Finally converted all my previous entries as drafts so this domain is now strictly to record all my travel stories :)
Made a spontaneous decision to do a solo Melbourne trip from 22/5 - 27/5 and this time with the company of a car :)
Air Ticket: Emirates Round Trip from Singapore - SGD $676 (so glad I no longer have to fly via budget airlines)
I stayed in 2 accommodations, in Melbourne city itself and 1 night on the Great Ocean Road.
Airbnb apartment at Footscray (in Melbourne) $48/night - SGD$277 for 5 nights after including airbnb's service fee)
(link here: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/4106918)
The room was actually good for two to share, but since I was travelling alone I had the luxury of having the entire huge bed to myself. Footscray is said to be quite a dodgy area at night according to my friend who lives in Melbourne, but surprisingly I actually thought it was alright. My host said it's not scary too since she walks back from the train station alone every night at 11pm and she hasn't come across anything yet so... It's really up to your own discretion whether you would like to live there. I had the perfect host though who made it so easy to me to locate her apartment and it was so cosy I actually really liked it. Best part, the location was so close to the city, perhaps just 10 minutes drive away, or easily accessible via their train services.
Airbnb Accommodation on the Great Ocean Road: $181 (for 1 night, after airbnb's service fee and the 8% discount using my DBS card)
(link here: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/3449022)
This was extremely pricey I know. The only reason why I booked it was because I wanted a secluded apartment where I could do stars photography on the night that I was on the great ocean road. And guess what... The night I reached there, the sky was full of clouds I couldn't do any stars photography or night photography at the 12 apostles at all zzz so I practically wasted my money. But I have to say that the location was great for a stopover to rest for a night before continuing the GOR drive, basically it's just 25 minutes away from the 12 apostles and it's probably the nearest accommodation to it. If anyone is intending to do night photography / sunrise photography at the 12 apostles, this probably is the best place to stop over at. :) My host was really nice and gave really good recommendations as well, you might get lucky and spot wild kangaroos in the accommodation as well. I made a wrong turn when I was there, so I ventured into a private small farm where there were kangaroos and horses just further down though half the time I was freaking out about driving through a dirt road and (almost) losing control of my vehicle down the super steep and uneven dirt roads.
Car Rental: Bargain Car Rentals (http://www.bargaincarrentals.com.au) - AUD$37/day for a compact auto car, possibly the cheapest you can find in Aussie! However, since it was the first time I was driving (plus I was alone) in Aussie, I decided to buy their Gold premium insurance and I rented the GPS system so it added up to $70/day. There was no surcharge for the driver being <25 years old though so that was good. Petrol generally costs about $40+ to fill a full tank.
Expenses: Inclusive of luxury meals, petrol costs and expensive car parking fees - $700
Total cost: $2250 for 6 days, possibly not the most economical trip. But that is the very problem of travelling solo because you have no one to split car rental and accommodations costs with you and that's where the bulk of my expenses went. (I don't regret one bit at all though :) )
So here goes my itinerary:
Touched down on 22/5 at about 7am. Bought a prepaid card ($2/day with 500mb data under Optus Telecom Company) and collected my rental car. By the time I settled everything and got to my accommodation it was about 10am.
I headed to Queen Victoria Market for breakfast, sadly I thought the place was slightly overly hyped. I didn't find anything too spectacular with this market :( Parking costs a bomb in the city as well, I parked at QVM parking lot and it was $8 for the first 2 hours, and $3 for every subsequent hour so I easily spent about $14 that afternoon on parking.
From what I have researched, the must try food in Queen Victoria Market includes the churros and doughnuts from those makeshift cutesy vans (I only tried the churros which I really did like), boreks (some wrap that has different fillings, I tried the spinach cheese one but I thought it was just pretty normal. At least it was cheap; $2 per piece), some turkish kebab which I didn't try. And of course, the legendary market lane coffee which I absolutely love. It's true that every cup of coffee you buy in Melbourne is way better than any you can find in the world haha.
After that I explored Melbourne city just for a little while - checked out the State Library of Victoria.
Then, I headed out of the city and drove to Princes Pier. I think the place is so underrated, there was no one around and I had the entire place to take as many photos as I wanted. I really really love the place, so much better than St Kilda's Pier. It's hidden somewhere in a (rich) housing estate.
(This place is said to produce really nice photographs when you go on a cloudy day during dusk and I can imagine why)
23rd & 24th May (Great Ocean Road):
I woke up at 5am so I could head to Lune Crossanterie (apparently they sell really nice french pastries and people start queueing at 6am because they open at 8am and sell out by 8.30am, they give out queue numbers too btw). This was also the day that I was going to do the Great Ocean Road drive.
So I headed to the place and was excited to be 3rd in line, waited for 15 minutes then suddenly it didn't feel quite right because there wasn't anyone else streaming in yet. Decided to flash my phone's torchlight at the door to see if there were any notices and true enough, there was one that said they were closed for that particular weekend - imagine my disappointment. :( So because of that, I decided to drive to an overly hyped cafe Top Paddock which only opens at 8am. It was nice, the ambience was great but I thought the food could have been better. Coffee was great though, the thing about Melbourne's coffee is that they don't leave a bitter after taste.
Top Paddock Cafe :)
After my breakfast fix, I was all ready for my Great Ocean Road trip which was spread out over 2 days.
So my plan for the GOR drive was as such (Started my drive from the city at 9.15am)
Lorne --> Teddys Lookout (great hidden place to take pictures at, it's a short drive up the road from some resort at Lorne) --> Apollo Bay (lunch) --> Cape Otway Lighthouse (on the 10km road in to the lighthouse, it's a koala community, please do keep your eyes open and observe the tree branches. Koalas are usually up there, I spotted 3 on the way in and stopped my car at the side of the road, great photography opportunities!) --> Check into accommodation at Wattle Hill (was 4pm by the time I reached) --> Short drive to Gibson Steps (25 mins away) --> Back to accommodation to rest after a long day of driving. (Was back at my accommodation at 6.30pm and the skies were so dark, I had to use high beam to navigate myself back)
Next morning: Gibson steps (again, because I love the place, it's where you can walk down to beach beside the 12 apostles) --> 12 apostles lookout --> Loch Ard Gorge --> London Arch --> Take the highway back to the Melbourne (I didn't want to do the same winding route back via the GOR because it would take too long so I took the highway straight. It was pretty insane driving for 3hours non stop on the highway, there were so many occasions I almost fell asleep so the advice is to stop by the side of the road to take a rest. Even a good 5 minutes makes a huge difference to your concentration levels).
One note of caution is, if you're intending to take the highway back, make sure your GPS knows what it's doing. Mine asked me to do this turn which did not exist and I panicked so I made a wrong turn out, the distance changed from 198km to 218 km instantly and I was frantic because I needed to drive an additional 20km suddenly!?!?! And I was in the middle of nowhere with no cars so I kept praying and praying that I was going somewhere right. The fear of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with only half a tank of petrol left makes you devastated. You probably also need to learn how to make U-turns on 1 way roads as well just in case you make the wrong turn like I did. I think my driving skills improved so much ever since I drove on my own for the Great Ocean Road Drive haha.
Cape Otway Lighstation
Gibson Steps / 12 apostles during dusk (5pm)
Gibson Steps / 12 apostles the next morning (9.30am)
12 apostles lookout
Loch Ard Gorge
Fitzroy - My host recommended me to head to Gertude Street and Smith Street at Fitzroy to experience the authentic Melbourne culture, they had local designer boutiques along those streets and great cafes for people watching which I did.
I parked my car at Queen Victoria Market again and walked to Fitzroy (the only reason why I did so was because it's a place where there was guaranteed parking so I wouldn't need to waste time finding parking + there was no maximum amount of time you could park in those lots. On non market days, it was a fixed cost of $10 for unlimited amount of hours). The walk to Fitzroy was about half an hour.
I headed to Brighton Beach that evening, that's the best part about solo travelling. That particular day had a perfect weather so I made changes and headed to Brighton beach one day before instead :) Things were going perfect in Brighton Beach until my camera battery died and I forgot to bring my extra battery out. So I just sat outside some bathing box and stared at the calming waters. Then suddenly, this local walked to me and told me to look out for the dolphins. Yes, dolphins!!! Who would have expected to see dolphins at brighton beach when all I wanted was the colourful bathing boxes. They were jumping out of the water, not one, not two, but about 5?! At that moment, I was just glad my camera battery died so I could enjoy the beauty of these dolphins for a good 10 minutes :) Parking at Brighton Beach was pretty pricey too (Look out for the Life Saving Club to get to the parking lots), it costs $5/ hour to park there.
I wanted to head to St Kilda Pier thereafter but was lazy. I actually attempted to head St Kilda pier on the first day after Princes Pier but I couldn't find parking so I gave up halfway and headed home.
Exploring the City. Checked out Flinders Street Station and Hosier Lane where the graffiti walls were. I didn't do much and went back to my apartment at 2pm because I fell pretty sick after eating horrible Asian takeout the night before, was quite a pity.
Flinders Street Station (this is the famous angle where people usually take their pictures from)
It seems like I didn't really fully maximise my 6 days there but I guess I'm satisfied because the main purpose of the trip was to do the Great Ocean Road drive and check Brighton Beach out :)
I'm guessing if I had more time and guts, I would drive further up to the Grampians after the Great Ocean Road, and also further down to Mornington after Brighton beach for a more extensive travel! But I really have to say it was so tiring having to drive on my own throughout the entire trip.
Also, some tips if it's your first time driving alone in Aussie (I prepared myself for a steep learning curve because I only drove out on my own thrice in SG before I daringly made the decision to drive in Aussie) -
1) Aussies drive on the left, same side as Singapore
2) Rent a car with GPS. The GPS system tells you where exactly are the speed cameras in advance so you know when to slow down. They are dead serious about speed limits, I'm not kidding.
3) Learn how to pump your own petrol because no one is there to do it for you unlike Singapore. I learnt how to do it by watching youtube videos prior my departure :)
4) Learn how to switch off the car alarm in the event that it suddenly goes off. I actually pre-empted this already so I googled it before hand.
5) Learn how to pay for parking by the side of the road (it's not automated with a cash card like SG) and learn to read parking signs in Aussie (google them).
6) There's this special road sign in Aussie, it's the hook turn sign. So basically you can only turn right by keeping on the left lane (yes, I know it's strange) but you see it everywhere in Melbourne city itself so please please please take note of this or you will end up getting honked at.