We took a little break over the holiday period and headed down to Dromana for a couple of nights by the beach. It was super busy and hot and while Emmy was heavily pregnant (not any more! :D) we did manage to do a few things. The day we arrived was stinking hot, high 30s and sunny, so when we checked into our airbnb accommodation we just hid in the air-conditioned room for a bit to relax.
Later in the afternoon I took Oscar to the beach, which was absolutely packed, I didn’t go looking for the the best stretch or anything, I just found a park on the main road not too far from our accommodation and went from there. We walked about 50m from where we parked to find a patch of space near the water, the sand wasn’t great and it may not have been the best time to go for building sand castles. Oscar got bored really fast (perhaps because I was reading a book instead of playing with him :() and decided that he wanted to go home, so that was that for our beach time.
I had planned on going to Cape Schanck at night time to do some night photography, but the skies greyed over and it was hot, and in the end it was just a few things conspiring against me (lazy) so I ended up not getting out to take any night photos, there definitely wasn’t a chance for starry night skies anyway.
The next day we went strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, I can’t remember when I last went strawberry picking (if ever) but it was certainly a positive experience for Emmy who kept complaining about the last time she went and how there was nothing. We managed to fill two punnets with sweet (relatively speaking for strawberries), juicy strawberries, despite Oscar coring a bunch of them.
I was thinking that it was best to go early so that you wouldn’t miss out, but as I was picking them, it occurred to me that some of the strawberries that I didn’t pick due to not quite being ripe would probably ripen during the day, so even if you didn’t arrive at opening time, there’d probably still be plenty to pick from. We had some strawberry iced cream afterwards which seemed like it was made using actual strawberries so another thumbs up.
This one turned out to be a bit of a hit and miss, it was warm and stuffy so walking around a lot wasn’t exactly Emmy’s cup of tea. But we managed to get through two hedge mazes, a rose garden maze, and part of the lavender garden. The first hedge maze was a disappointment though as it was pretty much being regrown from scratch, at least half (probably more) of the trees were saplings or very young and so it didn’t take much effort to find our way through.
The second hedge maze was much more difficult, in fact, I’m not sure if anyone that went in actually found the exit correctly. We’d just keep seeing the same people over and over at the entrance, eventually we gave up and moved on, but I did quickly go in through the exit to see where it was, but I still couldn’t figure out how to get there even though it was right next to parts that we walked through several times.
The rose garden maze was less frustrating as we managed to find the finish point and return successfully, it was challenging but not too difficult, which made it fun for me and Oscar. The lavender gardens didn’t seem to be in full bloom as the purple was a bit dull.
We didn’t venture out of Dromana to eat even though it is so close to many restaurants and wineries. We had lunch at the Pier Street Kitchen on the first day, which used to be called Dee’s Kitchen, I think that they must have changed owner because they used to have a deli and assorted goods for sale, but seems like just dining nowadays. The food was okay, but nothing special, not to the level of regional gourmet delight level anyway.
We had fish and chips the first night at Dromana Fish Supplies (take away), as it was the highest rated on that we could find. It was a letdown, it took 45 minutes (they did warn us) to get our order done, and everything was super salty. My fish burger might have been under cooked, I’m not sure, the fish didn’t flake apart when eating, so not great.
We had lunch at Laneway Espresso, a cafe on the main road which was highly rated for its cooked food apparently, but ended up not ordering any of the main dishes, and instead just got a sausage roll and a pre-made sandwich. They were good, but Emmy scolded me for not ordering something cooked off the menu :D.
We were looking for some kind of take away for dinner and went with pizza from That Pizza Shop, it has an interesting menu made up of gourmet style pizzas. I chose the sunday roast which has lamb, pumpkin and potato on it, while Emmy chose the garlic prawn (small size). The small pizza was really small, so I wouldn’t recommend getting a small unless it’s for a child. The quality of the pizza was good, they were a little expensive but they were good for take away, so no qualms there.
I also can’t leave without mentioning the IGA in Dromana, which seems to be a very high quality supermarket, we only looked around half of the store for stuff that we needed specifically for breakfast and it was pretty impressive. Looked very much like Leos here in Melbourne, full of all sorts of things that you either don’t get in the regular supermarket or at least different brands or products from places around the world, high quality stuff.
Before leaving very early on our last morning for a doctor’s appointment, we stopped by the main pier so that I could take a few pictures (as seen above). I was thinking of doing that pier into the endless sea cliché shot, but there were people there so I decided to have a look underneath for that tunnel style that I’m renowned for :D.
All right, on to the next part of our journey, after about a week in Saigon (I’ll get to that in the next post), we flew out to Phu Quoc, an island paradise to the southwest of Vietnams mainland, it’s actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, but I guess the poor Cambodians lost that one too. It’s a short flight, probably less than an hour, and from the airport we got a taxi to our hotel, four star Famiana Beach Resort, which is next door to five star Salinda Resort (where I wanted to stay). We decided to stay in this area as it was not too far from the city centre of Duong Dong which is the main city on the island, we just didn’t want to be anywhere too remote. The plan was basically to relax, and not do too much, maybe do one day of touring, and two days of chilling by the beach, we had three nights there in total.
The private hotel beach was very nice, and was probably the highlight of the trip, especially since taking little Oscar around makes things a little difficult, he also decided that he was in a tantrum throwing mood most of the time there, so that was fun. The sea waters were quite calm and the beach clean, the sand nice and soft under foot, and if the waves were too powerful (lol), then the hotel had a nice swimming pool to relax in as well. I thought that the hotel was good, breakfast buffet was solid and well rounded, and service quite diligent, emmy didn’t think that the “Resort” title was justified though.
For our day trip, we just jumped on a stock standard south island tour, which visited a pearl farm (boring), a buddhist temple of some description, Sao Beach (whether it was any better than our hotel beach, I’m not sure), a Prisoner of War camp (called Coconut Tree Prison), and a fish sauce factory – where you can buy fish sauce but apparently you can’t fly with it, so I’m not sure what the point of buying it is – before heading home a bit after lunch time. That was it for visiting stuff, I didn’t even get a tropical sunset picture, I left the room too late the one chance I had to get a tropical sunrise picture and had to settle for some boats on the horizon shots.
We were so ridiculously lazy that we ate at the hotel one lunch time, and probably across the road at the local restaurants every other time except twice where we ventured to the city centre and had crab at the crab restaurant, and another time we had dinner at a seafood restaurant (with rats running around nearby!). The food was actually quite nice generally, expensive (relatively speaking), but there’s a good variety of Vietnamese island food and regular Vietnamese food.
The Crab Restaurant was pretty hipster-y but good quality nonetheless, and one of the restaurants across the road from the hotel we ordered Canh Chua Ca (sour fish soup) and it was very nice, just like home made (which is a good thing). I didn’t really rate Phu Quoc the island that highly for things to do (although having a toddler can alter your perception), but I certainly wouldn’t complain about the food. There are probably a lot of fun things to do there if you’re not looking after a 20-month old little monster, and/or you’re not super lazy, good place to chill at least. Next up, back to Saigon to finish off our trip, our stay there was interesting to say the least.
Now back to this road trip, and the highlight of this trip, Kangaroo Island, we didn’t read a lot about it but we had high expectations based purely on all the hype that surrounds the place. I may sound a bit harsh here, but personally I found it quite underwhelming, from the lack of good eating options (apart from expensive wineries) to the lack of wildlife (we saw a lot more dead kangaroos than live ones), to the not-that-amazing scenery. Now, given that we didn’t do any wildlife tours (which are quite expensive), I guess you might be able to understand not seeing any wildlife, but come on, it’s called Kangaroo Island, I saw one mother kangaroo and her joey on the roadside near Seal Bay, and that was it, I might have seen a dead snake on the road at one point too. Seal Bay, at least did live up to its moniker, there were seals there, and they were quite close, although quite sleepy at the time of day we went.
On day one, after arriving at Penneshaw via the ferry, we drove to Kingscote and found our accommodation, the Seaview Motel, and it did actually have a seaview, unfortunately, the door, or the windows of our room weren’t sealed properly so there was a little wind getting in (it was crazy windy in Nepean Bay). Not a great accommodation, very old and in need of an upgrade, maybe they can’t because it is an historic site or something, I’m not sure. We arrived in the afternoon and were pretty tired from a long day of driving from Robe, so we just had a quick look around Kingscote to see what we could eat and that was it.
Day two consisted of a drive down to Seal Bay (seals) and Vivonne Bay (amazing beach apparently) on the southern side of the island, finished off with a trip back to the north side visiting Emu Bay (didn’t see any emus), the beach and also the lavender farm. As I said, there were lots of seals and good close-ups of them, most of them were sleeping, and such, but it was quite nice, although nothing special. Funny moment, we were thinking about how to take a family portrait and I decided against asking the guide, and instead asked another tourist who had a DSLR thinking that he probably knew what he was doing. Turns out he was an idiot, he took four photos, the first one out of focus, the next three were in focus but with no seals in the picture, so while I was grateful for him doing that, I should probably check what type of lens the next person I ask is using, and make sure that it is not just the kit lens. The moral of the story is, bring a tripod.
We couldn’t really find any good place to park to visit Vivonne Bay, and with the weather cold and windy we just rushed a quick walk down there, I could tell that the beach would be pretty amazing in good weather with fine white sand and crystal clear waters, but it just wasn’t happening for us, so we headed off for lunch at the fresh marron farm in Parndana right in the middle of the island. Marron are basically big prawns, and yeah, they’re pretty yummy, so that was nice. To finish off, we went up to Emu Bay (no actual emus) on the northern coast, the beach was pretty nice with pelicans, and the weather was a little warmer there. The lavender farm was good but I wouldn’t bother with the lavender iced cream, it’s just crappy vanilla iced cream with some lavender thrown in. Afterwards, we went back to Kingscote just in time to catch the 5pm pelican feeding show, quite interesting and amusing, word of warning, there is a voluntary donation.
Day three we went to Penneshaw to visit the community market, and Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, then dropped by Dudley Winery for lunch, and finished off with a stop at Prospect Hill Lookout, and a visit to the sheep cheese farm. The market was pretty underwhelming (as these things tend to be) with not a lot of stuff to see, we were thinking that there would be a lot more fresh produce to try, the lighthouse was very unspectacular, so much so that I didn’t even take a picture of it. Pizza and wine at the winery was good though, definitely a recommended visit. Prospect Hill Lookout was good, nice steep climb up stairs followed by a spectacular view over the island (would be good for a partly cloudy sunset/sunrise), and finally, the sheep cheese farm was so-so. The cheese was good, but the tour was a bit of a waste of time, I wouldn’t bother with that and just buy the cheese Island Pure Sheep Dairy, hey you can get it from Queen Vic Market.
Day four was to be the pinnacle of the trip, with a visit to Flinders Chase National Park to visit Cape de Couediac (lighthouse), Admiral Arch, and Remarkable Rocks. This was where I was expecting to see some spectacular landscapes but the vistas that we saw did not match what was in my head. The lighthouse was nice, and the walk from the carpark too, as well as the walk down to Admiral Arch and the seals, that was good, but nothing spectacular. Remarkable Rocks were described by emmy as “interesting“, didn’t sound too remarkable to me. They’re not like the Remarkables in New Zealand, let’s just say that much, they’re okay, but again, nothing special, especially if you can’t climb them haha. Food at the cafe at the national park visitor centre was okay though.
Finally, we were set to leave, and head back to the mainland and our next destination, Adelaide. Before that though (we had an afternoon ferry), we visited one of the honey farms, Clifford Honey Farm and bought some honey, again, I wouldn’t bother with the honey iced cream, it’s just cheap vanilla with some honey mixed in. From there we went to the oyster farm shop in American River and had a big seafood platter (mostly oysters). It was nice, not as good as the oysters we had in Hobart, but pretty good, this was actually the one day where we got some pretty fine weather (it was okay the previous day, I actually got sunburnt but more just sunny, not warm), so while waiting for our ferry, I had a wander along the beach next to the ferry which was quite nice, good for collecting sea shells, some nice snail shells there, and the water is clear and the sand, fine and white.
And that’s when we realised that tourism in Australia kind of sucks, if I list the things that we don’t like:
I’m not saying that these points only apply to Australia, I mean, we sort of had the same experience in Europe, but then, at least everywhere you go is different, it’s only an hour or whatever and you’re in a new country with a different culture and language. Any way, on to the reviews and recommendations.
Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel, as I stated above, very outdated and not particularly clean, the wifi didn’t work. I wouldn’t recommend.
The places where we ate expensive food, were all reasonable, the marron farm, oyster farm shop, and Dudley cellar door. The places where we ate cheap food not so much, the fish and chip shop (next to the Caltex) in Kingscote was nothing special (considering it’s an island where there is plenty of seafood), the restaurant we had pizza was typical take away shop quality. I didn’t mind the take away shop that sells giros, nothing special but at least not horrible. Also, the café at the Flinders Chase National Park had some reasonable food that wasn’t too expensive. The cheese from the sheep dairy farm was pretty good, no issues with that at all. Here is another problem as pointed out by emmy, seafood in Australia is expensive, it’s always expensive, it doesn’t matter if it is caught right next door, or we’re in the middle of the desert (I wouldn’t recommend eating seafood in the middle of the desert any way), it’s expensive. It seems that transport is a minor cost for seafood, I remember when we were in Borneo in Malaysia, and we had these giant prawns and squid cooked in front of us and they were seriously cheap and yummy, it doesn’t happen here.
Just a quick note, if you’re driving and taking the ferry, fill the car up before you get to Cape Jervis, it’s more expensive than Kangaroo Island, probably Normanville (coming from Adelaide, not Victor Harbour) is the last main stop before Cape Jervis, the petrol was still reasonable there.
Okay, long post, well, we’re heading to Adelaide, Naracoorte, and the Grampians next to finish off, we were very much winding down at this point, so while there are a lot of things to do, we didn’t do them, so the post should be kept reasonably short.
On a warm (hot) day in March, so a couple weeks ago during the heat wave, we headed down to Cape Schanck for a bit of a walk and wander around the beach. We parked at the Cape Schanck Lighthouse car park, and headed for Bushrangers Bay along the Bushrangers Bay walking track.
It’s only a 40 minute walk (or so) so it’s not especially difficult, the only issue is the heat as there is no shade at the beginning of the walk, after about 10-20 minutes there is a shaded section with trees on both sides of the trail which was a very welcome relief. For some reason we decided not to take our swimmers (and we left our sunscreen in the car thinking that we wouldn’t be down there for long) so we were pretty much just looking for a shady spot on the beach, of which there really aren’t any. We had a lunch which was pretty much crackers with cheese and salami (yum!), and then decided to go for a wander down the beach.
The water is beautifully cool which was great for getting our feet wet (apparently it’s not a good swimming beach, a bit dangerous) but we didn’t have our swimmers any way (surprisingly it wasn’t very windy), if you look at the pictures (the one with the red tent), the big rock on the right hand side, just past there is an arch that has crashing water, a rock pool, and the big rock is scaleable as well, actually third picture is taken from the top of the big rock, and the arch is to the left. Parts of the rock are super hot as they don’t get wet at all, so for that reason, as well as the fact that the rock and sand and plants under foot are quite abrasive, I would recommend wearing shoes, or at least thongs (unlike silly me who went with bare feet, and was in agony the whole time I was up there!). This is part of a national park, and the place is really quite pristine, we definitely want to head down there again with a bit more preparedness though, the lighthouse is very picturesque, unfortunately the sunset wasn’t particularly dramatic so I didn’t end up with anything that I am particularly happy about. We’ll go again though. We had dinner at the Flinders Hotel (in Flinders) at the Deck (which is a pub), it was pretty good, but we were quite rushed due to me wanting to rush back for the sunset after dinner.
Not much to this post, over Easter went down to Port Melbourne for a quick wander, didn’t get to stay until after the sun set so no pier at night long exposure shots. Had a Mr. Whippy iced cream which is not as good as a Mcdonalds cone, I’m going to have to be honest there. Then last weekend we went down to the Mornington Peninsula National Park for a little walk, then down to Somers for a look around. These are the pictures that made the dtraCorp cut. Here’s a question, why don’t any sites/blogs/CMS’ provide animated gif thumbnails? The last picture I uploaded here is actually an animated gif but the thumbnail doesn’t show it. It’s not difficult, in fact, I implemented on my old site, and the classes are available on phpclasses.org, do a search cos I can’t remember what the class was called.