Following a last-minute itinerary change, we modified our campervan roadtrip from a 9-day long-haul driving commitment up and back the Victorian and NSW coasts to Sydney to a 5-day leisurely meander down the Great Ocean Road.

After Steve and Jordan skillfully navigated the streets of Melbourne in our massive home on wheels, we quickly loaded up provisions on Hosie Street and hit the road for Phillip Island, our first destination.

day 1:  Phillip Island. 

Phillip Island is well-known for its animal life, most notably the tiny fairy penguins that emerge from the surf each night to trek up the sand to their beach burrows.

But, before the penguins… koalas and wallabies!  Protected and with a low permanent resident (human) population, Penguin Island is home to lots of native wildlife. 

The koala reserve is an open habitat for visitors to spot local fauna. And spot we did; koalas were everywhere, nestled and napping in the tree tops.

After our venture around the koala boardwalks with eyes to the sky, we were also excited to see some movement on the ground!  Props to Jordan, who spotted all of the wallabies on our walk through the grounds of the reserve, as Leah and I chatted and walked along oblivous to the adorableness nearby.

The wallabies were literally so close we could have stumbled on them, but somehow they managed to stay relatively camouflaged against the bushland backdrop.  As dusk approached, it was time to head over to the Nobbies at the tip of Phillip Island to watch the nightly penguin trek.  As with last time, no pictures of the penguins are permitted, so no pictures to share.  It was interesting to go a second time for sure — the surf was different (high tide) so there was less of a build-up for the great walk across the open and naked sand.  But, as it was quite cold, there were WAY less tourists than on Christmas Day.

Adorable mini penguin viewing, check!

day 2: Mornington Peninsula

On our second day, we made our way down and around the wine-rich peninsula.  With little on the agenda for the day other than exploration and a 5pm ferry to the other side of Port Phillip Bay, we stopped over for a few tastings and wood-fired pizzas at T’Gallant, a great winery and restaurant in the Red Hill region of the peninsula.

After a few glasses at T’G, we made our way 10 yards down the road to Ten Minutes by Tractor, an upscale restaurant and cellar door, for a second round.  It was here we learned that 7 days of rain + mud + hill + massive campervan makes for not great driving conditions.

(photo by leah)

After the owner of the vineyard pulled out us of the mud with his truck, we sheepishly headed down the road and out of Red Hill, making our way towards the ferry-town of Sorrento.

After one more wine-detour, it was time to make the short ferry ride across the port’s opening at Point Nepean, and dock our campervan at Anglesea for the evening.

Sunset on the ferry ride was pretty, but chilly!

Anglesea is famous for its kangaroos.  Mobs of kangaroos infiltrate the open greens of the town’s golf course, and tourists flock from Melbourne to see its marsupial inhabitants.  Turns out everywhere in Anglesea is kangaroo-riddled,  even our campsite – we had to move site locations because kangaroos were literally on our (original) campervan site and the owner didn’t want to disturb them!

day 3: Anglesea, and the GOR.

For our third day, we meandered in and around Anglesea before setting off on the Great Ocean Road.  First up, Bells Beach.  Bell’s has been high on Steve’s list of things to see since we arrived in Australia (and since he realized we were living only an hour away from the beach of famed Point Break notoriety).

A bit skeptical to visit a beach on the basis of a bad Keanu Reeves movie alone, I was ultimately won over.  It was a beautifully long, undulating beach with massive tumbling waves (sprinkled, even on a cloudy Monday morning, with black bobbing surfers).

And you know what they say about after the rain…

Actually, one stellar part of a a really rainy week leading up to our adventure, and a few initial days of cloudy and gray Melbourne weather, were some spectacular rainbows over the GOR as we traveled down the coast.

After some beach time and wave watching, we stopped off at the golf course for kangaroo viewing (despite signage admonitions not to).

No kidding, the kangaroos really do love it here.  There are just too many kangaroo pictures for this posting, so instead a compilation is available for your viewing pleasure here.  Well, maybe just one to tide you over….

Best thing about a traveling house/car = lunch on the go.  We parked ourselves with an ocean view for lunch at Airley’s Inlet, and more beach exploration.

(photo by leah and jordan)

At dusk, we made our way to Kennett’s River, a haven for (more) koalas and a special treat for those willing to wait after dark.  Back in the wood, a short muddy walk with flashlight in hand revealed the light of hundreds of glow worms nestled on the footpath and hillsides.  Bright like twinkling stars in the sky, the luminescent worms were alas, too faint for my nightvision camera setting…

Another night, another meal in the campervan.  Claire’s famous chili, camp style.

day 4: Apollo Bay and the Otway National Park

Another great thing about the house/car = coffee where you want it, when you want it.  After bunkering down in Apollo Bay for night 3 and a gorgeous and sunny start to day 4, we were in need of some a.m. coffee, beachside.

Wouldn’t you love to wake up to this??

From Apollo Bay, we followed the GOR through non-oceanside vistas of a rainforest by the sea – the Otway National Park.

Seriously beautiful stuff in this park: hectares of land just nestled off the coast and dripping with water in its own way – condensation on the trees, lingering raindrops on the tips of ferns, pooled micropuddles in the petals of late-fall flowers and tops of mushrooms, and  trickling waterfalls…

This park, and its numerous walking and hiking trails, will definitely be a repeat visit! Much more of Otway (nature) on the photos page.

A brief detour to the lighthouse at Cape Otway (not pictured here because it cost $17 per person to walk up to it) yielded perhaps the most perfect picture moment of the trip.

National Geographic, you can reach me at +61 409 011 185.

Adorable little koala sunning itself just off the road.  Like a kitty.

After the Otways, it was back to the ocean.  Our last and final stop on the great ocean road(trip) was to see the sunset at the Twelve Apostles.  Begun nearly 20 million years ago, the water and wind’s constant erosion of the limestone cliffs near Port Campbell has left these rocky outcrops to remind passersby of the awesome power and destructive capabilities of nature, and are a veritable visage of the Victorian coast.

(photo by leah and jordan)

Twelve Apostles is somewhat of a misnomer, since the formations only ever had 9 stacks.  Now numbering only 8, one famously fell in 2005, memorialized forever in a series of postcards available at every roadside shop in the Port Campbell area that depicts the day before and after the fall…

Pictures of the Twelve at sunset could fill another post unto themselves.  Frequent visitors to the blog and readers of my long-winded pictorially narrated stories will know by now my fondness for the sun’s rise and descent.  Although initially cloudy with thick seamist on the wind, ultimately, the sunset at the Twelve Apostles did not disappoint.

As the sun set, a clear band of light just at the horizon emerged between the clouds.

We waited patiently (helped by a bottle of wine) for the moment when the sun would illuminate that chasm.  And for a brilliant 20 minutes, when it finally did, the spectacle of color was amazing.

day 5: back to Melbourne

Our last day was an uneventful drive back through the countryside for Melbourne to unpack and return the campervan, wash some mud out of our clothes, and get ready to continue the adventures.  With our shortened itin, and the kids’ desire to see Sydney one way or another, we were off at 6am the next day for a brief daytrip to Sydney, to be followed by a long leusirely weekend of decadence in Melbourne.

(photo by leah)

Be sure to follow the journey – check out more pictures on the photos page, our adeventures in Sydney and Melbourne beverage exploration (Der Raum and Yarra Valley).