Vic­to­ria reigns Down Un­der

In the fi­nal episode of ITV’s Aus­tralia With Ju­lia Brad­bury, the show’s pre­sen­ter gets back to na­ture. SARAH MARSHALL finds out more

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ROCK­ING in the boughs of a eu­ca­lyp­tus tree like a new­born baby in its crib, Aus­tralia’s A-list an­i­mal res­i­dent is sleep­ily un­aware of the com­mo­tion he is caus­ing be­low.

Hoist­ing cam­eras and iPhones aloft, crowds are snap­ping with the vigour of pa­parazzi at a red car­pet event. True to form, the ‘ta­lent’ turns his back and re­fuses to co-op­er­ate.

Small coun­try town Ken­nett River is fa­mous for mar­su­pial sight­ings, and lo­cal cafe­te­ria Kafe Koala has even been named in their hon­our.

It was here, after a cof­fee and Tim Tam bis­cuit, that TV pre­sen­ter Ju­lia Brad­bury laid eyes on her first wild koala, a mo­ment cap­tured in the fi­nal episode of ITV’s Aus­tralia With Ju­lia Brad­bury.

“My first sight­ing of a wild koala was up a tree in a car park,” she ex­claims, when we meet in the UK to talk about her ad­ven­tures Down Un­der, which in­volved film­ing in a whirl­wind 70 lo­ca­tions.

“He was eat­ing, which was pretty amaz­ing, be­cause they don’t usu­ally move. They sleep for about 20 hours a day!”

Both Ju­lia’s and my own en­coun­ters with the adorable species oc­cur along Vic­to­ria’s Great Ocean Road, a road trip the TV pre­sen­ter en­thu­si­as­ti­cally claims is “right up there with Route 66”.

Curv­ing around the south-east­ern state’s wild and un­kempt coast­line, where the fu­ri­ous South­ern Ocean col­lides with the Bass Strait, be­fore head­ing in­land to the Ot­way Ranges, the 243km trail was built by sol­diers re­turn­ing from the First World War, mak­ing it the world’s largest war me­mo­rial.

But in place of mon­u­ments and

grandiose stat­ues, sub­lime forests and mighty lime­stone stacks com­mem­o­rate their ef­forts, while also pro­vid­ing a home for myr­iad crea­tures.

Al­though Vic­to­ria is Aus­tralia’s small­est main­land state, it has the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of the na­tion’s indige­nous species, largely due to the con­ser­va­tion ef­forts of a for­ward-think­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The va­ri­ety of an­i­mals here is as­tound­ing; prickly but ir­re­sistibly pet­table echid­nas, prim­i­tivelook­ing duck-billed platy­pus, wily snow-white cock­a­toos, and brazen kan­ga­roos with a kick far more pow­er­ful than any kung-fu fighter, and a punch which could knock out a cham­pion heavy­weight.

But not all the nat­u­ral wonders have a pulse.

Rear­ing up from the ocean like pow­er­ful guardians of the coast­line, the 12 Apos­tles are a se­ries of lime­stone stacks revered world­wide.

Yet even th­ese ge­o­log­i­cal giants are not re­silient to the tides of time, and decades of ero­sion have taken their toll, send­ing four of the mono­liths to their dusty grave.

Avoid­ing the crowds at sunset, I visit at day­break, mak­ing my way down Gib­son Steps to ad­mire the pillars of Gog and Ma­gog from their beach­side base.

Even dur­ing a cloudy dawn they reign supreme, demon­strat­ing why Ju­lia came here to film part of her pro­gramme. In real life, they’re even more im­pres­sive; a jewel in Queen Vic­to­ria’s crown and rea­son enough to make a jour­ney to the other side of the world.

Keen to fol­low in Ju­lia Brad­bury’s wildlife foot­steps through Vic­to­ria?

Here are five ac­tiv­i­ties in­spired by her trav­els...

1 PLAY GOLF WITH KAN­GA­ROOS IN ANGLESEA

THEY’RE not your typ­i­cal fair­way op­po­nents, but kan­ga­roos have taken up res­i­dency in the Anglesea Golf Club, set along Vic­to­ria’s Great Ocean Road.

Con­tent with graz­ing, they pro­vide a use­ful mow­ing ser­vice and seem undis­turbed by golfers.

Fed up with hordes of tourists pok­ing around the 18-hole course, the 60-year-old club set up tours in 2015, and since then, more than 40,000 vis­i­tors have come in pur­suit of the roos.

Run­ning ev­ery half an hour from 10am-4pm, and cost­ing A$12.50/£7, the buggy tours travel around the course in search of mar­su­pi­als, with trained guides avail­able to share in­for­ma­tion about their be­hav­iour.

Reg­u­lar con­tact with hu­mans has tamed the an­i­mals, and al­though touch­ing is strictly for­bid­den, this is the clos­est you’ll prob­a­bly get to a kan­ga­roo.

Visit an­gle­seagolf­club.com.au

2 STROKE AN ECHIDNA AT HEALESVILL­E SANC­TU­ARY

COV­ERED in spines, echid­nas don’t look es­pe­cially cud­dly, but in re­laxed sit­u­a­tions th­ese Aus­tralian en­demics feel incredibly soft.

Find out for your­self by book­ing a 10-minute wildlife en­counter at Healesvill­e Sanc­tu­ary, an ex­cel­lent cen­tre ded­i­cated to the care, pro­tec­tion and treat­ment of indige­nous wildlife (A$20/£11; zoo. org.au/healesvill­e).

There’s also the chance to meet a

koala up close (al­though hold­ing is not per­mit­ted), ), or get in the tank with a duck-billed platy­pus called ed Yami, who likes hav­ing her er belly tick­led.

En­coun­ters are highly con­trolled and only take place a few times a week, so – un­sur­pris­ingly – wait­ing lists are long.

3 SLEEP BE­NEATH THE STARS IN THE GRAMPIANS

AN im­por­tant meet­ing point for Abo­rig­i­nal clans, due to the abun­dance of wa­ter and food, this forested, sand­stone moun­tain range has a significan­t amount of rock art.

One of the most im­por­tant pieces is Bun­jil’s Shel­ter, fea­tur­ing a clay ochre draw­ing of the indige­nous cre­ator, al­though its age is un­known.

The Grampians Na­tional Park has many hik­ing routes lead­ing to view­points; the most pop­u­lar be­ing The Pin­na­cle and Mount Wil­liam.

In 2020, a new walk­ing tour across the park will be launched. Lo­cal op­er­a­tors will be of­fer­ing glamp­ing pack­ages with fine food and wine all supplied, pro­vid­ing an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to camp cam com­fort­ably be­neath b a canopy of blind­ing b stars.

4 JOIN THE PEN­GUIN PA­RADE ON PHILLIP IS­LAND

EV­ERY night, up to 3,000 3 lit­tle pen­guins wad­dle wa ashore at the Sum­mer­land Sum Penin­sula, part of o Phillip Is­land, which i is linked to the main­land by a bridge.

It’s the only colony left after nine oth­ers were wiped out by hu­man devel­op­ment, al­though in re­cent years, con­ser­va­tion ef­forts have helped the pop­u­la­tion bounce back.

En­coun­ters take place at the Pen­guin Pa­rade View­ing Cen­tre, with a foot­fall of up to 5,000 peo­ple per night.

It sounds chaotic, but the whole process is care­fully man­aged, giv­ing every­one an op­por­tu­nity to see the ‘lit­tle blue fairies’ make their way across the beach and back to bur­rows.

For the best view­ing spot, book the 10-per­son Ranger Ex­pe­ri­ence (A$82.50/£45; pen­guins.org.au).

5 LEARN TO THROW A BOOMERANG AT TOWER HILL

ONE of the few craters in the world you can drive into, this dor­mant vol­cano in War­rnam­bool has right­fully earned its rep­u­ta­tion as a world won­der.

Abo­rig­i­nal clans were the orig­i­nal stew­ards of the land, and indige­nous guides now run daily tours (A£25/£14; tow­er­hill.org.au) ex­plain­ing the his­tory, im­por­tance and tragic degra­da­tion of their home.

Learn about the Earth’s old­est con­tin­u­ing cul­ture and find out why their re­la­tion­ship with mod­ern-day Aus­tralia is fraught with com­pli­ca­tions.

Take a walk along a trail to sam­ple tra­di­tional bush tucker, tast­ing nu­tri­tious plants and berries eaten for thou­sands of years.

Fin­ish up by learn­ing how to throw a boomerang; it’s all in the wrist ac­tion and read­ing of the wind.

The Grampians in Vic­to­ria, Aus­tr­lia

Ju­lia Brad­bury with a koala for her ITV se­ries

Get up close to the Kan­ga­roos

The Twelve Apos­tles

Tower Hill crater lake

An echidna en­counter at Healesvill­e Sanc­tu­ary

A lit­tle blue pen­guin in Vic­to­ria, Aus­tralia

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