I'd like to firstly say a big thank you to everyone who has taken their time to give us some ideas, thoughts on our Oz holiday. Our trip has been wonderful....met so many nice people and it's true, There is NOTHING like Australia.....
So here goes....
We arrived early morning on a friday. We are a family of four and my kids are of 6 & 2.5 yrs of age. My little one drinks formula milk powder and we were apprehensive about whether or not the big tin of milk powder will be confiscated - but we decided to try anyway. We declared the milk powder and some "stand by" medications that we brought along for the trip and once we collected our luggages, we threw away all foodstuff that we might possible be hanging on to. You will see bins asking you to throw them or you'll have to quarantine them. Because we have the tin of milk powder, we we routed to a lane where we will have to have the sniffing dogs come by. The whole process was quick, the dog handlers were very professional and they took care that the kids were not intimidated by the dogs. We were made to stand in rows and the dogs just came around sniffing you out. Yes, the dogs were so smart. A few tourist from China got "sniffed out" as i suppose they had some foodstuff and the officers were quick to escort those whom the dogs have singled out. Us? The dog didn't single us out and we were led to the exit promptly. So for those who has concerns with bringing milk powder, i'd say, just bring it & declare it. If it gets confiscated somehow, you'll have a good chance getting a replacement in the pharmacy or supermarket.
We took the skybus to southern cross station and we walked our way to Novotel Melbourne on Collins where we were lucky to be granted early check in at 11am and spent the rest of the day just walking around the surrounding blocks.
We went to Collingwood Children's farm and upon the recommendation of the concierge, we took a taxi which costs us about $12. The farm was busy that day as the farmer's market was on. We were basically left on our own to very much do what we want. We went to each animal enclosure and had a ball feeding the animals, milking the cows and I had the greatest time buying fresh produce from the farmer's market. We spent about 4 hours there and found a taxi back to CBD and we spent the rest of the day enjoying the sights of Melbourne. Tips, we brought our "crocs" along as it was the next best thing next to Gum boots (which we dont have). The shoes WILL get dirty and even muddy.
St Kilda Beach
We bought the myki from 7-11 for this and caught tram 16 from Swanston Street. Myki is very easy to use, just like the EZ link card system we have in Singapore. The weather was warm 34 deg cel but holy cow the water was freezing!! (At least for us Singaporeans). We lazed around the beach and there were sooo many people! (all trying to escape the heat i guess). After about 4 hours, we headed on to Luna Park and my kids had a great time there...ride after ride. St Kilda beach is beautiful with lotsa birds (seagulls? no?) flying about all the time. It's so picturesque. Tips: Facing the beach, the left side (nearer to the lighthouse??) is catered for dogs to have fun at the beach. This is separated by a jetty. I went to the left side and was wowed by the many types of dogs around. Really, we dont have the types of dogs that you guys have in Singapore.
Great Ocean Road
This was our tricky day. Our Big Day out. My parents had joined us from Singapore and arrived at 9am. So we got our rented car from AVIS at the Grand Hyatt. AVIS were quick and efficient. I would book with them again. The car, KIA Grand Carnival was clean, huge and comfortable for 4 adults and 2 car seats for the kids. We arrived at the airport just after 10am (after numerous u-turns and wrong turns) parked our car wrongly at the long term carpark (instead of the short term). But no worries there as there's a free shuttle that takes you from the long term car park to the terminals. We then proceeded straight to the GOR taking all the advices that i've gotten through the forum. The post by Navy35 on driving to GOR from Tullamarine helped us a great deal. Thanks Navy35!
the dive was fairly easy and we had stops at: Torquay, Bells Beach, numerous lookouts, had lunch at Apollo Bay and we stayed the night at Bimbi Park Camping under the Koalas, Cape Otway. OMG, the place is truly amazing seeing Koalas everywhere...chickens roaming...horses. In short, my kids loved it. Tips: road trips with young kids? snacks were our saviour. We loaded the car with lotsa snacks and kept feeding them hehe. The breaks in between i let them run about.The total trip from Tullamarine to Cape Otway was about 5 hours with 2 hours of break included. We have never driven that long before as a family but we made it! Yeah!
We continued from Cape Otway to the 12 apostles. The day was scorching hot at 36 deg cel. Super hot...which unfortunately didnt make the visit to the apostles enjoyable. Kids were whining...and i know i had to abort the trip Lord Arch and the london bridge. So sadly, we stopped at the 12 apostles and we left. On hindsight, it was prob a good idea as the kids were really cranky in the car - not fun. But yes, despite everything thats happening, u cant help but marvel at the sights of the apostles. standing there looking at them, it kinda brought me back down to earth....reminding me how powerful mother nature is. Anyway, we headed on to teh Otway Fly Tree top where my son was super keen to find the dinosaurs - he did and he was sooo happy. cant stop talking about it till now. The treetop walk was an experience. Suspended 25m above ground, u feel the winds pounding and i was so scared that i dared not look down. But an experience indeed it was, and being in the rainforest was a huge respite from the 36 deg temp. The otway fly tree top was our last leg of the GOR and we headed back to Melbourne driving through sleepy towns like Colac.
6th & 7th day
From a 36deg cel the day before, temperatures dropped to 25deg cel. Now this we were not prepared as we had expected warm weather throughout our trip. Its amazing how the weather can change drastically.....well that's Melbourne for you i guess. I totally get it now how the TA's sometimes really dont know what to tell OPs when they ask about the weather!
We spent the day discovering the city...visited QVM (its only a market - NOT!!!) i could spend the entire day there just getting lost with all the amazing stuffs on display. I shan't even get started with the cheap fruits that's selling there. Goodness.......
Temperature dropped to 20deg at the Yarra Valley...we had only t shirts with us..no jacket...no sweaters. brrrrr.....
We got our car rental again from AVIS and this time we were headed towards the Yarra Valley.
The drive was fairly easy again and we went to Healesville Sanctuary. For the first time in our lives, we got to see a platypus! We were all so excited - over a platypus!! This place is amazing. Anyone contemplating whether or not to go to Healesville SHOULD GO! if you are from Singapore, pls miss the Melbourne zoo.....u WILL like Healesville. Its like our zoo but here u find animals only native to australia. My kids had a ball at healesville. We proceeded to the Loft in the Mill at Olinda. A beautiful beautiful accommodation.
Puffing Billy Time!!!!
We drove from Olinda to Belgrave station. It was raining and the temp was 10 deg!!! We took PB all the way to Lakeside station where it was an hour long journey. The ride was amazzzzzziiiiing! so nostalgic. Adults and kids - will enjoy the novelty of the train ride. Yes, the kids dangled the legs out and people were just waving to us....all the time. It was such a great feeling. I truly enjoyed it (minus the cold). Anyone contemplating Puffing Billy...pls try it!! U will love it. I was concerned with the 1 hour long journey each way as i wasnt sure my kids could behave so i decided to go 1 way to lakeside, and pre-book a taxi to pick us up from Lakeside to bring us back to Belgrave in 20mins. The maxi taxi (4 adults 2 children) cost us $45. We saved some 40mins of travel time but on hindsight, i should have just stuck to the return trip on PB cos the kids enjoyed it and really it didnt even feel an hour!! Next we drove to Upick berry farm and had a wild time picking strawberries and raspberries. It raining heavily whilst we were there and u can imagine the mud we had on our shoes. I was told that it was the first rain in 30days. I could tell as the berry farm had some cracks on the ground and the grapevine were so dry.
Well we had ponchos...so we picked the berries in the rain and everyone enjoyed it very much. we ate the berries and nothing beats eating your food fresh eh?!
We then went back to Olinda and stayed indoors and thanked God for heaters. = )
Our last day.
We drove up to skyhigh and quickly ( i mean REALLY quickly) took pictures of the giants chair, percy possums house, wishing tree and the skyline of melbourne. The sight were amazing but the cold kinda overrode on the view and we quickly dashed to the warmth of our car. We drove back to Melbourne...had our last meal and drove to the airport making 3 rounds as we kept missing the turn for the car rental return.
In summary, we love melbourne and it holds a special place in our hearts. I was skeptical as im a muslim and i wear a headscarf and i wasnt sure how we would be perceived there - but you get nothing of that sort over there. People are nice and you can tell if they are genuine or not. We will definitely be back... hoping to see the penguins the next time perhaps?
Once again, thank you all for contributing to our trip. We really appreciate it.