We were torn between a trip to Greece and Turkey or Australia and New Zealand for Mary’s 2018 birthday. I didn’t feel we were ready for a Schengen visa, but I have a 3-year multiple-entry visa to Australia; Mary has an expired visa and could easily apply for another one.
Plus, who can pass up an opportunity to see New Zealand? Not that Greece and Turkey are not worth visiting, but the pull down under was much, much stronger.
Planning the trip
There were two parts of booking the plane tickets. First, A multi-city via Cebu Pacific – Manila-Melbourne, Sydney-Manila. This plan would only work if Mary gets granted a multiple-entry visa since we will be entering Australia twice. Lo and behold, she was given a two-year visa, which expires around the same time mine does – mid 2020. But we booked the Cebu Pacific flight ahead, anyway. We figured that if she gets granted a single-entry, then we will proceed as per plan B. Melbourne and Sydney only then we fly back to Manila.
We then applied for our New Zealand tourist visa online, got approved single-entries, and booked our tickets via Jetstar. Melbourne-Auckland and Auckland-Sydney.
The plan was taking shape and we couldn’t be any more excited as Mary said she’d want to spend her birthday in the Hobbiton film location in MataMata, two hours outside Auckland.
We planned on sipping wine, enjoying the food and music, arts, and the Great Ocean Road. We had 2 full days in Melbourne, and an evening on the day of arrival. But as you would have it, after a long-haul flight, all you’d ever want to do is go to bed. Ha! But we still managed to get dinner, whichever one was closest, and a few night photos of the most livable city.
The following morning, we missed our Great Ocean Road tour because of time confusion, no wifi connection, and probably a bad case of (oooops) carelessness. We were lucky though that the operator rescheduled us to a tour the following day. That’s why we gave them a really good review on their Facebook page.
So that day we just went to the Brighton Beach in the morning, Hosier Lane for their graffiti and one of the most recommended restaurants, Chin Chin, no matter how crowded it was. We went to State Library of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, didn’t make it to the 1-hour cruise of the Yarra River, chilled at the river side as Mary sipped wine, and me, espresso (it was the cheapest among the list of coffee options).
If you want to know how to get to Brighton Beach from Melbourne CBD, watch this video below.
At nightfall, I wanted to see some penguins at St. Kilda but when we got there, we got weirded out by a couple who were making out in the dark. Plus we didn’t want to miss our last chance to do the GOR adventure early the following day so we just called it off altogether.
Great Ocean Road
Probably the highlight of the Melbourne trip was the day-long drive along the Great Ocean Road. Even if the weather was bad, we were lucky the operator pushed through. Along the way, we encountered drizzle, rain, hail, and strong winds. There was some sun too, so it wasn’t really that bad.
I was amazed at the views from Great Ocean Road. The Southern Ocean did an amazing job in carving out the limestone cliffs that were scenic and breathtaking. No matter what time of the day you go, you would be treated to a spectacular dance of rock and light, as the hues change from golden, to orange, purple and silhouette.
Be careful not to go too far if you’re traveling with a group, because they leave on time. If you’re going in the winter season like we did (June-August), it would be cold and windy. Bring gloves if you can, something for your head, heat packs if you have low cold tolerance. There are less tourists this season, so you’d be lucky to have a decent photo.
Jetstar Flight Cancellation
Our outward flight to Auckland got cancelled that night, and even if we had travel insurance, it didn’t cover it since Jetstar mentioned “crewing requirements” as the reason whereas the weather was really terrible – we kept hearing it on the news, and our tour driver advised us he is waiting for word on the tour’s status. And as I mentioned, there was hail in some parts of the GOR tour.
Even if accommodation and meals WILL BE reimbursed by Jetstar, the fact remains that we’re going to miss one day in Auckland because the next available flight was in the morning, with a stop in Gold Coast – which made the trip wayyyy longer than it should.
We booked at Hyatt Place Melbourne, and found it a relief after being stuck outside the airport trying to get a ride to the hotel. We were tired, sleepy, hungry and when we went into our room, we felt so much better.
Bonus – Gold Coast
The following morning, right after breakfast, we headed to the airport, the weather was better and flew to Gold Coast. It was still raining when we boarded the plane but after being on the air for an hour, we already saw the sunshiny state of Queensland.
Our stop there was about 5 hours so we had time to go to the nearby beach and have some lunch there. Now I understand why it’s called the Gold Coast, wow! The view from the window seat reminded me of when we were about to touch down to LAX en route to Las Vegas in 2017.
I guess we wore the wrong wardrobe because when we came to the beach, obviously everyone’s in shorts, sando, bikini. But we came from a stormy city and so, there. The beach was around 5 minutes from the airport and there was a bus right outside our terminal.
Finally, we boarded our plane to Auckland. And though we missed a day and failed to meet up with a good friend and her family, the excitement still brewed. It is almost Mary’s birthday and finally, we’re going to set foot on New Zealand – a country I’ve been aiming to go to since 2014. To read more about how we planned the 8-day Australia-New Zealand trip, click this.
One visit is not enough
I am sure we will be back to Melbourne to explore it more, it deserves that. In fact, we already booked a flight there in October this year – thanks to our multiple-entry visa and to Cebu Pacific’s seat sale. Did you know that most of our international travels are through this budget airline? I wrote about it here – from Hong Kong, to Sydney, Tokyo to Beijing, Bangkok to Dubai (in 2020).
When we come back to Melbourne, I would still love to have the chance to see the penguins march, explore more of their art, music and food. And that Yarra river cruise we failed to catch the last time.
Important things to remember when traveling to Melbourne (or Australia in general):
- myki – you would need this card when in Melbourne to ride the trains, buses and trams. To know more about it, visit their website.
- Melbourne weather – I was told you can experience all four seasons in any given day in Melbourne. Don’t be a fool not to believe it. For more info, always visit their official weather website here.
- Get a map – I am always fond of getting the CBD’s map wherever I go. It helps me plan the day and if we ever need an impromptu stop, I would know how to pick up the pace again.
- Join walking tours – it’s always best to join walking tours in your first two days in a new city. It allows you to view the city like a local. The one in Sydney is my favorite so far.
- Tipping – is not customary in Australia. I have read on their websites that people who work in tourism get sufficient income and do not depend on tips. But, if your service was great, why not? I think 10% is acceptable, if you’d ever want to tip.
- When renting a bike – always wear your helmet. It is a law.
- E-cig – may vary per state. It’s best you consult / research before flying to your destination. Remember that liquid nicotine is considered as a poison in the country, though e-cigs without nicotine are generally accepted. Source here.
Expenses and Itinerary:
Any places / activities you want us to try next time? Please share your insights and questions on the comment section. Thanks for reading! We’ll be back in October this year.