Australia’s east coast is over 15,000 miles long. People spend six months or more travelling from Melbourne in the south to Cairns in the north or even further.
For my trip I had 10 days and I knew I would have to cherry pick. My original plan was to do a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney but when I started looking into it, the cost of hiring a car one way was prohibitive as I would have to pay for the car to be driven back. The journey between the two cities along the coast would need at least four days to do it justice and that didn’t really leave much time to see the cities.
I decided to fly between Melbourne and Sydney and that left me wondering what I could do to get out of the city for some of the trip. I decided to go out on the Great Ocean Road west of Melbourne as it is spectacular but I didn’t want to hire a vehicle so I booked on a coach to go as far as possible.
Arriving in Melbourne I booked into a small hotel at the end of Little Bourke Street on the other side of Chinatown. It was walkable from Southern Cross Flybus terminal where buses arrived from the airport.
I was pleased I had picked a hotel by Chinatown as it was an interesting area, certainly more interesting than the Central Business District I walked through to start with. There were side lanes off Little Bourke Street that were good to explore and some interesting restaurants from a wide range of Asian countries not just China.
I found my hotel and dropped off a bag as it was still early in the morning then found a cafe round the corner for a bacon sandwich and coffee.
I had no plan for the day so I just started walking. The buildings were low rise at this end of Little Bourke Street and I found this less claustrophobic than the hi-rise of the CBD though the sky scrapers would look good in photos from a distance.
I headed towards the Yarra river which cuts through the center of Melbourne. As I walked I saw the huge arena of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I did a lap around it but it was shut up and I couldn’t go in. As I walked round I found a door I could look through so I could get a glimpse of the hallowed turf.
I then walked across the William Barak bridge towards the river. I couldn’t understand it at first but I could hear music as I walked. I realized the music was coming from the bridge. Speakers along the side of the bridge were playing aboriginal singing. It was quite cool and surreal.
The city I had walked through so far had been quite empty. As I came down the waters edge I saw there was an event going on on the river. It was a water skiing competition and many people had gathered to watch. I had arrived in the Moomba Festival, I would see water sports, carnivals, fun fair and a very long Chinese dragon parading the streets. I was lucky to arrive just as it was happening.
I spent the rest of the day walking around the river side inner city, there was plenty to see. I walked 10 miles that day.
The next day I decided to do something different. I went to the Fitzroy district. This was close to the hotel and I had read it was more alternative and edgy. I headed up Smith Street and it seemed very different to the parts of the city I had already seen. While it has undergone gentrification since the 80’s, it seemed a much poorer area than the city center. There were many street murals and the shops were much more varied with more artistic leanings. There were alternative clothes shops and some interesting looking pubs. It had a more community feel to it and the housing was quite varied from elegant road side houses with small gardens in front of them to city tenements.
I got a bit lost coming down the end of Brunswick Street and found myself in a park. Fitzroy Park. It was attractively laid out with some interesting buildings to photo and I spent quite some time there.
In the afternoon I figured out the Myki card for local transport and headed out to St Kilda. I had heard that this was a bit dodgy but it was a beautiful late afternoon and I walked out to Elwood and back along the coastal path then back to St Kilda’s beach strip and pier. I got a cone of very nice chips with some special seasoning and went out onto the pier for sunset. It was quite stunning and didn’t seem dodgy at all.
The next day I had read about an area of Melbourne called Yarra Bend. It was a preserved area of bush land along the side of the river near Victoria Park station. It was a short walk from the station and I headed up the far side of the river to get an experience of some bush in the city. It was quite wild and the paths narrowed the further I went into the bush arriving at a weir in the Yarra where the brown water cascaded over. On my way back I encountered an Australian fellow with a big stick. He warned me he had just seen a ‘dirty big snake’ and I should ‘watch my feet’.
The next day was my trip out onto the Great Ocean Road. I walked to Southern Cross early and figured out where to catch the train to Geelong. I had left so much time I was able to get an earlier train and then an early bus onto the Great Ocean Road. The day was beautiful and from the coach I could see glimpses of the coast through the road side trees. It looked gorgeous.
I had thought the furthest I could get by coach was Lorne, but it turned out the bus went through to Apollo Bay. I had booked a room in Lorne though so I got off there. There was a lot more of the Great Ocean Road that I wouldn’t see but at least I’d seen some of it. It would have been better by car, motorbike, or even bicycle as you could pull off at the overlooks to see the coastline.
Lorne is a small coastal town with some tourist shops and a decent beach. I headed to the fish and chip shop and got a very tasty Grenadier fish. I had a quick look at the beach and headed to my comfortable sea view room to chill and write some postcards. The next morning I woke at 6.30 am and decided to go down to the beach. There was a fantastic sunrise and I walked along the beach out to the Lorne Jetty. I woke a sleeping seal lying on the rocks under the jetty and it flapped very agitatedly into the sea. Lorne had scored and I was very glad I’d stopped off there.
The next day it was raining and I retraced my steps to Melbourne. I was staying near the CBD this time and I looked for things to do in the rain. I got some interesting Vietnamese food and headed to the aquarium. One of the better aquariums I’ve been to and not too busy at around 4pm. As well as many smaller tanks it had a large tank you could walk through and see many larger fish including sharks and rays as well many colorful smaller fish.
The next day I flew to Sydney. The weather was atrocious flying in and I only got the briefest of glimpses of the harbour. Not much point getting a window seat.
I had booked two nights at the famous Bondi Beach. The guesthouse was very nice and much better than the rough place I’d stayed in the night before. It was quite a walk from the beach though and by the time I got there it was evening. The beach was lit up and looked good but no one was on it so I headed back.
My feet had recovered from the pounding on the first two days in Melbourne, and I decided to do the Bondi to Coogee beach walk. The weather was quite changeable, sometimes sunny and sometimes raining. The storms coming across the sea were making the sea quite impressive and there were many surfers out enjoying the conditions. You could see the rain clouds coming across and I found gaps between the rain to walk round the next headland before sheltering from the next rain storm. Some of the smaller beaches were really pretty and I didn’t mind not being on Bondi as it wasn’t really a beach day. There were great open air pools next some of the beaches and the sea was breaking over the rocks into them.
I reached Clovelly and I was starting to feel hungry. The Seasalt Clovelly cafe was packed but up in the back streets I found Clovelly Social House. They did me some pasta and it tasted really good.
I finished off the walk to Coogee and found a bus that was heading in my direction to rest my tired feet.
The next day I was moving again – to The Rocks. I caught the train to Town Hall station and came out of the station to torrential rain. I ducked into the nearest shop. It was the Queen Victoria Building. I’m not a fan of shopping centers, but this one was gorgeous. I hung around in there having breakfast until the rain stopped.
I walked down to my hotel in The Rocks and checked in. It was a great old pub and I got an excellent room overlooking the street. All the windows were open and it felt very fresh. In the late afternoon I wandered down to the quay side and behaved like a tourist checking out the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Even though I’d seen these places many times in photos it is still cool to see them for yourself.
The next day I went to Circular Quay and got the ferry across to Manly. The ferry journey was amazing through the harbour. I always like boat trips and this one was pretty special. The weather had turned good and I arrived in Manly in warm bright sunshine. There was another coastal walk here but I didn’t feel like doing this as it was so warm. I just hung out at the beach and found a good beach restaurant for something to eat. There were many runners going up and down the seafront. I’d expected to see beautiful girls in bikinis in Sydney but these girls were athletes. I walked round the coast to Shelly Beach and got an ice cream. It was a chilled last day, maybe I’d saved the best till last. Manly was a really nice place and a good way to end.