TripReport: Byron/Noosa/Melb/Great Ocean Road

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Jan 12th, 2004, 03:31 PM
  #1
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TripReport: Byron/Noosa/Melb/Great Ocean Road


My wife and I just got back from a relaxing three weeks in Australia. I'll give a brief overview of our experience & then if there are any questions, I'll be happy to address them.

First off, I want to thank all of you Fodorites that helped me with my questions before we left -- your answers and assistance were invaluable.

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Trip over: Qantas from LA to Brisbane via Auckland. I have travelled many ways to Australia, direct to Sydney & via Hawaii etc. but this is the first time via NZ. Although it was good to arrive in BNE instead of SYD and then doubleback to Brisbane, personally I didn't care for the stopover at that period of the flight.

One plus is that although the plane was packed to NZ, it was fairly empty from NZ to BNE, allowing my wife to stretch out over a whole row of seats for a couple of hours of pretty good sleep. Another blessing is the new seats on our 747 that gave us interactive movies and games - as well as the adjustable head rest flaps. I believe they are heaven sent!

Lastly, having done more than two dozen cross-pacific flights, I now know that I prefer the flights that arrive in Australia late at night as opposed to very early in the morning. For me, it allows my body to get a good first night's sleep & adjust more quickly to the new time zone.

More later ...
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Jan 12th, 2004, 03:43 PM
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Byron Bay

I couldn't believe how short the drive is these days between Brisbane & Byron! We did it easily in under 2 1/2 hours -- the day before a major holiday weekend. Very cool, especially considering we were majorly jet-lagged.

We love Byron Bay becuase it really reminds us of our home town of Santa Cruz, CA. Just the right mix of surfer and "alternative" (hippie) cultures, with warm water and lovely beaches. We were worried that the place was going to be packed the weekend before XMas, but it didn't seem too bad to us.

Stayed at the "Bay Beach Motel", which was pretty basic but good location and very friendly staff.

Spent a fair bit of time at the three pubs: The Great Northern, the Beach Hotel & The Rails. Had good but not great food & loved the walk to a wonderful beach-side Cafe out at the Cape. Took the requisite drive to Nimbin

Wife shopped a lot.
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Jan 12th, 2004, 03:57 PM
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Noosa/Sunshine Beach

Spent Xmas at a unit in Sunshine Beach with our families. Made some trips to Hastings street, although I try to avoid it like the plague. My wife loved the surfing lessons she took on Noosa main beach & yes, she shopped a lot -- mainly in the Junction.

Barbequed some Morton Bay Bugs for dinner -- yummy!

We loved the scene at the Noosa and Sunshine Beach Surf Lifesaving clubs, but were treated very rudely at nightclub at the Reef Hotel and at Maise's restaurant in Noosaville.

Had two really good meals -- one at a french seafood restaurant in Noosaville & the other at a cool continental restaurant/bar upstairs at the Sunshine Beach shops. The bar specialized in infusion-flavored vodkas where they soak various fruits, spices and candies in the vodka for several weeks before serving. Just the ticket, you can only drink so much VB!

Spent New Years Eve at the OK Japanese restuarant in Sunshine Beach followed by a party with 400 of our closest friends at the SBSLC ;>. Great time (and people watching) was had by all.

Let me know if you want the names/details of any of these restaurants. I've got them written down somewhere but it's easier/faster to write this off the top of my head.

Next: Our trip down south ...
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Jan 12th, 2004, 04:18 PM
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This is fun to read. We're going to that area in April and are looking forward to it.
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Jan 14th, 2004, 12:09 AM
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Melbourne:

Thanks to a Fodors tip, we stayed at the new Travelodge Southbank and loved the location and price. The rooms were basic but nice and I'm guessing half or a third of the price of my inlaws' room across the street at the Sheraton Towers. To be fair, their room, view and hotel was very nice -- but none of us stayed inside much.

Melbourne is a fantastic city and we loved visiting again. Walking the streets, it's hard to believe that you're not in Europe. This time we saw much more of the city outside the CBD. St. Kilda and Fitzroy caught our fancies for their food, shopping markets, people-watching and local "neighborhood" nightlife.

Saw a really fun band at the Rainbow Hotel in Fitzroy & had a bazillion-course Greek meal overlooking the water in St.Kilda. The sushi was again mediocre but I did go see my first cricket match in person after watching it on TV for decades. It was a one-day game vs India & I would have liked to stay longer but my wife was getting kinda bored. (Australia won).

Tomorrow I'll wrap things up with my G.O.R. report. Thanks for tuning in.
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Jan 15th, 2004, 12:18 PM
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Great Ocean Road:

Rented a 6-person mini-van with Red Spot Rentals, which is US-based Advantage Rent-A-Car's Australian "partner". At first, we were kind of worried about not going with a name-brand company, but it worked out very well. The car was new & they allowed us to pick it up/drop it off downtown or at the airport for no extra charges. And they were a good deal cheaper than Hertz, Avis, etc.

Geelong:
Had a great fresh fish-&-chips lunch at a place on the waterfront called Giligan's -- don't let the name fool you, these people know what they're doing!

Torquay:
Although we didn't stay there this time, this is our favorite town on the whole G.O.R. Again, a bit like the surf towns of California.

Apollo Bay:
Stayed at the "International" which is an affiliate of the Budget or Comfort Inns chain (or somesuch). What we didn't realize until after we had checked in was that it's also attached to one of the two pubs in town, complete with bottle shop! Normally this would immediately raise a red flag as being too noisy. But they put us in they way back & do a good job of separating the accomodations from the libations.

The bad side: this was by far the most expensive place we stayed on our whole trip -- including the Hilton and B&Bs! Now I understand that we were going at the height of the tourist season (right after new year) AND that we were lucky to find the (seemingly) last three rooms together within 100 kilometres, but it was $180 for a very basic room. Sheesh. Plus the drinks at the pub were the most expensive we encountered at a standard pub. bummer. (Food was good, though!) To me, this town doesn't have anywhere near the charm of Torquay or Port Fairy.

12 Apostles:
An absolute must-see, that's all there is to say about it. This time we somehow missed the signs/turn-off to the site of the shipwreck beach that stranded the two people in the late 1800s. It was a very cool story/site that I would have liked to shown my in-laws.

Port Fairy:
Although the weather turned wet on us, we really enjoyed this very quaint town that had was full of tourists but not of the Melbourne or overseas types. Apparently this is a popular vacation spot of Hamilton and other inland farming communities. Everyone enjoyed walking the town and looking at the shops. Nightlife was pretty quiet, but that's OK.

We stayed at the Merrijig Inn, which was another Fodor's suggestion. It's just like it's website and brochure proclaims -- quaint as a bug in a rug. The facilites and location are great & the "very small" rooms weren't as small as we initially feared. The downside was the staff. While they were extremely professional (to a fault), they weren't friendly at all.

Now we recognize we're not "B&B People", but the chaos and mutterings we received when the six of us mistakenly sat for breakfast at three tables of two instead of the table of six that they had set for us was totally unnecessary. I mean, chill out people and make your guests feel comfortable, not on edge. I would guess that this was a real "B&B Person's B&B".

Mt Eccles:
One of the all-time highlights of the trip was our side-trip to this National Park about 45 mins north of P.F., less than halfway to Hamilton. It's very subtly signed, but worth it. Why? WILD KOALAs! You can see dozens of them in the trees surrounding this crater lake. Once you know what to look for, you realize they're everywhere! Very Special.

Balmoral:
My wife has a cousin that married an Australian sheepman & we visited their property. I won't bore you with the stories of the woolshed and farm, but it was a very educational and fun experience. It's easy to forget that people still live off the land & it's a very different existance to my own. More power to them!

Melbourne Airport:
On our last night in Victoria, we stayed out at the airport at the Hilton. Man, this hotel isn't at the airport, it's in the airport. A great night's sleep in an amazingly comfortable bed was really nice the night before our long flight home. The workers there are AMAZINGLY FRIENDLY. Plus, we woke up & went downstairs and checked in our baggage and got our seat assignments before the queue started & then went back up to our hotel room for two hours to shower and have room service breakfast before we checked out. Wow, if it always was that easy!
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Jan 15th, 2004, 05:24 PM
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Did you get to see the rose bowl? where did usc finish in the rankings?
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Jan 15th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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Ah, yes -- the most important question!

Yes, it turns out that my mate in Brisbane has Foxtel cable at his house & that one of the channels that he never watches is ESPN. So we were able to postpone our flight to Melbourne so I could watch the whole game from the comfort of his couch on Friday morning, January 2!

USC won the game and finished #1 in the AP (writers') poll. Louisiana State won the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans & finished #1 in the USA Today (Coaches') poll.

Unfortunately, our college football game doesn't have an automatic playoff game to determine a consensus champion, so this will have to do. Otherwise, this would be a post on another board. Thanks for asking!
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Jan 16th, 2004, 03:42 AM
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Hi Scurry,
Sounds like you had a great time.
One question.
Why did you take your wife to the cricket?
Isn't that what shops are for? lol

Muck
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