The minute I left New Zealand for Australia, I knew I would miss its picturesque, phenomenal nature. While still cultural and beautiful, Australia is more like a glamorized cousin of America than anything else. I knew Melbourne had hidden gems of nature scattered around… and with some research and great advice of co-workers, I found the best gem of all.
Much like anywhere else when traveling, photos just do not do the real thing justice. It was like tramping through a hybrid of Wellington, Bay of Islands, and Queensland all engulfed in one spectacular land mass. In my opinion, this was far more beautiful and scenic than The Great Ocean Road.
And the best part?
Well, at least when we went, which was probably considered a low-peak season. Good Lord, anytime of year on The Great Ocean Road is swarming with busloads of camera-wielding tourists – definitely not my thing.
More notably referred to as Wilson’s Prom, this national park is stunning. Thousands of acres of forestry, rainforests, squeaky clean white sand beaches, beautiful walking tracks overlooking 360 views of the ocean, and most importantly, ADORABLE WILDLIFE. IN THE WILD. And if you have a car, all you pay for is petrol and a small camping site fee. It’s pretty divine.
Being car-less (and not comfortable renting a car), I went with a 1-day Bunyip Tour. Our guide [I wish I remembered her name] was a very young, sweet Aussie uni student – she blew me away with her incredible knowledge about all things Australia, wildlife, and nature. The weather was stunning, as well – sunshine always emphasize the beauty of coastal sceneries. And honestly, in the winter, all of us jumped for joy at any hint of sun peeking through the clouds.
Although the drive was about three hours from Melbourne CBD, it wasn’t unbearable. The grassy farmlands, cattle and sheep made me feel as if I was back in New Zealand . Half the tiny towns we passed through also looked like Kiwi towns (i.e. Porirua, Matamata).
Once we arrived at the park, the endless hills of trees and bush resembled the Blue Mountains in Sydney (which I haven’t been to, but I’ve seen plenty of photos). Definitely my happy place. Our guide mentioned that there was a massive 2009 bushfire on Christmas Eve, wiping out thousands of acres of trees in the park, which was why most of the bark was sadly destroyed or dried up. Still, everything was absolutely beautiful – because Australia encompasses an unworldly beauty of its own, really. The longer we drove, the more I felt like we were heading toward Pride Rock in The Lion King.
As for the wildlife, it didn’t take long for us to come across wombats gnawing on some grass on the side of the road. We could always tell when someone spotted wildlife, since a bunch of girls from the group (including me) would coo and shriek with delight. We spotted about four wombats, a few wallabies, and heaps of kangaroos (more like 20+) in the wild. We even came across a plump marsupial that resembled a hunched mouse, which was revealed as a Donnet.
We did two short hikes – one up to the Mount Oberon lookout, which yielded a stunning panoramic view of turquoise seas as we sat atop large granite rocks while eating our lunches. It was a defining moment in the Debbi Shibuya Australia history – one of those moments to cherish and remember forever.
And this is just one of the many reasons why hiking is my #1 preferred outdoors activity. Each trail (usually) rewards you with a priceless view of even more beauty that you never thought was humanely possible prior to visiting that location.
The other trail was the Tidal River track, which was my preferred one of choice, since it was like walking along the coast of Santa Barbara – coastal hikes are quite possibly the most relaxing past time. The green hills and waves crashing onto the large rocks by the seaside were reminiscent of Ireland-scapes (again, never been there, but relying on knowledge and photos to compare). Along the way, we also hiked to Pillar Point, which was the top of one end of the trail. My gosh, it felt like we were on top of the southernmost part of the Victorian ocean.
The beginning track:
Pillar Point & cliffside hiking:
Squeaky Beach, presumably named because its pure white sand would squeak whenever you stepped on it, was the most secluded and beautiful beach I’ve been to in Australia thus far (excluding WA and Queensland, which I haven’t explored properly). The way the sun reflected off the turquoise waters and glistened into the horizon was obviously perfect.
On our way back, we also stopped off at a kangaroo preserve area in which we saw at least 20 wild kangaroos grazing and hopping around. I was amazed by how they use their long tails to help maintain balance. According to research, they also use it as an extra limb to gain more speed (or in the case of males, fight). We even saw a few females with fat pouches, obviously indicating that their joeys were inside. Too adorable for words.
In retrospect, don’t miss an opportunity to discover this unknown, hidden gem in Melbourne. If you value experience over one small area of rock formations (okay, the Twelve Apostles are cool, but just not that cool to me), this national park is bound to blow you away. Plenty of kangaroos and wildlife will be waiting to greet you. 🙂