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
 
After two very long first days in Australia, I left on Monday, the 20th (aka my 23rd Birthday!) for the Beach Welcome Program in Lorne. I'm not exactly thrilled about my living situation (long story that I'll possibly discuss later) so I was pretty excited to get out and start exploring Australia.

This Beach Welcome was for all of the new International students at Deakin so I was anxious to finally make some friends (I feel like I'm a freshman in college all over again). We headed out for the 2 hour bus ride to Lorne and I was happy to see that everyone was just as excited to make new friends as well.

We drove down the Great Ocean Road, which I guess is comparable to the 101/1/Pacific Coast Highway in California (except 10 times more amazing), to get to Lorne. The road was extremely windy so I unfortunately had to miss a lot of the scenery due to the motion sickness I tend to get on vehicles. We arrived and it is easily the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. Sparkling blue water and flawless sand.
The first day was pretty relaxing; just had free time where we mostly lounged on the beach and mingled. We all had different housing, ranging from a nice hotel room to legitimate TENTS. About 12 of us stayed in 2 separate cottages, which were quaint and more cabin like than anything. They were cozy and comfortable, so I was happy. We had to climb a ladder to get to our beds at the top, not to mention climb 2 ginormous hills to get there, but I was just glad we weren't in tents. These cockatoos are EVERYWHERE, and they are fearless (so we fed them). The first night we got a case of "goon" (which is box wine, the only cheap alch in Australia) and probably finished off half the 4 litres :)
The second day was definitely an intense day. We woke up at 7 to eat breakfast at 730 and then started our first activity: mountain biking. I have a small fear of biking, mostly due to my older sister, Mallory, forcing me to ride down a steep hill when I was younger, knowing I would fall, and then, of course, falling at the bottom. But I went anyway, and was SO glad I did. We rode around the beach and to a pier where we watched people fish (& catch stingrays!) and then rode around some semi-rough terrain up and down hills.

Our second activity was surfing :) I almost forgot how much I loved it. I'm obviously not amazing, and we obviously surfed little baby waves, but it felt amazing being able to catch a bunch of waves. I definitely need to start surfing more once/if I go back to San Diego.

The third and final activity we did was surf kayaking. I took a sea kayaking class last semester and I thought it would be the same. Definitely NOT. This was possibly the most intense sport-like thing I've ever done, not to mention the most terrifying. My friend, Rachel, & I went together, which was a big mistake because our combined weight of 200 pounds was NOT enough to weigh down our boat. When we first paddled out to the surf, we got flipped over almost immediately. We tried two more times and finally caught a couple waves, but kept getting flipped over. Everybody was done about 30 minutes into it because the conditions were pretty bad and everybody was getting destroyed. It was still fun, regardless:)

After that, we had a more mellow night to rest up for the next days' tour. After getting all of our luggage together the next morning and semi-cleaning our cottage (not much housekeeping here), we were off on the Great Ocean Road once again.
Our first stop was Apollo Bay, which was another beautiful beach. After that, we went to Maits Rest Rainforest. It's so crazy how beaches and rainforests can be so close together. In San Diego, the only nature around is usually just palm trees. In Australia, there are so many beautiful trees and scenery bordering the beaches.

After that, we went and saw the 12 Apostles. It's all limestone that has been eroded by the waves after the years. It's crazy what mother nature can do. We stopped at a few different points to see it because it stretches out across the beach quite a ways. It seemed so surreal being there. It was such a perfect, picturesque view that it seemed like it could be a backdrop.

We were pretty happy to go home after that. It had only been 2 1/2 days and we saw and did more than I've done in a few months time back home. I would say it made for quite a successful trip:)