We did a 10 day self drive holiday in Melbourne with 3 kids (aged 6, 5 and 1 year old). It was our first holiday as a family of 5. I was feeling rather apprehensive initially but my worries were unfounded. We had a whale of a time!
We much prefer to move from place to place (changing accommodation every few days) to save on travelling time instead of doubling back.
Not many photos in this post as we took over 10,000 photos and the husband hasn't sorted thru them yet. If I were to wait for him to give me the photos, this post will never get published. Hence, I decided to publish it with whatever photos I have for now. :P
We took a red-eye flight to Melbourne and I'm so glad that our 15 month old slept through the flight. I had to take him out of the bassinet multiple times due to turbulence, but he slept right thru. :)
We rented a Toyota Kluger (7 seater) from Hertz. The Hertz counter is a short walk from the arrival hall, which made car collection easy for us. We brought along two Trunki Boostapak's for the older boys and rented a car seat for the baby from Hertz. We did not opt for the in car GPS. Brought along an iPad and bought a local SIM card for navigation using Google maps instead. Seating arrangement in the car - mum was driver and dad was navigator. The kids sat 3 in a row (buckling them up was kinda clumsy as there wasn't much space between the car seats and boosters) and we collapsed the last row of seats to fit our luggages. We were initially thinking of having one of the boys in the last row, but that proved slightly tricky.
Places of Interest
1) Victoria Market - Our very first stop. As we had time to kill before check-in at our first hotel, we decided to head straight to QVM. There were stalls selling lots of yummy cooked food - doughnuts, oysters, kebabs, hotdogs... And also stalls selling fresh fruits, crafts and little knick knacks. Limited seating. Stroller friendly although it can be quite crowded, so slightly difficult to manoeuvre.
2) Sovereign Hill - The underground mine tours are a must do! You need to get tickets for that separately. Allocate a full day for this attraction. Lots of fun for the kids and adults too. We had a peek into what life was like in a gold mining town. Gold panning, candy making, candle making, riding horse carriages, wheel wrighting... One of my favourites was seeing pure gold melted down, poured into a mould and made into a gold ingot worth $100,000. The boys enjoyed the candy making demonstration and were thrilled when they were given warm candy to try. Check the daily time table. Some activities go on throughout the day, some are only run once or twice at specific times.
3) Farm stay at Johanna River & Farm Cottages - It was our very first farm stay and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Johanna River & Farm Cottages is located off the Great Ocean Road. We took the scenic route to the farm, stopping by at scenic spots for photos. We had lunch near the visitor centre before the start of our Great Ocean Road drive and stopped by Apollo Bay for groceries. The farm cottage comes with a kitchen with everything you need to prepare lunches / dinners during your stay. We stayed three nights and the boys had such fun running in the wide open spaces, feeding animals and playing with the farm dogs.
|Our home for 3 nights|
4) Cape Otway Treetop Walk - Supposedly a rainforest walk that will take an hour but I think we took 2 hours with the kids. It was nice walking in the cool winter weather. We didn't bring along a stroller as I didn't think it was going to be stroller friendly. Most of the route is flat and a stroller would've been useful. There were some steps on the return leg, but I still think it would've been a good idea to bring a stroller along in spite of that. The return leg was mostly uphill, so a bit more strenuous. We took time to slow down and appreciate nature in its glorious beauty. We managed to get discounted tickets from Johanna River & Farm Cottages, and Cape Otway gave us vouchers to enjoy discounted entries at Cape Otway Lighthouse.
5) Cape Otway Lighthouse - Awesome views of the ocean from the lighthouse! Dress for strong winds and hold onto your hats and scarfs!
6) Queenscliff Ferry - We drove our car onboard the Searoad Ferry to cross the bay (Queenscliff - Sorrento). The ferry journey was just 40 minutes and it saved us about 2.5 hours in driving time. The passenger deck was very comfortable. Sandwiches, drinks and ice cream are available for purchase on board. We bought takeaway from McDonalds on our drive to the the Queenscliff Ferry Terminal for our lunch onboard. There was a small playground for the kids, and we could also go onto the open deck for fresh air. The designated driver was glad to take a break from driving and the kids got to stretch their legs.
|Lounging at the passenger deck|
7) Enchanted Adventure Garden - An adventure wonderland located on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. The park is filled with thrilling tube slides, fun brain teaser puzzles, challenging mazes, and my boys' favourite - a tree surfing course! If you are going before lunch, consider packing a lunch picnic.
|All ready for tree surfing!|
8) San Remo's Fish & Chips - Best fish & chips we had on the trip! Arrive about 11.30am to get a table indoors. Pelican feeding occurs daily at noon.
9) Panny's Chocolate Factory - Between lunch at San Remo's and Penguin Parade at Philip Island, we had some time... so we spent about 2 hours at the chocolate factory. Check out the statue of David made entirely out of chocolate!
10) Philip Island Penguin Parade - This is our main reason for visiting Philip Island. We bought the Penguin Plus tickets and paid extra for a Behind the Scenes tour (just $25 more for our family of 5). The Behind the Scenes tour was totally worth it... We had the best seats in the house! We saw hundreds of little penguins waddling to their burrows at dusk.
11) Puffing Billy - We spent 3 nights at Belgrave South and the Puffing Billy station was just 5 minutes drive from our accomm. We bought round trip tickets that took us from Belgrave to Lakeside but opted to alight at Emerald (one stop before Lakeside) so we could take a short hike through the Emerald Lake Park. The kids got to have some fun at the playground and watch a man fly remote control planes at a wide open field. Such a treat! We packed a picnic and ate at one of several tables around the lake. The kids were thrilled to ride a steam train, sitting with their legs hanging out the window.
12) Rayner's Orchard - As it was winter, most of the fruit orchards were not open for u-picks. Glad we found out that Rayner's had fruits growing all year through. We took a tractor tour on their farm and tasted the juiciest apples ever!
|Sweetest and crunchiest apples|
13) Healesville Sanctuary - A trip to Australia isn't complete if we do not see Australian wildlife native to the country. We saw koalas, platypus, wombats, kangaroos, and even got to feed some of the animals. Note that the park offers free entries to children on weekends and public holidays, but it tends to be crowded on these days.
14) Glen Harrow Tree Adventures - The boys enjoyed themselves so much at the Enchanted Adventure Garden, we decided to have another go at tree surfing here since it's just 10 minutes from our accommodation at Belgrave South. The tree course here isn't as long and varied as the one at Enchanted Adventure Garden, but the boys had fun nonetheless. It was heart warming watching them work together to complete the course. :)
14) DFO Shopping at South Wharf - Spent a couple of hours at the Direct Factory Outlets. Expect to find brands like Adidas, Speedo, Puma, Billabong, Skechers... Prices are just slightly lower than what we find in Singapore.
We spent the last night at the airport hotel which was walking distance from the Hertz car rental at the Melbourne airport.
I'm so thankful that we got to take time off our busy schedules to spend time as a family. A memorable holiday for our family of 5.
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