For Christmas Eve, we arrived on Phillip Island and watched the sunset from the balcony of our ocean-front house. Which happened to be positioned just across the street from a beautiful cove with red rocks, deep receding ocean tides, and great sweeping cliffs. Which happens to be the first time that’s ever been our Christmas Eve evening…

For Christmas, we opened some lovely presents from each other and from the U.S., went for a long stroll on the beach at Cape Woolamai, skyped with our family, napped in the sun, and watched the smallest penguins in the world come home to roost for the night. That’s right, penguins.

Phillip Island was once a haven for these little creatures, they now nest in only one location on the island and come in every night from the ocean and make the dangerous exposed trip across the beach sand just after dark to retreat into their burrows (like rabbit holes in the sand dunes) and, in the summer (Dec – Feb), nurse their young. It was pretty amazing, and saddening all at once. We lucked out and brought binoculars that we found at our rental house, and had the particular pleasure of watching them from afar as they got up the courage to come ashore. In and out of the water they darted, just on the surf’s edge, waiting for the perfect moment. Then they would emerge on the sand, in a huddle, walk a meter or two up, and plunge back into the water. Emerge, plunge, repeat. Only after a few rounds of this crowd-teasing show did they begin their march, single and double file, up the beach waddling along and stopping occasionally to make sure the coast was clear. And oh what a crowd there was… Probably 300 people were there the night we went, and we could only imagine the volumes that inundate these poor fairy penguins each night, day after day. After they make it up the terrifyingly open expanse of sand, the tourists (we among them), bored of the parade, retreat back to the information center and parking lots by way of boardwalks built among and over the penguins’ burrows. Awesome for humans up close observations of the little guys. Awful for penguins forced to endure the loud, obnoxious, gawking, shrieking (lots of kids), noise of 300 tourists crammed on a boardwalk and hovering over them to get a good look…

Empathy for penguins just looking for a bit of peace aside, and on to the second part of our adventure, where we continue to seek a few more peaceful days in our coastal oceanside retreat. On Sunday, we moved up the coast and down the peninsula – Mornington Peninsula – for Boxing Day. In the middle of the peninsula we found ourselves a little bit of peaceful heaven in a small English cottage nestled just off an olive grove.

For the next two days, we continued a series of beach walks, napping, cheesery and winery hopping in Red Hill and bird watching from the back porch. Steve tested out his brand new clubs at the local golf course, and Bentley and I went on long walks through the olive groves and bushland behind the property. I love urban life, and let’s be honest, wouldn’t ever survive long-term out in the country. But every now and then, there is just something about the ability to sit and hear nothing but nature all around you. Birds chirping, bugs and bees buzzing, wind rustling (no gawking tourists)… What a peaceful life.

Tuesday it was back into the big city, unpacking from our adventure, an afternoon walk in the Botanical Gardens, and a dip in the hot tub. And Wednesday, back to the grind.