Binkley's 2013 Australia/New Zealand trip travel blog

Beautifully carved park bench

Bay at Apollo Bay

Great Ocean Road commemoration

Coastal views

The builders of this road used hand tools to build this road

Another coastal view....lots of green!

Official start to the Great Ocean Road...or the end in our case

Enjoying the ferry ride

Hills in southern Victoria

We had a beautiful drive along the Tasman Sea leaving Apollo Bay. We stopped a few times for pictures at lookouts and enjoyed the cute little summer resort towns along the way.

At noon the three of us (Dave, Marilyn and the rental car) took the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry to avoid the long drive up and over Port Phillip Bay and through metropolitan Melbourne. From there we took about two hours to drive north, then east, then south and finally west to Phillip Island. We were on Phillip Island to experience the "most popular wildlife attraction in Australia", the Penguin Parade.

The Penguin Parade offers several different levels and costs for the tourist. We had opted for the most expensive, the Ultimate Experience. Our group was limited to ten, but due to some tour busses running late, we only had four plus the ranger. We donned black rain/wind suits and also had earphones to listen to our ranger and a night vision scope for each of us. We walked a few hundred meters out onto the beach at Summerland Peninsula, sat on our camp chairs on the sand and it was no waiting! The Little Penguins (the smallest penguin species) which had been out feeding by day, use the cover of darkness to protect them from predators on the return trip to their burrows. We had a full moon on a clear night, so the night vision scopes were not used at all by Marilyn, just half the time by Dave. Marilyn's binoculars do a great job in low light. Small groups of the penguins, or even individuals, would swim onto the beach, and waddle home to their burrow. Some would travel a kilometer from the shore! We watched well over 120 individuals march inland, sometimes passing only 12 feet away from us. By contrast, the other 1400 tourist (a smallish crowd compared to the 3500 they expect each night during the Christmas and January school holidays) sit in bleachers where some minimal light is provided and watch the penguins come out of the sea in front of them then pass under and around to find their burrows. These birds at the main viewing stands are used to the people and the extra light and their numbers are greater. Our little group instead had, in the words of the ranger, the real deal! A bonus for us, was watching and hearing the Short-Tailed Shearwaters come to shore and fly over the dunes to their burrows. We were not allowed to photograph the penguins.

As we walked back to the Penguin Center, there were penguins climbing the sand dunes next to our beach stairway, penguins in the parking lot at the top of the stairs and penguins all along the roads back. One was at the back door to the center when we arrived and bumped our clothing trying to run away. The Penguin Parade was a really special experience, even though the crowds and the bright colors of the Penguin Center make one feel like one is lining up for an attraction at Disneyland. Marilyn had seen the penguins at Phillip Island in 1976, before there was a Penguin Center. In 1976m we sat on the beach and the penguins marched right past us. The "new" center, albeit huge, has managed to buy up an existing housing development, demolish the houses, and return the land to the natural environment for the native birds and animals. Without this change, the penguins would have eventually stopped coming to Phillip Island.

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