Our time in northern Tasmania came to an end and we had a long road trip back to Hobart ahead of us. We booked a cottage outside of the capitol, on a little farm in a town called Lucaston (about 30km from Hobart). Since we tried to see as much as possible on this beautiful island, we decided to take the scenic route through several towns and along the east coast. First, we drove to Launceston, about 2.5 hours from Burnie. We bought lunch, found a local park with a playground where Leo and Mila could stretch their bones and enjoyed some beautiful weather and views of the city. Next, we drove due east and followed the famous Great Eastern Drive down the coast. It was absolutely beautiful. Spectacular beaches, wild cliffs, dry rugged inland mountains and perfect driving conditions. We were amazed by the amount of undeveloped land stretching along the beaches - I even mentioned to Rick that if you were a celebrity, this would be a perfect place to get some peace and quite, and escape the business of Hollywood.
Our next stop was Freycient National Park, 3 hours from Launceston and let me tell you, this park was a true gem. There are some many amazing walks and hikes, you could honestly spend a week there. Since we were short on time, we chose to do the Wineglass Bay lookout hike, which was only 3 km hike and it ended with a gorgeous view of the bay. It was a bit crowded for our liking but we still enjoyed gorgeous scenery. Leo even spotted a wallaby with a baby hiding right under one of the boulders. He is so observant, I love it! Since the weather was perfect, sunny and in low 80’s, we took a short drive to one of the local beaches, Richardson Beach, and set down our blanket and relaxed for a bit. Leo and Mila kept busy by collecting rocks and seashells (of course Mila was eating them). Hanging out on the beach made us a little nostalgic about Florida. We really lived in paradise and who knows, maybe we will come back there after this trip is over. After 45 minutes of natural bliss, we continued our road trip to Hobart, another 3.5 hours away. I have to mention that the soundtrack from the movie “Trolls” has been carrying us through the majority of our road trips. Leo and Mila absolutely love it and keep singing along. Even Rick and I know every word to each song, hahaha! We arrived at our destination about 8:30pm. We were super tired and after dinner and showers, we all went to bed.
The next morning, right after breakfast, we decided to take a short drive and hike Mt. Wellington. From the summit, you can see beautiful panoramic views of Hobart and its surroundings. We were all a bit tired from the long travel day, but nevertheless, we did not want to waste any time in this region of Tasmania. As we learned during this hike, sometimes it is better to take a step back and not force anything. One hour into our hike, we all started to complain. Mila was throwing the tantrum of her life, Leo did not want to hike, and Rick and I were arguing. As a result, we quit half way through. We turned around and went back home. I felt like the lowest point of our trip, we all lost our cool. One thing is certain, it did not feel good. We were super disappointed in ourselves…we do not consider ourselves quitters but that day, we just gave up. Maybe a moment like that was needed to make us realize that we can’t do it all, I really don't know. It’s funny because the first thing that came to my mind were the words of princess Poppy from the “Trolls” who, in a moment of a doubt, said, “Maybe life isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows”. For those who have seen that movie, the end result is super positive so I like to think that this moment of doubt and defeat will pass with time…
We both decided we needed some down time away from each other. I gave Rick the next morning to go on a solo hike. He happened to have the only rainy day we had during our two weeks but nonetheless, he hiked to the summit of Mt Hartz in fog, rain, and 50 mph windy conditions. Upon his arrival home, you could feel more positive air in our household. You could tell he felt really good completing a Grade 5 hike in very difficult conditions. His accomplishment helped all of us get out of our “funk”.
The next day was my favorite day in Hobart. In the morning, right after breakfast we drove downtown to witness their annual Christmas Parade! Whether it was the spirit of Christmas decor, the beautiful warm and sunny day, or maybe the fact, that the four of us were super pumped for this event, we felt very happy and alive. We got very good seats along the main route of the parade and were anxiously awaiting for the festivities to begin. This parade was fun even though it did not compare to anything we have seen in the USA. Peppa Pig riding the bus opened the show, followed by different organizations and characters, with Santa Clause closing this event. I think it put all of us in the Christmas spirit! It was very lovely to see Leo and Mila so excited ( although Mila cried for a bit since she was scared of all of the noises - so funny to see her like that since normally she acts like a boss). The streets were packed with families and it was good to see so many people coming together and getting ready for the most wonderful time of the year.
After the parade, we walked down to the waterfront and hit the famous Salamanca market. Yes, by now you know that we are suckers for local markets and this one definitely did not disappoint. The location was perfect, right by the pier, tons of stands with anything from arts, crafts, local produce and drinks. We strolled up and down for a while and since it was quite hot, found a shaded spot under a tree. We set our blanket down, kids were running around, and we enjoyed our delicious treasures found at the market; fresh fruit, chips and salsa, organic ice-cream and mini pancakes with cream and raspberry sauce, a true bliss! This market happens every Saturday and draws thousands of people from the area. The city of Hobart has a very cool vibe - it’s a place full of trendy hippies, very organic and nature minded folks, and a beautiful waterfront (it reminds us a bit of Asheville, NC).
The next stop for us was the Tasman Peninsula. After stuffing our faces with delicious goodies found at the market, we drove one hour to the most southern point of the island and visited Waterfall Bay. We did a short walk to the top of the cliff along the coast (about 1 mile each way) where we could see some spectacular scenery. Huge cliffs stretching for miles, there were many different caves and hidden holes in the rocks. The water had a turquoise color and the intense waves kept crashing into the cliffs. We absolutely love the landscape of Tasmania. Quite interesting because by now, we have seen the most western (Edge of the World), northern (The Nut), eastern (Wineglass Bay) and southern (Waterfall Bay) points of the whole island. Tasmania is absolutely gorgeous and anyone who is a nature fanatic (and foodie) should visit this amazing place.
We finished this fun day by visiting Willies Smith Apple Cider Shed, conveniently located 10 minutes away from our farm house. We have heard about this place from many people and everyone was bragging about it, and now we know why. This wonderful place is situated about 20 minutes outside of Hobart with an amazing view of the mountains and orchid fields. The decor was absolutely fantastic, all of the fences were made out of the apple bins, they had live jazz music, a kids corner, amazing food and delicious apple cider, in other words, little Tasmanian heaven!!! We got there around 6:30pm and it was packed! Mostly young people and families enjoying a gorgeous evening. We ordered two rounds of cider, apple juice for kids, lamb burgers and corn on the cob. The atmosphere was super relaxed and if we did not have our kids with us, we could have stayed there until midnight, haha! We simply needed a day like that to get our spirit back and continue our once in a lifetime journey.
Since we have not seen any waterfalls on this side of the world, we decided to take a 1.5 hr drive to Mt Field National Park. Apparently it’s a very popular spot for the nature lovers so naturally, we had to see it. The drive there was pretty sweet, mountains, valleys and gorgeous green scenery. This park has many great walks. We chose a 4.5 mile trek through one of the oldest eucalyptus forests in the world. Along the way, you pass 3 waterfalls. It was fairly easy walk since there were not too many hills, just a few staircases leading you up to the top of the waterfall.
Our last day in Tasmania, we spent preparing for our upcoming flight back to the mainland Australia. We have a 6am flight to Cairns with a stop in Melbourne. It’ll be another full day of travel to go from the far South of Aussie back to the tropics and Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. We absolutely loved Tasmania. It is a beautiful island with gorgeous terrain and super friendly people. We felt as though we covered the whole island, we drove 2,600 km but there is still so much to see. We feel like we’ve become the ultimate outdoor family, bouncing from beaches to mountains to waterfalls and deserts. WE really feel like we can adapt to any situation or any landscape. It’s funny because now each time we leave the house, Leo asks which shoes he should wear, tennis shoes, hiking boots, or sandals. It’s so special to see him grow and become a nature lover. He constantly gets admiration from passerbys during our hikes. They are always amazed by his endurance and ability to finish challenging hikes. Since we have been driving a lot, we also have been listening to different movie soundtracks. Both Leo and Mila love all the songs from “Trolls” and during long road trip, they keep singing along, so cute, hahaha!! Even before bed time Mila asks me to sing to her “True Colors” instead of lullabies (please believe me, I am one of the worst singers in the world). And on that note, I am going to try my best to sing “True Colors” to my kids and hopefully they fall asleep without having nightmares…
Never in a million years would I have thought that we were going to visit Tasmania, but here we are and all I can say - Tasmania you are stunning. We departed Melbourne and flew straight to Hobart, which is the capitol of this island that lies only 1600 miles from Antarctica. The flight was quite short, only one hour and Mila, for the first time in her life, received her very own airplane ticket! Upon our arrival in Hobart, the boys went to get the the rental car while Mila and I were waiting outside with our luggage. Suddenly, I saw Leo running towards me with two bouquets of flowers. I though to myself, awww my husband is so sweet, he bought me these beautiful flowers for no reason, how romantic? I am so lucky! Here it turns out, Leo was throwing some rubbish and found these beautiful flowers right next to the trash bin. Naturally, Rick though they could not go to waste and would make a perfect gift for his wife…as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure…especially for homeless gypsies like us, ha! I guess I will have to add some extra cayenne pepper to Rick’s soup as a payback : ) We booked two weeks in Tasmania and the first part of our adventure was spent on the northern part of the island. We rented an awesome house in an industrial port town called Burnie. It was located one block from the ocean, right next to a wonderful park. We arrived there late at night, around 10 pm but this short 3.5 hour road trip from Hobart gave us a good idea about this unique and beautiful island.
First of all, we absolutely love our AirBnB rental. There are two huge bedrooms, a perfect kitchen, original hardwood floors, a fenced in back years for the kids and ocean views! We all slept very well the first night and woke up ready to go. In the morning I went for a run along the ocean boardwalk. Later we met up in Burnie Park, right by our house, where we discovered an amazing playground for the kids. After dinner we headed to the beach to watch penguins emerge from the ocean. Unfortunately we only saw one lonely penguin sitting by the boardwalk and since it was getting dark and cold, we decided to call it a night. Leo was lucky enough to hold one little penguin during a short lecture led by local volunteers.
The next day, we packed our car and drove to the western most part of Tasmania, known as the Tarkine Region of the island. It was located about 2 hours from our house, but it was totally worth it. First, we stopped at what is effectively known as the Edge of the World. It derives its name because if you sailed due west from this point of the Southern Ocean, you wouldn't hit another land mass until you plough into the tip of Argentina, about 17,000 km away! Its also known as the Roaring Forties for its constant winds eclipsing 40 km/ hour. Such a unique place that gave all of us wind burn! Hahaha! It is the starting point for Arthur beach coastal walk to Church Rocks. We did a 5km walk along the beach and the views were stunning. On one side there was dark blue ocean with waves crashing into the beach full of rocks, boulders and logs, and to the right giant dunes, forests, and small creeks. We trekked along the beach admiring this wonderful coastline.
Once we got back to the car we ate lunch and decided to drive to the second largest temperate rainforest in the world. We picked a short trek through Lake Chisholm Forest Reserve, which is a flooded limestone sinkhole. The 30 min path led us through majestic old myrtle forest full of huge eucalyptus trees. It reminded us of a trip to Muir Woods in California with its giant redwoods. Leo and Mila absolutely loved this little adventure in the jungle, they kept running through the narrow valley, hiding behind the trees and exploring this amazing side of the world. When we finished this adventure it was close to 5 pm. Rick and I wanted to keep going but the kids were getting tired. Since we still had two hour drive ahead of us, we decided to head home and get ready for another day of exploration on this stunning island.
The next morning we chose to explore the coastal city of Stanley and climb the local mountain called The Nut. The town was located about an hour from our house so not too bad. You can see The Nut from the road and it looks like a big hill right at the edge of the ocean. It's not very high, only 430 meters but the ascent it pretty steep. There was a ski lift that took you all the way to the top, but why bother when your are young and healthy. We got to the summit in less than 20 minutes and admired 360 panoramic views of the ocean - quite unique experience. The top of this hill was very flat with a 2km loop trail which included several viewing points. It was quite windy but nothing compared to the Edge of the World. Once we got to the bottom, we drove to the city center and visited a local sea food place called Hursey Seafoods. It's a shop/restaurant where you can buy all of the locally caught sea food. We ordered a plate of fried gummy shark bites with French fries as well as scallops. We set up a small picnic outside on the lawn area and shared this delicious meal together. The kids has a taste for this yummy meal, they are both starting to try new cuisines more frequently. Mila has always been a great eater and Leo is slowly acquiring new tastes.
The next day took us to our most physically demanding hike yet. It was picture perfect out, 65 & sunny and we headed inland to Cradle Mountain National Park (1.5 hour drive from our house). This park is a home to the iconic Cradle Mountain, which is tucked in between ancient rainforest and alpine heaths. The scenery was stunning, very wild and completely different from anything we have seen before. At first we chose to do a loop trail around Dove Lake, but at the last minute, Rick decided it would be cool to climb the adjacent summit to Cradle Mountain at Marion’s Lookout along the Overlook Pass. It was an 8km, Grade 4 hike. The first part led us through mostly flat prairie and less challenging terrain where we were able to spot few local species, including wombat who was sitting on the side of the hill and eating grass. Leo was so funny, he brought his binoculars with him and used them the entire day : )
About an hour in, we started our ascent through the forest and along a couple of waterfalls and a creek. Once we exited the forest, we emerged right in front of Crater Lake and its beautiful surroundings. It was so cool because we were able to see snow on the top of some of the mountains. We continued our hike that slowly got more challenging and intense. After 15-20 minutes we got to our first base, where we were greeted with gorgeous views - one side of the mountain overlooking Crater Lake and down in the valley, Dove Lake. We stopped for a good 30 minutes, ate lunch, let the kids throw rocks over the cliffs, and admired this spectacular scenery. At this point we were about 1100 meters above the sea level and still had 400 more to climb. The last part of this hike was pretty crazy - it was no long a hike, but a climb. You climbed onto huge rocks while holding onto a chain railing. People gave us pretty wild looks after seeing Leo and Mila with us, since they were the only young kids there, but hey, this is how we Herman’s roll! Once again, Leo did a phenomenal job and got to the top like a pro. He even received several words of admiration from other hikers. After reaching the top of the mountain and Marion’s Lookout, you feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. We sat down on the rocks, relaxed for a bit while Leo and Mila created their own playground at the summit, telling us they were building a train, hahaha! This was quite a popular place, there must have been 30-40 other hikers up there with us (it was Saturday). We took in views of Cradle Mountain and all of its surroundings.
Going down was an interesting experience - we chose a different route, a quote/unquote shortcut taking you straight down the mountain versus a bit of zig/zag as you normally do to get to the bottom. It was much more steep than we both anticipated. At one point Leo slipped and fell, and from the sound of his cry I was afraid he sprained an ankle or knee, but thankfully, he only got a bruised knee. Nevertheless, we got to the bottom of the mountain and the rest of the pathway ran along Dove Lake. It definitely did save us time, we cut a good 45 minutes off of our decent. The picture perfect scenery made us forget about being tired or hurt, always a plus : ) Once we got home, kids went outside to the backyard and Rick and I prepared a delicious meal - scallops with linguini (kids ate pasta with homemade pesto sauce) and I can honestly admit it was one of the best meals ever. Paired with a glass of local Chardonnay it was a perfect pairing.
We readily admit we’ve been going at a rapid pace during our World journey. Each day has been filled with new adventures, discovery, hikes, and exploration. This rapid style of life has been slowly catching up with us. We kind of felt like we were hitting a bit of a wall a few weeks ago, but it definitely sunk in during our last 2 days in Burnie. We were both physically & mentally exhausted. Not only from all we’ve done but 24/7 around each other & the kids can also can have its effects. We still took the kids to the park, worked out, cooked, etc, but we also took afternoon siesta’s and did not drive anywhere. We had planned one more hike (going to a waterfall) but decided against it. Sometimes I wonder if we’re running at too fast of a pace and trying to do too much. Maybe we need to build in more down time? We get caught up in wanting to see it all, hike every mountain, visit every beach, and soak in every scenic shot. There is so much to see in this World, and we both feel a connection to Tasmania and its landscape. It is wild and exotic and boasts so much diversity. We’ve also eclipsed the half way point of our trip and both Rick & I have started to think about what may lie ahead for us. For now, we are just trying to enjoy every moment. We’ve got 1 more week left in Tassie and there is so much more to do here. So for now, the show must go on and we’re back in the fast lane!
The Great Ocean Road brought us all the way to Melbourne, where we’d settle in for the next 10 days. Our first stop brought us to the suburbs of southeast Melbourne, in a little town called Frankston, where we rented a super nice home in town called Frankston. For the first time on our trip, we experienced significantly cooler weather. We actually had to run a heater during the night, bryyy, we miss our Florida sunshine! Since Halloween was right around the corner, we made a trip to Target and found costumes for Leo and Mila - they have been in love with Paw Patrol so this year they will be Marshall and Skye!
Our first adventure on our Melbourne tour took us to nearby Phillip Island www.visitphillipisland.com, a place full of nature! This gorgeous island is located on the eastern side of Victoria, about 1.5 hours due south from our house. We did some research but kind of went down there without a plan. We had no idea what amazing things were about to happen to us. First, we drove all the way to the most western point of the island called The Nobbies Centre. There was a network of boardwalks right outside of the information center overlooking Seal Rock, The Nobbies and The Blowhole. Although it was too rough to get on the boat and see the seals from up close, we were able to spot hundreds of them via binoculars chilling on the rock. Over 16,000 seals live here, the largest settling in Australia. I think Shark week may be filmed here, as we were informed Great Whites frequent this area because of the large seal population. The color of the water was unreal, beautiful turquoise with some intense waves hitting the rocks, hence the name The Blowhole. Literally 15-20 feet waves just constantly crashing into the cliffs. The whole boardwalk is surrounded by amazing green hills, makes you feel like you are in Scotland. It was super windy and a bit cold, but we absolutely loved exploring this little gem.
Next, we drove to a local beach called Woolamali, where for the first time ever, we witnessed a surfing competition! Although we do not know much about the sport, it was super fun to watch them catch a wave. While it was really cold sitting out in the stans, we enjoyed every second of it! Even Leo and Mila were into it : ) Funny story, there were tons of grey geese walking everywhere. Leo decided to chase them and as we was running after them on the boardwalk, one of the geese got mad at him and tried to attack him! He got so scared and I have never seen him run this fast, hahaha.
Right after the surfing competition, we stopped at the local Chocolate Factory and enjoyed some delicious sweets. Maybe it was not the best chocolate that we have tried (Swiss coco is still number one in our books), it was something different and of course, a fun place for our children.
We saved the best for last…so as we were arriving to Philip Island, we saw a sign for a penguin parade tonight. We found out at the tourism office that this extraordinary natural spectacle was happening that evening at 8pm. Every evening, at sunset during most of the year, hundreds of little penguins come ashore at Summerland Beach and waddle across the sand to their burrows in the silky clumps of grass and rest. We were not prepared to stay day for the whole day, but after learning more about the penguin parade, we decided to suck it up and do it! We purchased our tickets and at 7pm arrived at the sitting arena on the beach. Boy oh boy, it was cold! In the 40s with strong winds and grey skies. As we were sitting there and freezing our bums, I looked at Rick and said: “Did we really just pay $50 to sit in the freezing cold and watch penguins!!!”. Luckily, we had our jackets and beach blanket. Leo has been so excited for Halloween, he has been wearing his Paw Patrol costume - Marshall, for the last two days :) We were all bundled up and ready for the penguins to come. Sitting out in the cold felt like an eternity, but as soon as we saw group of little penguins emerging from the ocean, we completely forgot about our frozen bodies. It was something new, something spectacular to see these penguins in their natural habitat, return from a day of feeding and waddle back to their nests! They all looked so scared and so cute, I wanted to run down and give them a kiss. In order to protect them, you are not allowed to get close to them, and you can’t take pictures and videos (They are super strict about this). They allow you to download pictures from their website and thats exactly what we did. I don't think I have ever seen Leo this excited. His eyes were shining like two little diamonds and his smile said it all :) Back on the boardwalk you could see the penguins much closer and follow them around. Both Leo and Mila were in true penguin heaven :) Leo kept telling Mila to be quiet and not to scare them. He was even trying to teach her how to waddle. The long wait in the cold was totally worth it. I have only seen penguins in the zoo and this experience does not even compare to that. We totally loved watching them so close in the wild nature. It was another amazing day that will stay with us forever.
So Rick’s coworker - Jake, who was born and raised in Melbourne graciously invited us to stay with her mum, Miss Maria. A few weeks ago we made the call to Miss Maria and arrange everything with her and the next week her house will be our house : ) We arrived there on the day of Halloween and were greeted by this lovely lady - another amazing person that we encountered during our journey. She prepared for us a delicious dinner and in the evening, we all went trick or treating. Leo and Mila have been waiting for that day for a very long time! Leo was so amazing, each time he collected a piece of candy, he grabbed one for Mila (she was taking her good old time during the walk). One gentleman gave him a handful of candy and Leo told him he needed only one piece, no more. After 30 minutes he told us he had enough sweets in his bag and wanted to go home. He is very disciplined with his candy and eats one piece in the morning and one after dinner. Mila on the other hand could eat all of it at once :) It was a super nice day and a fantastic start to our stay with Miss Maria :)
The following morning, right after breakfast we all drove to a KingLake National Park, right outside of Melbourne. Boy was it COLD outside!!! But it didn’t stop us from getting our and exploring. On the drive there, we saw several wallabies, it was so cool! One of them was standing right by the road and posing for us. We also witnessed a kangaroo jumping right in front of our car and that was a bit scary. Nevertheless, it was another unique experience with this typical Australian specie. We went for a short hike to a waterfall and on the way back we passed a group of kindergarten children. We talked to one of the teachers who explained to us that once a week, as a part of their curriculum, they take the kids to the park and spent the day out in the nature teaching them about the local flora and fauna - I absolutely loved this idea. Besides, this teacher had more enthusiasm than any other teacher we have met before and you can tell that the kids were so engaged with anything she had to say. At the picnic area, all of these kids were jumping and splashing in the mud and puddles (the weather was pretty cold, low 50’s, grey skies and sporadic rain). Few of them had only pants on and anything else and they were having a time of their life. Leo and Mila were very tempted but did not have enough courage to join them :) Although Mila did slide down on her bum on a very muddy hill.
We finished that day with a visit to Oakridge Winery www.oakridgewines.com.au, right in the middle of the Yarra Valley (right outside of Melbourne and a popular wine region). It was another kid friendly winery, with plenty of toys and games for the children. Miss Maria offered to watch the kids while Rick and I did a short wine tasting - what an amazing woman?! I am not sure what we have done to deserve such a special treatment but are so grateful and thankful for all the good that we’ve received : )
The next day, our first trip to central Melbourne took us to the famous Queen Victoria Market. We absolutely love visiting local markets. This experience allows you to feel like a true resident as well as you get to see and taste different types of produce. This market was quite big and sold everything from fruits, veggies, meats, fish, cheeses, clothes, fabrics etc. Leo and Mila were fascinated by the seafood section and even had a little educational moment with one of the salesman. Speaking of education, we witnessed another amazing outside of the classroom lesson experience. Kids from middle school were learning German right in the middle of the market. Each child held in their hand a piece of paper with a recipe of a dish written in German and they had to find given ingredient in the market. What a cool scavenger hunt! It was amazing to see these kids so engaged in learning outside the classroom. After gathering all of the ingredients they went back to school and together cooked a meal - such a wonderful idea. Another group of students were given a lesson by the local cheese salesman who explained to them the process of making cheese - while ear dropping I learnt quite a lot that day. We had a delicious lunch at the market, did some shopping and then visited a playground where Leo and Mila had a chance to let loose. We ended our day by taking a tram around the central part of Melbourne.
After a day of relaxation, the weekend was spent back in the city. Miss Maria planned the day and we spent Saturday strolling through the streets of Melbourne. The weather was not too great that morning - low 50’s and rain. We parked our car on the east side and walked to the St Patrick Cathedral. It was quite beautiful building with gorgeous stain glasses and beautiful alter. Since our Florida bodies were a bit cold, we took a turn at Collins Street, which is also named the “Paris End” and stopped at a french bakery. We all warmed up with a cup of tea and some yummy pastries. This coming Tuesday the whole city of Melbourne will be off work and people will be celebrating the so called Melbourne Cup, which is the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby in The USA. We passed tons of people dressed up for the pre party Cup in the City. All of the women attending the event wore beautiful dresses and big, fancy hats.
We continued our Melbourne tour by crossing the Yarra River and strolling though Queen Victoria Gardens, Kings Domain, and finally the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens. The weather improved significantly, it honestly reminds me of London weather, you go from clouds, rain, wind, to full sunshine in a matter of minutes. We were able to enjoy this green and picture perfect park. At the end we stumbled upon a little kids play area where Leo and Mila had a chance to release some energy. After a good hour of relaxation, we headed back to the central Melbourne and walked along the river through the Southbank. We bought lunch, had some ice cream, people watched and simply enjoyed each others company. Leo and Mila kept chasing the birds and constantly kept asking to go on the train. We ended our date with Melbourne by taking a tram ride back to our car. On the way back home we stopped at Maria youngest son’s house. Leo and Mila played for a bit and we enjoyed a nice beer and good conversations. Maria has been an amazing host, our kids absolutely adore her, and are so grateful for everything she has done for us. It is unreal how lucky we have been throughout our journey.
When we woke up on Sunday morning we finally saw beautiful, sunny skies. Maria brought a Sunday paper and when we opened one of the pages we saw the ex-Prime Minister attending the Derby Cup. We quickly realized we saw her the day before strolling down the Collins street wearing her fancy outfit and quite interesting hat. She was all by herself, no bodyguards and security, which we found a bit strange but I guess that’s Australia for you - the relaxed state of mind for sure : ) Today we headed back to Lee’s house for a barbecue or as they call it here, barbie. When we arrived to Lee’s place Maria offered to take Leo and Mila to the playground - this woman is truly amazing. We did not protest at all! We walked with Lee and Claire down to Brunswick street - a very hip/trendy part of Melbourne with tons of pubs, bars, boutique shops and cafes. We stopped at place called Naked for Satan - we grabbed a table on the rooftop, ordered coffee and admired the city skyline. It was our first time away from the kids in a very long time and we are so appreciative of it. Leo and Mila are in love with Maria, and so are we. The rest of the afternoon we stayed in the local park, barbecued, played Aussie football, and embraced the Australian culture. On the ride home, we stopped at Yarra Park where we saw something very unique - all over the trees there were bats (or Flying Foxes as their called in Aussie), thousands of them, hanging upside down and sleeping. It was very interesting experience seeing so many bats only about 10km outside of the city.
Our last day in Melbourne we spent packing and getting ready for Tasmania. Maria was so kind and offered to babysit Leo and Mila, so Rick and I could run few errands - this woman is a true saint. That evening, Maria had the whole family over for another barbie, and let me tell you, we have not laughed this hard in ages. Her family is super funny and very entertaining. We ate, drank, laughed and truly enjoyed each other’s company. It was such a lovely evening, honestly the last 2 days made me miss our families as Maria brought us in and made us feel as though we were a part of their family. It was really the highlight for us, having good food and drinks amongst amazing people who have treated us so well.
Melbourne is a cool place and apparently, it has been named the most european city in Australia. It reminds us of London - the architecture, landscape and the unpredictable weather. It is a true melting pot, mix of cultures from all around the world. It is quite expensive since you pay $73 dollars a day to park in the central Melbourne, but hey, I think most major cities are like that. We had a lot of fun exploring Melbourne and meeting new people. Maria and her family were so amazing to us, there are no words to explain how grateful we are for their hospitality. On that note, we will finish packing and get ready for a full day of travel - Tassie, here we come!
We bid ado to Adelaide and continued our Australian journey with a road trip to the Great Ocean Road. The route from Adelaide to Melbourne takes you along some of the most scenic landscape of the Southern Ocean and Australian coastline. The drive from Adelaide to Melbourne is over 600+ miles so we found a very nice rental on a farm in a small village called Kirkstall, just outside the town of Warrnambool or essentially where the Great Ocean Road begins. The drive to that place felt like an eternity. First, we got a late start out of Adelaide and didn’t leave until 2 and the trip took us over 7 hours along the same road. What was interesting though was the change in climate along the drive. We left the dry, maritime climate of Adelaide to a more wet, temperate climate on the other side of the mountains. It almost felt like we were in Ireland with everything so green (and tons of sheep farms) About 150 miles outside of our destination, we spotted, for the first time ever, real wild kangaroos! As night fell, they were feeding along the road. Their behavior reminded us a bit of the deer, since both type of animals seem to blindly go as they please. We had to drive super slow to make sure that none of these jumpy friends won't attack our car : ) We arrived in Kirkstall at 10pm and were greeted by a lovely couple, originally from Tasmania, who for the last 6 years, have been traveling around Australia in their RV and occasionally house sitting (our real hosts were currently on a six month RV adventure along the west coast of Australia - they did it with their three kids, 10, 8 and 4 years old). We were so tired, we did not even eat dinner, just cleaned up a little and went straight to bed.
We woke up early in the morning to the sound of roosters. I forgot to mention that we were staying on a farm and it was amazing. Right outside of our bedroom windows we have sheep, alpacas, goats, roosters, chickens, peacock, cows, cat, dog and best of all, a koala bear! We opened our door and he was sitting right in front of us on an eucalyptus tree and sleeping (koalas sleep for 23 hours a day, must be nice, haha). It was our first time seeing a koala (well, we have seen them at the zoo but never out in the wild). Both Leo and Mila were so happy and excited to have their own personal zoo. Right after breakfast (made from the fresh eggs from the chickens), they ran outside and made friends with all the animals. It was so cute. They walked around, waved to them and said hello. Since our hosts have three children, there was a small playground in the backyard, a trampoline and plenty of things for Leo and Mila. What made this place even better was the comforts of our flat. Great eat in kitchen, hardwood floors, super comfy beds, and lots of space. For the first time since Europe, we had space! It felt like the comforts of home. I couldn’t wait to make some magic in the kitchen : )
After lunch we drove to the coastal town Warrnambool, about 15 miles due south. This town marks the western end of the Great Ocean Road. We headed to Logan’s Beach and watched some very skilled surfers catching some waves. The views were spectacular, beautiful stormy ocean with yellow sand and stunning green landscape. This beach is a popular blue whale watching spot but we just missed their migration back to Antarctica. They migrate north to Aussie on the winter (June-Sept) to feed then head back south. We visited the tourist office and gathered way too many booklets : ) We spotted an awesome playground and of course had to stop. On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store and stocked up on plenty of food. For the rest of the day, Leo and Mila played outside, while Rick and I cooked and planned the local excursions. Leo also helped Ian (the house sitter) pick up eggs from the chickens. He was so proud of himself, he brought back 8 eggs : ) It was a super fun day!
The next morning we visited Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/tower-hill-w.r which is a beautiful park with an inactive volcano and many typical Australian animals. There are several short treks and we decided to do one of them. As soon as we started to walk we spotted a cute koala bear walking between the bushes - he looked like a lunatic troll, hahaha, I wanted to run to him and give him a hug. Later on we also saw several emus, but no kangaroos. It was a beautiful nature walk through very scenic and green landscape. We passed two different kindergarten groups who were having a day out in the wild. They walked through different trails and learned about the local flowers, trees and animals - how cool is that?! Apparently this type of a school activity is very popular on this side of the world.
The rest of the day we spent driving The Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles visit12apostles.com.au We’ve had some pretty amazing drives on this trip; Back Roads France, Corsican Mountains, Switzerland, & The Outback, but this one was pretty special. It was probably one of the best drives ever. For a good 60kms, we moved along stunning coastline and very dramatic cliffs. The weather was perfect that day and the sun made the water look almost turquoise color. The Twelve Apostles sit in Port Campbell National Park, a protected reserve of over 50 miles of coastline. Currently, there are only 8 apostles left, since the rest of them collapsed from erosion over the years. The view were breathtaking! It was almost surreal being there and seeing it with our own eyes. I remember being a young child and dreaming of coming to America - it felt so far away and almost unreachable. So, when I finally made it to The USA, I probably looked like someone who just won a lottery ticket. I had the same feeling here looking at the Twelve Apostles…I just could not believe I was there, it was one of the best feelings ever. As they say, its better to see something once than hear about it over again.
We decided to take a short trek down to the beach, about 2km, along the Gibson Steps. It was so cool so see the cliffs from up close and the waves crushing against them. Mila was so hypnotized by the sound of the ocean, she felt asleep on Rick’s back - this girl has it made! We chilled at the beach for a little and admired the spectacular scenery. On our way home, we also stopped at few other scenic spots - London Arch, Grotto and Loch & Gorge. It was definitely something on our Bucket List and I am so happy we soaked it all in
Our last day in this part of Victoria was spent in Grampians National Park www.visitgrampians.com.au- it was located almost two hour drive from our house, but we decided to go there anyway. We preplanned this trip the night before, so as soon as we arrived there, we knew exactly which trek to do. We chose a hike to MacKenzie Falls which was about 7 km long. The trek was a bit boring but as soon as we saw the amazing waterfall, we immediately forgot about it. It was a gorgeous cliff drop with a dramatic waterfall, simply stunning. Leo and Mila right away started to climb on all of the boulders, with Mila eventually taking a bath in the small pond, go figure! It was another day spent in the wild nature - typical style for the Hermans.
When Rick announced this trip at his work, one of his co-workers Janie “Jake”, who was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia (and has a deep Polish heritage), was gracious enough to contact her mum and invite us into her home for a week. In addition, her Aunt & Uncle, who live in the beach side town of Jan Juc opened their home to us for an evening together. We were so thankful of their generosity and arranged two visits with her family. Thanks again Jake!!!!!!!!
First, we drove to her aunt and uncle - Miss Wanda and Mister Eddy. This took us along the rest of the Great Ocean Road, where the views were just as awe inspiring as the previous day. We passed through the beach side town of Apollo Bay, meandered through Otway National Park, and on to Bells Beach & Jan Juc. We were greeted by Miss Wanda and her husband Eddy. Lovely people with big and warm hearts. Miss Wanda prepared for us a delicious dinner and served us a wonderful dessert called Pavlova. One of their neighbors, who used to live in America, Miss Lee, also joined us at the dinner table. We talked the night away, ate amazing food and laughed like there was no tomorrow. It was such a memorable night, learning about their story, how they escaped communist Poland over 50 years ago and made a new life in Australia. Sometimes we forget we’re all immigrants and those who paid their dues many years ago to make our lives better today. Leo and Mila had no problems at all making themselves comfortable :) It was an unforgettable evening and once again, we experienced one of the best hospitalities by people we just met.
The next morning, right after breakfast, we took a short walk to a local playground and then visited Torquay Beach. Jan Juc is a vacation town for Melbourne people, who seek some peace and quiet during weekends and holidays. Right after lunch, we said thank you and goodbye to this lovely Polish family and headed towards Melbourne, where we will be spending the next week..