After breakfast Monday morning, we stowed our baggage in the YHA storage locker and walked over to Abell Point Marina to meet our boat for our Whitsundays sailing trip. It was a hot start to the day, so we enjoyed a cold drink while waiting for all of the passengers to assemble. One pair did not show, so there were four people on the trip, plus some young guys training as crew. All told there were 11 of us on board the Eureka II, a 60-foot sailing yacht. We boarded and waited a bit longer for that missing pair, but they never showed, so we finally set out of the harbor. The crew, Andrin (a Swiss) and Niels (a Dutchman), as well as our captain Mal (a salty Australian) introduced themselves and gave us a little orientation to living on a boat.
When we arrived in Brisbane on the night of the 19th, it was raining lightly. The next day it continued to rain while we stayed inside figuring out our onward travel plans. We had bought rail passes to get us north to Airlie Beach where we had reserved a cabin on a three day sailing trip. Unfortunately, Cyclone Marcia was looming with potential flooding and wind damage so the train north on the 20th was cancelled. We rescheduled for the next day’s train, but a few hours after making our reservation, that train was cancelled as well. At this point we were getting nervous because the rail passes we had bought now couldn’t get us to Airlie Beach in time. We couldn’t reschedule the sailboat trip, so we looked into flights north. Thankfully, the flights to Airlie Beach were still scheduled so we booked a flight and were able to get a refund on our unused Queensland Rail passes. We spent the rest of that day in Brisbane watching the TV coverage about the cyclone and updating our blog and photos.
We started our week in Byron Bay with a walking tour of the peninsula and lighthouse organized by our hostel. Along the walk we saw a small tree snake, a bearded dragon lizard, turtles in the water below, and a couple dolphins jumping in the breaking waves. We also visited the point of land that is the easternmost point in Australia.
Sunday we checked out of the Port Fairy YHA and started to make our way back to Melbourne via Port Campbell. Port Fairy is the far western end of the Great Ocean Road and we thought we’d back-track a little to see any sights we might have missed on the way out. Port Campbell is a nice little beach town and we camped at the Caravan Park for two nights.
On Friday morning we left Apollo Bay and were looking forward to seeing the famous Twelve Apostles. They are a scenic group of sea stacks (rocky pillars along the coast) that are one of the most popular tourist sites in Australia. They are much taller than I expected and with the clear, bright blue water I must admit this coastline is even more scenic than Oregon or California.
Central Melbourne is convenient to get around due to free trams in the CBD (central business district). They also have a free tourist trolley that circles the CBD and has a recorded commentary pointing out landmarks along the way. We took this free trolley to go pick up our rental car on Tuesday morning. Before long we were out of Melbourne and driving the start of the Great Ocean Road. To be honest, I’m dubious this coastal road is any more scenic than the Oregon and California coast we biked last Fall. I guess I’ll find out before the week is over.
To get from Canberra to Melbourne required a short bus ride and a long train ride. The train takes much longer to travel between major cities than a plane would, but I’m glad we’re taking the train as it gives us a better appreciation for how large this country is. It also gives us a chance to see the countryside roll past our window. And when we get tired of staring out the window? We watch some Mad Men. We’re up to season 3.