Melbourne–Phillip Island

For this trip, we decided to omit driving along the famed Ocean Road as we were not sure if the children would enjoy the long ride to see the ocean scenes/rock formations.

Instead, we included a 2 night stay at Phillip Island which is about 2 hours drive from Melbourne city. Turned out to be a good choice except that it was raining for both evenings. We had a spacious, cosy stay at an apartment booked on Airbnb (waterfront @ Waves). It faced the sea and has an outdoor playground right in front. There are shops nearby within walking distance though we used the car mostly since we rented one.

What’s on the island? The first place we went to was the Visitor Centre in the centre of the town. It is useful to pick up brochures and check estimated time for the daily penguin parade. The volunteers/staff in these Visitor Centres are mostly very helpful and gave good advice on places to check out and shared other useful tips.

Another tip to share: It is difficult to find free wifi on the island. But the kind folks at the visitor centre directed us to the nearby public library where we asked for free access to check out our plans for the next leg. The library has a little corner for children and even some toys. We were the only (Asian) tourists in the small library and the librarians were getting ready for a reading session for the locals. Honestly, we didn’t felt too “welcomed” and thus left quickly after thanking them for the use for free wifi. Maybe on a better day or if your kids were not too rowdy (like mine), they might be more friendly.

We picked 2 key activities for the 2 days in Phillip Island:

1) Panny’s Chocolate Factory

Though it is a touristy place, the kids enjoyed this place. What’s there not to like about chocolate anyway?! 😀 It is about 30 mins drive from where we stayed. At the entrance, there is a little souvenir shop which sold different varieties of chocolates. We didn’t buy any as prices were really expensive. There are definitely far better chocolates sold in Melbourne city. But the “factory” tour is interesting enough. Some educational stuff on how chocolate is made and there are interactive displays too.

There are some displays of chocolate figurines and models of places complete with music and interactive parts (such as opening and closing of doors). It is more interesting for the adults than the children as they wished they can bite off some pieces instead. 😛

There are some amusement type of games which proved to be more fun for the adults than the children as there were too young to score anything. In the end, yours truly played at every game and yes, won all! (multiple tries though!). You can redeem for some free chocolates on the way out of the factory for winning some of these tokens.

This little mechanized penguin picks up chocolate pennies and dispense them to you. How cute! And how yummy! haaa..

You can “squirl” anything on this machine as it churns out chocolate sauce! Wait at the end of this machine for a taste of your creation! Yumz!

It is a decent place to visit if you have young children. The whole tour didn’t take too long; we finished in 1.5  hour, leaving you time to explore other parts of the island or head back to the hotel for a quick nap (which Eizac was still taking then).

More details on Panny’s website here: https://www.phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au/

2) Penguin Parade

We had wanted to head out to see the penguins on the first night but there was a threat of heavy rain and so we spent the evening exploring the town and shopping at Coles (as usual!).

On the second evening, it was drizzling a little but we travelled so far to see the penguins and just couldn’t stay in the hotel anymore. It was still freezing cold in Sep, so we bundled up well before heading out. There is an estimated time for the penguins to arrive everyday. Do check the website or with your hotel/visitor centre for the daily timing.

Thankfully the drizzle stopped in time when we arrive at the Penguin centre.  They have a strict policy of no photo-taking after you step onto the boardwalk towards the stands to wait for the penguins, so we didn’t take any photos of the little penguins hobbling across the sand and into the various little burrows built specially for them. We have to keep really quiet during the moments the penguins arrived so they won’t be afraid to cross over. Thereafter the crowd disperse quickly as everyone started walking back to the boardwalk to catch a glimpse of the little penguins waddling to their burrows.

Travel tip: If you are going during cold weathers, do remember to pack some hot water/drinks and snacks for the children. We even cooked some porridge for Eizac in a thermal flask so he can be quiet while we waited. We purposely didn’t go in too early as we were afraid Eizac might start kicking up a fuss for waiting too long. Thankfully he was happy with the porridge. 😛

I found the entry prices a little on the higher end (AUD$24.50 per adult and AUD$12.25 per child). There are family packages available as well. Is it a worthwhile trip to see the penguins? Well, yes, if you haven’t seen any in your life and if your child is really into animals. But no, if you are not into such fleeting moments. It was dark by the time the penguins arrived and all we saw were small little dots. The boardwalk is helpful to see more of the little creatures but that’s about all this penguin trip entailed. Unless of course, you want to pay more for the ranger guide and to sit even nearer to the penguins (though I don’t think that is necessary for young children).

More details on their website: http://www.penguins.org.au/

Some of the many other activities we didn’t get to experience in Philip Island:

Koala Conservation Centre (We visited koala at Moonlit Sanctuary instead)

Churchill Island (We almost went for this but read that it is too commercialised and opt to visit another farm in Melbourne)

Nobbies – We wanted to do this, but bad weather forbid so.

Fishing, boating, cycling, walking and more.

This is the last installation of our family’s Melbourne holiday in Sep 2014. Some of the places we visited but I didn’t blog about. Not that they are not good places but I didn’t have the time to. :

Melbourne Museum – suitable for young to old. The little ones can play at the children corners while the older ones will enjoy the various exhibits.

Collingwood Children Farm – worth a visit if you don’t want to travel too far from the city. You will see pigs, horse, cows and goats. But my boys only enjoyed the free tractor ride.

Abbotsford Convent – located just next to Collingwood Children Farm. Small grounds but there happened to be some band playing music at the grass patch on the timing we went. The kids enjoyed rolling on the grass!

The rest of our Melbourne travelogue:

Flight to Melbourne, accommodations and how to survive travelling with young children

St Kilda, Melbourne city, Puffing Billy, Queen Victoria Market, South Melbourne Market

Melbourne – Phillip Island (Penguins and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate)

Travel to Melbourne – Moonlit Sanctuary (The Mornington Peninsula)

Travel to Melbourne – Moonlit Sanctuary (The Mornington Peninsula)

This is a continuation of our Melbourne travelogue in Sept 2014. Yes, it took me ermm.. that long to blog this down!

This is the start of our road trip leg  which we rented a car to drive from Melbourne city towards Philips Island and back. We choose to do a pit stop at Moonlit Sanctuary en-route the way to Philips Island. And I am so glad we made this choice instead of heading to some caged zoo. This place is located in The Mornington Peninsula and some visitors might choose to plan a few nights stay in this location but we didn’t as we didn’t have enough nights.

I simply love this place because many of the animals are roaming freely in this conservation sanctuary. It was not difficult to navigate to the location with the use of a rented GPS from the car rental company.

There is a cafe within the same premise and we had a simple lunch here. Food was really simple staples and nothing to shout about. But it fills the stomach.

It will be advisable to have proper meals somewhere else before reaching here. But if not, at least the kids won’t go hungry.

We paid for our tickets at the counter which doubled up as an ordering counter for the cafe too. This is also the place where some of the caged animals are displayed. E.g. a python, reptiles, fishes and more. Honestly, these are not my favourites and so we whisked fast past these enclosures and went into the park inside.

There are “encounters” which you can pay a fee to experience. E.g. with a snake, a moment with the Koala and etc. Xi En saw a visitor with a ranger “encountering” a snake and he cannot resist but asked if he can touch the python too! I was miles away when he did that! Daddy took the following photo while I was standing really far away. The kind ranger and visitor allowed him a feel of the reptile which really thrilled him.

Oh, do remember to buy a pack of feeds from the same counter before you entered the park. Children and adults will enjoy feeding the wild animals later.

Some of the animals we saw upon entering:

Most of the kangaroos are actually as tall or even taller than an adult when they stand on their hind legs. They are mild in nature but just be careful of their powerful legs when they make a hop/jump! Eizac adored the kangaroos and till today, one of the few things he remembered about the Melbourne trip is “Eizac feed kangaroos”. 😀

Travel tip: It is a little difficult to navigate a pram/trolley in the park due to the uneven grounds. Best to leave it in the car and let the children walk or baby-wear for the younger ones.

We really enjoyed this place and will highly recommend it for children (and adults) to have close encounters with animals.

Do visit their website for ticket pricing and opening hours: http://www.moonlitsanctuary.com.au/default.aspx

The rest of our Melbourne travelogue:

Flight to Melbourne, accommodations and how to survive travelling with young children

St Kilda, Melbourne city, Puffing Billy, Queen Victoria Market, South Melbourne Market

Melbourne – Phillip Island (Penguins and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate)

Travel to Melbourne – Moonlit Sanctuary (The Mornington Peninsula)

Melbourne with kids (Part 2: The tours)

After sharing about how we survived in this inaugural family trip to Melbourne, this next post covers our “free and easy tours” proper. As this is a trip primarily for the kids, we limited our choices of activities to kids’ friendly ones. Here are some activities/places which we enjoyed:

1) Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches

Nothing else excite the kids more than slides, swings and lots of space to run around. It takes only playgrounds to make them happy and keep them occupied.

A Playground (made largely with recycled materials) in St Kilda’s neighbourhood

This is an outdoor playground made largely from recycled materials. It boosts of trampolines, tree house for climbing, slides of various sizes, flying fox and many little nooks and crannies. We were staying within walking distance and thus managed to drop by during their short opening hours. It seemed to be operated by a group of co-op volunteers and we saw locals baking cookies and enjoy coffee/tea together. Perhaps we looked too “touristy” for them to befriend us. But otherwise, with free entry and lots of brightly coloured structures it is definitely a kids’ haven. The boys loved this place and we would have spent more time here if they weren’t closing.

Opening hours and location can be found here.

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St Kilda’s Beach (and Playground nearby)

This is near to the place we stayed at St Kilda’s. In warmer months, a stroll will be ideal but since it was still cold, we took a tram to the beach. The boys wanted to play sand but we decided against it as the cold wind was strong at the beach. Instead we retreated to a playground nearby and once again, they had good old fun. 🙂

We missed out on a number of major parks such as Royal Botanic Garden and Fritzroy Gardens due to the weather. Heard these are great places for kids to run wild too. 🙂

2) Of Trams and Trains

First up is the FREE Melbourne city tram. Don’t confuse this with the regular trams which you will need to pay. For the first 2 days in Melbourne city, the boys loved a slow-moving, old-fashioned tram. It’s helpful that this tram stops at some major tourist attractions too. It’s a good lulling method to get the kids to nap for a while too. 🙂

Both boys are huge fans of trams and trains so we took the chance not to rent a car in the city. Warning: Be prepared to walk a whole lot in Melbourne if you are not driving! Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring along sunshade/hats. Then again the grounds are quite flat and not too difficult to walk. Check this website on the purchase of Miki cards for use on public transportation. If you are confused on the most cost-effective method to travel, approach any train stations personnel as they are friendly and helpful.

PUFFING BILLY

Next best thing to sitting on a train? Dangle your feet out of the train! We loved the Puffing Billy train experience! If you have young children (or feel young yourself), this is a MUST-DO! We drove here as we stayed over at Philips Island the night before. It is possible to get here using the train system but think twice if you have loads to carry. Puffing Billy is Australia’s preserved steam railway. It is a century old steam train which is still running on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook. We took the train from Belgrave to Lakeside where there is a pit stop before heading back to Belgrave.

Travel Tip: Go earlier as you will need time to walk to the boarding station. Allow time for photo taking as well. If you plan to have your meal nearby, there are only some small cafes, a subway, some sushi joint and a Vietnam place which we tried. Honestly, all of them don’t look fab. You will be better off packing some food elsewhere.

The best of the train ride has got to be this:

No one (except Popo!) needs prompting to climb onto the train ledge and dangle their feet as the train puffed along! Even the babiest Eizac enjoyed this “freedom”. 🙂 As the train chugged through the Dandenong ranges, the view was refreshing but the wind was chilling!

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As it was really cold with the wind blowing in our faces, I was glad we had a short stop to grab some hot drinks. Eizac was really freezing and downed his hot chocolate with a vengeance.

Travel Tip: Do pack along a hot tumbler during winter days, cold drinks during warmer months, food and snacks for a short picnic if you are planning to stop at Lakeside station.

If you are making a stop at Lakeside, in the warmer months, you can choose to have ride on one of these water boats. These are not open during the winter months.

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Nonetheless, we had a good time at a playground nearby and swings are always a delight too. 🙂

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3) Markets

As most will know we are not talking the same type of wet markets in Singapore. My Mum & I simply love the markets in Melbourne. The fresh produces, clean shopping environment and great prices were a hit with us! In Singapore, we rely heavily on imports and thus prices are much more expensive for good quality produces. We were spoiled for choice in the 2 markets we visited – Queen Victoria Market and the South Melbourne Market. My mum went crazy with marketing and even hurled a cauliflower back in the cabin luggage! These markets are good places to pick up some local souvenirs, buy ingredients for home-cooked meals and savor some touristy food (like donuts!). Imagine a tray of Brussels sprouts at A$1, my fav Artichoke for A$3 and a box of strawberries at A$2. I could just migrate to Australia for the fresh food! 😀

Travel Tip: Most already know this. Cook at least one meal (most of the time, it’s dinner) at your serviced apartment. The ingredients are just too good to miss out and cooking a meal save some money too. Eating out for a family can be costly. It’s tough to find a plate of chicken rice for S$3 there! 😛

My boys are not huge fan of the markets though. Save for some kiddy rides along the way, the other “fun” rides they get were with Daddy. 🙂

And of all places, we choose to meet our college friend and her children at the market too! As we do have any many clear days, we met up at the South Melbourne Market and caught up on our years of stories. It’s great that Xi En and E clicked! 🙂

Ending off on the 2nd installation of our Melbourne holiday before I missed it too much. Will pen down another 2 more posts on Melbourne when I get more time! Till then, happy weekend!

Updates on the rest of the Melbourne travelogue:

Flight to Melbourne, accommodations and how to survive travelling with young children

St Kilda, Melbourne city, Puffing Billy, Queen Victoria Market, South Melbourne Market

Melbourne – Phillip Island (Penguins and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate)

Travel to Melbourne – Moonlit Sanctuary (The Mornington Peninsula)