Traveling Australia is a long term dream for many – we were lucky enough to win a business competition for HouseSitMatch recently which enabled us to do just that. Thanks to Kia Motors (UK) Ltd and the Guardian newspaper Small Business Network my partner David and I were fortunate enough to win a prize in the name of our business HouseSitMatch to take a trip to Australia taking in Melbourne and Sydney for the first time! It has been the most extraordinary traveling experience, and a wonderful way to discover and travel in a new country. Normally we would prefer housesitting as our affordable way to travel! However, this prize was a paid for holiday, taking us all the way to Melbourne, and afforded us the time and opportunity to discover a range of travel options including pushing on to Sydney. We share some of the discoveries we made in while we were in Melbourne in this first blog, and some first time tips if you are thinking of visiting.
Traveling Australia – The Australian Open at Melbourne Park
For hard core tennis fans like us the opportunity to attend a major event like the Australian Open was a major coup. The first leg of our trip was the Kia prize which included a hotel stay at the Grand Hyatt in the centre of Melbourne and tickets to the Australian Open men’s semi-final.
We were also offered a tennis clinic at the Melbourne Park where the tennis was actually played, David volunteered to join Sam Stossar and Mark Philippoussis on court for a competitive knock up in the tennis clinic!
The Kia team were on hand to help us in the first week, they suggested places we could go in our free time, they offered maps and the locals in the team were happy to give tips on where to go for the beach – St Kilda’s – where to go for a fabulous walk – the Botanitcal Gardens – and best places to eat and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Meeting Australian wildlife
Traveling Australia for us was enabled by winning the prize. As part of the prize Kia also offered us a fabulous tour of Balarat Wildlife Park where we were able to meet Kangaroos and Koalas up close and personal. The type of kangaroo nurtured and raised at the park is the Kangaroo Island breed which we were given to understand is very friendly and gentle – exceptionally so.
What amazed us was the dexterity of their front paw digits. One of the small kangaroos carefully wrapped her ‘fingers’ around one of my fingers as she reached into my palm to nibble at the seed I offered her. Remarkable. We also heard a story of a female kangaroo hopping into the cafe at the reserve, helping herself to a few packets of sugar – ripping open the sachets and carefully pouring the contents into her mouth. And only leaving reluctantly when the cafe waitress chased her out!
We were told, however, that this behaviour is exceptional and particular to this breed. We also learned that many kangaroos are extremely strong and not to be crossed.
The price to get in to the Wildlife Reserved seemed good value to us, the adult ticket was $31 AUS / £15 GBP for a whole day (concessions were $25 AUS / £12 GBP).
This is compared to London Zoo which costs $45 AUS / £22 GBP per adult!
On the same day our tour also included a day at the Sovereign Hill historic mining town open air museum a two hour drive from the centre of Melbourne. It reminded us of one of our favourite places in England the Beamish the Living Museum of the North of England.
While Beamish is a little more established, Sovereign Hill shows a wonderful attention to detail and will to engage visitors of every age. There are many activities that involved visitors directly including visiting the gold mine and panning for gold in the stream. Both museums have a mining experience that is impressive and feels safe for the visitor. The investment made by the administrators of Sovereign Hill is impressive and the guided tours in and out of the gold mine tunnels and shafts are extremely well done – Highly recommended.
Our short week in Melbourne was rather extraordinary, we felt very lucky and well treated in the Kia Lucky Drive to Australia holiday.
Stunning Urban Parks in Melbourne
One of my favourite places in the world now has to be the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. It is free to enter as are all the parks in Melbourne. A top tip if you are traveling Australia and looking to enjoy the outdoors. We walked all over the park, the lake and the various horticultural exhibits on Australia Day! We also explored Treasury Park and Fitzroy Park. We happened across Captain Cook’s cottage in Fitzroy – it was rebuild brick by brick after being shipped all the way from Yorkshire England by a local benefactor Sir Russell Grimwade in 1934. What a wonderful place. The whole city is a marvel and a glorious introduction to Australia.