Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Around Australia Cruise - Sea Princess - Melbourne and Puffing Billy

We had cooler weather in Melbourne than in Sydney and it was also cloudy. We had been here 14 years ago and did a DIY tour at that time. Melbourne is very easy to get around. There is a tram that stops right by the port which takes you into the central business district. From there you can ride free buses around the city. 

This time we opted to get out of the city to see some of the countrysides. We tried for a private tour through our Roll Call but there wasn't much interest. So we opted for the ship's tour. I'm kind of a train nut, so the obvious choice was the Puffing Billy excursion.

Our bus took us through downtown Melbourne which, of course, didn't resemble at all the Melbourne we remembered. There had been a tremendous amount of construction and the buildings are all on top of each other as we saw in Sydney. And the traffic was awful.

We made our way to Belgrave, for the beginning of our train ride on Puffing Billy a century-old steam train that continues to run on its original mountain track through the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne. While our ride was limited to a 1/2 hour, it is possible to make a full day of this if you are visiting Melbourne and not limited to the time your ship is in port. (Actually, I investigated doing it on our own using public transportation into Melbourne, and then a train our of Melbourne to Belgrave, the starting point for Puffing Billy but the timing just didn't work with our time in port, from 7 am to 3:30 pm.)

The train is now run by volunteers and we enjoyed our too short ride through some beautiful areas forested with eucalyptus trees.

The railway crossed a lot of roads and we were amazed at the number of people pulled over at the side of the road to take pictures of the train. When we disembarked, we had time to take a look at the engine and then it was time to board our bus.

Our next stop was Grants Picnic Ground in Dandenong Ranges National Park, a 'cool temperate rainforest.' Tea and scones were laid out for us by the park volunteers. 

We had time to take a short walk on one of the hiking trails, see some beautiful birds and visit the gift shop.  Then it was back on the bus for the return trip to the ship. It was a nice excursion and well-run. 

Parrots (See green one in the background?)

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