I didn’t see much of Melbourne before we hit the road—just enough to notice a brick-paved alleyway lined with small coffee shops and to eat a delicious breakfast: sourdough toast with scrambled eggs, goat cheese, spinach, and avocado. I think I’m still daydreaming about that breakfast. When Jack and I left Melbourne, the thermostat on our car kept rising. Eventually the hot wind blowing through our car was too much and we had to roll up the windows; it reached 44 degrees Celsius by the time we left the city limits (111 degrees Fahrenheit!). We stopped in Geelong to try to have a cold beer, but even the refrigerators were warm and the beer was far from refreshing. We were too hot to think about food so we just bought things like peaches, watermelon, and lettuce.
We headed west toward The Great Ocean Road, and as the afternoon wore on, the heat became more bearable, but still we stopped for a swim at Point Addis Beach. The Southern Ocean was a bit too cold for my tastes; though swimming would have been such a wonderful respite from the heat, I could only wade in to my knees.
The drive along The Great Ocean Road was, of course, absolutely stunning. It curved around with cliffs to the north and the bluest ocean to the south. We headed inland to camp away from some of the crowds and ended up at Lake Elizabeth, near the small town of Forrest, tucked away in the woods. We spent two nights camping there, and two mornings taking things slow, getting on holiday time, sipping Flat Whites at the brewery in Forrest, walking to Lake Elizabeth and counting birds along the way. During the day we headed back to the coast, enjoying a beach outside of Lorne, eating hot chips (French fries) in town while a Sulfur-crested Cockatoo came to join us, visiting the enchanting and graceful Erskine Falls.
As we continued west, we drove toward Cape Otway, where we luckily stumbled upon several koalas, trying to stay cool in the shade of the eucalypts where they slept. I had only seen one koala in the wild before, and it was about a million feet up in a tree. We got a very close look at these cuties, though! It must have been a lucky mammal day, because I also saw my first echidna!
We camped in Princetown that night after visiting the Twelve Apostles, beautiful pillars formed by the ocean’s wave action against the cliffs. We watched the sunset in Port Campbell over the bay, which was even colder than the ocean. And then we watched the red sun rise from within our tent and visited the Twelve Apostles once more, along with the Bay of Martyrs, as we continued west in the morning.
The temperature actually cooled down quite a bit by this point, and when we stopped at the beach in Killarney, it was nearly empty and the wind was a bit much. So we headed to the Killarney Swamp to see some birds—Black Swans, Royal Spoonbills, Purple Swamp Hens, Hoary-headed Grebes, Eurasian Coots—and then stopped at another beach in Port Fairy. It was cloudy and still a little cool, but the sand was the most velvety I have ever felt. We camped outside of town that night and went back into Port Fairy in the morning to check out the Farmer’s Market and a craft market before getting back in the car, stopping near Portland to see a colony of Australasian Gannets (and nearly stepping on a venomous snake!), then visiting a “Petrified Forest” in Cape Bridgewater, which wasn’t a petrified forest at all, but rather hollow tubes of limestone, and making camp in the small town of Nelson after quickly visiting the beach there.
We ate quite a bit of fruit that next morning in Nelson. We had just purchased some at the markets in Port Fairy, but you cannot bring fruit across the border into South Australia. So we were full of apricots, oranges, apples, and strawberries when we left Victoria and drove to Naracoorte Caves National Park, where we visited the Wanambi Fossil Centre to see somewhat lifelike recreations of Australia’s extinct megafauna, including short-faced kangaroos about four times my size and Diprotodon optatum, the largest marsupial to have ever existed. We also went inside the Wet Cave at the park before finding the Black Cockatoo Bush Camp, where we spent two nights. The following day, we visited Bool Lagoon and did some tastings at a few wineries in Coonawarra, but on both days we spent a lot of time reading, relaxing, and bird watching at our bush camp.
The heat wave was over and the nights were actually quite cold, so I was ready to head to Adelaide on the final morning of that leg of the trip and to sleep in a bed for the first time in a week before getting on a plane to Perth!