Australia had been one of my favorite country to visit. Everything was great, the beautiful landscape, the city with nice pedestrian streets & historical or modern buildings, the calm countryside, the nice and friendly people. As many said that one trip to Australia was never enough. This is my fourth time to Australia, and the third time to Melbourne itself. Every time, this city never let me down. Since Ayra getting more active and loves to explore, I decided to bring her to Melbourne to exposed her to the nature & wildlife in Australia. It was also a delayed anniversary trip which being postponed due to many events and busy schedule.
Few days before the 2019 eve, we took a night Airasia flight to Melbourne. We were quite lucky that the night flight was not full, and the passenger that supposed to sit at our row had moved to other seat. So, we had an extra seat for Ayra and she can sleep more comfortably during the 7 hours flight. Since Airasia just recently in December 2018 changed the airport landing for Melbourne to Avalon Airport, I decided to buy only one-way airasia ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Avalon, and bought the return flight using Scoot with depart from Tullamarine Airport. It turns to be a wise decision. The Avalon airport was very small with no arrival hall. We were quite surprise when we already outside the terminal building after we exit the baggage collection area. There’s no waiting area, no shops or even any services at all. Avalon Airport was quite far from the Melbourne city and we had to take an hour Avalon Express Skybus to Southern Cross station. Oh ya, from my earlier research, even rental car from this airport can be more expensive than those from Tullamarine Airport. The SkyBus fare from Avalon Airport will cost about 24 Aud per person, but I’ve manage get cheaper fare by using KLOOK which cost both of us about 36 aud.
Exploring the Melbourne CBD And The New Year Celebration
Since I planned to celebrate the new year eve in the city and have some shopping due to the boxing day sale, we decided to stay at the Melbourne city first before heading for the road trip. For the first few night, we stayed at an Airbnb apartment at Carlton North area. The close proximity with Queen Victoria market make it a perfect base place to explore the city CBD, with lots of tram line around the area. For the first few days, we just either walk or takes the tram to explore the Melbourne CBD.
From my earlier internet search, we found out that the Victoria Market will be close during the new year eve and new year day, so, we only have the first day to visit the market. On the first day, after we check into the apartment in the afternoon, we walked to the nearby Queen Victoria Market to buy some groceries before it close around 4pm. From the market, we walked to the State Victoria Library at the Swanston street and hang around the library for almost an hour. After that, we went for some groceries shopping at the QV Mall until late night.
On the new year eve day, we explore the city by foot until our legs feel tired. Early morning we walk to the Melbourne Museum and spend few hours there. From there, we visited the Carlton Garden, Parliament House, St Patrick Cathedral, Fitzroy Garden & the Cook Cottage. Its already late when we stop for lunch at the Halal Kitchen opposite the Flinders Station. After the late lunch, we continue exploring the pedestrian streets of Colin area, until the Bourke Street mall area. We went for short break and pray at the Melbourne Medina Mosque nearby the Carlton Garden before went back to the Flinder area late evening. My initial planning for the new year eve is to watch the early new year fireworks at 9pm at the Yarra Park. Unfortunately, by the time we want to go there, the tramline to go to the park had suspended their service to allow for the events and we need to walk for almost 2km to go there. Sore feet and tired, with grumpy Ayra who also tired after the long day out, my husband decided to cancelled the plan and go back to the apartment. Sadly, we only managed to see a small part of the fireworks from the apartment. I guess next time I need to find a place nearer to the firework place so that we can enjoy the show from the comfortable apartment.
On the New Year Day also filled with excitement. We spend the whole morning hang around the Federation Square, The ACMI buiding & the Flinder Station. By noon, we took the tram to the Melbourne Aquarium. I managed to get a discounted entrance ticket from KLOOK. It cost me only 41aud for both of us compared to 68aud by the counter. The Melbourne Aquarium was just ok for me, not too exciting compared to the other aquarium that I’ve visited. The main attraction in the aquarium was the penguins. Ayra really enjoy herself looking at the penguins swimming around the tank. After almost 2hours in the aquarium, we walked along the South Wharf Promenade at the Yarra River waterfront until we reached the DFO South Wharf. The sceneries along the river was beautiful and we also can see the beautiful Melbourne skyline. We shop at the DFO until the shops close at 6pm. We managed to grab few cheap perfumes & smiggle stuff here. As the day still bright, we took the tram to explore other places in the CDB before we back to apartment at almost 10pm.
A Day Trip to Yarra Valley
Before the trip, I’ve done few research and comparison for rental car and found out that its way cheaper to rent car from the Melbourne Tullamarine Airport compared from the city. And since we want to rent the car until the end of the trip and return it directly before the return flight, I decided to book the rental car from the Melbourne Airport. Although we had to the take the taxi to the airport to pick up the car, it still few hundreds cheaper compared to rent it from the city and return back at the airport. RM850 for 8 days rental of Toyota Camry is cheap right? I manage to get quite cheap rental car from ACE rental car through my favorite website rentalcars.com.
After collecting the car at the ACE office nearby the airport, we went for another shopping stop at the Essendon DFO which located just nearby the airport. It was another shopping heaven here were we bought cheap Corelle pieces here. We also grab some halal kebabs from the foodcourt before continuing our journey to the Yarra Valley. Along the way, we did stop at the Omar bin al-Khatab mosque at Preston area.
The 2 hours journey to the Yarra Valley didn’t feel far because we keep admiring the beautiful landscape and scenery along the way. We visited the Yarra Valley Chocolate & Ice Cremary, The Yarra Dairy farm and picture stop at few places before driving back to the city. Along the way back, we also makes a few stops at the shops along the way.
The Great Ocean Road trip
The main highlight for our trip was the Great Ocean Road trip from the Melbourne city to the Peterborough city. Since it was my second time for the Great Ocean roadtrip, I’ve decided to stretch the 300km journey into 3days trip compared to 2days that I done before with my girlfriends back in 2014. For this time, I want to have more relaxing journey and explore places that I ‘didn’t manage to go before, in addition with Ayra that need more time to rest throughout the journey. Finding accommodation for this journey also was very painstaking process, as there were not many hotels or motel along the GOR and the price was very expensive.. even the airbnb was fully booked when I started to survey a month ahead our travel. I managed to book a night stay at Seacroft Motel at Sugarloaf area located nearby Apollo Bay and another night stay at the Port Campbell Flashpackers Motel at Port Campbell.
The first day of our roadtrip covering almost 200km journey from Melbourne city to the Sugarloaf area. We drive through the Williamstown port city to have a sneak peak at the Steamrail Victoria area, and Geelong city for the short shopping at the Westfield Geelong before having a short break at Torquay area which locate the Australian National Surfing Museum. We also stop at the beautiful Bells Beach area, the Anglesea area, the Memorial Arch of GOR, before having a short break and pray at Lorne area. After visiting the Teddy’s Lookout, it was a non-stop drive through the windy road as we had to check-in into the motel before its dark. The Seacroft motel is located just off-road of the Great Ocean Road, overlooking the sea, perfect place for a retreat. The room was very basic with only 2 single bed and a fan, but the beds are comfortable enough for a night rest after a long journey. The only complaint that I have is the unisex shared toilet and shower can be quite troublesome for muslim like us as we are not used to it, and quite difficult to change Ayra’s dirty diaper. Other than that, as overall it was a great relaxing place with panoramic views of the ocean and made our great ocean road trip that extra special.
The second day covering 120km journey to Port Campbell. The short drive from Sugarloaf area to the Apollo Bay was greeted with fantastic panoramic views of the coastline. We started the day by exploring the Apollo Bay, the little busy town which have good variety of shops along the street. We restock our food here and have late fish&chip breakfast at the Iluka restaurant that also served halal food. The fish & chip was good enough to fill our hungry stomach but the roasted chicken that we take-away for our roadtrip was quite dry. After the Apollo Bay, we drive through the thick rainforest of Great Otway National park and make a detour to the Cape Otway Lighthouse, about 15km off the main GOR road. We were lucky that we manage to bump into few wild koalas up on the trees along the way to the lighthouse. We also stop at the Castle Cove Lookout at Glen area, a beautiful spot with awesome view of sea side on one side and green mountains on the other. We had a quick stop at the Gibson Steps, just at the look out area. During my previous visit here, we did ventured down the steep stone steps which lead right down to the beach as from the bottom you can laze along the beach, walk closer to one of the Apostles and take some wonderful scenic photographs. However, this time the wind quite strong and worried with Ayra’s safety, we decided not to go down the beach. Few miles after the Gibson Steps was the Twelve Apostles, a collection of twelve rocks which were formed by erosion, one of the must see places in Victoria. We spent almost an hour here admiring the beautiful scenery, really beautiful when we were to view it with our own eyes, one of the most gorgeous sights you can find along Australia’s coastline. Although the weather was not that good, no blue sky as thick cloud begin to appear when we were there, the views was still stunning. Its begin to rain when we arrive to the Loch Arch George, so we decided to proceed to check-in at the motel at the Port Campbell area. The Port Campbell Flashpackers was a clean and quiet guesthouse, excellent location with just walking distance towards the beautiful lookouts from cliffs to sea and towards the town itself.
The weather on third day of the roadtrip was great. The sky was blue, and makes the photo taken that day very beautiful. We make a wise decision to return back to visit the Loch Arch George as the views there were magnificent. Since the weather was good, we took the stair down access to the secluded beach with amazing view of Loch Arch Gorge. A majestic place were I feel dwarfed by the surrounding cliffs and the power of natural forces. Ayra seems enjoying herself trying out the sand. After spending some time at he Loch Arch George, we proceed to visit the London Bridge and the Grotto. Both equally beautiful and stunning. We decided to end the GOR road until Peterborough area, as we will takes the countryside route to Ballarat.
The Country road to Ballarat, & back to city
From Peterborough, we drive about 200km through the vast green landscape to Ballarat. We did have a few stops at the small town along the way, Timboon, Cobden, Camperdown & Lismore before we reach the Ballarat town. We explore the town area and bought take-away halal kebab before we check-in at the Avenue Motel Ballarat, just 10mins drive outside the Ballarat town.
The next day, we spend the whole morning exploring the Sovereign Hill, a living, working, interactive historical village in the gold rush period in Ballarat. Although the entrance fee was quite expensive, as overall, it was a great open air museum, interesting recreation of a gold mining town complete with people walking around in traditional clothing, historical information, demonstrations of candy making, wheel making, gold pouring and much more. Of course Ayra was still too young to understand it, but she seems enjoying herself watching the horse carriage rides. Panning for gold was a definite highlight, but with little toddler around, it was just too hot under the sunny day. We didn’t try all the activity, considering Ayra still too small. Every single one of the members of staff that we interacted with were friendly, helpful and entertaining. The staff in costumes, and remain in character all make for a great days out.
By noon, we took the Western Freeway back to Melbourne city. At first, we supposed to stay at an Airbnb apartment at Fizroy North area, but due to some hygiene issue and we also need to climb stairs until 4th floor, we decided shorten our stay there and rebook other apartment. Luckily the next day, we managed to get an apartment just opposite the Southern Cross Station area.
Since we arrived the Melbourne city quite early, we decided to spend the rest of the day at St Kilda area. We were quite lucky that we manage to see the beautiful sunset while having our dinner at the beachside.
Mornington Peninsula daytrip
During our daytrip to Mornington Peninsula, we stop at Brighton Beach, a beautiful clean beach with colourful bathing boxes. We also went for some shopping spree at the Moorabbin DFO before continuing our journey to the Mornington Peninsula.
The view along the way was breathtaking, a nice scenic drive throughout the island. There’s a lot of farms scattered and we did stop at afew of it. The local strawberry was very delicious that Ayra eat almost half of the box. We didn’t make a lot of stop, but just wandering around by car around with Mornington Peninsular area. I didn’t manage to snap more pictures because I forgotten to charge my handphone and the batteries dried out very fast… silly me.
Phillip Island Day Trip
A trip to Melbourne would be completed without a daytrip to Phillip Island. Although I’ve been there twice during my previous trip, I want to bring Ayra to see the koalas and penguins closer at its natural habitat. I’ve made advance booking for 3parks entry via Klook which is more cheaper compared to buying by the counter.
Its a 2 hour journey from Melbourne city to Philip Island. Our first stop is the Churchil Island park, a big farm within an island with different types of animals. Ayra still afraid to play with the animals however its still very exciting for her to see the wallabies, sheep, cows and horses. They do have entertaining demonstration throughout the day, but due to constraints of time, we didn’t manage to participate with it. They have preserves originality of the place which makes it more beautiful. I wish we have more time to spend around the park.
Our second stop is the Koala Conservation Center which located just 15 minutes drive from the Churchill Island. Although we had seen the koalas up on the trees during our GOR roadtrip, Its a very good experience to see the koalas close up in its natural habitat here. Few koalas sitting very near a the boardwalk just within our eye level. The koalas was soo cute!. I bought Ayra a stuff koala toy during our roadtrip, and she excited to see the koalas was same as her toys. She also enjoyed walking on the boardwalk and the signs make it very easy to see the koalas.
Since its too early to go to the penguin parade, we hang around Cowes area for short break and shops hopping. I’m a bit upset to see the halal pizza at Jeronimos Restaurant that I used to go during my previous trip was closed, so we just eat at the opposite Chinos Take Away Fish & Chips.
By 7.30pm, we already at the Penguin Parade area. Along the boardwalk towards the viewing beach area, we manage to see a few little penguins waiting for their mates coming back from the sea. These penguins here are the smallest penguins of the available 18 species, so don’t expect to have a clear and closer view if you go into General Viewing ticket like us. We decided to site at the edge of the beach to get some of the best views. Luckily I’ve bought a small beach mat when we at Cowes area, so we sat there while waiting the sunset. It was quite a long wait, cold and windy, but Ayra seems enjoying herself while watching the video from my phone. Penguins come out from ocean only after sunset. Although we were not allowed to take any photos of the penguins, it is a great view from the front at the beach of penguins waddling across the beach towards their nests. After few groups of penguins came out of the beaches, we peel off back to the boardwalks and we find ourself only centimeters away from the penguins as they look for their little burrows. This part was definitely the highlight for us. I really wish that we could at least snap some pictures or videos to capture our memories with Ayra here.
Dandenong area DayTrip
Since we didn’t manage to go to Dandenong area we visited the Yarra Valley, we decided for another daytrip to visit the Belggrave & Dandenong area. Along the way, we bump into a signboard written ‘Welcome to Carribean Market’ at an entrance. We made a wise decision to go into the area to check it out as it turns out to be a huge public flea market with many vendors, plus activities such as mini-golf, a train & playgrounds. Its a pretty good market, with lots of things to everyone starting from cloths, food, fruits and electronics…. at reasonable prices. I wish we had more time to explore the whole area as I always dream of visiting a local flea market. We also stop at a roadside farm called Chesterfield Farm just few minutes from the Carribean Market.
Puffing Billy is a vintage train system that traverses the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, complete with steam engine and open sided carriages. The train rides ticket can be very expensive for people like us. Since Ayra still too small, we decided not to take the Puffing Billy train.. next time yah!.. We just hang around the train station area at Belgrave to show Ayra the cute old train.
We also spend our time at the Sassafras area of Dandenong Range. Its a nice little mountain town lined with nice boutique shops and tea shop. We bought ourselves few teas at this area.
Bye bye Melbourne
My trip to Melbourne will not be completed with a hang out with my old university friend, Shark, whom been living in Melbourne for more than 10years. Before I started the journey, I’ve informed Shark that I’m visiting Melbourne but unfortunately she was also not in the country due to the long holiday. But luckily on my last day in Melbourne, Shark had informed that she just back to Melbourne. So, we decided to met up at the San Churros QV after my roadtrip ended. An hour coffee talk seem too short since we haven’t meet for few years. She still the same bubbly Shark that I knew her during my study time. While we were talking, Ayra also having great time eating the nice ice cream here while watching the birds outside.
On the last day in Melbourne, since our flight will be late night, we decided to go for last minutes souvenir shopping at the Queen Victoria Market after check out the apartment. The parking at Victoria Market can be quite reasonable compared to other surface parking rates in the CBD area. We spend our last remaining dolars buying some souvenirs, cute bags for Ayra and some cheap shirts. Luckily Ayra was sleeping most of the time there, so we able to have a nice walk looking at the stuff sold here. We also have late lunch at the halal stall there. By 6pm, we already at the rental car office to return the rental car. We took the free shuttle provided by the rental company to the Melbourne Airport.
Since we took the Scoot Airlines for our return flight, we had to transit for 5 hours in Singapore. Our first experience by Scoot nothing to shout out. Since its also budget airlines same like Airasia, everything need to pay. The luggage fee much higher compared to Airasia. I’ve booked Halal meals for both of us, but the food were very dry and teribble. Airsia gets better mark on the inflight foods. Transiting in Singapore also was great. For those who’s been in Changi Airport knows that this airport have everything that can either fill in your time, or nice chairs for you to snooze.. Ayra also manage to get a few hours rest here. I guess next time, we would not have any issue if we travel further right, Ayra…. Who knows, I might bump into cheap europe flights like we did last 2 years.. hehehe..