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Wildlife, Walking & Wine

Claire Bradford, Assistant Manager at our travel agents in Colchester, took a mammoth tour around the Australian state of Victoria. As well as attending the 2015 Corroboree, a training event for travel agents, she got to see the wilder side of Oz.

Destination:  Australia
Operator/Host: Corroboree Europe 2015
Accommodation
(Hotel names/Ship name): 
Stamford Plaza – Adelaide, Crown Metropol – Melbourne, Phillip Island Apartments – Phillip Island, Wilsons Promontory Cabins – Wilsons Promontory, Walhalla’s Star Hotel – Walhalla & Yarra Valley Lodge – Yarra Valley
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Duration: 12 Nights

Flights

For our international flights, we flew via Singapore on Singapore Airlines in Economy. All the flights were on time and our transit times in Singapore were minimal. The staff were very well presented and nothing was too much trouble for them and so I would highly recommend Singapore Airlines for a long haul flight.

We had a couple of internal flights on arrival in Australia. We flew from Melbourne to Adelaide and back again on Virgin Australia, formally Virgin Blue. Although this is classed as a low-cost airline they now serve refreshments (Tea, Coffee, Juice or Water) and a very light snack. Again the staff were very attentive and very happy to help where necessary.

Accommodation

Stamford Plaza, Adelaide – stayed for 5 Nights

The hotel is very well situated in the heart of the city and within walking distance to most areas. The rooms were very comfortable and the breakfast that we had was very extensive, with a good choice of hot and cold food. We didn’t really spend much time here, though. They do have a swimming pool & gym, which we didn’t have time to see. The room I had featured great views across the city and of the Adelaide Oval.

Crown Metropol, Melbourne – stayed for 1 Night

Our first night in Melbourne was spent at the Crown Metropol. This resort-style hotel is made up of three properties; Crown Metropol, Crown Promenade & Crown Towers (Southbank’s Crown Entertainment Complex), which you can go between using covered walkways. There are many different shops, bars, restaurants & a casino all within easy reach. The rooms are lovely and very stylish with amazing views towards the city, but if you want to stay somewhere with a little bit of character this wouldn’t be the place for you. We had breakfast in the Club Lounge on the 28th Floor, which made for an amazing view during the meal. By night, it is a very trendy bar.

The location is good. You can walk into the city along the river or the hotels can be reached by the city’s tram system. Alternatively, taxis are widely available.

Phillip Island Apartments, Phillip Island – stayed for 1 Night

The Phillip Island Apartments are located in the centre of the bustling town of Cowes. They are a short stroll away from shops, bars, restaurants and some beautiful beaches, as well as being conveniently located for visits to all of Philip Island’s attractions.

The apartments are a very high standard and really well equipped with everything you would need for a self-catering option.

Limosa Rise, near Wilson Promontory – Site visit

These comprised of four 1 and 2 bedroom separate cabins. They are all facing away from each other so this makes each one of them very private. The inside is mainly open-plan, very modern and very well equipped. There are no facilities here just the cabins.

They all have a decked veranda with a BBQ and amazing views across to the National Park. These certainly make for a very peaceful & luxurious stay however long it may be.

Wilsons Promontory Cabins, Wilsons Promontory National Park – stayed for 1 Night

 Wilsons Promontory

Unfortunately, the cabins at Wilsons Promontory are not bookable by any agent anywhere in the world. They are allocated on a ballot basis as they don’t have many of them and they are so well sort after for a break in the National Park.

The cabins comprise of 2 bedrooms (1 double and 1 with 2 bunk beds), a fully equipped kitchen/living area, bathroom and toilet. The best thing about them is the floor to ceiling sliding doors in the lounge area that extends out onto a decked area, which is so peaceful and perfect for wildlife spotting morning, noon and night.

Walhalla’s Star Hotel, Walhalla – stayed for 1 Night

This hotel was lovely. It was very small, very traditional looking from the outside but very warm, cosy and homely on the inside. The couple that own the hotel are extremely welcoming and couldn’t do enough for you. This probably comes from it being in a village where only 15 people live!

The food was very good; all home-cooked and to a very high standard. The rooms were all a good size and some can accommodate disabled guests.

There is a lounge with big comfy sofas around a log burner and a bar/dining room. Again, that was very comfortable. I felt that the hotel is also well kept by the owners and that the decor throughout is lovely and bright.

Yering Gorge Cottages & Eastern Golf Club – Site visit

Again, this was cabin-style accommodation with verandas and BBQ. They are very modern inside and really well equipped for people holidaying on a self-catering basis. They look out across a brand new golf course and leisure complex which, should you stay at these cabins, you will be able to enjoy at a cheaper rate to those who aren’t.

The one thing that stood out in my mind was the large amount of kangaroos roaming around just outside the doors to the accommodation. There are also some woodland & river walks you can do here which gives more opportunities to see some of Australia’s native wildlife.

Another good thing about this accommodation is that it is the heart of the Yarra Wine Valley. You can take day trips to the wineries very easily and these can be organised through reception so that no one has to drive!

Yarra Valley Lodge, Yarra Valley

 Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley Lodge is a large hotel on a large complex of individual houses/holiday homes. There are numerous facilities here, such as the golf course and large conferencing facilities. For me, there was a lack of character, though. It is just a large hotel used for mainly business purposes. The rooms were very comfortable and the bar areas also. We had our farewell dinner here which was amazing. The food was very good, so the restaurant would be well worth a visit in itself. Again this is a good location to visit the wineries of the Yarra Valley and these trips can be arranged through the hotel.

Excursions

Day One

On arrival in Adelaide, we checked into the Stamford Plaza for our 5-night stay. While in Adelaide, we attended the Corroboree 2015. This consisted of us meeting 100 different suppliers in 3 days. From 9.00am until 6pm every day we had 12-minute appointments with each and every one of them learning about what they can offer travellers. This was quite hard going but in the long run very beneficial to have the contacts for future Australian enquiries.

Each night of the Corroboree, we had an evening function. On our first night, we had our welcome event at the National Wine Centre of Australia. It was set outside with lots of little food stands dotted around that we could help ourselves to and lots of wine flowing.

Day Two

The second night was much the same but at the Adelaide Oval. It was nice to see such an iconic stadium in the sporting world.

Day Three

The third night of the Corroboree was at a surprise venue. We found out at the end of the day’s appointments that we had been invited to The Ghan Train for dinner. This was a real treat for us all. They set tables up along the platform with red sand under foot to emulate the Red Centre which is where The Ghan travels. Although we didn’t have dinner on the train, it was cooked onboard for us and would be what travellers have on a daily basis whilst on a Ghan journey. The food was amazing and of a very high standard.

After dinner, we did have a walk through the train to which I was very surprised. I definitely wouldn’t recommend the Red Class service. The sleeping and day areas are very small and cramped. I would only recommend the Gold & Platinum services just to make it more spacious and, in turn, I think it would be a far more enjoyable journey.

Day Four

On the fourth and final night, we had the farewell function at the Lion Hotel in Adelaide. This was made up of lots of different rooms with different entertainment/food in each. It was a fabulous venue for the end of a really interesting Corroboree.

Day Five

Our last day in the Adelaide area was spent at the Barossa Wineries. In the morning, we visited Seppeltsfield where we tasted some red wines and 100-year-old port, as well as dessert wine. We then moved onto Wolf Blass. Here we had a wine demonstration. We had to make Wolf Blass Black Label out of a Malbec, a Shiraz and a Cabinet Sauvignon. We were given some guidelines and then it was up to us to measure the correct amounts of each to get as close as possible to the Black Label variety. I have to say, I wasn’t that far off and it was something that I really enjoyed doing.

Day Six

 Federation Square

We flew back from Adelaide to Melbourne. We arrived at lunchtime so went straight to Federation Square in the heart of the city for lunch. This area is very trendy and we ate in a small restaurant called Time Out Café, which was very busy. It is one of the main areas for people meeting up for drinks and/or food. The food was lovely and I would highly recommend trying it out. There is also a very large outside dining area for those warmer days.

After lunch, we embarked on a Hidden Secrets Walking Tour of Melbourne. This was great! Melbourne is very much a cafe culture city. It is made up of a lot of little lanes with cafe after cafe and small sitting areas outside. It’s very much a place for socialising. Melbourne is a really easy city to get around. The trams are free in the centre and it’s a lovely place to walk with lots of little hidden gems, independent shops as well as the large well-known brands.

We made our way to the Crown Metropol, where we stayed whilst in Melbourne. It is a very nice modern hotel with spectacular views over the city both in the day and at night from most of the rooms. The rooms were a very good size with floor to ceiling windows, separate shower and toilet. There is also a bar on the 28th floor which makes for a perfect place for a “one more for the road” drink of an evening.

We went back into the city for dinner where we ate at a very popular restaurant called “Cookie“. It serves up amazing Thai food and is definitely worth a visit when you are in Melbourne next time.

Day Seven

 Philip Island Penguin Parade

We departed Melbourne for our next stop in the suburb of Fitzroy. This was a very quirky area with lots of cafes and people out for breakfast; meeting up with friends and family. Here, there is a lot of street art which is very clever and beautiful paintings randomly on the sides of buildings. The whole area is like an art gallery in itself.

From here, we made our way to Phillip Island. Our first stop was the Koala Conservation Centre. Unfortunately, the Koalas that we saw here were high up in the trees and fast asleep, which is something they do best! We checked into the Phillip Island Apartments and then made our way down to Cowes jetty by foot to board the Wild Ocean Eco boat for our tour to Seal Rocks. This boat is a brand new, high-speed motor boat which took us out to the Seal Colony. Here, we spent a good half an hour watching the hundreds of seals and taking photos before having a bit of fun on the way back with some rather large waves.

In the evening, we went to Phillip Island Penguin Parade. This is an absolute must if you are in the area overnight. As the sun is setting, you make your way down to the beach, where you sit and wait for the penguins to come out of the sea into their burrows. They are tiny little penguins so, at first, it can be hard to see, but it doesn’t take long before there are hundreds of them waddling up the beach right in front of you. On the way back up, you walk along boardwalks with the penguins walking underneath and alongside you. This is an amazing natural attraction that is fun for all the family. Afterwards, we went to the Rusty Water Brewery for dinner. The food here was very much home-cooked, of a high standard and the beers and wines were very good too.

Day Eight

We headed into the small town of Cowes and had breakfast at “Mad Cowes Cafe” on the beach, before heading away from Phillip Island to Wilsons Promontory National Park.  On arrival into the National Park, we stopped at the airfield to see kangaroos and Emus in the wild and then carried onto Tidal River where we would stay for the night. In the afternoon, we went for a walk to Squeaky Beach; the most amazing white sandy beach that squeaked when you walked on it – hence the name. We walked up massive rock formations and then down to the southernmost tip of Australia. It took us a couple of hours to walk round the headland back to camp but was certainly well worth the effort and gave us some amazing views for photos.

In the evening, we were hosted by Sydney-Melbourne Touring for one the famous Aussie BBQ’s. The food was very good and the wine was flowing, which made for one of the best nights of the whole trip. We walked back to our cabins at the end of the night/early morning in the pitch black while minding where we walked so as not to step on or trip over any Wombats! They roam free around the park at night which was a lovely sight to see and one I will probably not see again.

Day Nine

We departed Wilsons Promontory after a well-needed breakfast and, shortly afterwards, arrived in Walhalla for lunch. There are now only 15 people that live in Walhalla; it is definitely a modern day ghost town. The town has hardly changed and the buildings still replicate those of many years ago. After some lunch, we went up to the gold mine for a guided tour. We went on a small train along the original track and a walk around the town with Michael Leaney, the owner of the Walhalla Star Hotel.

In the evening, we had a lovely dinner and played a few games; all while sitting in front of log burners. It was a very nice, cosy and relaxing evening. A couple of times during the evening I looked out of the windows of the hotel. There was a definite eeriness to the town, especially at night. The night was very still with no people or traffic around at all which made it really strange but lovely at the same time.

Day Ten

This was our last full day in Oz. From Walhalla, we made our way to the Yarra Wine Valley. Our first stop was Meletos & Napoleone Brewery & Ciderhouse for lunch. I would highly recommend this restaurant as the food was amazing. Onwards from there, we went to Yering Station Winery, where we had a tour and wine tasting, and then onto the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.

The whole Yarra Valley area is very pretty. You can see for miles across the open landscape with rows and rows of grape vines stretching into the distance. There are many wineries that can be visited and most have restaurants on site. We spent our last night at the Yarra Valley Lodge Hotel. We had our farewell dinner at the hotel in a private room with wine and prosecco flowing. It was such a beautiful night spent with amazing people and the food was of a very high standard. It was very sad, though, knowing that we were leaving the next day.

Day Eleven

 Koala Healesville Sanctuary

Our last day! On our way to Melbourne Airport, we stopped at Healesville Sanctuary. We got up close to animals that are only native to Australasia such as kangaroos, wombats, platypus, Tasmanian devils and not forgetting the koala bears, which performed for us this time, giving us some really amazing photos by which to remember our visit. I would definitely recommend a visit to Healesville if you’re staying in the Melbourne area.

From here we made our way to the airport for our journey home after an amazing trip with amazing people. It was definitely a trip on which I was sad to say goodbye.

Trip Highlights

I don’t have a favourite part of the trip. I was so lucky to be able to attend the Corroboree and had such an amazing time. Everything we did was fantastic; I couldn’t fault a thing.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to Paul and Steve for allowing me to take the time out of the office for such a wonderful experience.

Possible Improvements

On the Corroboree part of the trip, we met 100 suppliers in three days. This was a speed dating event and we had 12-minute appointments with each and every one of them over the course of the 3 days, which began to get tiring after a while.

Apart from that, the trip was amazing and very well put together.

Recommendations

Our trip was focussed on Melbourne. Melbourne itself is a great city but for the four or so days following our stay there we went to a very different place every day. I do believe that there is definitely something for everyone in Victoria. I would recommend the exact trip we did because the driving distances were not too long and each place showed the area completely differently and I feel I really got the feel for Victoria, Australia.

Must see? All of the above
Must do? All of the above
Must try? All of the above

If you would like to travel on a fly-drive trip like Claire’s, Fred. Olsen Travel will create the best package for you. Visit one of our travel shops on the south coast or those throughout East Anglia and speak to a member of our team today.