Victoria is one of six states in Australia (there are also two territories). We are actually going to get a small taste of four states on this trip and are hopeful that all the jumping around won’t wear us out. Unlike New Zealand, the gaps between places in this gigantic country are also gigantic. If you want to see more than a little, short flights are necessary.
We are hanging out on Phillip Island right now in a cute little town called Cowes. It’s a couple hours drive from Melbourne – probably pretty short “as the crow flies” but by road you must travel southeast around the bay that holds Melbourne on the north side. We were pretty ready to escape the city, where 4+ million live. Some nights at 2 am it sounded like they were… scraping the road in half? I don’t know, but perhaps in a city that size, you get some of the inconvenient tasks covered overnight? Between noise and the 24 hour lighting, not much sleeping happened, for the adults at least.
I have really determined I am NOT a big city person on this trip. Ha! I think I already knew that, but where some people are uplifted by “the energy of the city”, I feel more and more constricted and stressed the more people, high rises, and… stuff and things. I don’t know if my kids are influenced by my grumbling or if it’s just in their genes but when presented with all the options of things to do in Melbourne they most requested to please just venture from the 31st to the 6th floor of the same building we were staying in to go swimming. We spent good chunks of two of our three days at the pool.
We experienced public transit a few times, but honestly with children at rush hour? Carla is not a good advertisement for downtown Melbourne.
We did our usual park stops amongst some wandering in the rain and spent too little time at an excellent museum where Zachary could have read every detail in an Aboriginal exhibit. Although plenty of our meals have been crackers and hummus and salami, we splurged one night in the city and took the boys for a steak dinner. It was delicious, they were well-behaved and I snuck in my standard martini + cabernet combo.
One morning we took a ferry west on the Yarra River to Scienceworks – an interactive place full of STEM (all the rage here too) activities for kids. There were a few school groups there, and despite the temporary extra chaos, I enjoyed getting to chat with a friendly school-kid or two. They were all jealous that the boys were on break from school, but glad that they were on a whole day field trip.
Thursday morning James and Zach walked to get us a rental car before we checked out of our apartment and headed out of the city, driving through plenty of lovely looking neighborhoods and then green farm country (minus New Zealand’s rolling hills).
Before we crossed the short bridge over to Phillip Island, we stopped at Maru Koala and Animal Park to get a little creature fix for the kids.
The keeper at the exhibit for their tasmanian devil was super animated and very informative, explaining how they have become endangered. Because they are restricted to Tasmania, the amount of inbreeding in the decreasing population has made them all genetically identical; once a contagious and deadly facial tumor started making the rounds it spread immediately due to their matched genetic make up and habit of play-biting during socialization. He also described how coordinated the breeding efforts now are between all sanctuaries with devils. One team is choosing which animals should mate to increase the genetic diversity for the future and all devils in captivity are immunized against the facial tumor and pass on that immunity to any offspring.
Staying in Cowes, we have got some lovely space in a family home with a yard, a swing set similar to one I remember having as a kid, and plenty of balls for Zach to kick around. Everything in town is a close walk and we plan to chill a bit, attend the “Penguin Parade” one evening, walk the coast, and perhaps hit an Antarctic-themed museum-sort of place.