Before going ashore at Port Melbourne we called in to the on board help desk and enquired about our caravan parking options, while we spent the day in the city. Although the lady helping was lovely we were basically told, “good luck with that!” and sent on our merry way.
This didn’t fill us with much optimism, so we could hardly believe it when we came across street side parking, within a few hundred metres of the port. It was still dark so Paul and I both hopped out of the car to see if there were any ‘no parking signs’. A local man, walking his dog, went past so I asked him if he knew if parking there was ok. He noticed that we were from WA and struck up a conversation that ended with him inviting us to have breakfast at his place! We were keen to get into the city so didn’t take him up on his offer but are still struck with the kindness he showed.
After determining that we could park there (and for free too) we took a short walk to the tram stop and headed into the city for some breakfast. It had been decided that Ben & Paul were going to go on a tour at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), while the rest of us spent some time in the city. The tour didn’t start for a couple of hours so we all did the touristy thing at Federation Square and Flinders Street Station before separating for a few hours.
Reardon, Emma and I did our own walking tour around Melbourne City, including visiting China Town and the South Melbourne Markets where they got to go on a treasure hunt, locating various stalls within the markets to receive some goodies. One of which was a pansy each that we then lovingly nurtured for the next few weeks as we criss-crossed Victoria! I would have loved to have gone to the famous Queen Victoria Markets but typically they are closed on Mondays and Wednesdays which were the only two days that we were in Melbourne!
Paul and Ben really enjoyed the tour which cost $30 for Paul and $15 for Ben for a combined tour of the MCG as well as the National Sports Museum (NSM), which is housed underneath the MCG. They were able to go into the members lounge and the top-tier of the grandstand as well as take a walk around part of the boundary. Ben was a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to actually walk on the grass itself but the groundskeepers were a very serious bunch and being that it was footy season they were in the middle of
preparations for the next big game. The National Sports Museum was an absolute hit with both of them and showcased a huge range of sports with many interactive things to do. An absolute must for any sports fan visiting Melbourne.
By the time we all met up again we were pretty exhausted and so settled for take away and staying in a caravan park just out of Melbourne. The weather was pretty mild but Emma and I still enjoyed the toasty warm under floor heating in the ladies showers!
Next we headed inland to Bendigo for a few days. We stayed just out-of-town at the Huntly Rest Area, this had barbecues, a gazebo and well maintained toilets. Best of all was that the van was backed against a paddock containing cows which would walk over for a feed in the evenings.
There are heaps of things to do in Bendigo, one of Australia’s original gold boom towns. The Victorian Architecture of a number of the buildings was stunning, with some listed with The National Trust. It would be easy to spend a couple of full days walking around the city just taking in all of the landmarks. A good place to start would be the ‘talking tram’ tours that are available. The local Visitors Centre is also a wealth of information and it has an amazing 3D model of the maze of mining tunnels that run underground.
We would also recommend a walk around the beautiful Rosalind Park which, as well as having a wonderful gardens, is also home to a fernery, conservatory and a number of statues. A visit to the Alexandra Fountain is also worthwhile and the kids enjoyed looking at the ornate design which included seahorses and dolphins.
Another beautiful building was the Sacred Heart Cathedral which is open for public viewing, with lots of information regarding its history displayed inside. It was late afternoon when we visited and the setting sun shining through the windows was quite beautiful.
A morning was spent visiting Bendigo Pottery which, as well as being Australia’s oldest working Pottery, this complex also houses a number of artists studios which you are able to visit and purchase some of their wares. In the pottery section of the complex, original kilns can be viewed and a tour taken through an interpretive museum. The kids and I indulged in a half hour pottery lesson ($12 each) where we got to sit at a wheel of our own and under the instruction of the local potter created our own vases. It was so much fun and definitely something I would like to do more of in the future. We produced two masterpieces each with the second being produced independently. For an extra $10 you can get your pieces glazed in your chosen colour. We did this and also organised postage back to Perth. What a great souvenir of our time in Bendigo.
From Bendigo we headed to Echuca where we spent a number of nights camped alongside the mighty Murray River. It was pretty cold while we were there so Paul and I thought it would be a good idea to buy some tummy warming port to slowly sip by the campfire.
Needless to say it was here that I vowed never to drink again!