The Golden Princess docked in Melbourne at 6 AM and I was scheduled to disembark at 8:15 since I was staying in Melbourne a few days. The disembarkation process worked well until we were stuck on the pier for an extended wait in a queue for a taxi. It seems the taxis were having a problem getting to the ship because of a traffic tie up. I finally managed to get a ride on a taxi van and was the first to be dropped at my hotel. I was staying at the Mercure Welcome again since I had booked a tour through the concierge for the next day. I spent an hour waiting for my room visiting with a retired nurse from Brisbane, who was in town to visit her daughter.
I unpacked and went in search of lunch since I hadn’t eaten on the ship. The Emporium, an upscale shopping center across the street offered a good selection of restaurants. The Unabara Lobster Bar caught my eye with their photo of a lobster roll in the window. I waited a few minutes for a seat in the small restaurant, but the service was good and I enjoyed the lobster roll even though it wasn’t as good as the one I had at the bar on the beach in Waikiki. I decided to shop around and ended up buying two pair of shoes. My luggage would need to be repacked to make room for them, but they were light weight and wouldn’t add any cost to my baggage fees. Rain was forecast for the afternoon and I quickly made my way back to the hotel just as the first sprinkles began to fall.
The next morning, I was in the lobby early and was picked up by AATKings for my Puffing Billy and Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary tour. It was a beautiful sunny morning as we drove toward the Dandenong range. We made a brief stop for tea and scones at a local restaurant where we fed and photographed the macaws before heading to Belgrave Station for our short trip on the narrow-gauge heritage railway called “Puffing Billy”. The train trip was a hoot! Unlike in the U.S., where we’re told to keep our hands and feet inside, passengers were encouraged to sit in the windows and hang their feet over the edge during the trip. After our ride on Puffing Billy, we boarded the bus and continued our journey through the Yarra Valley to Healesville. Several members of the tour had opted for the Winery Tour, and we dropped them off on our way to the Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary has over 200 species of wildlife and our guide, Glenyse, was excellent. We saw the hospital, where she explained the work being done to protect the species and to treat injured animals brought in by the public. The Sanctuary provides an up close and personal opportunity to view indigenous Australian animals, such as kangaroos, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, platypuses, kookaburras, wallabys, and koalas. The Spirit of the Sky demonstration featured performances by trained parrots, eagles, cockatoos, and an owl. Very impressive! A great way to spend an afternoon in Australia! We took the scenic route back to Melbourne and were rewarded with beautiful views of the Valley.