Tuesday, 16 December 2014

10 Must-Eat Foods in Taiwan!

This travel post is written by Angie who blogs at Life'sTinyMiracles. She travelled to Taiwan with her husband and her petite traveller, Dana (6 years) in June 2012 and December 2013.

This holiday is suitable for families who enjoy getting to know the culture of a country through its cuisines and street-eats!

 All photos in this post are credited to Life's Tiny Miracles

It's the year end season again where we're flooded with holiday photos from friends in social media channels. Whenever school holidays come around, half of Singapore (or more) goes travelling. Taiwan is an extremely family friendly and affordable travel destination for families. I was sorting some photos from our past travels and realised we've yet had the time to blog all our Taiwan trip reports. However, to whet your appetite, we've compiled this '10 Must-Eat Foods in Taiwan' (in no particular order). Here goes:

  • Milk Hotpot at Flying Cow Farm 飛牛牧場火锅

    Hotpot Flying Cow

    We tasted this unique 'steamboat' at the restaurant in Flying Cow Farm. It uses milk broth and an assortment of the freshest vegetables, meat and seafood.  Being steamboat lovers, we found it extremely tasty and doubly nutritious!  Our daughter also loved the special milk pudding dessert which was served after the meal. It is shaped like a  a mini balloon, you have to prick it with a toothpick to magically unwrap the pudding into your bowl. Very novel. Try it!

      Address: No.166, Nanho Village, Tongxiao Town, Miaoli Country 35750, Taiwan
      Contact Number: +886 37 782999
      Website | Facebook

      • Sashimi at Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產
       Sashimi Taipei Collage

      This is a modern fish market with a difference! It's very clean, chic and organized with large tanks for different live fish, shellfish and crabs for sale under one roof. Housed within are chic eateries serving the freshest sashimi imaginable. There's a stand-up sushi bar, a seafood bar, an outdoor charcoal grill, a big wholesale supermarket for take-home seafood and a home section with stylish home wares for entertaining. We felt as if we were in seafood paradise!  This place very popular with locals (and tourists) so it doesn't take reservations. When we were there, there were queues already forming outside the stand-up sushi bar even before it opened. We like it so much we requested for our driver to bring us back twice in a day. This place is like the Taiwanese version of the Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan, but at more affordable prices!

      Address: No. 18, Aly. 2, Lane 410, Mínzú East Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan‎
      Contact Number: +886 02 2508 1268
      Website | Facebook

        • Taro and Sweet Potato Balls at Jiufen 九份阿柑姨芋圓 

          Jiufen Yam Ball Collage

          Jiufen is a quaint, charming old town perched on the hilly terrains of north-eastern Taiwan which is worth a day trip. With cobbled streets lined by food vendors on both sides, you've stepped into street food heaven when you arrived in Jiufen.  One of the oldest establishment there is the Taro and Sweet Potato Balls by 阿柑姨 which is handmade from scratch.  Customers have the option of eating it hot or chilled. Dana likes its chewy QQ texture while for the adults, we fell in love with its million dollar view of Jiufen. 

          Address: 224, New Taipei City, Ruifang District, Shuqi Road, 5號, Taiwan
          Contact Number: +886 2 2497 6505

          • Taiwanese 'Black Hog' Pork Sausage at FengJia Night Market 台湾黑猪肉香肠

            Pork Sausage Collage 
            Grilled Taiwanese sausages are a common sight on at Taiwanese night markets. It's one of our favourite indulgences when we travel to Taiwan. If you want to try something more unique, order the famous 大腸包小腸 (literally translated as 'Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage) at FengJia Night Market in Taichung.  The smaller Taiwanese sausage is wrapped in an outer layer of glutinous rice, then topped with lettuce and other condiments which you can pick on the spot. There are also a variety of sausage flavours to choose from - wasabi, original, spicy and black pepper. A word of caution though - one serving of this is enough to fill you up and be prepared to stand in line.

            Address:  407, Taichung City, Xitun District, 逢甲路20巷10弄5號 Taiwan
            Contact Number:  +886 926 621 255

            • Fuchow Pepper Biscuits at Raohe Night Market 福州世祖胡椒饼

            Fuchow Pepper Biscuits Collage
            We chanced upon this yummy traditional Fuchow street snack at Raohe Night Market in Taipei and the hubby gamely volunteered to queue for it. Juicy marinated peppery minced pork is stuffed into flour pockets then stuck to the deep bottomed earthern pots (heated to 300 degrees) and toasted for 20 minutes. What you get is a super yummy savory 'biscuit' - crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  Worth the queue!

            Address:  249, Songshan District, Raohe Street, 249號
            Contact Number:  +886 095 8126 223
              • Gong Zheng Bao in Hualien City 公正街包子店

                GongZheng Bao Collage

                Hualien is our favourite city in the whole of Taiwan. It's idyllic, scenic and things are relatively cheaper than Taipei.  Most people use Hualien as a base for visiting Taroko National Park.  When in Hualien, you should try the Steamed Dumplings (蒸餃 Zheng Jiao / 水餃 Shui Jiao) and Steamed Meat Buns [小籠包 Xiao Long Bao] at the famous Gong Zheng Bao Zi 公正包子 shop. These handmade dumplings are juicy, delicious and cheap but you may have to wait for up to 30 minutes for a table.

                Address:  970,  Hualian City, Zhongshan Road, 199之2號‎ Taiwan,
                Contact Number:  +886 3 834 2933

                • Farmosa Chang Lu Rou Fan 鬍鬚張魯肉飯

                Lu Rou Fan 034 
                The braised meat rice 魯肉飯 is one of my personal favorite Taiwanese comfort food. Formosa Chang is a fast-food-like chain (with 17 outlets cross Taiwan) famous for serving up a tasty braised meat rice soaked in aromatic soy sauce which they claimed has been boiled for at least six hours to ensure the thick, rich flavor. We ordered other side dishes to go with the rice and even bought vacuum-sealed, ready-to-eat packs back to Singapore as 'treats' for our relatives and friends!

                Locations | Website

                  • The Original Din Tai Feng Xiao Long Baos 鼎泰豐小籠包

                  DTF XiaoLongBao036 
                  Din Tai Feng is world famous for its Xiao Long Bao and ranked one of the world's Top 10 restaurants by the New York Times in 1993. If you're a fan of their Xiao Long Baos, you have to visit one of its 8 outlets when you are in Taipei.  Be prepared for a waiting time of 15 to 30 mins during non-peak hours and longer on a busy day.  Do you know there's a technique to enjoy your Xiao Long Baos?

                  Guide to eating Xiao Long Bao

                  Step 1 – Put some soy sauce and vinegar in the ginger dish. You should first put the soy sauce BEFORE the vinegar, with a suggested ratio of 1 portion of soy sauce to 3 portions of vinegar. (The purpose of the vinegar is to ‘cleanse’ the saltiness of the soy sauce)
                  Step 2 – Take a piece of Xiao Long Bao and dip lightly in the sauce. Just dip, don’t submerge.
                  Step 3 – Place Xiao Long Bao in the spoon and poke a small hole to release the broth.
                  Step 4 – Pick up a few slices of ginger.
                  Step 5 – Enjoy Xiao Long Bao. Careful, it can be hot! 

                  Locations | Website

                  •  Peanut Ice-Cream Wrap at Jiufen - 花生捲冰淇淋 

                  Peanut Ice Cream Wrap035

                  This ice-cream crepe with peanut candy shavings and coriander looks like a burrito. One bite and we're hooked. It tastes sweet, crunchy and fragrant all at once: tart and creamy from the ice cream, sweet and crunchy from the peanut candy shavings and the coriander gives it an extra aromatic layer. The ice-cream flavours are very unique too: pineapple, taro and peanut.  What a delicious and innovative combination! The ones we tasted were from Jiufen but you can easily find the Peanut Ice-Cream Wraps at most night markets across Taiwan.  We tried to recreate this dessert back home in Singapore but it's just not the same without the peanut shavings.

                    • Mango Snow Ice 芒果雪花冰 at Smoothie House, Taipei

                    Mango Ice033 
                    Stalls selling iced-desserts are a dime a dozen in Taiwan. What's addictive about this Mango Snow Ice is the fluffy-like, cotton-soft snow which melts in your mouth. Added to that, chunks of sweet mangoes, a scoop of mango sorbet ice cream, and a drizzle of condensed milk make this an irresistible treat after a long day of touring or a balmy night wadding through the night market crowds. They also have varieties of Snow Ice served with Strawberries and Kiwis which are visually appealing and equally satisfying.

                    Locations | Website

                    If you've more recommendations of 'Must-Eats' in Taiwan to add to this list, do share with us in your comments! We'll love to hear from you.

                    We 'LIKE' Taiwan! This sign is located at the lobby of one of the Taipei hotels we put up at.

                      Monday, 1 December 2014

                      Kid-friendly Holiday in Taipei

                      This travel post is written by Delphine who blogs at Life in the Wee Hours. She travelled to Taipei with her husband and kid(s), Anya (5 years), Adam (2.5 years) & David (2 months) in March 2014.

                      Taipei is such a perfect holiday destination for little ones. It takes less than 5 hours to fly there and there are several airlines to choose from. There's so much to see and do in Taipei. The best time to visit Taipei is in the fall between September and November. We were there in spring, which can be rainy, but we got there just as the rainy season ended and had lovely cool weather!

                      Before heading to Taipei, you should drop by Taiwan Visitor Association at Chevron House (30 Raffles Place, #10-01) and collect brochures and maps for the places of interest you intend to visit. If you produce evidence that you have booked your plane tickets and accommodation, you get freebies! We were given vouchers that we eventually used to buy food and local produce at the night market.    

                      Singaporean kids are generally deprived of wide open spaces and agriculture so visiting a farm while in Taipei is a great idea. We went to Flying Cow Ranch and stayed there for one night, giving us just one full day to carry out all the activities there. We had referred to the Animal Experience Programme Timetable beforehand and were quite clear about what we wanted to do. It wasn't a rush for us at all, but if you prefer to take things easy, you may want to check in for 2 nights.

                      Flying Cow Ranch is a lovely place. The air is fresh, there's so much space, the food is good, the animals are well cared for, the programme is thoughtfully planned, and there are also other fun activities besides interacting with the animals.

                      There are several different eateries there and you can be assured that you will get to drink lots of fresh milk and eat lots of milk pudding. We had milk hot pot for dinner and I really enjoyed the steaming hot soup that was so comforting in the cool weather.

                      The kids loved interacting with and feeding the animals. Of course, they were initially a bit wary of the animals but eventually warmed up to them. There are free feeding sessions you can queue up for. The sessions are run very efficiently and the queues move quickly. You can also purchase grain and vegetables to feed the other animals. We fed calves, ducks, bunnies and goats, and even tried milking a cow. 

                      There are a few playgrounds in Flying Cow Ranch and the kids had a lot of fun there in between. You can also sign up for DIY workshops to bake biscuits or cakes, make ice-cream, or even paint pottery.

                      Another fun activity is visiting the small towns around the train stations along Pingxi Line. We stopped at Jingtong for a bit of a stroll and wrote some well-wishes on a piece of bamboo which we then hung up on the fence running alongside the railway track. We then took the train to Shifen. Handy tip: sit at the end of the train so the kids can see the landscape zooming by!

                      At Shifen, we released a sky lantern and the children were so excited to see the paper lantern floating up into the sky. There are hoardes of people at Shifen releasing sky lanterns at the same time and it's hard to take a nice photo without strangers appearing in the shot. A better option would be to do the sky lantern releasing at one of the less crowded train stations instead.

                      The small towns along the Pingxi Line are quaint and charming and certainly worth a visit. We got our driver to take us to Jingtong and then to pick us from Shifen but you can take a northbound train towards Ruifang Station from Taipei Main Station, then transfer to the Pingxi Line. 

                      If you have kids that are 5 and above, a visit to Baby Boss is a must. Baby Boss is the equivalent of KidZania and kids get to try out different occupations there. Adam was too young to participate but Anya had such an awesome time. 

                      She was a miner, a firefighter, a nurse, a gas pump attendant and she even worked at a space station control centre. The place is HUGE and the attention to detail is amazing. Kids will love the costumes, the equipment and the vehicles.

                      Some other fun and kid-friendly things to do in Taipei:

                      Hello Kitty fans must not miss a ride on the Maokong Gondola. You get to enjoy beautiful scenery along the way and there are adorable pictures of Hello Kitty and Friends all around the stations. We took the Wenshan-Neihu line to Taipei Zoo Station then walked about 350m to the Maokong Gondola Taipei Zoo Station. 

                      There is a special queue for the "Eyes of Maokong Gondola" crystal cabin (with a glass floor you can see right through!) and that queue moves more slowly. An ordinary cabin is good enough, especially if you're not sure whether your kids will be nervous in the crystal cabin. We had too many people for a crystal cabin but the kids enjoyed the gondola ride nonetheless.

                      Maokong Station is situated in the middle of tea plantations and there's food to be had near the station. If you walk further down away from the station, you can find cafes with a great view.

                      We visited Yangmingshan National Park to let the little ones run around a bit but they weren't particularly keen on the greenery and flowers and were infinitely more interested in watching a caterpillar crawl around on one of the terrapin's back.

                      We ate non-stop and the kids loved the food! We had supper at Ah Zong Mian Xian, breakfast at Yonghe Dou Jiang and a myriad of things in between. We stayed at Ximending and there's a ridiculous amount of street food available. We walked and ate, then walked and ate some more. There's so much to eat in Taipei and even the fussiest child will find something she likes. 

                      The night markets can be a wee bit crowded and overwhelming for kids, but we decided that we just had to check out one or two. The key is to keep the visit to the night market short and expect that you may have to pack some food back to hotel to enjoy! The kids liked the kiddy rides and Anya has fond memories of eating a fried Oreo.

                      It's incredibly easy to get around in Taipei. You can hire a car and driver or take a taxi or the train. The streets and train stations are stroller-friendly but I wouldn't recommend bringing a stroller to the night markets. Unlike in Singapore, the people in Taipei don't use the lifts at the stations unless they are pushing strollers, dragging luggage or wheelchair-bound. There are usually people happy to give up their seat to you if you are carrying a baby or accompanied by small children.

                      You can find clean and well-equipped parent rooms in the train stations where you can change diapers, breastfeed or refill hot water. The rooms are locked so you will need to press the intercom button located by the side of the room. If you need to buy diapers, don't go to a Watson's. Look for a pharmacy/ drugstore. These are usually located in some random small lane and not along the busier streets and you can always ask a local to direct you to one.  

                      Taipei is fun, accessible and affordable and there is really no reason not to bring your kids there. In fact, after Taipei, you will probably want to check out the rest of Taiwan with the little ones!

                      Friday, 21 November 2014

                      Weekend at Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa

                      This travel post is written by Candice who blogs at MissusTay.com. She spent a weekend at Sentosa with her husband and her petite travellers, master T (3 years) and missy T (2 years) in August 2014.

                      This holiday is suitable for parents who are stuck in Singapore for whatsoever reason but need to bring the kids for a quick getaway.

                      Sentosa today is known as The State of Fun. The number of attractions, hotels, and dining places that have sprouted over the last few years has provided many options of fun and leisure activities for all ages. Just look at what they have to offer on their website – an overwhelming list! Sentosa island is definitely a place to consider if you need a really short getaway but unable to go for an overseas holiday.

                      Here’s what my family of four did with a 2D1N stay at Sentosa...

                      We booked ourselves an overnight stay at Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa. The usual check-in time at the hotel is about 3pm. But that doesn't mean the fun only starts in the afternoon!

                      First on our itinerary was Universal Studios Singapore (USS). The kids have never been to any Universal Studios before and were excited to meet the characters from Madagascar and the Minions!

                      The size of USS as compared to many theme parks in other parts of the world is relatively smaller, which works well for those of us with younger kids who cannot function well without their naps (read: MELTDOWNS).

                      Alternatively, you can pick a hotel from one of those inside Resorts World Sentosa and you can head back to your room for a short rest before returning to USS for more.

                      The kids were running low on energy by the time we were done with our walkabout around the theme park and lunch. As expected, it was nearly time to check in at the hotel too. ;) The plan was to let the kids take a short nap before we start on our next round of play with them but they redefined my definition of short nap by resting only during the car ride from USS to the hotel. Clearly, they were too excited about the staycation!

                      We wasted no time then. After they were done checking out the room, we upped their excitement with water play in the pools.

                      There was cold water served near the pool area, and hotel staff going around serving fruits to guests as well. Love the extra touch! It took A LOT of effort and time to convince the kids to leave the pool. So if you have made any prior dinner plans, start early!

                      There are plenty of kid-friendly dinner places around the island, so take your pick and you have Day One settled!

                      Wake up to a gorgeous view of the South China Sea and sunrise on Day Two. It’s easy to forget you’re in Singapore with such an idyllic setting.

                      I love having breakfast at Silver Shell Café and would always request for outdoor seats. Very unlike me, if you know me personally!

                      The kids got to see up close the free-to-roam-around-the-island peacocks that would come by while we have our breakfast.

                      I like that the restaurant has a children’s buffet section that is scaled to their height. And they have a pretty wide selection for the kids - main dishes, salads, sandwiches, fruits, marshmallows, gummy bears and local biscuits. (I know how some parents are rolling their eyes at gummy bears but it’s a HOLIDAY! Just gotta close one or both eyes. These may come in candy, erm I mean handy!)

                      Post-breakfast, it was time for the beach. I love the location of Rasa Sentosa because the beach is literally steps away from the hotel. The convenience is AWESOME. 'Nuff said.

                      When we are done with sand play, we walk back to the pool for more water play. Non-stop fun! I love that we don’t have to rely on the TV at all. (What TV?) Little wonder why the kids are still hounding us every day to bring them back to the hotel. (And I've been hounding the husb too, heh.)

                      Checking out at noon means that you can also plan for another activity or two before heading home. I would suggest somewhere indoors like the S.E.A. Aquarium or the new Trick Eye Museum since you would have chalked up much UV exposure from the past two days.

                      There are plenty of things to do for different kinds of getaways at Sentosa. What's your favourite activity or hotel there? Do share it with us by leaving a comment!

                      Have loads of fun this school holiday!

                      Read our other posts on Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa here:

                      Thursday, 13 November 2014

                      15 airplane tips for travelling with kids

                      This post is written by Lyn who blogs at LilBlueBottle. Her little ones have been taking flights since 11 months old, so these are tips that have worked for her. Before parenthood, she once suffered a 15 hour flight with 20 infants under the age of 2 on board (yes, so said the air stewardess), who took turns to wail up a storm.

                      Does your kid love to travel? So much so that she can't wait to pack herself into a suitcase? Good for you!

                      Travel out of Singapore usually entails flights though. No matter how long or short our flight is, we usually hope that our kids do not become a public nuisance. Just 10 minutes of continuous screaming in a cramped, enclosed space can be really horrific.

                      So here are some tried and tested tips, ranging from those for newborns, to those around 5-6 years old (thereafter the in-flight entertainment system takes over totally).

                      Newborns – age 1

                      1. Usually, newborns travel well because they still sleep quite a lot. Schedule a good feed right before the flight, or at the start of the flight, and you might score the dream scenario of having your baby sleep throughout!

                      2. A new toy. Sometimes, infants are alarmed with the change in environment, and they cry incessantly. Pat, pat (that’s for you, not your newborn). At that age, they might be able to be distracted with a new toy (a blanket with tactile tags sewn on? Or a toy that makes a nice crinkly rustling noise).

                      3. Breastfeeding. If you are still breastfeeding, then nursing a fussy baby usually does the trick. Immediate peace for all. That’s a superpower, if there ever was one. I really hate it when there’s turbulence, and they force us to take a sleeping baby out from their bassinet (I wish we could sign some airline disclaimer to keep the baby belted inside there). But if the baby cries as you move him/her out, I found that nursing works wonders.

                      Ages 1-2

                      4. Start with short flights. I started flying with each kid at the age of around 11 months. Their first trips were 2 hour flights to nearby countries. Since the flights were short, they did really well on them, and slept most of the way.

                      5. Baby snacks. Some low-sugar baby puffs, rusks, fruits (such as cut papaya, strawberries, watermelon), raisins will go a long way towards keeping them occupied.

                      6. Progress to longer flights once they do well in short ones. Our first long haul flight with K was the 13 hour trip to the UK when she was 18 months old. She did admirably well, sleeping 6-8 hours each way, albeit in my arms for 2-4 hours each way. She also adjusted to the time difference better than we did!

                      7. Get bulkhead seats. This is a given if you are travelling with infants under 2 years, since you are entitled to a bassinet (unless the flight you simply had to take had no more bassinet seats by the time you booked). 18 month old K was happy to potter around the bulkhead space when she was awake, sit on the floor and play with her toys there. If you are travelling with kids above age 2, then you could put in a request for this, since the extra space would do them good too.

                      A tad underaged for her own seat, but fiddling with the handset for a while was irresistable.

                      Ages 2-plus to 6

                      All belted up once she got in her seat!
                      8. Activity books and games. I love activity books, especially those that come with stickers. A new book for each child, per leg of the flight, goes a long way towards entertaining them. Do you know that there are some books with hundreds of stickers?! My elder child sticks them into a note book, then writes a story around the stickers she chose. Super cute.
                      As for games, a simple card game that is light and easy to pack along can be fun and absorbing. Whether it is a simple memory card game, a matching one (like "Snap") or player turn-taking games like "Gopher it!" which can be found here.
                      It helps if the airline is child-friendly and doles out cool and entertaining stuff!

                      9. Simple crafts. Pack a few crafts in ziplock bags, or create a little activity folder. Some pasting is always fun and time-consuming to the kids. Bring crayons, colouring pencils, glue. Remember, no scissors or penknives on planes, so pre-cut stuff if you must.

                      Sticker books, colouring books, writing notebooks...

                      10. Story books. Purchase a few acclaimed age-appropriate books (or borrow books from the library – with renewal, the total of 6 weeks should be more than enough for any trip), better if they pertain to the travel destination, or simply on travel. Whip them out when any of the previous activities have lost their lustre. It might just be their new favourite book to read over and over again.

                      Entertaining themselves with making the puppets talk at length to each other!

                      11. Sweet treats. When desperate, produce some candy from the stash you keep close to you. Don’t let them see the full range you have. *wink* I try very hard to restrict the sweets my kids get on a normal day, so just offering them a lollipop makes them feel like Christmas came early. I make myself feel better by giving them organic treats like this.

                      12. DVD player. When very desperate, bring a DVD player along. So even if it’s a short flight or on a carrier with no personal entertainment system, you have the telly for them to fixate on, with programmes you know they will like.

                      For all ages

                      13. Choose a day or night flight as best suits your child. Timing matters, especially for long-haul flights. There is no one-best option for this. A lot depends on your child(ren)’s sleep habits, and their age. For those who have a clockwork-like sleep schedule (lucky, lucky you), take a night flight by all means. They will probably sleep through it all, and wake up smelling like roses when it’s time to disembark. For those who can’t sleep well when the environment changes, probably a day flight is better, so they can be entertained with food and toys, and some crying in the day will probably be dealt with better by the others in the plane, then a few hours of crying when everyone’s trying to catch some shut-eye.

                      14. Walk around the plane. From infants to toddlers and pre-schoolers, a walk around the plane might do them some good, once the seat-belt sign is off. They get to stretch their legs, and have a change of scenery, so to speak.

                      15. Toilet refuge. When they are bawling uncontrollably, and you’re beginning to hear audible sighs from fellow passengers, and/or if you feel sorry enough for them, take your crying kid and escape to the toilet. It’s not soundproof, but should provide momentary respite to all. Other parents would understand, but we’ve all had our pre-parent moments of flying with crying babies, so we know how painful it can be!

                      There you have it! Feel free to share your favourite tips with us too!

                      Holiday season is upon us, so all the best for your travels - journey mercies and (cue air stewardess voice...) have a pleasant flight.

                      Wednesday, 22 October 2014

                      Great Ocean Road: A Piece of Victoria's Natural Beauty

                      This travel post is written by Vera who blogs at Life is in the Small Things. She travelled to Melbourne and spent 2 weeks exploring the city and its surrounding regions in Victoria, Australia with her petite travellers Noey (5 years) and Mei (3 years) recently in September 2014. During this period, Vera and family spent 3D2N along the Great Ocean Road, which is the subject of this post.

                      This holiday is suitable for families that enjoy self-drive holidays, and immersing themselves in nature while enjoying some spectacular views. 

                      PT GOR Collage

                      When my husband and I decided to bring the family on a holiday to Melbourne Australia during the recent September term break, one of the places we readily penciled in was the Great Ocean Road (GOR). It has been a while since the husband and I have visited the GOR, and it's something we have not done together, so we thought it would be fun to do this as a family. The GOR is one of Australia's most scenic coastal drives, featuring awe-inspiring limestone cliffs and incredible rock formations. It is home to iconic surf breaks set against the tall trees and many waterfalls of Great Otway National Park, and lots of wildlife too! In other words, it is a must-see destination.  

                      Having decided to embark on the journey, the next big question was whether to drive the GOR on our own or take a day tour. The GOR is a very popular day-trip from Melbourne and there are plenty of tour operators offering day trips out to the Twelve Apostles. The biggest benefit of taking a tour is not having to drive, obviously. The trip out to the Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell would take at least 4-5 hours of driving from Melbourne. That's a lot of driving and that's just one way! Taking a day tour would also allow us to continue staying in our Melbourne accommodation and not have to move our many pieces of luggage. It was also possibly cheaper than renting a car that met our needs.

                      The biggest downside though is that we would be stuck on a bus most of the time and have limited scope to decide our own itinerary and time to explore. In the end, our desire for flexibility won out. If you've travelled with kids before, you'll know that things can change in an instant with them, so flexibility is key! We decided to try to take things at a leisurely pace and stay 2 nights at Apollo Bay, using it as the base to explore the GOR, and I think it worked out much better than if we had tried to squeeze everything into a day trip.

                      GOR2Dancing to the great view, just because I want to!

                      Here are some things we did, and enjoyed, on the GOR:

                      1. Have Lunch at Lorne

                      Everyone kept telling us to have lunch at Lorne, so we did! We had to check-out of our hotel at 10am (the standard hotel check-out time in Melbourne according to our experience), and since Lorne is a 2-hour drive from Melbourne, that set us up very nicely for lunch at Lorne. We didn't know where to eat but a quick search online on TripAdvisor (my go-to site for hotel and food recommendations) and we decided on the bottle of milk. It was a hit with the whole family -- certainly some of the best burgers we've had! And on lovely enamel ware too. Hee. We ordered both beef and chicken burgers and they were all good. Simply dressed but the meat patties were juicy and flavourful. Delicious.

                      GOR6A mighty yummy beef burger.

                      GOR3Menu and our happy campers!

                      2. Erskine Falls

                      After lunch we took a drive to Erskine Falls, a short 15 minutes away. This is one of the most popular falls of the Otways, and I'm sure that's in part because it's pretty accessible. From the carpark, a short walk of about 80m will bring you to the upper falls view, where you can get a decent view the waterfall. We continued along the trail to the lower falls view another 200m downhill and were glad we did as this was much more spectacular. My husband had a field day trying to take good waterfall and stream shots (ie. stuff that I the non-photographer do not appreciate quite as much) while the children loved poking about looking for rocks to pick up. Of course when it was time to go, both children bounded uphill like it was nothing, whilst I found it, well, a lot more tough going! Climbing back up is not an easy walk for the unfit, but we all made it, with some puffing.

                      GOR5Upper and lower view of Erskine Falls.

                      GOR7By the river at the base of the Falls.

                      GOR8The trek back up to the carpark. Mei is way ahead of me!

                      By the way, the nearest toilet is at the Blanket Leaf Picnic Area about a 3 minute drive away. Not a drive you'd want to make with a squirming urgent 3-year old, but doable. Just sayin'!

                      3. Teddy's Lookout

                      Heading back from Erskine Falls towards Lorne, we took a short detour to Teddy's Lookout nearby. It might not look like much when you're approaching but it offers some stunning views of St George's River and the Great Ocean Road coastline. We were there during the golden hour of the afternoon and the view in that light was pretty amazing.

                      GOR9This way to Teddy's Lookout!

                      GOR10With a glimpse of the view in the background.

                      GOR11Some stunning vistas of the coastline.

                      4. Apollo Bay

                      Apollo Bay was our rest stop while on the Great Ocean Road and we found The Dolphin Apartments a great little place to stay. Spacious, modern and comfortable, and with free wifi (yay!). It was also a short walk (or a really short drive) to the town where we could stock up on provisions or eat at a restaurant. We really appreciated the kitchen (for the preparation of breakfast and quick bites) and the washer and dryer -- essentials when you're on holiday with kids in tow! Our only complaint was that we didn't manage to get the top floor unit and on the ground floor, we got NO VIEW since the property is situated behind a gas station. That was a bit disappointing but we made sure to soak in views whenever we stepped out. I'm sure my husband also appreciated not having to lug our luggage up 2 floors!

                      We did not have much time to explore the town but it is known to be a good spot for walks and water sports. Perhaps when the kids are older!

                      GOR12A pretty delicious dinner we got a Sandy Feet Cafe & Health Food at Apollo Bay. The husband was a bit doubtful about the health food bit but we enjoyed their modern Australian menu. 

                      5. Cape Otway Lightstation

                      Cape Otway Lightstation is one of the highlights of the GOR, and it certainly was one of the highlights of this portion of our trip!

                      To be honest, the drive from Apollo Bay to Cape Otway isn't the most exciting, since you cut across the peninsula on an inland road with no ocean views. The husband and I joked that this really should be called the Great Forest and Farm Road instead of the Great Ocean Road! But what we did find exciting about driving through Great Otway National Park were the sightings of wild koalas. Yes, koalas in the wild! Naturally we spent a lot of time trying to peer into the trees but the best indicator is really just to stop whenever you see other cars and buses pulling over. 

                      GOR15Wild koala on the move!

                      (Another good spot for wild koalas is Kennett River. There is a road just behind the caravan park leading to a picnic ground and you can spot lots of koalas in the trees along this road.)

                      It is a long drive off the main road to the lightstation grounds but it is well worth the detour. Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia, having started operation in 1848. It continues to be in full working order but was decommissioned in 1994 when the cost of keeping it in operation proved to be too high. Today the lightstation and its grounds remain open for visitors to tour and get a taste of some history while enjoying some spectacular views. The lighthouse itself is incredibly picturesque and you will not be able to resist taking many shots of it. We certainly couldn't!

                      GOR16A reminder of all the shipwrecks off Cape Otway, which led to the building of this ligtstation.

                      GOR17Walking through the beautifully serene grounds, on which the original buildings still stand. Behind us is the Telegraph Station.

                      GOR18The lightstation. Standing since 1848!

                      GOR19Looking back on the grounds from the top of the lightstation.

                      GOR20Looking at the mechanism that rotates the reflector, which is what causes the light to flash.

                      One word of warning: it can get very windy! This is not surprising, given that it is situated at the tip of the peninsular after all, but do dress warmly. If it gets too cold, we found the cafe a welcome spot for some coffee and hot chocolate, and a big bowl of piping hot soup.

                      GOR13Soup and crayons make for happy kids! 

                      GOR21One last look at the lightstation.

                      6. Twelve Apostles

                      We couldn't make a trip to the GOR and not visit the Twelve Apostles, only the most visited site along the entire Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks off the coast near Port Campbell, and the dramatic and awe-inspiring quality of their form and placement have made them a major tourist attraction. The last time I visited the Twelve Apostles was, incredibly, about 26 years ago! The rocks look smaller than I remembere (and probably really ARE smaller, thanks to erosion) but still look just as impressive. The site is part of Port Campbell National Park and there are boardwalks which offer an easy stroll with great views of the famous rocks.

                      GOR22Yes, he was busy counting the structures. Apparently there are only 8 left standing but I didn't tell him that.


                      GOR24Trekking up and down the boardwalk which helpfully gives you different vantage points from which to view the rocks.

                      We drove back to Apollo Bay after visiting the Twelve Apostles but if you have a bit more time to spend around Port Campbell, my fellow co-contributor Angie recommends staying at Macka's Farm Lodge, located a short distance from Port Campbell National Park where you can experience a working farm and get close to some animals. You can also visit Berry World at Timboon, a 20-minute drive from Port Campbell where the kids can enjoy picking their own berries. Unfortunately it wasn't quite the season for berries when we were there or we would have paid them a visit!

                      The GOR stretches past Port Campbell all the way to Port Fairy, but we didn't have the time to make it all the way to the end. I hope to do it on a repeat visit to Melbourne.

                      We packed up and returned from Apollo Bay back towards Melbourne in preparation for the next leg of our journey in the Yarra Valley. We had planned to stop at Weeribee Open Range Zoo on the way back, having heard good reviews of this zoo, but unfortunately the weather was grey and wet on the day of our intended visit. So we ended up doing a rest stop at Weeribee Plaza instead, and got in a spot of shopping! One of those large sprawling malls, it was a great place to grab some lunch, buy necessities and do some browsing. I didn't think it was a bad trade-off.

                      Our trip to the Great Ocean Road as a portion of our holiday that was not specifically child-oriented. Rather, it was us bringing our kids along to see what we adults wanted to see, but I dare say both adults and kids enjoyed it. I hope this inspires you to make the trip too.

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