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.