Geelong was a special stop on our trip for us. It was one of the rare times when we really got to see a city through a local’s eyes and experience a place beyond the way a tourist does.
Day 1 – Friday, March 20, 2015
The drive to Geelong was easy and well marked. We arrived at our friend Lincon’s house at 1pm. We had a very short reunion and then left to drive the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road is a scenic coastal drive west of Melbourne. The road officially starts near Torquay and Bell’s Beach, but we started our drive at the town of Anglesea. We got lucky and had a cool clear day. The Great Ocean Road can take hours to drive, and along the way are a lot of overlooks, beaches, lighthouses, and waterfalls. However, we had a goal to be at the famous 12 Apostles Overlook before sunset so we knew we had to limit our stops.
Shortly after Anglesea We stopped at an overlook for our first real look at the Great Ocean Road (GOR). Below us was a surfing beach with tiny heads of surfers bobbing up and down in the water. We stopped again further down the GOR at a memorial arch. There was a small beach access near the arch and we were hoping for a nice view of a lighthouse we had passed along the way. We could see the lighthouse but we were a bit far from it.
Our next stop was at Lorne, one of the slightly larger beach towns along the road. Lorne had a park along the beach and a main street with stores facing the ocean. We got our of our car to look for lunch in Lorne. Wanting to be fast, we ate at Andrew’s Chicken Joint. We weren’t impressed with Andrew’s, they were out of fried chicken, the portions were small, and despite wanting to be quick we had quite a wait for food. To make up time on the road, we skipped the beaches and trails marked for waterfalls stopping only at a few of the overlooks. We also passed through Apollo Bay, another town similar to Lorne.
We arrived at the 12 Apostles around 5pm. The sun was low making the apostles into silhouettes. We had fun taking pictures and I really enjoyed watching the waves come in and crash against the rocks. After the 12 Apostles viewpoint we drove to the Loch Ard Gorge viewpoint. We were hoping to see the 12 Apostles from the other side, but were too far away to see them. Still, we enjoyed the less crowded Loch Ard Gorge viewpoint where a historic shipwreck had occurred.
To get back to Geelong quickly we drove inland. The ride was fairly scenic through farmland with an occasional kangaroo crossing sign (although we didn’t see any). In Geelong we were staying with my friend Lincon, who I hadn’t seen in 11 years. I had met Linc once before while traveling with a tour group. When I met Lincon he called himself ‘the mayor’ of Geelong because of his many connections. Its amazing how easy it can be to reconnect with someone after that long. Lincon and his friends welcomed us into their houses and to join them with their busy social lives of bar openings and concerts. When we got back from the GOR, Lincon and his sister were waiting to take us to The Worker’s Club. The Worker’s Club was the newest music venue in Geelong and owned by Lincon’s friends. Friday night was their soft opening, with a party for friends to see the bar. We hung out, had a beer, and enjoyed the atmosphere and live music.
Day 2 – Saturday, March 21, 2015
Lincon had tons of great plans for us while in Geelong. Our day started at the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre where Lincon spends time as a volunteer. Narana promotes the arts and culture of the Australian aboriginals and is comprised of several areas; a craft shop, cafe, art gallery, and park. Lincon’s sister and father met us for breakfast at the Narana Cafe where we ate kangaroo burgers and pancakes for breakfast. The food was very good and large portions.
After eating we were able to help feed the emus their breakfast of leaves. Narana has two adult emus and about 6 of their smaller offspring. After feeding the emus we stopped at the field to toss a few boomerangs. Jon and Lincon seemed to have it figured out, but I wasn’t able to get any boomerangs to turn and come back towards me in the air. While at Narana we also looked at the art gallery and learned quite a bit about aboriginal symbols, hunting, and music with tables of artifacts.
Our next stop was Bell’s Beach, which is the start of the GOR and which we had skipped the previous day. Bell’s Beach is popular with surfers and several surfing brands started there. We walked to a view point and watched surfers and paragliders on the beach.
From Bell’s Beach we drove to Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary. Jirrahlinga ($18/person) is an animal rescue for native Australian species. Jirrahlinga is organized like a zoo that you walk through. The first animals we saw were birds; mostly species of parrots and cockatoos. The birds were surprisingly entertaining and many could talk saying things like ‘hello’, ‘kiss kiss’, and mimicking phone rings. While walking around the birds, a ranger carrying a ring-tail possum walked by and let us pet the possum. We arrived just before the 12:30 koala talk. During the koala talk a ranger let us enter the pen and we were allowed to touch a koala who was in a tree along the path.
Next was the reptile house, and the 1pm ranger talk in which the ranger brought out several species of lizards (which we could touch) and pythons (which we couldn’t touch). Walking around the rest of the sanctuary we passed kangaroos, wombats, turtles, enchiladas, dingos, and wallabies. By the time we left Jirrahlinga we were tired. We picked up some sandwiches and went back to Lincon’s to relax.
At 5pm we left again, picked up one of Lincon’s friends, and joined a dinner party at their friends’ house. It was fun hanging out with Lincon’s close friends while relaxing and munching on snacks. For dinner we ordered pizzas. At 9pm we left the party with Lincon to go to the official opening of The Worker’s Club.
The Worker’s Club was a lot more crowded than the soft opening the night before. When we arrived a band was playing and it seemed like Lincon and his friend knew most of the people there, from bar staff to bouncers to people on the dance floor. The main event of the night was a band which started playing around 10:30pm, Northeast Party House. Northeast Party House was good and the crowd was definitely enjoying it. I felt like I had stepped back in time to the 90’s. I saw flannel shirts, mid-drifts, and crowd surfing. It was a fun place to be, even when we moved into the restaurant area for a place to sit and hear each other talk. When the band stopped around midnight the bar emptied quickly.
A few texts with Lincon’s friends indicated that they were still hanging out, so we went back to the dinner party and joined them. There was a lot to celebrate; new houses, birthdays, and work accomplishments. By the end of the night, new activities were invited, including crawling through the doggie door.
Day 3 – Sunday, March 22, 2015
We slept in after the late night the day before. It was a beautiful morning, so once we were all up we headed to the Geelong pier for brunch. We ate a light breakfast of tapas at the restaurant there. We had meatball sliders, popcorn chicken, calamari, and egg rolls, all of which was delicious. The only thing better than the view was the location on the water. After eating we drove along the water looking at the beach and swimming areas.
After brunch we went back to Lincon’s and hung out on our computers. At 4pm the footie (Australian rules football) game came on TV. We learned a lot about the game and it seemed fun, mostly because of the nonstop playing. When the game ended we went to Linc’s local hang out, The Barwon Club. Lincon recommended the chicken parmi as both the club specialty and as a local favorite, so we each had one. We were given a huge portion of chicken schnitzel covered in ham and cheese with sides of salad and fries.
After eating we spent the rest of the night hanging out, watching TV, and looking at the photographs from 11 years ago when Lincon and I met. It was a lot of fun to reminisce and I was impressed by how Linc remembered everyone’s names and has stayed in touch with quite a few others.