Our intention had been for a quick stop in Canberra to see the Houses of Parliament and the National War Memorial before heading to the coast. There was a lot more to see at the War Memorial than we expected and we stayed longer than planned. It was originally built to commemorate the First World War but now houses a vast “collection of war relics, official and private records, art, photographs, film, relating to the Australian nation’s experience in world wars, regional conflicts, and international peacekeeping”. It was one of the most interesting and well presented war museums we have ever visited, we were there for over two hours and there was so much more to see. An excellent museum,very moving and highly recommended. By the time we left there we were short on time and it was drizzling with rain so we only managed a drive-by of the Houses of Parliament for a quick photo.
We set off towards the coast and the open stretches of flat-ish inland roads led to more scenic winding roads through the mountains. We arrived in Bateman’s Bay just before sunset and checked into Hanging Rock Family Motel, a friendly motel where we had a lovely, big, 2-bedroomed family room. We walked to the beach as it went dark and watched the bats flying between the trees and heard peacocks calling in the distance. We left early in the morning and spent the day following the coastal road south through Narooma, Merimbula and Eden before stopping at a lovely beach in Malacoota. In the evening, we reached Lakes Entrance, a seaside town whose name sounds more enchanting than the town actually is. We stayed the night in Absolute Lakes Entrance Motel and had the worst burnt pizza and dry chicken kebab from Lakes Pizza (not sure how they get such a good review on Trip Advisor!) .
We spent the following day with Luke, Jo and their son Ollie who drove up from Sale to meet us. After coffee and cake by the water they suggested we go in search of wild koalas at Raymond Island. So, we headed to Paynesville to catch the free passenger ferry across to the island. It was well worth the trip!! Not only did we see lots of koalas – some with joeys – we also saw a number of echidnas snuffling around without a care in the world! Echidnas are egg-laying mammals that look similar to a hedgehog with a long nose for hunting insects. They were on our ‘Australian wildlife bucket list’ and we were all excited to see them. Big thanks to Luke, Jo and baby Ollie for taking us there!
We spent the next two nights at Yarram Holiday Park, owned by an ex-colleague from the UK. The girls had lots of fun playing with Nigel and Marian’s three children. They kindly hosted a BBQ for us and let the kids try out their go-karts around the campsite. Yarram itself is a small country farming town with a few shops and restaurants in good proximity to ninety mile beach. It was busy those few days as it was a stop on the route of the annual ‘Great Victoria Bike Ride’. From there we spent a great day at Wilson’s Prom a national park famous for wombats and emus. Unfortunately, we didn’t see either! We did walk some trails, boardwalks and explored the beautiful beaches surrounded by interesting rock formations. We didn’t make it as far as the lighthouse at the most southern tip of mainland Australia though which was a 19 km hike!
We left Yarram and moved on 2hrs to Phillip Island via the tiny villages of Port Albert and Fish Creek (and a back-track to rescue the girls’ dolls we had left behind – thanks to Nigel for meeting us half way!). Phillip island is home to a colony of 32,000 native Australia penguins called Little Penguins. They spend the day fishing out at sea then come back to land at sunset to their burrows in the hillside. The ‘penguin parade’ has been quite the tourist attraction for decades but now the area is protected by specially built boardwalks, viewing benches and a no photography policy (we took a photo of the postcard we bought!). We arrived just before sunset (along with hundreds of other visitors) and saw wallabies and grey geese on our surprisingly quiet walk to the beachfront. We sat down and waited patiently until the first group of little penguins appeared from the waves. They advanced a few tentative steps until they ‘chickened out’ and returned to the sea. This happened two or three times until they built up the courage to ‘go for it’ and waddled their way clumsily across the beach to their find their burrows in the bush. We watched as group after group of penguins arrived and followed a similar routine. They were adorable! Once it had become too dark to see much more we headed back along the boardwalk where tens, if not hundreds of penguins were waddling their way back to their burrows in the surrounding bush. They were everywhere you looked, calling to each other with croaks and squeaks and negotiating their way around obstacles like grey geese standing in their way. Absolutely magical! It was my highlight of Australia so far, I felt so lucky and wished I could share the experience with the rest of my family and friends.
The following day we went to ‘The Nobbies’ headland just past the penguin parade and followed a boardwalk along the cliffs which is raised over the penguins’ nesting area. From there you can see fabulous views of the rugged coastline, ‘seal rocks’ where a colony of 30,000 fur seals reside and an impressive ‘blowhole’ sea cave. It is nesting season so we were lucky to spot a number of penguins in their burrows and nesting boxes resting quietly in the shade, wonderful! Reluctantly, we left the tranquillity and wildlife of Phillip Island and headed for the city of Melbourne, the last stop on our great Aussie adventure.
Click here to see more of our Canberra to Melbourne photos.