Five weeks in New Zealand was exceptional! It exceeded both of our expectations. One thing that New Zealand was missing, however, was great beaches. While the view of the beach was spectacular, the water was cold and most beaches were infested with sand flies.
I HATE sand flies.
I don’t know how something so small could be so destructive to my body…
If New Zealand had warm water and no sand flies, my bags would be packed and I would be applying for citizenship immediately. It is almost the most perfect place I have been. Almost.
So because we missed out on the beaches, we were excited to head to Australia! I mean Australians are always bragging about how great their beaches are…
So, let’s find out!
Our first stop in Australia was Melbourne. We had planned 10 days around the city to eat some good food and meet up with some friends. It sounded like a great first place to visit.
We booked an apartment near Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne at the City Tempo. It was a great apartment style room located close to the city tram. Not to mention it had laundry.
When you are travelling for long periods of time.. getting a washing machine is like striking gold!
The first thing on our to do list was finding a good place for brunch in one of Melbourne’s famous laneways. These are known worldwide for their rich art culture, one-off boutiques, unique galleries, tiny cafés and hidden bars.
After googling best breakfast places, reading some articles, and checking some reviews on Facebook, I found what seemed to be the perfect place less than a 10 minute walk away.
Now, there was no way I could have predicted how amazing this place was going to be even from the reviews I read.
We had entered breakfast heaven.
When we arrived, we were lucky enough to snag a couple of seats in front of the kitchen bar. Here we got to witness flawless teamwork in creating some of the most amazing things I have seen for brunch.
Where to start?
Day 1 – Kevin orders Lobster Benedict and I order Salmon Millefeuille.
Well, that sealed it. We were coming back the next two days!
Day 2 – Kevin orders Baked Eggs Deux and I order the Herb Roasted Mushrooms
Day 3 – Kevin orders Pork Belly and Fried Eggs and I order Wagyu Rump
Every single day was more delicious than the last! I would eat there all the time if I lived in Melbourne. Even now, there is so much more I would like to try on that menu.
In addition to eating delicious brunches, we spent our time walking around the city.
Well, our timing could not have been better! We both love food and wine!
We searched the Internet for events in our area and purchased tickets for the Carlton Crawl. This was an event featuring three restaurants in the Carleton area including a feature drink and meal at each location. It seemed like a great way to get out and experience different restaurants.
Another highlight in Melbourne, was meeting up with our friends John and Annette that we met in Turkey last summer. We have kept in touch since and were very excited to meet up with them.
John and Annette picked us up from our apartment and took us to their house to join them for one of their famous Happy Hours with champagne and appies. While we were in Turkey, they spoke about how it was their tradition to have a glass of champagne everyday!
I liked their style.
After Happy Hour, John and Annette organized an amazing dinner through Melbourne on the Restaurant Tram. This was a traditional Melbourne tram that had been converted into a restaurant serving multi-course meals and all you can drink while you ride through the city.
The food was delicious, the drinks were great and the company could not have been better! It was so great to meet up with this couple that had such a love for life and travel. They are an inspiration to Kevin and I who hope to still be travelling, openly in love and drinking champagne everyday at their age.
Not to mention, looking as great as they both do!
After five days in the city, we were ready to move on and explore more of the area. We rented a car for the next week to visit friends living in Mount Dandenong and to drive the Great Ocean Road.
In the morning, Kevin left to pick up our rental car while I got packed up. When we walked to the car I had my eye out for our rental which was a Toyota Yaris.
As we walked along Kevin spotted a Porsche and stopped to take a closer look at the model. I kept walking until I heard a couple of beeps and the lights on the Porsche start flashing. I turned around to see a huge grin on Kevin’s face.
I guess we didn’t get the Yaris…
But I did have to agree that if you were ever going to rent a sports car, now was the time for The Great Ocean Road.
Not to mention, it was a serious upgrade from our campervan Pebbles we had been driving the last month..
So in our sweet new ride, we headed to Mount Dandenong to stay with Dan and Natasha. I was super excited as I had not seen them in probably 8 years! During that time, they moved to Australia, renovated a house, got married and started a family.
We had a lot of catching up to do.
Although only an hour away, Mount Dandenong is a different world from Melbourne. Designated as a National Park, it has forests of towering mountain ash, lush fern gullies, waterfalls and native wildlife all around.
As we weaved through the forest toward their place, I was so excited to get the opportunity to visit this area. The drive was gorgeous.
And it only got better.
Dan and Natasha’s place is amazing. It is a beautifully renovated home featuring a magnificent deck, outdoor stone pizza oven and guest suite surrounded by towering gum trees.
I could definitely live here.
The first night, we caught up over wine and home-made pizzas. Even better, another friend from Canada, Ramsay, stopped in for the night. I had been telling Ramsay I was going to come to Australia for years. I could not believe I actually made it and was seeing him here.
The next day, Natasha organized a tour through the Yarra Wine Valley, only 30 minutes from their place.
Seriously? Now, I was thinking about just moving in with them forever.
Our first stop was Chandon which is known for their amazing sparkling wines. Needless to say, they were delicious and we picked up our first two bottles to enjoy over the next couple of days.
One step closer to becoming John and Annette.
We then visited a couple other wineries to sample their Shiraz. Now, Kevin and I have never been fans of Shiraz. I would say it is one of my least favourites next to Merlot. I blame my friend Stacey for having us drink Yellowtail Shiraz weekly between 2002 and 2008.
We were young. We didn’t know any better…
But I can say now, the Yellowtail Shiraz making it to Canada is definitely not Australia’s finest stuff!
There is SO much better.
Kevin and I learned quickly that Shiraz IS Australia’s best stuff! So now, we want to try as many as we can to find our favourite.
I now question everything I thought I knew about wine… Is there good Chardonnay as well? What about Merlot? Should I give it a second chance?
Finally, it was time for lunch. It was also time for Dan to grab a beer. He had been an amazing sport driving us that day. Lucky for us, Dan doesn’t like wine.
To end the day off, we stopped in the gin brewery Four Pillars. I think for all of us, this was the highlight of our day!
We tried a sample of three different types with tonic water. They were delicious!
The next day, the fun continued. Natasha and Dan took us to one of their favourite spots not too far from their place. There you can grab some lunch, set the kids free, and play some lawn bowling.
Seriously, I am never leaving this mountain.
The game was intense. It was boys vs girls with our pride on the line.
As someone who curled for a season in Canada, I was confident. I knew had good skills drawing a rock into the house, how different could it be?
We started strong. Natasha and I dominated the first couple of rounds, easily drawing the balls next to the target. While we tried to not get cocky, we could not help ourselves from enjoying our small victories along the way. We were awesome.
Then everything changed.
I still believe to this day, that the boys skills dramatically improved by studying the technique Natasha and I initially displayed. Everyone knows growth comes from being around those better than you.
But in the next half of the game, our lead got to our heads. We got a little sloppy with our throws during the time the boys were fighting for their lives.
Their fight prevailed and ended in a victory for them.
It was not quite like curling. First off, we did not have any drinks while we were playing. Must have been why we lost… I couldn’t quite get in “the zone.”
Later that afternoon, Kevin and I headed out on our own to explore. We decided to visit the Sanctuary to see a kangaroo.
I had been dying to see one since we arrived in Australia.
Like any animal, seeing one in a sanctuary or zoo is not quite the same as seeing one in the wild. But I could not come to Australia and not see a kangaroo!
I mean what size were they? Would they be as tall as me?
I had so many questions…
It felt pretty surreal finally getting to see them. Although, it was so hot at this time in the day and they were just standing there and lounging around. I was a little disappointed. I pictured them hopping all over the place.
Luckily, I still had a few more weeks in Australia. Hopefully, I would see some more.
We also checked out a Koala at the sanctuary. How cute is that?
The next day, we said good-bye to Dan and Natasha and headed toward the Great Ocean Road. It had been an amazing couple days catching up and I was SSOO sad to leave them and their amazing home.
We will definitely be back!