Category Archives: PARKS & GARDENS

Penguins at Dusk on St. Kilda Pier Breakwater

This walk takes you from the end of the number one tram line at South Melbourne beach along to St. Kilda Pier and the breakwater where the Penguins return at dusk.   The number of penguins will vary depending on the time of year, which in winter can be from 5.00pm to about 10.00 pm at the height of summer.  There are a number of transport and add on options included in this post.

The breakwater is a bit of a surprise to visitors with a location so close to the city for viewing penguins.  It is a good alternative to making the trek down to Phillip Island where you will find the world famous Penguin Parade and the largest of penguin colonies in Australia.  Penguins return to shore after feeding in the Great Southern Ocean.  If on an organised tour to the island [half or full day] or self-guided the travel time will be 90 minutes each way minimum.

At both locations the larger number of penguins return in late spring and summer.  Parents return to feed chicks in the nests in the burrows at dusk when less predators are about.  You will often hear the noise of the chicks coming from the nests in the rocks or under the board walk [Mum  – I am hungry].

St Kilda Penguin Series_#07

The St. Kilda location is a little unique and surprise being located in an urban environment.   When as a tourist, you are time poor having only allowed a couple of days to see the many things that Melbourne has to offer, it is a bonus to your stay.

Take the number one tram to South Melbourne beach, where the tram terminates at stop 32 Beaconsfield Parade / Victoria Ave.  For those interested, alighting earlier at stop 27 at corner of Park and Montague Streets provides a detour walk St. Vincent Place to view early Victorian architecture and grand homes of the late nineteenth century.

Resuming the tram trip if you have taken the detour continue to end and get off at the South Melbourne Beach stop.  Cross the road at this T intersection, turn left to walk along the beach footpath towards St Kilda and the marina.  The closest path to the beach is pedestrian only and runs along the edge of the sea wall.

[Click on the images below to enlarge]

Walk to the pier and at the end you find located a kiosk and bar, Little Blue.  It is a great spot to take in the view of the city across the Marina and watch locals and tourists participating in the water sport activities on offer  be it yachting, stand up paddling, wind surfing and kiting.  Having walked along the foreshore you will have  passed the hire companies or schools based nearby in caravans or offices.  Many people don’t realise the vastness of the Port Philip Bay on which Melbourne is located.  The Great Southern Ocean is about 58 kms south on the bay and  through the heads.

To the left of the kiosk on the marina is a jetty, where people start to gather sitting with their feet over the edge.  From experience position yourself at the far end next to the steps that access the jetty.   You should be able to see any penguins that come in from the water, but be sure to turn around and look at the rocks behind and under the steps.  As it gets darker you’ll find up on the breakwater some, will come in from the seaward side, keep an eye out for other people gathering. Remember the parents are coming back to the nest to feed their young and will consider you a predator, be  quiet and you’ll be rewarded.

Don’t expect large numbers but with patience will get you one on one moment with the fairy penguins, this encounter is a privilege and I am always in awe of the location and urban environment.  There are usually a couple of volunteer guides who will answer any questions you have and are there to look after the welfare of the penguins so please follow their requests if made.

As mentioned viewing time will depend on the time of the year and in summer gets really late as dusk is not until well after 9.00pm.

As an indicator the writer did this walk in spring, late October and the penguins were out and about at about 7.45pm.

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St Kilda Penguin Series_#11

Returning home to Southbank after the viewing, catch tram 3a and 16 from nearby Fitzroy Street to Grant Street, which runs along St Kilda Road to other destinations, Arts Precinct, Federation Square and Flinders Street Railway Station.  Also connecting with trams to other locations.

Directions to tram stop – from the end of pier, continue straight ahead up on to the bridge to cross  the road and access the esplanade and walk left 200 metres.

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St Kilda Penguin Series_#03

What’s underneath the Onion Skin – add on and other things nearby:

St. Vincent Place -Victorian Grand homes and Architecture from the late nineteenth Century.

Luna Park – historic amusement park with old world and new rides

Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research – located in nearby Elsternwick.

Craft Market St Kilda Esplanade [Sundays] – great for local artisans products, crafts and good tourist souvenirs

St. Kilda Sea Baths – Oceanside featuring an indoor salt-water pool and day spa,

St. Kilda Beach foreshore – water sports, kite surfing

Food: Acland Street with a great eclectic mix of foods, particularly good are the Jewish and east European cake shops.

Suburb/ Neighborhood:  St. Kilda and nearby Elwood, Elsternwick

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St Kilda Marina from Little Blue on St Kilda Pier

How to get there: Melway reference – Map 57 H10

By Car:  park along St. Kilda foreshore and remember to feed the meters, the park inspectors are vigilant.

By Tram: 1 to South Melbourne Beach to do this walk. Direct to almost the end of the pier 3a and 16 along St Kilda Road, or 96 from Bourke Street and 112 from Collins Street or South Melbourne Market [rear].

Arrive by water: Connecting ferries: One operates just between Williamstown and St Kilda pier and the other also adds Docklands as an extra location.

 

AUSTRALIAN GOLDEN WATTLE

 

Australian Wattle

 

Acacia pycnantha, Golden Wattle, is a shrub or small tree about 4 to 8 metres tall.

Golden Wattle occurs in the understorey of open forest or woodland and in open scrub formations in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, in temperate regions with mean annual rainfall of 350 mm to 1000 mm. It regenerates freely after fires, which usually kill the parent plants but stimulate the germination of seeds stored in the soil if rain follows soon after.

 The brilliant yellow, fragrant flowers of Golden Wattle make it a popular garden plant.

ASHCOMBE MAZE & LAVENDER

Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Farm -located on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne and is about a 90 minute drive. There are plenty of things to do, from beaches to cool climate wineries and farm gate properties selling their produce. Popular for sampling and purchasing Victorian gourmet treats, is the Redhill Market.

You’ll find plenty of Bed & Breakfast properties if you wish to spend a few days in the region.

As Australia’s oldest and most famous traditional Hedge Maze now standing over 3 metres high & 2 metres thick. With four mosaic flags to find in each half of the hedge maze, the hundreds of metres of winding paths take you through the South Maze into the Centre

Ashcombe Maze, Mornington Peninsula
ASHCOMBE MAZE

Garden before you tackle the North Maze. While not overly complicated it does take a little while to make your way through (some people take longer than others!) The North Maze is a totally different layout to the South Maze, so any tricks you worked out while making your way through the first part, mean absolutely nothing in the other!

The Ashcombe Hedge Maze was planted in the 1970’s with more than 1000 Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) plants. They are planted at around 1 metre intervals, and each year the hedge gets a bit bigger (and the paths get a bit narrower!) Being a drought tolerant plant the hedge only needs irrigation in extreme heat waves. It now stands more than 3m high and 2m thick.

Ashcombe Maze is open everyday (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 5pm.

What’s underneath the Onion Skin:

Other things nearby – Redhill Markets, Mornington Peninsula Wineries

Suburb/Neighbourhood: Mornignton Peninsula

Food:  The maze has its own café Ashcombe Café

How to get there: Melways reference  Map  256 E4

By Car:  

The easiest way to get to Ashcombe Maze is to follow the M1 (Monash Freeway) from Melbourne and take the Mornington Peninsula/Hastings exit. This will lead you onto the Westernport Highway (A780). Follow this Highway to Hastings, then follow the (C777) road towards “Flinders”. Travel through the small villages of Balnarring and Merricks and look out for the brown tourist Ashcombe Maze signs to guide you to Shoreham which is located 7km before the township of Flinders.

Alternatively if you commence your journey from bayside or the southern suburbs of Melbourne take the Nepean Highway (3) to the Mornington Peninsula Freeway (11) and at Frankston you will pass the BP & Shell service stations and at the next roundabout you veer left into Frankston Flinders Road (C777) and 4kms further on, turn right into Coolart Road (C785) and follow the signs to Ashcombe Maze and Flinders via Balnarring.

Location:  15 Shoreham Road, Shoreham on the Mornington Peninsula

The Children’s Garden – for real Kid’s & those still Kid’s at Heart

THE CHILDREN’S GARDEN

The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden

Located adjacent to the Observatory Gate and Café, opposite the Shrine of Remembrance Visitor Centre on Birdwood Avenue, the Children’s Garden entrance is down a pathway with magical creatures shaped out of plants.

This fenced garden is a perfect place to let the kids explore and investigate a garden, getting their hands dirty as they find the hidden secrets.

The Meeting Place which has a water feature that sprays up out of the ground in summer, is a hoot of fun, dodging the water jets to cool down. It always seems to entice those who ‘s parents didn’t bring the spare set of shorts and a towel, which I recommend. A great spot to let them free whilst having some fun. You could even let your own inhibitions down and play dodge yourself!!

Fountain in the Children’s Garden

Nearby watch out for the sculpture by Louis Laumen of characters from the classic Australian children’s book by Norman Lindsay – The Magic Pudding. This is a great spot if you can weave you kids around the characters for a photo shoot.

From the oriental hut you’ll overlook the Wetland Area with Bamboo Forest behind and buried inside is a platform to climb which is often missed and a great spot to wave to seated adults on the other side of the garden.

The Rill is a gentle waterway that runs through the Garden which you will stumble across at some stage and if you are tackling the garden in a clockwise fashion, it will lead you to the plant tunnel. At the back of this section you’ll come to the shell of a burnt out tree stump. Be inquisitive with your kids and get inside, looking up you may be lucky to spot the resident possum if around having a siesta.

The Children’s Garden built with assistance from the Ian Potter Foundation is well worth a visit and is easy to while away an hour or more. It is perfect for combining with other close by attractions and one activity that provide balance for the younger family members in a days Melbourne sightseeing.

Onion Heads in the Children’s Garden – Raised Beds

What’s underneath the Onion Skin – other things to do nearby:

If you are visiting the Children’s Garden with kids, further along the path from it’s entrance, inside the Royal Botanical Gardens [RBG] there are three other things which may add to your visit. This will be of course dependent on energy, age and interest of those with you.

First you’ll come across the Herb Garden and a great spot to extend the play and learning in the raised garden beds in the Children’s Garden. Further down the lawns you’ll see the ornamental lake, a great spot to see ducks, water fowl and Australia’s Black Swan and if you choose to walk through the fern gully on the way, look up and you may see fruit bats hanging in the tree tops. Thirdly there is Guilfoyle’s Volcano – the rebuilt reservoir, built with arid plants, rock and scoria has a great spiral walkway, this would have appeal to those a little older.

Food: The Observatory Gate and Café is metres from this garden entrance a great spot to purchase a coffee or an ice cream. Alternatively there is a lawn area to share your picnic if you have brought one or let the kids run and let off some steam.

Inside the RBG overlooking the Ornamental Lake is located another café which has a more adult vibe, but great for a Devonshire tea.

 

Suburb/Neighbourhood: MELBOURNE [5 minutes from South Melbourne Homestay]

How to get there:  Melway reference – Map 2F K12

By Car: Parking around the Tan, there are a range of two and four hour parking spots or weekend s on St Kilda Road
By Tram:
St Kilda Road and Dorcas Street – stop number 19 walk up through the Shrine of Remembrance forecourt and past the Vietnam War Memorial.
St Kilda Road and Coventry Street – stop number 18 walk past the Shrine of Remembrance Boulevard to the roundabout and right along Birdwood Avenue. This is a  gradual flatter approach but a little further to walk but easier managing a stroller and children or if steps might be a difficulty.
The Domain Road intersection Terminus– walk from the rear of the Shrine reserve to Birdwood Avenue.
By City Explorer Bus: – Free tourist shuttle, get off at stop 13 for the Shrine and Royal Botanical Gardens. Walk further along the road in the direction that the bus travels to the Observatory Gate and entrance to the Children’s Garden.

 

‘The Tan Track’ – Walk, Run or Slip Stream

WINTER ON THE TAN TRACK
What a great place to be at lunchtime to eat your sandwich or early evening between  5.00 – 7.30pm, just to watch the slip stream of walkers, joggers and runners or perhaps as you cross the track to enter the Botanical Gardens .

If you’re on the way to an event or one of the other attractions in the area, whether it be a game at AAMI Park Stadium to see Melbourne Storm Rugby League or to the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground] for Aussie rules football, you’ll inevitably find yourself walking around part of the track as well.

However, most are users including the 3.8km track length in one circuit of their daily exercise ritual – but it is OK just to go for a stroll!! The tan is a lush tree lined perimeter to the Botanical Gardens and at times also borders the Yarra River. In early evening you might smell the scent and waft of ginger flowers coming across the fence on the Alexander Avenue stretch – M’mmmm glorious. You’ll find people there at all times of the day and I have colleague who joins her running group before dawn to prepare for their next half or full marathon together.

The track made up from sand and crushed rock, has lighting all the way. Although the last phase of an upgrade to the track and lighting is just being completed on the southern side and still requires a little fine tuning.

Whether you are running or walking most people tend to go around the track clockwise and I suspect this is to take advantage of the short but steep hill climb on the Anderson Street side doing their fartlek exercise on the straight. If walking, as I do, my suggestion is to walk anti-clockwise. That way it’s easier to keep left and see the rest of the world as they slip by.

What’s underneath the Onion Skin – other things nearby:

Butting up close to the track are numerous attractions too many to name. A few include AAMI Park the home of Melbourne Storm, Melbourne Rebels and Melbourne Victory. Flinders Park the home to the Australian Tennis Open. Melbourne Olympic Park one of the athletics tracks for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games.

A mix of Melbourne Rowing Clubs on the Yarra River, along the banks of which are several inbuilt BBQ’s and tables available for use, free of charge.

Government House, home of the Victorian Governor General and the Sidney Myer Music Bowl where the annual Carols by Candlelight are performed and over the summer months several free orchestral concerts by MSO and other performers.

The Shrine of Remembrance, the Royal Botanical Gardens [RBG], the National Herbarium, the Observatory Gate and Café and the Historic Places Trust property – La Trobe Cottage.

Suburb/Neighbourhood: MELBOURNE CBD, SOUTHBANK, SOUTH MELBOURNE, RICHMOND & SOUTH YARRA [5 minutes from South Melbourne Homestay]

Food:
On this walk [run] there are several water fountains drink stations on the track, or you may like to continue you walk [run] along to Southgate to pick up a refreshing drink from Boost Juice.

How to get there: Melway reference – Map 2F J9

By Car: Parking around the Tan, there are a range of two and four hour parking spots or weekend s on St Kilda Road
By Tram: Any tram along St Kilda Road except a number one, which turns off to South Melbourne.

By Train: Flinders Street Railway Station