attractions within walking distance from our hotel, the excellent Holiday Inn Darling Harbour. The city boasts an excellent rail and tram system that accepts the Oyster Card payment. Ferries are covered too and topping up the card is easy. We chose to walk in the hot sunny climate, just about avoiding a couple of heavy late afternoon showers. Shopping plazas and streets provide a wealth of products and the choice of dining is vast, about the best we have experienced in any city.
Do take a ferry to Manley and its great beaches. The Australian museum is a “must see” attraction and explains the history, culture and wildlife in great and interesting detail.
We opted for a fly-out short 2 night break with Virgin to the “township” of Uluru to visit the impressive rock formations. Ayers Rock (Uluru) and The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) are breathtakingly mystical and impressive. A helicopter flight gives staggering views and represents good value. There are also organised treks and walks. The small resort of Uluru has four hotels, a campsite and a supermarket. The small museum is devoted to local wildlife exhibitions and the Indigenous People. Temperatures in the outback can vary greatly.
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