Somewhere Old, But Somewhere New Too.

In one of the earlier blogs I wrote about “not going back”.  Well, despite writing that, we have gone back, back to Melbourne but there is a reason.  We are catching up with friends and family.  In the past we have always stayed out to the west side of Melbourne, however this time we have split our time, mostly on the west, but first we have planned a week on the south east side.  More specifically we are in the suburb of Hampton, about 25 minutes by rail from the Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne. We have rented an  Airbnb place and are in the middle of a large but very mature housing development, luckily for us next to an Athletics track belonging to Sandringham AC.  The plan is to catch up with friends Nick and Jenna who live close by and to explore the Mornington Peninsula, somewhere we have not seen too much of in our previous visits.

L – Over the garden fence – Sandringham Athletics Track.  R- Me testing the track (be rude not to!)

Our first morning and to somewhere new for us, The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.  In all the times we have visited Melbourne we have never been there.  It lies in 36 hectares (89 acres) between Albert Park to the south, and some of Melbournes most famous sporting venues like the Rod Laver Arena (Tennis) and the MCG (Cricket and AFL) to the north.  Amid the noise and the bustle of the city, this is a place of beauty, calm and peace, despite the mayhem on the city roads around.  Even on a sunny Sunday morning there  was plenty of space for all to share.  Whilst walking through one section of the garden we came across the local Great Dane Owners Club.  We found out that they gather here once a month with their dogs to meet, socialise their dogs and themselves, and talk all things Great Dane.  Lyn was in her element and we spent about 20 minutes chatting to the owners and meeting the dogs.

Montage of Great Dane shots by Lyn.  The slobber is their gift to you!

One area of the garden stood out for me, Guilfoyles Volcano, a steep raised area at the southern end, had a winding boardwalk path to the top, on which was a large pond.  Originally built in 1876 as a water storage facility for the gardens, it later became redundant and lay neglected for about 60 years.  It was restored as part of a significant landscape development project called Working Wetlands and is now home to a significant number of low water use plants, a desert garden in fact.  From the top viewing platform it commands some outstanding  views towards the CBD.

Clockwise from top left:City view from Gilfoyles Volcano; Mature Cactus Plant; Same plant with damage – Someone had inscribed names on this leaf, makes me angry!; Cactus on the Volcano.

“Hairy” Topiary at the entrance to the garden

Top – Views of the lake – yes it is large enough to have a punt on. Bottom left: Viewpoint from the garden towards the city; Bottom Right: Lyn inspired to a yoga pose in the garden.

Us in the Botanical Garden


My “Shot of the Day”  Lily flower on the lake.

As well as daytime visitors, the garden hosts “Moonlight Cinema”, weekly events showcasing the latest movies.  We learned from the programme that the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, was showing whilst we were staying in Hampton, but all tickets had been sold so we were out of luck, but it is something we will look at next time we come here.  The garden also plays host to outdoor classical concerts on occasions which I would imagine could be very atmospheric.

There was one last place to visit in the garden before we left for home, and an evening out; The Shrine of Remembrance, located in Kings Domain on St Kilda Road and bordering the Botanical Gardens.  It was originally built to honour the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I, but now serves as a memorial to all Australians who have served in war. It is a monumental structure with steps up to a large central column  looking out down a Central Boulevard with views towards the CBD.  Inside there is a museum which we did not have time to visit but have put on our plan for later on our trip.

Montage of images of The Shrine of Remembrance in the Botanical Gardens

Top Left:  View from the Shrine down Central Boulevard;  Top Right: A simple yet poignant message; Bottom Left: Inscription on one side of the shrine of remembrance

In the evening we went with Nick and Jenna to a lovely veggie restaurant called “Vegilicious”, in St Kilda, a rather trendy, some may say charismatic inner city suburb of Melbourne. The area is noted mainly for its seedy past, its long palm fringed foreshore and park land, and huge beach. Behind the esplanade though lurks a wide and varied choice of restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs, and this place was one of those. Their website says they are the “home of gourmet, wholesome, vegan soul food” and they were not wrong.  The food, all organic, was delicious and the atmosphere was great, busy without being noisy.  A lovely evening.

Us and Jenna and Nick in Vegiicious

Phillip Island is home to the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix circuit and lies about 90 miles south east of Melbourne.  It is also the site of some of the most consistently reliable and varied surfing conditions in Australia. It was somewhere we had been keen to visit on our two previous trips (not for the surfing though!) but for logistical reasons (too far to drive!) it never happened, until now.

A two and a quarter hour drive on a dull, windy and cool morning saw us arrive on Phillip Island after crossing the concrete bridge linking the village of San Remo on the mainland with the island town Newhaven.  Our first destination was “The Nobbies”, an outcrop of rocks at the  western tip of the island.

Formally known as Point Grant, a flag was planted there by a British Naval Captain Wetherall, who had been instructed to sail from Sydney by the Governor after hearing of an attempted colonisation by the French in 1826.  The French landing never existed but Wetherall reported on other activity on the island, and also erected a flag staff on “the flat-top’d rock off Point Grant”  as a marker for the harbour entrance.

Today there is a nature reserve, a large cafe, exhibition and museum, and a function suite. Outside  is a boardwalk path around the cliffs to view “The Nobbies” rocks, surrounding coastline and wildlife.  The walk, although not long, is spectacular, with awesome views of the rugged coastline and the waves crashing in to the rocks and cliffs.

Clockwise from top left:  Sitemap showing the location of Philip Island in relation to Melbourne; The Nobbies; Lyn with the Nobbies in the background; More of The Nobbies.

On the day of our visit, the weather was windy with occasional rain so the rough sea state and dark clouds added to the drama.   About 1km out to sea from The Nobbies lie Seal Rocks, which plays host to the largest colony of fur seals in Australia (up to 16,000). On calm days boat trip run to watch the seals; today they had the place to themselves.

Montage of images from around the coastline by The Nobbies Rocks

The island has many tourist attractions and one of the most notable is the “Penguin Parade”. This is where nightly at dusk, little penguins come ashore in large groups. This phenomenon attracts visitors from all over the world, so many in fact,  that a new visitors centre dedicated to the Penguin Parade, is being built about 5 miles from The Nobbies to accommodate all the tourists. The advertising board also suggested that this would become a research centre into Little Penguins.  I can only hope that its primary mission is to protect and preserve this species of penguin because this is one of the few areas where  they can be found.

From “The Nobbies” we made our way round the coast to the main town of Cowes.  Crowded and with rain approaching from across the bay we took an instant dislike to the place.  Brash and loud, like an English seaside resort in full summer, we stayed only for lunch before seeking out a calmer and quieter place further up the coast.  We stumbled on a walk which took us along an inlet to the village of Rhyll.

Views of the Mangrove Swamp and Rhyll Inlet

Much of the walk was boarded, through a mangrove swamp, but regardless of that it was teaming with birdlife, being a haven for pelicans, black swans, gulls and straw-necked ibis, according to the information boards. Sadly, my knowledge of Australian birdlife meant that I would not have been able to identify any species without carrying the boards around with me! It was a lovely, peaceful walk, but the wildlife was too far away to see clearly. By this time though the rain had gone and the sun was out and this made for a pleasant afternoon.

As well as driving away to visit places we also love looking closer to home.  With this in mind we headed over to Sandringham, to the beach car park for an afternoon walk before meeting up again with friends Nick and Jenna.  There is a walking track which follows the line of the cliff in among the bush scrub which we took and followed for a couple of miles.  Occasionally, information boards would tell us what to look out for, and what to avoid. The main feature of the latter list were Tiger Snakes, one of the worlds most venomous.  They tend to lurk away from the main paths, but a bite from one is not a pleasant experience, leading to pain in the foot and neck, tingling, numbness, and sweating, followed by a fairly rapid onset of breathing difficulties and paralysis. If left untreated, death is reported in 40-60% of cases!  One to avoid at all costs.  Luckily for us the paths remained clear as we enjoyed a couple of hours walking the cliff top and the lower beach path. A gentle, easier day with little driving.

Montage of images from our Sandringham Beach Walk


Us on the Sandringham Walk

With half of our week in Hampton over we still had plenty to look forward to before moving to our next base for the last ten days of this years visit to Australia.

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