What I miss most about the life in the United States now that we live in Singapore is that great American pastime, the road trip. Long, leisurely road trips were a fixture of my childhood, and I’ve seen much of the United States east of the Mississippi River and eastern Canada. We would drive hundreds of miles on the countries’ most iconic highways with the windows rolled down, examining crumpled maps from AAA and playing the License Plate Game.

So, in an effort to recreate those experiences for our preschooler, now with smart phone rather than Rand McNally map in tow, we flew to Australia, where the U.S. Dollar is currently very strong against the Aussie Dollar, to experience the charming waterfront towns, the stunning vistas, and the rugged cliffs of Victoria State from behind the wheel of an automobile.

We spent three nights in Melbourne, one night in Yarra Valley, one of Melbourne’s many wine countries, and two nights on The Great Ocean Road, a 243-kilometer stretch of road along the coast between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford and one of the world’s most scenic coastal touring routes.


Where We Shopped

In Melbourne

As a souvenir of our trip, I bought for A Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Melbournian Anna Walker at Hill of Content Bookshop (86 Bourke Street, Melbourne), a three-story, 90-year-old store in the center of the city with a expansive children’s section and a knowledgeable staff. 

In Yarra Valley

We watched European chocolatiers at work through floor-to-ceiling glass windows at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery (35 Old Healesville Road, Yarra Glen), grabbed a bite of luscious house-made rocky road ice cream, and purchased several bars from the chocolaterie’s gourmet collection, including “Ginger & Lemon Myrtle (Dark)” and “Pear & Hazelnuts (Dark)” for the road.

What We Did

In Melbourne

We visited Australia in March, summer’s end, and spent most of our days in the city outside. Southbank, across the Yarra River from the Central Business District, is perfect for an evening stroll (with stroller, if needed); The Royal Botanic Gardens (Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra) is perfect for a picnic; Melbourne’s laneways, full of street art, tiny cafés and hidden bars, are perfect for early morning exploring, because my preschooler, as many others’, is up at the first sign of morning light; and St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne and home to its most famous beach, is perfect for sea breezes and people watching.

In Yarra Valley

Healesville Sanctuary (Badger Creek Road, Healesville) is a fauna park specializing in native Australian animals. Here, A experienced close-up encounters with koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingoes, and platypus.


On the Great Ocean Road

We pulled over often, perhaps every twenty to thirty minutes wherever we found a safe spot, along the Great Ocean Road; the views are more spectacular than we could have ever imagined. Split Point Lighthouse (Aireys Inlet), a majestic lighthouse, Great Otway National Park (Great Ocean Rd, Lorne), slightly inland and where we spotted wallabies in the wild, and Twelve Apostles (Great Ocean Road and Booringa Road, Princetown), the most famous and most photographed site on this stretch, were our trip’s more memorable highlights.




Where We Ate

In Melbourne

Melbourne’s coffee-obsession is renowned, and it seems though one can’t walk ten feet without bumping into yet another café. We stumbled into 1000 £ Bend (361 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne), a café with wifi, a gallery, and a cinema space, serving solid and cheap food, including what became my signature dish on this trip, the avocado mash, or “avo on toast.”

Glick’s (330A Carlisle Street, Balaclava) is a no-frills Jewish delicatessen, in a largely Jewish neighborhood of older and more Orthodox practitioners in East St Kilda, where I had a classic bagel with cream cheese and lox and A had an un-classic potato-and-spinach latke.

In Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley is a haven for good produce and fine food.

The Storehouse (7A York Road, Mount Evelyn), a café, serves incredible coffee, delectable cakes and muffins, and local and seasonal breakfasts and lunches, such as “Old Mates Eggs,” two soft-boiled eggs, served with sourdough breadsticks with crispy smoked ham, and “avo on toast,” mashed avocado on sourdough bread, topped with feta cheese and house-made dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend of toasted nuts and seeds.

The Storehouse also carries organic bulk foods, such as flours, seeds, nuts, and dried fruits and sustainable living personal and household products.

On the Great Ocean Road

We detoured inland to 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail for cheese, chocolate, ice cream, and other regional produce. Timboon Cheesery (23 Ford and Fells Road, Timboon) serves up platters of wonderful, pungent rind cheeses, served with the best rhubarb jam I have ever tasted, in their inviting garden, and offers free tastings as well. Timboon Railway Shed Distillery (The Railway Yard, 1 Bailey Street, Timboon) produces single-malts and spirits on site, and includes house-made ice cream in a cone for all orders off the children’s menu. Here, we shared the risotto cakes, seasoned with parmesan, herbs, onion and preserved lemon and served with a salad of goat cheese and grilled zucchini, and the chicken gado gado, an Indonesian salad of raw and lightly cooked vegetables in a peanut lime sauce.


Where We Stayed

In Melbourne

We redeemed reward points at Melbourne Marriott (Exhibition and Lonsdale Street, Melbourne). The hotel is nondescript, but clean and convenient.

In Yarra Valley

Best Western Yarra Valley (3185 Warburton Highway, Warburton) is a 22-room boutique hotel located on the banks of the Yarra River. Though the standard room was tight, the hotel was picturesque, refurbished to preserve its Victorian charm.

On the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road has a wide range of accommodation options, from campsites to farm stays, from hostels to resorts. We opted to stay at Seaview Motel and Apartments (6 Thomson Street, Apollo Bay), an independent motel with spacious rooms with views of the ocean, and Comfort Inn Western (49 Kepler Street, Warrnambool), a centrally located chain motel.

Pooja Makhijani writes children’s books, essays, and articles, and also develops educational media and curricula. Follow her at


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  1. Pingback: Postcards from Melbourne, Yarra Yarra Valley, and the Great Ocean Road

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