As the sun began to set, our eyes dilated and we stared out to sea, waiting for the first group of little penguins to reach shore. We soon spotted a raft of the smallest species of penguin, the little or fairy penguin, making its way home in the safety of darkness after a long day of fishing.
Seated outside in a designated area, we watched as hundreds and thousands paraded from the water to their burrows. The penguins travel in the same groups day in and day out. As they get closer to their homes, which they pass down to their offspring, they get excited and waddle faster because they can smell their mates.
The Penguin Parade, a partnership between Phillip Island Nature Parks and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Australia, and not to be missed. Tickets for self-guided viewing start at $26.20 for adults. VIP tours can also be arranged.
It's not often that a renowned chef personally serves you caviar, let alone at an altitude of 39,000 feet.
Visit Victoria had arranged an incredible itinerary for our fam scheduled in partnership with Qantas to experience the inaugural direct flight from Melbourne to San Francisco.
We observed the penguins for a little over an hour before heading back to our hotel in awe. We were staying at the Park Hyatt Melbourne. The centrally located, 240-room hotel, including 24 suites, is a quick walk to complimentary public trams.
At the recently renovated hotel, I stayed in a King With Club Access room (starting at $405 per night). The added value of Club Access included daily breakfast and 24-hour entry into the hotel's beautifully appointed Park Lounge on the 19th floor.
Though I didn't make it into the Park Club Health & Day Spa (featuring an infinity pool, saunas, steam room and eight treatment rooms), inside my accommodations was an inviting soaking tub in an all-white Italian marble bathroom outfitted with Le Labo Bergamote 22 bath products.
In addition to the Penguin Parade and our luxury accommodations at the Park Hyatt Melbourne, another highlight was dining at the likes of Supernormal and Lume, where we feasted on 14 meticulously prepared courses.
Because Melbourne is replete with 3,500 dining options, the Progressive Degustation dinner around Melbourne is definitely worth experiencing. Opt for a walking tour with Hidden Secrets Tours ($190 per person, max eight people, for three hours).
A majority of owner Fiona Sweetman's clients are locals interested in an experiential offering. During our stay we went to three restaurants and had prearranged light bites and drinks.
Among the stops was a restaurant, Taxi Kitchen, that may appear to be a public transport stop to a tourist but is in fact a beautiful restaurant and proof that going around with a local is key.