We head out of Sydney on the Princess Highway (A1) that will take us along the East Coast down to Melbourne. Heavy city traffic fades away just a few miles out of town. Australia’s population is very much concentrated in a few urban centers – everything outside is sparsely populated or just empty (Australia 3.1 persons/km2 vs. Germany 231).
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To find a way along the rugged coast the road winds up and down over hills and even hugs the rocks on stilts offering spectacular views. First stop is at Jervis Bay, claiming to have the whitest beach in the world. We get a glimpse at the truly snow-white beach while taking a whale and dolphin watching tour that takes us around the wide bay. The whales have already migrated further north, but dolphins are showing up and play around the bows of our cruiser.
The road keeps up its meandering way, taking us inland through unending forests and rolling farmland. Just around the next corner we stare down a steep drop onto another wide bay with an unending sand beach or pop out on to a one lane bridge that takes us over a breakwater inlet. In the evening, we settle in at ‘Woodville’, a farm in the hills behind Bergamui that is home away from home for friends of ours. After 2 ½ weeks from bed to bed we enjoy some relaxing days, our own home cooking, reading a whole day, doing laundry ……
The beautiful hill country surrounding the farm borders on the Biamanga National Park. Hopping onto an ATV we bump over small tracks through an immense unspoiled wild forest and along wide pastures. Towards evening we go for a sunset walk on the local beach – 1 ½ hours of sand and surf and only one other human somewhere in the distance!
Another outing takes us to the historic village of Tilba and takes us back to the time this area was first settled in the mid 1’800s. Remember, that is very historic for Australians! The rich volcanic soil of the region made it a center for dairy farming. Today it is a lively and beautifully preserved tourist spot with a variety of shops selling many local produces from cheese to honey, cakes, art and the like. We have lunch at the Tilba Teapot Café where we once again indulge in Rock Oysters that we keep ordering nearly every day since Sydney.
For the next overnight stop Doris found a charming boutique hotel on Nullica bay. The Seahorse Inn has the looks and feel of an English country manor from inside and out. Driving around the nearby Ben Boyd National Park we get quite excited by spotting our first wallabies (small kangaroos).
The next day starts with a long and lonely drive through the seemingly unending forests of the south-eastern corner of Australia. The road is winding up and down many hills until it meets the shore again. The displays at the restored Tathra Wharf tell us the story of not sooooo long ago when travelling and transportation along the coast was by steamer as the roads did not yet exist or were much slower to get you somewhere. The last ship to take freight from Tathra was in 1954! Further along the coast we are fascinated by the spectacular breaking of the waves at Bastion Point in Mallacoota and watch Aussie’s tailgating at the beach.
At Lakes Entrance we hit the Ninety Mile Beach. This seemingly unending stretch of sand is one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world. It separates the Gippsland Lakes – giant lagoons – from the sea. There is no through road along the seafront, so it is countryside driving for 150km. Sometimes it’s beautiful tree lined alleys, but much of it is rather monotonous and the weather doesn’t help that day. On the bright side, we notice some funny signs, beers and mailboxes – yes they are reused milk cans, and yes again this one is specially for any mail addressed to Santa Clause.
At dusk we attend the Penguin Parade on Phillips Island – just south of Melbourne. To my great regret, but understandably, a strict no photography policy is enforced at that spectacular, so I inserted a picture I found on the internet. Thousands of the smallest penguins (ca. 30cm) purposefully make their way out of the sea and back to their hides while the light fades away. They are all quite tired after a hard day of fishing out in the waves and are just absolutely cute to watch hobbling back up the beach and along the viewing platforms towards the bushes.
Next morning it is Koala time! At the Koala Conservation Centre, we learn a lot about these lazy furry guys, who spend most of their day sleeping in a tree fork to conserve energy. They have a big stand of eucalyptus trees to live in that is traversed by elevated walkways to give us eyelevel observation opportunities.
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