First & foremost, setting the scene for the continuation of our road trip experience, it felt like driving through middle-America in the 1960’s-70’s, or what I imagine that would be like. In no way do we mean this as a slight, just the opposite, we found it amazing. The coastline is dotted with great little towns, beautiful views & an overall peaceful, laid back vibe. We were operating on a “no-plan, plan” slowly making our way from one to the next just enjoying the ride.
Our first stop out of Melbourne was… (drumroll please) …Target. Yeah completely unsexy I know but I needed pants. If you missed the memo from our last post, Australia was frigid & best I had were a half-dozen elephant print cloth pants. I won’t dive into all the details here, but it was a horrendous experience. I hadn’t shopped for “real” pants in over 10 months & thanks to department store fluorescent lighting & Australia’s wacky sizing, I had a near breakdown.
Lakes Entrance, Victoria
I’m going to be honest, our driving experience was not really mind blowing up to this part. Beautiful landscape of course, but just loads of trees stretching out & around the two-lane road. Occasionally, a beautiful open field. I napped a lot.
Coming into Lakes Entrance, however, was absolutely beautiful and located at one end of Ninety-Mile Beach (above), the country’s largest waterway network. Normally, it’s teeming with tourists during the high season, but we found it a charming, sleepy, small town mostly of locals & a few native visitors looking to take advantage of the quieter shoulder season.
After checking into our little roadside motel, we decided to try & beat the sunset and walk across the foot bridge down the Lakes Entrance Beach towards the pier for some sightseeing! Trekking on the inlet side of the beach, you weave through low brush, along the waterways. It was mostly peaceful when I wasn’t paranoid about something popping out & eating us – everybody told us before we arrived that apparently in Australia everything wants to kill you.
While we didn’t meet a crocodile or horrific snake, a giant black swan did chase us down the inlet.No joking, we had to flee a swan. We saw no babies or food; apparently, he/she just didn’t like us.
Finding our own meal though, proved to be more difficult. Even though it was Saturday night & about 7:30, almost nothing was still open after our little beach jaunt. The “club” had been recommended to us by our guy at the motel, he even gave us a discount card (woot), & as that appeared to be the only thing open for at least 30 more minutes, it became our last resort.
We still weren’t ready for what we walked into. It was what appeared to be a rather played down version of a Dave & Buster’s style “country club” with loads of TVs around the bar pinned to various animal races (i.e. several horse & greyhound). What we haven’t mentioned yet is how intense the gambling is in the land down under. I have an odd new-found appreciation for the limit on gambling advertising in the US after being in a car for days. We needlessly settled in at the bar for some subpar pasta, but at least they had wine & one TV showing Star Wars rather than racing…
Narooma, New South Wales
Now, none of these towns along the coastline are terribly far apart. Lakes Entrance to our next stop, Narooma, were roughly 4 hours apart. What adds so much to our trip, however, was running into Kangaroos & some local Aussie Police. I’ll explain.
Apparently, in Australia the police need no particular reason to pull you over. There’s no “probable cause” or any such nonsense as we learned from officers who were just hanging out in the middle of nowhere stopping cars. They were very friendly & luckily, we had laid off the 10am shots so we could continue our way.
Our next visitors were a bit more exciting - less stressful at least. Casually driving along past a local golf course, I look out the window & there we saw dozens of kangaroos lounging on the greens. “You have got to stop the car” I yelled at Ben, forcing him to pull over & whip back around so we could snag some pictures.
I mean, how could you not stop & admire these guys? They paid no attention to us or the people having to play around them. It was unreal.
When we reached Narooma, we headed out to the shoreline for a walk to the famous Australia Rock (no, not Ayers). Supposedly, from the right angel the hole looks like the shape of Australia, which I didn’t know & just found out when googling it. Go figure, but that should be a give away that, it wasn’t all that impressive. Sorry Narooma.
It was fine.
We got far luckier on top of the ridge looking down on the rock. We had been given a tip that some Orca Whales may be in the area though it was probably too late to see them. We’d only been standing there for a few moments when we spotted a whale tale, thrashing about in the water several hundred feet off shore!
The grainy detail just shows how far off the whale was. It was only after further, zoomed in inspection we realized they had been two, an adult (most likely female) & what appeared to be a little baby Orca. We watched them flip their tales & dive under the water for at least 10 – 15 minutes. No matter how many places we traveled, or how many whales we saw – it never got old.
Oh & I’m sure you’re dying to know what we did for dinner this time. What was the local hotspot, the one recommended by the motel? Well the “club” of course…best deal on a Sunday night!
Wollongong, New South Wales
If you thought Narooma was fun to say (like I did) trying sputtering out Wollongong 10 times fast. Admittedly, I’m not sure this makes the top list of must-dos (we got some off looks when asked where we were going), but I have a great friend from my yoga days in India who lives here & it was awesome to see her again, meet her family, & get a lovely home cooked meal & comfy bed! No clubs for us this time.
A wonderful tip they gave us to finish out our trip, instead of shooting straight up to Sydney via the highway, was that we take the Grand Pacific Drive. Another gorgeous stretch of road that wound its way along the shore while rising & falling over various crested lookout points. We stopped midway through to spend a bit of time perched atop Bald Hill, where we grabbed a cup of coffee & watched people braver than us hang-glide off the edge.
Overall, it was loads of fun to take our time, casually drive along the coast like everyday was the perfect day for a “Sunday drive”. It may not be the most desired travel route in the country, but we had amazing scenery, great coffee & everyone was exceedingly nice. People assured us Americans they had met were equally as friendly, but I doubt it. It left us with an itch to dig out an old road map & just head off for other, less traveled roads in the U.S. & beyond!