Discovering the Wild Side of Phillip Island’s Wildlife (Part 1)

Phillip Island on Victoria’s Bass Coast is a weekend destination under a two-hour drive from Melbourne. It’s where a torrent of waves from Bass Strait collide into craggy cliffs stretching the breadth if the island. Phillip Island is naturally staged for a weekend nature adventure, furnished by wild and wondrous bushland and inhabited by unique wildlife spotting opportunities including the world-famous Penguin Parade.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

Collectively, the Koala Conservation Centre, Seal Rock and Penguin Parade are three of the most popular nature areas that make up much of the Phillip Island Nature Parks, a self-funded organisation that’d dedicated to the conservation of wildlife that live here. Phillip Island Nature Parks’ tagline is simple but effective – ‘discover your wild side’ Wild is how Phillip Island prefers its wilderness, especially for the conservation of those species who call this area home.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

Vegans will tell you they are opposed to the exploitation of animals for the sake of human gain. Yet, there are vegans in the community of Melbourne who are unopposed by experiencing these three nature experiences found at Phillip Island. The conservational benefits this non-profit establishment affords are evident, focusing on the ecology for these native stars of such a lush and diversity-rich area. Just take a detouring wander through the bushland trails nearby for a snapshot. Overall, each experience provides vegans (and non-vegans) travelling to Phillip Island the opportunity to witness koalas, seals and penguins in their natural habitats, with as much non-interference from visitors at each stepping stone as possible.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan
Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

The open air, tree-top boardwalks circumnavigating the Koala Conservation Centre lead visitors around a concourse of eucalypt trees. Fluffy koalas can be found sleeping in the forks of branches and it’s as if visitors here are ‘walking with’ these adorable Australian marsupials; the koalas themselves climb lazily as they’re tempted by young, fresh eucalypt leaves to munch on. On occasion, it’s a beautiful setting to spot a mother and her little joey clinging confidently to her back. Though, these ‘mum and bub’ sightings can be a little far and few between, depending when you visit. Given their sedentary lifestyle, koalas are big-sleepers and often sleep up to 18 hours a day. This is because their diet of eucalypt leaves is low in energy.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan
Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan
Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

Upon my visit to the Koala Conservation Centre, one tourist was keen for a photo and was a little eager, to put it lightly. He discovered a sleepy koala in a low baring bough and the poor creature was shaken awake by the tourist who rattled the branch that was within easy-reach. More often than not staff are wandering the boardwalk to supervise. Yet it was at this moment that timing was futile for the koala. I took it upon myself to tell the tourist to stop, reminding him that his actions were detrimental to the wildlife. He composed himself and proceeded to wander the boardwalk amidst unsavoury glances from other tourists.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

The point here is that while the Koala Conservation Centre aims to conserve koalas in their natural habitat, an unruly tourist is always going to appear at any moment and it’s up to us to take the initiative and educate. This is especially important, in this age when urbanisation, land-clearing and loss of habitat are real issues wildlife face regularly. It’s ultimately our role to conserve what is left so Phillip Island doesn’t its priceless treasures – the wildlife.         

You can experience the Koala Conservation Centre for yourself. 1810 Phillip Island Road, Phillip Island, Victoria Australia 3923. The Koala Conservation Centre is open 10am to 5pm daily and extended hours operate in the Australian summer months of December through to February.

    Adult (16 years+) tickets cost $12.80, child (4-15 years) $6.40, family (2 adults and 2 children) $32.00 and Australian Pensioner (ID required) $8.95

The Koala Conservation Centre is accessible by car and car-parking is free. Public transport is limited to Cowes via V-Line bus from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD (does not go to the Koala Conservation Centre). Taxis are available via Phillip Island Taxis on 03 5952 2200.

Be sure to look out for Part 2 where you'll learn more about the wildlife on Phillip Island: The Penguin Parade and an EcoBoat ride for seal-watching.

Nourish the Body and Soul with a Vegan Breakfast at Mr Black Juicery

Mr Black Juicery is in the heart of Berwick, an unlikely location for a new foodie establishment that’s serving up an (almost) all-vegan and gluten-free menu. While it’s echoes away from the inner city vegan hubs of Collingwood and Fitzroy, Mr Black Juicery is flying the vegan flag in the outer fringes of urban Melbourne, with a twist – a full juice bar and meu for foodies to energise themselves with.

vegan breakfast food travel gluten-free Mr Black Juicery Berwick Melbourne Australia

Mr Black Juicery grew from the vision of three ‘passionate foodies wanting to create nourishing food for the body and soul’. Its mission is to create the type of meals and menu choices that makes you want to eat healthily and feel your very best each day, in a sleek and minimal, modern café style setting. What the founders of Mr Black Juicery – Helen, Chaille and Laura – bring to this establishment is a collective think-tank of recipes, ideas and expertise to deliver its philosophy. Helen and Chaille are no strangers to chronic illness and inflammation, and Laura is a registered holistic nutritionist which means their customers are reaping the benefits of Mr Black Juicery’s presence in Berwick. The vegan, gluten-free choices – sans refined sugar – customers purchase aide in this.

vegan breakfast food travel gluten-free Mr Black Juicery Berwick Melbourne Australia

Another added benefit of Mr Black’s mission could be that they are ensuring the health and wellbeing of animals, otherwise slaughtered and exploited for the hospitality trade. Sadly, this can’t be entirely said because cow’s milk appears on the drinks menu. If only non-vegan customers could reap the benefits that plant-based milk can provide if they make this one small, yet, significant, switch in their coffee routine. What better way to instil a full-circle approach to a nutritious diet this than through food and all drinks enjoyed amongst family and friends here?

vegan breakfast food travel gluten-free Mr Black Juicery Berwick Melbourne Australia

Still, fresh produce and quality ingredients make for a collective call to action from its proprietors – if they wouldn’t put it in their bodies, then you shouldn’t either. All you’ll find at Mr Black Juicery is food that you want to eat; all jam-packed with the health benefits of a plant-based diet. And the best thing is – a vegan, gluten-free foodie like me can eat anything she wants here. Even the buckwheat pancakes, which can’t be passed up when given the opportunity! These fluffy rounds are stacked tall, pink in colour and bursting with superfood benefits. The buckwheat stack is topped in berry compote and slices of fresh banana then crowned by a swirl of Cocowhip coconut water based soft serve teaming with probiotics – and scattered by shavings of coconut. Surrounding the stack is a nutritious ‘fort’ of freshly cut in-season fruits and drizzled in maple syrup. A breakfast that keeps me energised well into the late morning.

vegan breakfast food travel gluten-free Mr Black Juicery Berwick Melbourne Australia

When it comes to siding such a healthy and energising meal choice with a beverage, it almost seems like a crime to choose a coffee (though you can purchase these here, brewed from Mr Black’s own blend). Instead, perhaps choose from the ever-present juice bar that spruiks a burst of freshly juiced choices. The ‘orange’ blend gives any vitamin C levels a boost (think, a blend of orange, pineapple, carrot and lemon juices). The gorgeous colour exuding from the glass as it’s delivered to the table colour-match perfectly with the pancakes. To stay healthy, you really should eat a rainbow, and this is so easy to do at Mr Black Juicery.               

Give your body and soul a boost with a vegan breakfast at Mr Black Juicery.
Kitchen is open daily from 8.30am to 2.00pm.
1 Blackburne Square, Berwick Victoria 3806 Australia. Phone: (03) 9707 5143.
The entire menu is takeaway, too.

All food and drinks items were purchased in full by me.

Amen to Vegan Gluten-Free Food at Wholey Day in Collingwood

Travelling to inner city Melbourne to eat vegan gluten-free food at Wholey Day in a not-for-profit arts community setting is a warming way to spend a Sunday morning. Though, getting there early is the key to experiencing this wholefoods, raw, vegan, organic, and gluten-free market.  

Schoolhouse Studios, in their words, offers ‘affordable workspaces to for emerging artists and creative businesses in inner city Melbourne’,  and this vision extends to the emerging foodies and food-makers around town. This seasonal market is the therefore the result of Melbourne’s increasing demand for locally-sourced wholefood choices. For me, local vegan gluten-free options are the priority.

vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia

Thankfully, arriving early was the one of many great choices made on the day. A $2 donation upon entry gave me an open pass to wander inside and discover new foods and treats. I was even handed a cardboard tray so I could wander and buy as I pleased. In hindsight, I should’ve brought along my own container to save on wastage; a mental note for next time.

vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia

Once I entered, it was clear that the demand for vegan food is a promising reality. In some spots within the main thoroughfare, it was tricky to manoeuvre around people while viewing and salivating over the food on offer. As a vegan gluten-free traveller, I’m discovering that the food choices are greatly reduced when gluten-free is added into the mix. Decisions thus needed to be made quickly, to beat the crowd (Wholey Day featured a fair bit of lacto-ovo vegetarian options, too, which I didn’t expect). Though sometimes, reduced choices allows for the cream of the crop to emerge resulting in decision-making made easier. It meant that on Wholey Day my scrumptious choices were narrowed down to two favoured vendors.

Good Freakin Food were able to provide my lunch choices easily. As much as it was fun to wander past each food stall, it was a relief knowing I could purchase my wholesome lunch in the one spot (potentially reducing my chances of cross-contamination in the process). Good Freakin Food proved to be a one-stop shop of sorts when selling me their plant-based ‘lunchbox’ items. A wholesome vegetable egg-free and dairy-free frittata loaded with tomato, mushroom and spinach, standing tall in its baking paper casing caught my eye. It was a delight to peel back the paper and chew into this spongy, easy to eat lunch item to relieve the mid-afternoon hunger pains.

vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia

Alongside it, purchasing Good Freakin Food’s spiced veggie samosa was an obvious choice – chickpeas and diced vegetable samosa filling cocooned in its crispy and flaky pastry, all delicately warmed and ready to eat as is. As their postcard flyer suggested, this is definitely eating and giving a damn. (As an aside, Good Freakin Food also runs a lunchtime delivery service for inner city Melbourne vegans, too. If only I lived and worked a little more closely to the city!)          

vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia

Nine Bakery & Patisserie were next on my wandering radar, ready for me to choose and purchase one of their gorgeous cupcakes for dessert. The baking expertise of this local business spans over 50 years across three generations and it’s incredible to see bakers with such long-standing experience mastering the art of vegan gluten-free baking for the current demands in Melbourne cuisine. Their vegan gluten-free maple syrup cupcake confirmed this. A moist sponge cupcake base flavoured by a maple syrup topping sliding down the creases of a rich, creamy cinnamon-spiced icing patiently piped atop; adding a little scrumptious luxury to this day of whole-liness. 

vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia
vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia
vegan gluten-free melbourne wholey day collingwood travel food australia

Together with a sweet and peppery turmeric latte purchased nearby, while sitting in the cosy courtyard with friends, I couldn’t help but whisper an ‘amen’ to the spoils found and bought at Wholey Day. Bring on the next event and the next coming of vegan gluten-free goodness, I say!    

Wholey Day was held at Schoolhouse Studios, 81 Rupert Street Collingwood Victoria 3066 on Sunday April 2 from 10am until all food items sold.

All food items purchased and entry fee were paid for in full by me.

Vendors accepted a mix of card and cash payment options so it’s best to take both with you.

For full updates on future Wholey Day events, you can visit the Wholey Day Facebook page.

Sunday Road-Tripping and Eating Peanuts in Warburton

Travel along Maroondah Highway in the outer east of Melbourne and the trail leads road-trippers to the leafy township of Warburton in the Warburton Valley. It’s well under an hour from where I live in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and about an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s city centre.

vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip
vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip
vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip

Strip shops line the main street – their vintage façades exude the colonial history of this area and are dressed by their more contemporary function today (think café’s, gift shops, second-hand treasurers and local artwork). The information centre is the centrepiece of Warburton, complete with a waterwheel that powered the town from 1908. Follow the ‘Great Steps of Warburton’; a community art project, to lead you the way. If you read the steps closely, this Warburton’s artistic spirit whispers out to the pedestrians wandering the town centre.

vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip
vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip

Hugging the perimeter the township is the Warburton bike trail, following the Yarra River where road-trippers can sit under lush trees or on a bench and watch native ducks playing and feeding among the shallows. It’s quaint and peaceful here; watching the gentle current float by.

vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip

As the clocks inches closer to noon, it’s hard to ignore a rumbling tummy crying out for some lunch. Walking back to the main street, one wonders where some vegan and gluten free options could be found, even in a small destination such as this. One place that attracts attention is Pho Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant.

This vast, roaming house converted into a restaurant, makes way for serving up traditional Vietnamese food with a twist – their menu features a vegetarian section complete with some vegan mock meat meal options. After asking the staff some qualifying questions about their dishes and preparation, we take a seat. I order their mock meat satay skewers with a house-made peanut satay sauce, scattered in crushed peanuts. What I receive is a light lunch option – delicately crispy skewers under the thick peanut-y sauce served on a bed of mixed leaves. Warming and tasty!

vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip

Lunch at Pho Saigon also proved one of those moments as a vegan gluten-free traveller when you take the plunge and put trust in those who are there to help you. I later discovered from friends online and their previous experience at their restaurant is that the satay sauce may not be vegan as fish sauce is used. Still, I relied on the answers I received from the helpful staff and the way my questions were answered. I felt comfortable, sensing that I received truthful answers and I was satisfied with the service we received. It’s the fine line many vegans experience when dining out and I guess these are times when travellers need to trust that gut instinct.

Back to the main street and my tummy started to rumble for a sweet treat and post-exploration latte before heading for home. After wandering in and out of cafes, we find Warburton Pantry. It’s where vegan and gluten free are clearly labelled in bight coloured marker printed on their glass cake cabinet. This quaint and intimate shop sells local and international goods (clearly non-vegan), but the treasure is found in the cake cabinet – peanut butter cookies!

vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip
vegan gluten free travel food melbourne warburton australia roadtrip

At $2 a pop, these rounds of golden, crumbly treats complemented a steaming soy latte perfectly. Not too soft, not too firm, and just the right amount of crumble. Sitting in this cosy shop on an inclement day such as this held all the elements of a lazy day filled with the things I can be grateful for – eating peanuts on a Sunday in Warburton without the need to be anywhere in a hurry. Simple road-tripping at its best.

 

Road-trip out to the Warburton Valley and experience Warburton yourself.

Pho Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant 3415A Warburton Highway, Warburton 3799 Victoria Australia. Phone: (03) 5966 9329

Warburton Pantry 3383B Warburton Highway, Warburton 3799 Victoria Australia.

Phone: (03) 5966 9688

All food items mentioned in this blog post were paid in full by me and were available at the time of the experience.

For a full rundown of the town you can check out the Visit Warburton website.

When a Night of Local Travel Digresses to a Comedy of Errors

So, I entered a competition earlier in the week and I won two tickets to the Melbourne Comedy International Festival. In particular, I won a double pass to Australia’s own – Michael Workman – for last night. A welcomed win, indeed!

Melbourne International Comedy Festival Australia travel tips travel truth local travel

I’ve been to the festival in years past and a good time always ensues. Planning such a night is usually a no brainer, too. I pack the tickets in my bag, rustle up my husband to grab a bite to eat from somewhere local then drive into the city to sit in on a great comedic time. However, yesterday’s effort proved to be just that – an absolute, mind-numbing, frustrating effort. Don’t get me wrong, Michael Workman’s performance was clever and funny. It’s just the rest of the day was a series of things going wrong which I’d rather refer to as a comedy of errors.

It all started when I walked to my local organic food store to buy some easy-to-eat items for the journey into Melbourne’s CBD. I arrived early, to beat the lunch crowd, only to discover a next to empty café cabinet. The shop assistant told me that the local chef who supplies the vegan and gluten free goodies headed off on holidays. “Damn!” I thought. “What a shame”. Still, the shop assistant sold me a frozen vegan and gluten-free gado gado pie for my lunch today. I wandered home, thinking about a Plan B – I’d head to Wholefood Merchants in Ferntree Gully for supplies instead (they have yummy salads, by the way). The plan was to head out later in the afternoon once I completed my work for the day. Once I did head out, the traffic was ridiculous. What normally takes me about 15 minutes took me over half an hour in driving. I think of myself as a fairly mellow and patient traveller though I could sense some frustration setting in.

When I did arrive at Wholefood Merchants, I noticed that the salad choices were next to none. I headed over to the fridges to grab a couple of pre-packed salads for my husband (no gluten-free choices there for me) then headed back to the café for some dessert. Salads then magically appeared so I grabbed a serve of potato salad, a slice of ‘impossible’ quiche – a vegan, gluten-free and soy-free quiche to share, along with two bricks of raw chocolate coconut slice. I raced back to the car and headed home, in peak-hour traffic yet again. At home, I raced to get ready and picked my husband up from work. Then we ventured off to Blackburn train station so we could catch the train into the city, while having the time to unwind and eat our pre-packed dinner. Or, so we thought.

There was a massive football crowd descending onto the footpath near Blackburn station and it occurred to us that they were waiting for replacement buses. Apparently some trees fell onto the tracks, immobilising the service for everyone in the process. We changed plans, trudged back to the car and drove to the city in more peak hour traffic. We eventually found a car-spot in a multilevel carpark on Lonsdale Street, only a five-minute walk to Chinatown for Michael Workman. Yet, after all the CBD driving we became disorientated. Where did we have to walk to? My husband powered up his phone for navigation and its compass just couldn’t calibrate easily. Eventually, we found our direction and made our way up the steps of Melbourne’s Chinese Museum in Cohen Place for the show.

Ironically, Michael Workman has a tattoo of an aeroplane and its evacuation points on his arm. The day’s impetus (or lack therefor) could’ve easily pushed me to a direction of jumping for an exit and head for home in a flurry of frustration and tiredness. Though, we were led to this path by something positive – winning a competition. Michael Workman’s jaded style was an ever-so subtle meander along a path to the end, or the punchline, and these punchlines aren’t always obvious; the clever mark of a seasoned comedian.            

Looking back today, I have no options but to laugh, just like I did at key moments during Michael Workman’s set. I also arrived at a level of appreciation: appreciative of winning the competition, having the money to be able to buy food and a fully operational car to get us to the show.   

Just like that quiche, what feels impossible is possible and just like the name of Michael Workman’s show, nothing you do means anything. And, this is where the comedy of errors ends. No matter how frustrating, travel can teach us in some way or another. We need to let go of the frustrations and we need to think of the comedy in the experience, not the comedy of errors that lead us to our frustrations. Take a deep break, with a belly full of laughter and set forth anyway. If we didn’t go, then this story would not have meant anything, then, would it?   

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is running from now until April 23 at various locations around Melbourne’s CBD and inner city suburbs. For full details, you can visit the official website.