16+ hours and not quite 8,000 miles goes by a lot faster when you actually manage a full night's sleep on the flight, and you end up with some random seatmates (heck, a random plane-full of physics nerds) who end up talking about particle physics the whole flight.
Due to the length of the flight and the international date line, Saturday gets skipped entirely for an early Sunday arrival. (time travel? *cheesy grin* ) Then into the rental car and down the road, pausing only for a brief breakfast of perfectly adequate meat pies at Routley's on the drive down to the Great Ocean Road and The Twelve Apostles. Forecasted cloudy weather actually turned out to be sunny-- got lucky.
The first stop was Sparkes Gully, which was just a taste of the limestone cliffs and stacks. The next stop was Loch Ard Gorge, which has easy access to the beach and dramatic cliffs lining a narrow inlet. Then time for the highlight of the trip, The Twelve Apostles. Despite some mid-day haze, they are as dramatic as their name suggests. There aren't even twelve limestone stacks, but to be fair, it doesn't seem to matter to anyone! Those with more time can head down to the beach in several places along this stretch of coast, but a tight schedule sadly prevented more in-depth exploration-- the Great Ocean Road is more than 800km long in its entirety and hence could be a vacation in itself!
Did a quick detour to Cape Otway Lightstation Road to look for koalas, unfortunately without success. Perhaps next time. The return drive to Melbourne was next, via winding roads and forested mountains. Very different from the farm country that composed most of the morning's drive.
Stepped into an unexpectedly vivid food scene upon arriving in Melbourne. Supernormal is an Asian fusion that's unusually well executed, and a ton more tasty places were all tightly packed in the central business district (CBD). Even the whisky scene is developing in Melbourne, with a suprising Starward whisky over dinner that was both unique and quite good.
Spent a few minutes at the Eureka Skydeck, then crossed the Yarra River again to do a bit more wandering, shopping, and eating. Not every sight was worthwhile-- Flinders St. Station is criss-crossed in ugly overhead lines and the reek of unwashed humanity, while the skydeck views were appreciated but overpriced.
Did manage a midnight snack of very rich ramen at the 24-hour Shujinko, followed by sugar overload a few doors down at Sweetie and Mousache with their crazy brick toast. Quite a few other places looked good too (several hot pot and some dessert places were tempting!), but alas, stomach space is finite.