One look at my iPhone weather app and I knew that this rare occasion of beautiful weather MUST be spent outdoors. The boyfriend’s mother is also visiting so this doubled as an excuse to make the trip to Phillip Island for the first time since moving to Melbourne.
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Located about 140km south of Melbourne, Phillip Island is a popular tourist destination, most notably known for the “Penguin Parade”. This unique experience allows visitors to watch the famous “Little Penguins” (AKA the smallest species of penguins standing at 33cm tall and the only penguins native to Australia) waddle ashore from the ocean, dart across the beach and wander into their burrow homes.

Photography/filming was strictly prohibited at the Penguin Parade but this is a short clip of the Little Penguins eating at the Melbourne Zoo!
We, of course, had to plan this trip out to fit our spontaneity, budget and time limitations. Spontaneity equaled expensive accommodation because of last minute planning, which didn’t agree with our budget. Work commitments also didn’t allow us to stay longer than one night but any kind of public transportation would take hours. Solution? Rental car! Goodbye $250 accommodation for ONE night and 32038413-hour-long public transportation and helloooo $47 rental car! (Thank you Europcar Rentals!) This would allow us to drive there and back in one day at 2 hours each way.

Since the Penguin Parade is shortly after sunset (the Little Penguins have to wait for it to get dark to make it more difficult for predators to catch them), we started our day off hiking Cape Woolamai. This 3 hour (including time for photo opps plus appreciation of natural phenomenon’s), 5.5km hike brought us to a spectacular view of Phillip Island and The Pinnacles (bottom, left photo), as well as to the highest point on Cape Woolamai. For people that love hiking, this was definitely worthwhile, although not very challenging. If you’re in for a good walk and a breathtaking view of natural rock formations, then this is a must. If you’re looking for a difficult and dangerous adventure, then well, I heard you can climb these crazy steep rocks. 
After dinner, we headed for the Penguin Parade. We debated getting the “Penguin Plus” seats, which seated you in the very front, but were perfectly happy with our general admission tickets which allowed us a good view to watch our adorable little blue friends scurry across the sand in groups of about 20-25 and up towards their homes. The Boardwalk, or walkways back up to the main building, was the best part. We got as close as possible to the little guys in their natural environment, saw them interact, sit on their eggs and heard a little too much of their “mating” sounds (September is apparently mating season).

We also got to learn “heaps” about Little Penguins. While out at sea, they eat HALF of their body weight every day. During incubation periods, the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs (usually 1 or 2) and switch off every 3-4 days. Since they eat so much (imagine eating 50+ pounds of pizza every day…yummm), they are able to hang out for those few days while their spouse swims about. This conservation center also overturned the myth that penguins mate for life. They actually have a 17% divorce rate and often find new hubbys/wives every year due to divorce & mortality rate.

Tips?

Get there at least an hour early to get good seats! This was probably the main advantage of the Penguin Plus tickets – they were lead to the front right before sunset to avoid sitting in the cold for an hour/hour & a half. But the difference of tickets: GA=$22 // PP=$44
 - One thing that might make a difference for you is the fact that they are a not-for-profit organization so all proceeds go to the penguins:)

Do NOT bring food – I witnessed one of the dozens of crazy, ravenous sea gulls land on my boyfriend’s head and steal pizza out of his mouth. Seriously. This was the LEAST I have ever enjoyed eating pizza, having to guard it from hovering, fearless birds. They strictly prohibit photography inside/on the beach and as much as I wanted to photograph the penguins, capturing the moment where a bird steals my boyfriend’s pizza definitely takes the cake.
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End of our hike:)
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I was desperately wishing there was one underneath our car.. (no luck)
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Watching the surfer's at Woolamai Beach
 
Brighton Beach. Laser Tag. Healesville Sanctuary. Melbourne Zoo. Moomba Festival. Movies.

Heard about Brighton Beach and how they have all these cute little beach sheds along the beach and so Nate and I went last week. It wasn't the most amazing beach, but the sheds were super cute. It didn't even take too long to get there. We live in a super convenient location right next to a train station that goes pretty much everywhere, sometimes with a few layovers. Brighton Beach was about 40 minutes from us. It might seem long but it's not bad if you consider the lack of parking you have to do. AND it's SO cheap to get around on public transportation. I have a "MyKi" card and a concession card (student discount) and it's $4 a day, for wherever you want to go. I discovered a couple weeks ago, though, that if you pay for a few weeks in advance, it's even cheaper. So it's only like, $2 a day for me, or $50ish a month. Which isn't bad, comparing it to the $60 I spent a week on gas back home.
We also went laser tagging at DarkZone. It was definitely, by FAR, the most intense hour and a half of laser tag, or maybe just LIFE in general hah. There were maybe 35 or so people and we all were on 3 separate teams. It was pretty much all college students and the venue was HUGE. I think it was 3 stories or so and everybody had a home base that they had to protect. Definitely the best $15 I ever spent.

I've been DYING to hold a Koala Bear (& possibly kidnap it & bring it home) so Nate and I went to the Healesville Sanctuary. Unfortunately it's illegal to hold koalas in Victoria so I'm gonna have to go to Queensland to find one haha. Healesville was AWESOME though. It's not your typical zoo, though, where everything is super caged up and separated. All that separates you from most of the animal is a simple fence where they're just hanging out so you can pet them and feed them (2nd pic is me feeding a wallaby!) We visited the animal hospital right when they brought in an eagle with a broken leg and wing. We got to watch them care for it and one of the doctors showed us the eagle's x-rays. Yesterday, we also went to the Melbourne Zoo, which was more like your standard zoo but still more open than the zoos I'm used to. I've only really been to the San Diego Zoo, which is like, world famous & humungous, so these zoos are a lot different. They're just so much more open and all of the animals are way more active, which is the best part.)
The Moomba Festival is an annual Festival set right in the city on the river. They have a waterski tournament going on the entire weekend and fireworks every night. And then of course all your typical games and rides and food. We didn't go on any rides because it was like, $10 a person to go on anything, but we had fun just walking around. I saw someone with a huge. purple plush Sac Kings basketball and they told me they won it so we searched everywhere for the booth. By the time I got there, there weren't any Kings balls left :( The fireworks show was awesome - they had it synced with famous opera music and it was coming from the middle of the river.
I absolutely LOVE this city. Despite how expensive it is, there's so many things you can do, and a lot of things you can do for free. Like the Moomba Festival - you might not be able to ride any rides for free, but at least it's free to go. I feel like there's just so many hidden secrets about this city you can only find if you decide to just wander around, or get lost, like I have on a few occasions : )
I've been fortunate enough to get lost and find some AMAZING graffiti, a beautiful bike trail along the river and the random [not-on-purpose] humor these crazy Aussie's have everywhere.
God i LOVE this city.