This past week, after years and years of anticipation, our family finally boarded a plane and set off on our dream adventure to Australia! I cannot even begin to express how long we’ve been looking forward to this, and how excited I am to share our adventures with you here.
Our first stop was the beautiful city of Melbourne. Caped around the Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, Melbourne is an eclectic city bustling with amazing people, sights, restaurants, shops, street art and so much more. And with its proximity to some of Australia’s most incredible natural wonders, it was the perfect jumping-off point for our dream adventure.
With the kiddos in tow, we wanted to ensure that we paced ourselves on this trip, and so we began with something quite rare in my travel world – unplanned days! Thankfully, there was no shortage of wonderful things to see and do while in Melbourne, and after adjusting our internal clocks, we took advantage of some amazing adventures.
LEGOLAND Adventure Centre
Since we have a ton of outdoor adventures planned for this trip, we couldn’t resist having a little indoor family fun to kickstart our holiday. And Melbourne’s LEGOLAND Adventure Centre was the perfect place to start.
The kids absolutely loved it here! Located in the Chadstone Shopping Centre, this amazing place is deceptively large and full of all sorts of fun things to do and see. First up, we did a little “sightseeing” in LEGOLAND’s Miniland, which boast replicas of some of Melbourne’s most iconic structures – all built from a whopping 1.5 million LEGO bricks. Inspired by the incredible LEGO creations, we decided it was time to start building our own and promptly got to work at LEGOLAND’S infamous “Earthquake Tables”, which shake at random intervals to test the structural integrity of your creations. From there we took a tour of the Underwater Quest ocean-themed display, built our own LEGO racers and sent them speeding down the racetrack, and took a ride on the centre’s Kingdom Quest adventure, where we worked together as a family to save the captured princess!
While we had only scratched the surface of what LEGOLAND had to offer, we decided as a family that we had our fill of LEGO fun for the day, and so we bid farewell to the incredibly entertaining stop.
Traveller Tip: Getting to LEGOLAND/Chadstone can run you upwards of $40 in an UBER. Save this money for your adventures by taking a ride on the free Chadstone shuttle, which runs from various locations around Melbourne. We grabbed the shuttle from SEA LIFE Melbourne, where we also took advantage of a combo pass, purchasing a LEGOLAND Ticket with a SEA LIFE Ticket for 30% Off!
See the full timetable and reserve your seats here.
Chadstone – The Fashion Capital
After our LEGOLAND adventure, it was time to explore the rest of Chadstone Shopping Centre. Known locally as “Chaddy”, this mega shopping centre is billed as the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. And with 130,000 square metres of shopping space, 530 stores, and over 20 million annual visitors, I can absolutely believe it!
While it opened in 1960, it’s clear that Chadstone undergoes constant renovation and upkeep, as it felt incredibly modern. My daughter was immediately in her element, hopping from store to store while the rest of us tried to keep up. Quite honestly, she could have spent the entire trip to Melbourne here and never have gotten bored!
But of course, with limited resources – namely time (and of course money!), we had to eventually say goodbye to Chaddy and make our way back into the city.
Exploring Downtown Melbourne
After regrouping back at the hotel, the family was ready to explore downtown Melbourne. We started our evening with a fun stroll around the city to explore its vast network of street art. Inspired by New York City graffiti, Melbourne youth began taking their art to the streets in the 1970s.
Since then, the city’s iconic laneways (alleys) have become a blank canvas for some of the world’s most acclaimed street artists. Talking with locals, it seems that the city has a bit of a, well, complicated relationship with street art – with some officials celebrating and other denouncing the art form. However, our family for one was in awe exploring all of these amazing pieces as we took our evening stroll.
Continuing on from the street murals, we set our eyes on another form of famous Melbourne art: the architecture. The city has an incredible mix of new and old side by side. It’s really quite amazing to see how they’ve been able to insert modern structures alongside historic ones that date back well into the 1800s. And by the look of all the tower cranes across the skyline, it seems as if there is no sign of slowing down! In fact, Melbourne has one of the highest populations of tower cranes in the entire world – a sign of the massive growth the city has been experiencing in recent years. Quite incredible!
Great Ocean Road
After a few more wonderful days exploring Melbourne, it was time to say goodbye and hit the iconic Great Ocean Road. Great Ocean Road is a 243 km stretch of highway that runs from the cities of Torquay to Allansford, along the southeastern coast of Australia. It is actually the world’s largest war memorial, constructed by returning World War I soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and dedicated to those that lost their lives in battle. I honestly cannot think of a more beautiful tribute to life than the views experienced on this incredible stretch of road.
Our day one journey took us all the way from Melbourne to Mount Gambier, which allowed us to cover the entire stretch of Great Ocean Road. Along the way, we made several stops to check out some of the most iconic pieces of Australian scenery. First up was the 12 Apostles, which is a collection of beautiful limestone stacks erupting out of the ocean right alongside the Victoria coastline. Contrary to its name, 12 Apostles is actually a collection of seven rock formations. Originally this number was eight, but unfortunately one collapsed in July of 2005.
It’s hard to describe the breathtaking beauty of these structures. All I can say is that they truly are remarkable. So much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined!
After getting our fill and plenty of photos, we continued west for just a few kilometres for our next stop at Loch Ard Gorge. While I had expected 12 Apostles to be the most impressive sight on this stretch, the Loch Ard Gorge was almost more breathtaking.
Named after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground in 1878 and was the tragic ending for all but two passengers, standing on top of this gorge feels like you’re looking out onto the end of the earth…because truly you are. In addition to the sights from atop the gorge, there is a small but beautiful beach nestled inside the walls, and accessible via a set of nearby stairs. The kids had a blast running around the beach, and even with it being the middle of winter down here in the Southern Hemisphere, the moderate climate meant they could even dip their toes in the water!
With two of Australia’s most iconic sights in our rearview, we continued on, and eventually found ourselves in the Southern Australia town of Mount Gambier.
Traveller Tip: While we thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I will suggest that those travelling with young ones consider breaking up this stretch into at least 2 days. With our stops, it took us a full 9 hours to travel from Melbourne to Mount Gambier. Thankfully our children are pretty seasoned travellers, but in retrospect, it would have been nice to have split this up into two days and taken our time.
Having arrived in Mount Gambier, we’ve got some resting to do, as many adventures await us in the days ahead. Most exciting? A trip to Kangaroo Island – one of the most amazing wildlife treasures in all of Australia!
I cannot wait to share pictures and stories from our next leg of our adventure. So, stay tuned for Week Two of our amazing Australian Family Adventure!