Monday, February 20, 2006 - Melbourne and
Dean started on morning shift today, so he
had to drop us off at the Metlink before 7:00
a.m. We were moving slow and had to be pushed
out the door, but I think Dean still made it
to work on time, barely. Sorry, Dean!
Catherine and Dean are the best hosts ever.
We really appreciate their hospitality, and
we couldn't have had a better stay.
Explorer's Hotel is just across Spencer
Street from Southern Cross Station, in the
heart of Melbourne's central business
district. By 8:30 we'd dropped off our
luggage in the hotel's locked storage room
and gone for coffee. When we checked back at
9:30, they already had a room ready and let
us go ahead and check in. It was a great
location and an excellent value at AU$90
(US$66). It was either check in way early or
not until midnight when we returned from our
Phillip Island tour, so we were glad to get
that taken care of.
Just around the corner from Explorer's
Hotel is the Rialto Tower, purportedly the
tallest office building in the Southern
Hemisphere, so of course we had to visit. The
Rialto is 253 meters (830 feet) tall,
constituting 63 floors. The Melbourne
Observation Deck is located on the 55th
floor, at 234 meters (768 feet). The
Observation Deck opens at 10:00 a.m., and we
were among the first up the elevator. It was
overcast this morning, but the views were
still great, and we got some nice photos of
the CBD and the bay.
Melbourne's Central Tower is almost
identical to the BellSouth building in
Nashville. Both are known by locals as the
Central Tower a/k/a Batman Building
Rialto Tower is the tallest office
building in the Southern Hemisphere, yet we
found ourselves looking up at the Eureka
Tower. Still under construction, the Eureka
Tower is going to be the tallest residential
building in the hemisphere, at least for a
brief time, until the Q1 tower in Australia
11:20 a.m. Autopia Tours picked us up at a
predetermined intersection, and we were on
our way to Phillip Island, two hours
southeast of Melbourne. Adam was our tour
First non-bathroom stop of the tour,
Wildlife Wonderland. Out front is the second
largest Aboriginal mural in the world, which
is painted on a gigantic concrete earthworm.
(The largest such mural is on the side of a
Qantas jumbo jet.) Before exploring, we had
lunch. This was Tom's second Aussie burger,
and they were both pretty blah, but at least
they beat the horrible burgers of Latin
America. I had a ham sandwich with margarine
and mayo, neither being a preferred topping
of mine. Aussies are obsessed with margarine.
They spread it on every piece of bread,
regardless of what else is being put on it.
I'm not offended by margarine; I just find it
optional rather than required.
Aboriginal mural, Wildlife Wonderland
Wildlife Wonderland takes in wombat
orphans after their moms have been killed by
cars. The wombat moms absorb the impact of
the collision with their steel-hard backs,
allowing the babies to survive in mama's
pouch. We got to pet a wombat!
Next we entered the kangaroo enclosure and
petted them, too. They were mostly eastern
gray kangaroos. With their powerful tails and
strong hind legs, these 'roos can jump up to
11 meters (36 feet) in length. They live up
to seven years in the wild and up to 14 years
in captivity. Tom made friends with a cute
A tender moment
Wildlife Wonderland also has koalas, emus,
lyrebirds, blue-tongued lizards, and more.
It's a good place to get up close to the
Back on the bus, we continued over the
bridge to Phillip Island, known for its
outstanding seascapes and the famous evening
parade of the little fairy penguins. We took
a walk/wade at Woolamai Beach, a gorgeous
beach with pounding surf. If we chose to, we
could have swam here, but besides the strong
undertow and big waves, the water was cold!
No one in our group opted to swim.
At Seal Rock and Nobbies we strolled along
the boardwalk and searched for penguins
nesting underneath. Several times Tom and I
laid down on the walkway and contorted
ourselves for a look below. Our efforts were
rewarded. We saw heaps of 'em. Even with
binoculars, though, we didn't see anything
that could be definitively identified as a
seal, they were so far away.
Fairy penguins, Phillip Island
For "tea" we stopped in picturesque little
Cowes, the largest town on Phillip Island.
The Aussies do pizza well. Just be careful
not to accidentally order one with odd
toppings, such as egg or clams. In spite of
the huge warning sign we'd seen earlier in
the day, Tom fed a lone seagull a French fry.
Moments later there were many seagulls. We
slowly backed away from the area, pretending
we had no idea why a flock of seagulls had
View of Cowes
You've been warned
Finally we made our way to the Phillip
Island Nature Park, home of the Penguin
Parade, Australia's second most popular
tourist attraction, after Uluru. A hundred
years ago, penguins were found all along the
southern coast of Australia, but traffic,
development, and predators have forced most
of the penguins to adapt and move to coastal
islands. Adam got us there early, and we
positioned ourselves on the beach in prime
penguin-viewing position. The beach is roped
off to protect the penguin habitat, and
people are just allowed in authorized areas.
Photography is not permitted, but we have
plenty of penguin pics from earlier in the
Cute little penguin
The fairy penguins living here are the
smallest penguins in the world. Just a foot
tall and weighing only one kilo, the penguins
spend up to three weeks at a time feeding at
sea before coming home to nest. Crossing the
beach to their sand-dune burrows, located up
to a kilometer and a half inland, is their
most vulnerable time. Filled with fear, the
penguins wait until dark and gather in groups
at the water's edge, building up enough
courage to make a run for it. Any little
thing will scare the waiting penguins and
send them darting back to the safety of the
water until they calm down enough to try
It grew colder and colder and windier and
windier as the sun set and we awaited our
little friends. Finally, a few little penguin
heads started emerging from the surf. It took
a while, but finally a group would gather,
and the fat little fairies would make a break
for it. One group beginning to cross the
beach was startled by a small bird landing
several meters away. The whole bunch of them
turned and ran. The Penguin Parade was great
fun. The little penguins waddled so close to
us we could have reached out and grabbed one.
We saw several "parades" before we had to
return to the bus at 9:30.
Fat little fairy penguin
We didn't get back to the Explorer's Inn
in Melbourne until midnight, and we stayed up
even later watching satellite TV and enjoying
our nice room.
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