Road Trip to Melbourne Days 3 to 7

Day 3.  We drove directly to Melbourne and our accommodation, the Mercure Welcome Melbourne.  We had the car parked by the valet for $35 a night.  There is an option to park it for $25 a day at a nearby secure parking, but as we didn’t want to walk with bags and would need the car several time, we went for the valet option.

The Mercure Welcome Melbourne is on the corner of Swanston Street and Little Bourke Street.  This is right in the middle of the city, so is convenient to nearly everything and at $117 per night was excellent value for money.  The room we booked was small, but we were aware of this and only planned to sleep there, so extra room wasn’t needed.

Our eldest daughter had already booked into the hotel, so we caught up with her, and went for a walk along Swanston Street.  Where Swanston meets Flinders Street, there is a row of horse-drawn carriages.  We rented one for a half hour trip which cost us $100.  The cost is the same for one person, or a full carriage.  The horses take you down St Kilda Road on a loop.  It’s almost as much fun watching other tourists take photos of you, as the trip itself.

Simply wandering around, we came across some excellent street art.  An entire alleyway full of graffiti.  There are several areas where street art is visible.  We as the concierge, and he gave us directions.

For dinner, we wandered down to Degraves Street.  A narrow lane-way closed to traffic, it’s full of eateries.  You can choose to eat inside, or in the street.  An excellent choice of meals.  There should be enough variety to satisfy most people.  We went for Italian, with Italian Peroni beer for me and a cider for the wife.


Day 4.  This was the day we caught up with our youngest daughter at Holmesglen TAFE.  She has just finished her catering course for the RAN.  As a finale, a lunch was put on for family and some Defence Force Personnel.  Everything went very well, and afterwards, we drove her back to HMAS Cerberus, and then for an afternoon snack at YOMG. There was time for a quick walk on the beach and a chance to look at the beautiful beach houses.  These are one of Mornington’s biggest attractions and a must see if you are in the area.

The drive back into Melbourne CBD was uneventful.  The road is quite boring but along the way are quite a few pieces of artwork, ranging from giant birds, rams heads, gnomes to a pretend hotel.   Arriving back in Melbourne, it was necessary to drive slowly through China Town’s Little Bourke Street at night to avoid the numerous pedestrians. T they seem to just walk out into the road without regard for traffic.

There was a beautiful sunset over Melbourne and we had a great view from the bridge over the Yarra River next to Flinders Street Station.  An evening stroll down Southbank was very relaxing after the drive back, with many of the decorations from Chinese New Year still in place.

Day 5.  An early start saw us leaving the hotel before breakfast was served.  Our car was ready and waiting as promised by the valet.  The drive to the 12 Apostles was very easy, if somewhat boring, but we arrived just as the helicopter flights were setting up for the day.

The helicopter flight was spectacular and provides an unrivaled view of the 12 Apostles and the coast line.  We took the 30-minute flight for $135 each.  The helicopter has eight seats.  Beware if you sit in the rear, as the view from the middle seats can be a bit restricted.

It’s highly recommended that you get to the Visitor Centre early, as when we landed, the queues were quite long to get on the flights.  At this stage though, they were getting another two helicopters out to cater for the growing cored.

Ten minutes down the road from the 12 Apostles visitor centre is the small town of Port Campbell.  There is a very nice café sitting right opposite the beach.  We had apple pie and coffee for a morning snack, rounding off a very enjoyable morning.  The town was quite peaceful and relaxing when we were there, but a local told us that in summer, the population swells by 3,000.  If you want a quiet time, probably best not to be there during school holidays.

The RAAF museum was next on our itinerary.  It was a three-hour drive from where we spent the morning.  Arriving at 2PM, we still had two hours to see the excellent RAAF collection.  It hosts aircraft from World War One to the Present.  The latest examples being an F-111 and a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom.  The World War One and Two exhibits are exceptionally well presented in enclosed hangers, where you can walk around the aircraft for some brilliant views.  The Modern hanger hosts the F-4, F-111 and a Canberra.  They are displayed behind a Perspex barrier.  There are viewing portals in the Perspex so that un-obscured photos can be taken, but you are unable to get close to the aircraft.  The Forth hanger is more of a storage facility, with the displays held behind a wire mesh.  There is an elevated viewing platform, but many of the aircraft on the far side of the hanger are obscured.

The final hanger is where restoration is taking place.  This area also has an elevated platform, but the whole area looks a bit of a mess, as it is a workshop, with partially restored aircraft and parts lying around.

Overnight we stayed at the delightful Quality Suites d’Olive.  These semi-detached units consist of a bedroom with king size double bed, lounge, kitchenet and spa-bathroom.  All very nicely appointed and good value at $190 a night.  They had turned the air conditioner on before we arrived, so the whole unit was nice and cool.  Dinner was had in their restaurant; also very nice, with excellent wait staff.

Day 6.  The following day was our biggest planned drive from Point Cook to Bowral in New South Wales, a total of eight hours driving.  The Hume Highway is very easy driving, with dual carriage way most of the way.  To speed an otherwise boring trip, we only stopped at the roadside service stations.  Nothing special about any of them except that they are clean and sold petrol and snacks.

Arriving in Bowral at 3:00PM, we went straight to the Bradman Museum, for a two-hour immersion in Australian cricketing history.  Any cricketing fan needs to go here at some time, just to get a feel for the history of the game.  This is a world-class museum, despite being in rural Bowral.

Accommodation for the night was at Briar’s Country Lodge.  This old inn is in a lovely setting, with a large pond and rotunda out the back.  Obviously set up for weddings, it is very picturesque.  The inn has a restaurant where you pay up front for your meal and then have it delivered to your table.  Much like a pub.  Although neither of us liked the meals we ordered, the beers on tap – try the speckled hen; and cider kept us happy on the outside veranda through the evening.

Day 7.  Plans for this day were cancelled, as the forecast temperature was in the mid-forties.  Instead of going to Nowra and the Fleet Air Arm Museum, we headed straight home to Singleton.  After a leisurely breakfast, we undertook the three-hour drive home, only stopping at a service station on the M1 to Newcastle for coffee and a toilet break.  We arrived home to 44oC heat.

The Route Taken

Road Trip to Melbourne Days 1 and 2

We recently took a week off to travel to Melbourne from Singleton in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales.  The excuse for this trip was to visit our daughter who is training with the Navy on the Mornington Peninsular.  She has just finished a course, so never ones to pass up an opportunity, we put a quick plan together to drive down and visit some places on the way we had not seen before.

As we were running to a deadline to be in Melbourne, not everything on our way could be seen.  Many interesting things had to be bypassed, or only looked at briefly.  The same was true for the return trip, as work commitments meant we had to be back.

On previous trips, we have taken the shortest route, via Sydney down the Hume Highway.  This time our journey took us via the Bylong Valley and Bathurst.  This takes a few extra hours of driving, but gave us the opportunity to see a part of the country we hadn’t visited before.

Day 1.  We left early at 6AM.  This was done to give ourselves plenty of time in case of delays and get the most out of the day.  The Golden Highway going north is generally only single lane with the occasional overtaking lane.  If you get stuck behind a slow driver, truck or caravan, overtaking opportunities can be limited.  Be patient, there are some long clear straights where visibility is good and there are usually overtaking lanes going up-hill.  Being outside of school holidays must have worked well, as we did not get delayed at all by traffic.

We turned off the Golden Highway before Sandy Hollow onto the Bylong Valley Way.  This country road is single lane, often windy and steep in a couple of places.  It does however, offer some great views as you travel along the Goulburn River.  At Rylstone, we made a quick stop for fuel, coffee and a change of drivers.  The coffee from the café in the main street was great and the food from the bakery was excellent value.  We ate some of it now and kept the rest for lunch.

Arriving at Bathurst around 10AM, we found that there was a race meeting on at Mount Panorama.  The National Motor Racing Museum is located within the race’s boundary, so we couldn’t go in.  Who would have thought?  A race on at a racing track?  Next time we’ll know to check if there is an event on and you can’t enter without a ticket for the event as well.

Although a little disappointed that we missed the museum, we stopped in the main street of Bathurst.  A takeaway coffee was bought and we relaxed in the park off the main street.  There is a statue commemorating the discovery of the area by George William Evans as well as a local aboriginal warrior.

A 90-minute drive to Cowra brought us to the Japanese and ANZAC cemetery. This was one of the main reasons for travelling this route.  A very peaceful place on the outskirts of Cowra, over 200 Japanese prisoners are buried here, most of them from the breakout late in World War 2.  There is also a section nearby for the Allied servicemen who died in the area.

Not far from the cemetery are the remains of the Prisoner of War camp.  There is a replica guard tower and a covered area with descriptions of the camp and explanations of the breakout.  There is also a memorial to the Italian prisoners who died while held there.  We were not aware of the other nationalities incarcerated there, as most of the publicity is about the Japanese.  There is very little of the actual camp remaining.  Mostly concrete blocks.  The information provided there however, helps set out the environment of the camp and the actions taken during the breakout.

There is a very nice Tourist Information Office in the centre of town.  As well as looking at the supply of brochures to see what else was on in Cowra, we spoke to the friendly woman behind the desk.  She told us that the Archibald Prize paintings were on display at the local art gallery.  This was conveniently located opposite the Peace Bell which we also wanted to see.

Entry to the gallery was by donation, which is very reasonable.  Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, but we spent some time admiring the art work.  Not being experts in art, we only spent about 15 minutes.

The Peace Bell is located across the road from the gallery in Civic Square.  You can walk up to the pavilion is housed in it and ring the bell.  A replica of the one in the forecourt of the United Nations, it is the only one in the world not located in a city.

Driving another two hours had us arriving in Temora and the Temora Aviation Museum at 2:00PM.  Many of the aircraft here are in flying condition and put on a display on Saturdays.  Check before you plan to visit for dates and times.  The collection ranges from Tiger Moth biplanes to Meteor jet fighters and a Canberra bomber.  For me the highlight was a CAC Boomerang, an Australian designed and built fighter from World War 2.  The aircraft in the hanger could be walked right up to and ladders and platforms were set up so you could view the cockpits.  There were plenty of staff and pilots around that you could talk to and get details of the aircraft.

In addition to the operational hanger, there is an air-conditioned display hanger.  This is full of other aircraft, including a Wirraway, Sabre Dragonfly, Canberra and Vampire.  Photo opportunities are excellent as the barriers are very close to the aircraft, so you can approach them all closely.

We stayed overnight at the Aromet Motor Inn in Temora. At $105 for the night including continental breakfast, is was a cheap budget option.  The motel is old, but is clean and the bed comfortable, which was all we were after.  Dinner was at the Terminus Hotel in the centre of town.  A quick counter meal with drinks only set us back $50.  Typical pub food, simple, tasty and lots of it.  And cold beer which is important.

Day 2.  The Aromet continental breakfast was delivered at 7:00AM as we asked.  Toast is a do it yourself affair using the toaster provided in the room.  Make sure the toaster is set low, or if you burn the toast, the fire alarm will go off.  As we found out.

There is a chocolate and liquorice factory in Junee, 40 minutes south of Temora on the Olympic Highway. There is not much to see on the drive, but watch out for the road side mail boxes.  They come in all different designs, from planes and tractors to miniature houses.  The chocolate factory opens at 9:AM, so as we had an hour to wait, we got a coffee in the main street.  Not the best of coffees and both were deposited into a nearby bin.  There is a nice park running up the centre of the main street.  It contains the War Memorial and a statue to Ray Warren, a well know football commentator and radio personality.  The main attraction however, is the beautiful train station and surrounding buildings dating from 1878.  There were some excellent photo opportunities, as no one else seemed to be around on a sleepy Sunday morning.

The Chocolate factory is based in an old flour mill, built in the 1930s. It was opened promptly at 9:00 by a very friendly staff member.  We had a look around the show rooms and factory area, buying some of the organically produced licorice.  There is a very nice café / restaurant, serving very nice coffee and snacks.  We didn’t order a meal from the restaurant, but the setting in the old mill is very nice.  Licorice is produced on a Sunday, so if you specifically want to see that, that’s the day to be there.

Heading back onto the Olympic Highway we drove through Wagga Wagga and onto the A41 towards Holbrook.  Our reason for this detour was to see the submarine that is on display.  HMAS Otway forms the centrepiece of the town’s tourist attractions.  As well as the sub there is a nice museum and café.

The submarine is fully accessible.  Your permitted to climb the casing and walk around the deck.  As well at Otway, there is a model of the B11 submarine, which was commanded by Lieutenant Holbrook a winner of the Victoria Cross (the town was renamed after him).  Near the museum is a replica of submarine AE2’s conning tower.  The museum displays a history a Australia’s submarine history and is really worth the small entrance fee.

HMAS Otway was purchased in 1995, after fund-raising in the district.  Most of the $100,000 raised was from Lt Holbrook’s widow.  This was enough to purchase the outer casing of the submarine above the waterline, which is what is now displayed in the town.

The adjoining café served very nice light meals and coffee, with seating inside, or out in the shade.

The Hume Highway heads south-west from Holbrook to Albury.  We stopped off at the Etamogah Pub for a quick bite to eat.  Very much set up to attract tourists, it is never the less worth having a look at, even if to just claim you had a beer there.

Not stopping in Albury, as we had been there before, we drove on to Glenrowan.  This little town is famous as the last stand of the Kelly Gang.  The location of the final fight with the police is well marked out and it is possible to visualise how the fight unfolded.  In the township itself, there are several museums and shops dedicated to Kelly memorabilia.  The museum we looked through was very interesting, tracing the story of Ned Kelly’s life.  The interpretation of Ned’s motivations and his politics are somewhat debatable, and depending who you talk to, a different set of “facts” will be proffered.

For the night, we stayed at the Quality Hotel Wangaratta Gateway.  The room was very comfortable and the restaurant served very delicious meals.  The hotel cost $206 for the night including breakfast, which was buffet for the continental portion and table service for the cooked meal.