Melbourne:  Sea Dragons and the Great Ocean Road

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Melbourne: Sea Dragons and the Great Ocean Road

 

After four days of transiting the Tasmanian Sea, we arrived in Melbourne for two full days, where we had several unique experiences on our list. My goal was to see Melbourne: Sea Dragons, the Great Ocean Road, koalas, and Kangaroos.

Roger and I were heading south for two unique dives planned for the first day while Bob explored the city of Melbourne.  On Day Two, Bob and I went on a twelve-hour tour exploring the Great Ocean Road and the surrounding countryside.  Melbourne holds excellent promise as a city that effortlessly blends urban sophistication with natural wonders. In just two days, we enjoyed several unforgettable experiences, including all the unique culture and beauty of the Southeast corner of Australia. From unique scuba diving adventures in Portsea and Rye to a breathtaking Great Ocean Road tour, our weekend was a whirlwind of excitement, discovery, and awe-inspiring sights.

Day 1: Dive into the Underwater Wonderland

Leafy Sea Dragon - Melbourne: Sea Dragons and the Great Ocean RoadOur first day began with an adrenaline-pumping exploration of the underwater wonders off the southern coast of Melbourne. Nestled between the coastal towns of Portsea and Rye, we embarked on two scuba diving trips that promised encounters with some of the ocean’s rarest and most fascinating creatures.

Morning Pier Dive in Portsea: The day kicked off with a morning pier dive in Portsea, where we were treated to the mesmerizing sight of Leafy Sea Dragons gracefully navigating the kelp-covered seabed. These ethereal creatures, resembling underwater dragons, captivated us with their intricate camouflage and slow, balletic movements. It took a little time before we were able to spot these masters of camouflage drifting in the kelp, but once we saw what they looked like, we were able to pick them out easily.

Afternoon Shore Dive in Rye:

In the afternoon, our underwater adventure continued with another shore dive in Rye, a charming coastal town known for its richOctopus hiding in pipe peaking up at me - Rye, Australia marine life. We made our way out from the beach parking lot with full gear on and shuffled our way over a sandbar before we finally were deep enough to submerge into the relatively shallow water. Heading to an area marked as an Octopus Garden, we navigated around the various man-made obstacles that provided hidey-holes for the elusive octopus. , Several were found hiding in 6-inch wide PVC pipes embedded in the sand. The vibrant colors and different coral growth seen in this part of the world left us in awe, making Banjo Shark - Rye Australiathese dives an experience to remember. We also encountered a rare Banjo Shark swimming in the shallows near the pier.

Roger and I enjoyed diving with our guide from The Scuba Doctor dive shop. Our guide was super friendly, very knowledgeable about the area, and showed great patience with us as we worked out a few issues with our underwater camera gear. Upon our return, they provided wash tanks and tables to clean and stow our gear, as well as hot showers and towels to clean up after our dives before our 90-minute drive back to Port Melbourne.

Our ride back to the ship took a little longer than expected, and Bob and I had dinner reservations at 7 pm at Chio Celo Restaurant in downtown Melbourne.  Because I had been able to clean up back in the dive shop, I quickly changed clothes and was ready to head out again within 10 minutes.  We walked along the bay and then inland for about a mile to Chio Celo.  Our dinners were excellent.  We shared fresh Calamari Fritto and bread as an appetizer.  I had Egg Tagliatelle for the main dishes, and Bob ordered a mushroom pizza.  Both were delicious, but we left more on the plate than we could eat.  The local Allinda Pinot Noir was also excellent.

Day 2: A Scenic Marvel Along the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Rd coastlineOur second day unfolded with a 12-hour journey along the iconic Great Ocean Road, a scenic drive that promised breathtaking views of the Australian coastline. This road trip proved to be a perfect complement to our underwater adventures, showcasing the region’s diverse beauty.

Early Morning Start: We set out early in the morning, greeted by the crisp sea breeze as we embarked on the Great Ocean Road tour. The first leg of our journey took us along pristine beaches and dramatic cliffs, setting the stage for an unforgettable day.

Wildlife Encounters: One of the highlights of our road trip was the unexpected encounters with Australia’s iconic wildlife. Kangaroos hopped gracefully across our path, and we observed several sleepy koalas hidden in the eucalyptus trees at a seaside camp area. These close encounters with native animals added enchantment to our adventure and crossed off a few items from our must-see list.

The Twelve Apostles: No visit to the Great Ocean Road is complete without witnessing the Twelve Apostles – majestic limestoneTwelve Apostle's - Great Ocean Rd stacks rising dramatically from the Southern Ocean. As we stood on the viewing platforms, the play of light and shadow on these natural wonders created a breathtaking spectacle that left us speechless. Unfortunately, it was Chinese New Year’s, and hundreds of Chinese tourists crammed on the observation decks, taking selfies and struggling to get the best viewing spot.  This took away from our experience. Our guide found a few of us and took playful videos of us in a less crowded boardwalk area.

Coastal and Inland Scenery: Throughout the day, the landscape transformed from rugged coastal cliffs to lush rainforests and charming seaside villages. The Great Ocean Road presented us with a kaleidoscope of scenery, each turn revealing a new facet of Australia’s natural beauty.

Note:  Several smaller tours did the route in reverse, getting to the Twelve Apostles quickly in the mourning and avoiding the afternoon crowds. We would highly recommend this strategy.  Our tour included lunch in one of the seaside towns, which dictated the timing and order of our day’s exploration.

Port Melbourne at sunsetWith its vibrant city life and proximity to awe-inspiring natural wonders, Melbourne proved to be the perfect destination for a two-day getaway. From the enchanting underwater world of Portsea and Rye to the breathtaking vistas along the Great Ocean Road, our weekend was a perfectly blended exploration and the unique charm that defines this Australian gem. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, wildlife lover, or simply seeking a weekend escape, Melbourne has something extraordinary to offer at every turn.

 

 

 

Viking Excursions in Melbourne 

Note: Melbourne: Sea Dragons and the Great Ocean Road adventures were not included in the Viking Excursions in Melbourne and were secured individually through local tour groups and by researching the best divine opportunities in Melbourne.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria & Shrine of  Remembrance

Horticultural Works of Art and National Monument to Service and Sacrifice — You will visit the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, a striking green oasis in the heart of Melbourne. Covering 38 hectares, it features over 31 collections of plants presented as living works of art. Take a guided tour, then enjoy free time to explore independently. Cross the street to pay your respects at the revered Shrine of Remembrance, one of the city’s most stunning landmarks. Discover the real-life stories of Australians in wartime and view breathtaking vistas of the memorial gardens and the city. Afterward, set out on a scenic drive through Melbourne. Pass magnificent buildings, such as the fortress-like Old Treasury Building and Parliament House, and the marvelous string of High Victorian Gothic buildings along Collins Street while en route to your ship.

Healesville Sanctuary on Your Duration: 6.00 Hours

A Haven for Endangered Species — Travel by motor coach through the vast rural landscape and into the Australian bush. The sanctuary is one of only two places in Australia that have successfully bred a platypus and has a well-established breeding program. You will get acquainted with some zoo residents during your visit. You can also discover more about the zoo’s mission to conserve some of Australia’s most endangered wildlife. If you get hungry, several on-site eateries offer light bites to fine dining while showcasing quality local produce from the region. After your independent exploration, return to your coach and your awaiting ship.

Laneways of Melbourne

Enjoy a Drink During a Stroll Through Melbourne’s Celebrated Backstreets — A lively atmosphere, vibrant street art, and distinctive cafés await you along these celebrated backstreets. Meet your knowledgeable guide and catch a ride on a city tram; established in 1885, this iconic characteristic of Melbourne is the world’s oldest continuously operating tram system. At your stop, disembark and follow your guide through the narrow streets decorated with an ever-changing canvas of stencil art and graffiti as you make your way to one of the city’s famous hidden arcades and the old General Post Office. Enjoy a late-morning coffee at a local café, after which you can remain in the town to visit a museum perhaps and further explore other sights on your own, or board the tram with your guide and return to your awaiting ship.

St. Kilda by E-bike Duration: 3.00 Hours

Scenic Cycle along Melbourne’s Coast — Meet your guide, don your helmet, and set off on two wheels after a short safety briefing. Your ride will take you along the bayside bicycle path toward Brighton, following seaside paths and exploring local piers. During your ride, your knowledgeable guide will tell you about Melbourne’s history and provide insight into Australia’s cultural capital. You may pause to enjoy a coffee; perhaps savor a flat white, which is said to have originated on Australian shores when a local barista failed to achieve foam with a cappuccino while using low-fat milk. Across Australia, a flat white is now the coffee of choice for many. Complete your leisurely ride back to the pier and your awaiting ship.

Melbourne Culinary Journey

City’s Food Scene and Culture by Foot — The capital of Victoria, Melbourne’s food scene combines Indigenous and European influences with waves of immigration, resulting in a diverse and innovative food culture. Transfer by motor coach to the heart of Melbourne, where you will set out on foot to sample an array of local cuisine. On your journey, you can sample traditional Indigenous dishes along the banks of the Birrarung, decadent chocolates, Spanish tapas, mouthwatering South American flavors served with a Melbourne twist, Australian cheese, and gelato. Interspersed between your stops, venture along the city’s famous alleys and arcades, learning more about Melbourne’s rich history and eclectic architecture.

The Sports Capital of Australia

Hallowed Halls and Grounds of the Melbourne Cricket Ground — Located in the city’s heart, the MCG was opened in 1853. Since then, it has grown into Australia’s largest stadium; today, it is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and is a Melbourne institution. It has also hosted many sporting events like rugby matches. Still, it maintains strong ties to Australian rules football, becoming the primary venue for Australian Football League matches, including the AFL Grand Final. Enjoy an entertaining stadium tour, including a behind-the-scenes look at the locker rooms. Your guide will regale you with stories behind some of the greatest sports matches in Australia’s history. Then, visit the Australian Sports Museum and see its interactive exhibits highlighting the importance of sports in Australian society.

 

The Geography, History, and Culture Charms of Melbourne, AU

Nestled on the southeastern coast of Australia, Melbourne stands as a vibrant metropolis renowned for its eclectic culture, rich history, and stunning geography. From its iconic laneways adorned with street art to its historic landmarks and diverse culinary scene, Melbourne offers a captivating blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. 

Melbourne’s Geography:

Melbourne’s geography is as diverse as it is beautiful. Situated on the large natural bay of Port Phillip, the city enjoys a picturesque waterfront setting. To the east, the Dandenong Ranges provide a lush backdrop, offering opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and scenic drives.

The Yarra River winds its way through the heart of the city, offering a tranquil escape from the urban hustle and bustle. Along its banks, you’ll find parks, gardens, and recreational areas where locals and visitors alike gather to relax and unwind.

Just a short drive from the city center lies the Mornington Peninsula, a stunning coastal region famed for its pristine beaches, boutique wineries, and charming seaside villages. From surfing and snorkeling to wine tasting and hot springs, the Mornington Peninsula offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

History of Melbourne:

Melbourne’s history dates back to the early 19th century when European settlers first arrived in the area. Originally part of the territory of the indigenous Wurundjeri people, the region was colonized by the British in 1835.

The discovery of gold in the nearby Ballarat and Bendigo regions in the 1850s sparked a gold rush, transforming Melbourne into a booming frontier town virtually overnight. The influx of wealth and immigrants fueled rapid growth and development, shaping the city’s urban landscape and cultural identity.

Throughout the 20th century, Melbourne continued to evolve, embracing waves of migration from Europe, Asia, and beyond. Today, the city is celebrated for its cultural diversity, with residents hailing from over 200 countries and speaking more than 180 languages.

Cultural Charms of Melbourne:

Melbourne’s cultural scene is as diverse as its population, offering a rich tapestry of art, music, cuisine, and more. The city’s laneways are a testament to its vibrant street art scene, with colorful murals adorning every corner. From Hosier Lane to ACDC Lane, these narrow alleys are a feast for the eyes, showcasing the work of local and international artists alike.

Art lovers will also appreciate Melbourne’s world-class museums and galleries, including the National Gallery of Victoria, which houses an extensive collection of Australian and international art. The city’s performing arts scene is equally impressive, with venues like the Melbourne Theatre Company and the Melbourne Recital Centre hosting a diverse array of performances year-round.

No visit to Melbourne would be complete without sampling its culinary delights. From hole-in-the-wall cafes serving up artisanal coffee to fine dining restaurants offering innovative cuisine, the city is a food lover’s paradise. Be sure to explore the Queen Victoria Market, where you’ll find fresh produce, gourmet delicacies, and multicultural street food stalls.

Melbourne is a city of contrasts, where historic landmarks blend seamlessly with modern skyscrapers, and traditional cultures coexist alongside contemporary trends. With its stunning geography, rich history, and diverse cultural charms, Melbourne offers something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re exploring its laneways, delving into its past, or savoring its culinary delights, a visit to Melbourne is sure to leave a lasting impression.