This wraps up our month-long trip to Oceania! We spent the last few days doing a mix of city and nature activities.
Melbourne: The Lume
We flew to Melbourne from Cairns and spent the evening checking out Monet & Friends at The Lume. Monet & Friends is a 45-minute immersive digital art experience focused on Impressionism. Three shorter digital art experiences focused on bioluminescence, trees, and clouds also played.
Tommy and I have been to immersive art experiences in Paris (primarily Klimt) and Chicago (primarily Van Gogh) and this was our favorite so far. It’s fun to listen to the music while looking at the changing displays all around the room. It definitely won’t ever replace seeing original art for me, but it’s still a worthwhile experience in its own right.
The Lume also had some fun features we haven’t seen before, like a drawing studio and some 3D photo opportunities.
Melbourne: Great Ocean Road Tour
The next day, we spent 14 hours on a tour of the Great Ocean Road. It was a long day filled with gorgeous sights. A surprisingly delicious highlight was trying Vegemite ice cream!
Our first two stops were beaches. They were both peaceful and pretty. The second one was so flat and the water had gone up so high that there were beautiful mirror-like sections.
We took a short stop to look for wild koalas, and found three. I was glad that we had seen them up close at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary already. We did learn something new – eucalyptus leaves are poisonous, but koalas have passed on the ability to eat them generationally. Baby koalas eat adult koalas’ poop, which contains proteins and bacteria that is needed to strengthen their lives enough to be able to process eucalyptus leaves. Eventually, they are strong enough to stop depending on their mother’s milk and eat the leaves instead. Pretty amazing!
Next, we did the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. It was short but had some impressive tree ferns and myrtle beech trees. Apparently, the fern trees grow only about one centimeter a year, while the myrtle beech trees grow one meter per year (for the first several decades, after which they slow down).
We stopped briefly to view some wild kangaroos (again, I’m grateful for Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary experience!) and were lucky enough to also spot an echidna. I didn’t get a photo of the echidna, so I borrowed one from Pixabay.
The main reason we had come to Melbourne was to see the Twelve Apostles. Our stop at their main lookout was crowded, but still stunning. Despite Australia being the 34th country we’ve been to, we’ve never seen anything that looked quite like this landscape. The combination of powerful ocean waves and towering golden limestone is really something!
Our tour guide had been talking up our next stop, Loch Ard Gorge, as the real showstopper of the day. We were skeptical, especially when he said that we were going to trim some time off of other stops and come back to town late so that we could spend an hour and fifteen minutes there instead of the scheduled thirty. He had talked about it so much that we started making jokes to ourselves that he was secretly meeting his girlfriend there and was rearranging the schedule so that he could have more time for her. However, he turned out to be completely right – it was definitely the best part of the tour, and well worth the extra time. There were three short walking paths, two with views from above and one with views on the shoreline. The landscape was similar to the Twelve Apostles lookout, but less crowded and with more varied viewpoints. This was also the location of a dramatic shipwreck story.
Our final stop was the Gibson Steps back near the Twelve Apostles lookout. This allowed us to get a shoreline view of what we had seen before. We had just a short amount of time here, but it was very pretty.
Sydney: City Day
After flying to Sydney, we spent the afternoon walking through Hyde Park and part of the city. It was 95 degrees and humid, so not my ideal situation, but a stop in the air-conditioned Art Gallery of New South Wales helped. Overall, I liked the museum and Tommy didn’t care for it. I especially enjoyed how they had old pieces alongside new ones, and I liked their light & sculpture display housed in a wartime oil bunker. Tommy thought a lot of the artwork was too conceptual without enough technical skills displayed.
We then continued walking to Macquarie’s Point, which we had heard has a great view of Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It does! It also has an ice cream truck with strange, creamy ice cream that doesn’t seem to melt, which fascinated Tommy. And, it is also near the area where an outdoor theatre was being constructed for the Madama Butterfly opera and where the singers were practicing. I was fascinated by the fact that people who live in such a hot climate would willingly sit outdoors for an opera.
From there, we walked up to Sydney Opera House itself. It’s hard to properly convey the scale – it’s much larger than I expected! Tours of the inside had sold out, so we decided to buy tickets to Roberto Devereux in Concert for later that night so that we could check the inside out.
We killed some time throwing shrimp on the barbie at a Japanese restaurant with individual grills, then went to the show. Neither of us had been to an opera before, and it was a really cool and interesting experience! It was sung in Italian with subtitles on a screen above us. The costumes and movement were pretty simple. The set wasn’t decorated. It was all about the music! We enjoyed it, but left at intermission because we needed to get up early in the morning for a tour.
Sydney: Blue Mountains Tour
We spent our last day in Australia on a day trip to the Blue Mountains. The tour included a few scenic overlooks, one relatively short hike to a waterfall (which we walked under, but didn’t stay in long because the water was so cold), and a couple small towns (including one with a panoramic painted room with taxidermized animals). Despite a couple people warning us that the Blue Mountains are the most likely place for you to see snakes and spiders, the only ones that we saw were rubber ones hidden by our guide as jokes!
Just like at the 12 Apostles, we were surprised to feel that some of the scenery was a new type for us! At various points, we were reminded a little of Zhangjiajie, Fanjingshan, and the Grand Canyon, but overall it really is its own unique landscape.
That evening, we had dinner at Spice Alley, a cool area with a lot of small Asian restaurants and some fun decorations. We checked out the unique mix of architecture that Sydney has while walking back to our hotel.
And just like that, the next day we were ready () for over 42 hours of travel time to get back to the United States! We enjoyed our trip, and are now enjoying being back home with William again. 😊