Coastal holidays of your dreams: Blairgowrie
When you think of the perfect place to take a relaxing sea-side holiday, I think it would be fair to say that the first place that comes to mind is rarely Blairgowrie, Victoria.
With its scenic Post Office (opened in 1947), wheelchair accessible public toilet (open 24 hours) and its exceptionally high blowfly-to-person ratio (no stats available), Blairgowrie is not far from Rosebud. Known for being the death-place of Nobel Prize winner Rhys Isaac, Blairgowrie is also close to Sorrento.
In the heart of Victoria’s “Budget Coast” section of the Mornington Peninsula, Blairgowrie is just 87 km from cosmopolitan Melbourne on what may be the longest stretch of foreshore caravan parks in the world (no stats available). There are more caravans camped on the not-really-very-scenic foreshore here than there are caravans in the rest of the world (maybe).
What does one do in Blairgowrie? Take a swim in the largest kiddy-pool in the world (That’s Port Phillip Bay. Stats show that the urine content of an average kid’s pool and Port Phillip Bay are remarkably similar. Don’t worry about sharks, they all got sick of the taste of piss and went to Torquay). Or chance a dip on the other side of Blairgowrie in the Southern Ocean, where there is every chance you’ll get stung by a blue-ringed octopus and then dragged out to sea by a rip. What else? Um…you can walk to the end of the pier and gaze longingly back across the bay to Melbourne.
The last time I visited, the Road to Blairgowrie (the least known of the movie series) was largely a single-lane affair, so the trip from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula took roughly a week. OK, it was probably closer to three hours but spending any time at all on the vinyl seats in the back of an XC Falcon in 37 degree heat feels like a lot longer. If you’ve never been in one, an XC Falcon is so big that the contents of an entire house can fit into the boot, so I think we may nearly have packed that much.
The back seat can easily hold up to seven small children and a horse without sacrificing any legroom at all. And there were only three kids in our family, so we could all lie head to toe across the back seat and have a nap (or pass out from heat exhaustion) as required. The horse had to stand the whole trip but that’s expected. Really the horse was just there as a heat-gauge, like a canary in a mine. When the horse died of heat exhaustion, we were allowed to wind down a window.
This particular trip may have taken longer than usual because at one point we had to stop to let a film crew into the car to film a commercial where a guy leaves a tin of paint on the back seat for a while and then when he comes back, he cooks an egg on the lid.
Why did our parents choose Blairgowrie at all? No-one can remember but I think it must have been a budgetary choice. I’m just thankful we didn’t go the caravan option. I worry about Caravan People. Don’t they know about five star hotels? Don’t they know about living in the kind of space that means you don’t risk chipping a tooth on the toilet bowl whenever you need to tie your shoes? I hear ads on AM radio spruiking to retired people about “that caravan lifestyle you’ve always wanted”. Anyone who has ever lived in a house should not look forward to a “caravan lifestyle”.
People spend most of their working lives trying to make enough money to avoid living a caravan lifestyle. You can get an understanding of what living a “caravan lifestyle” is like by building a mattress-fort in one of the smaller rooms of your house and cooking something on a camp oven inside it. The good thing about this trial is that after ten minutes when you realise it’s actually pretty crap, you can go back to living in a house, like a human.
I was eight years old at the time of the now infamous Blairgowrie trip and to an eight year old, a trip to the milk-bar is an adventure, so what we got up to was positively exotic. I remember our parents getting us up at about 4am to get rugged-up in so many layers I couldn’t put my arms by my sides before getting on a boat to go fishing. I remember the cheeseburger I ate that gave me gastro for three days.
I vividly recall eating a plethora of Choc Wedge ice-creams and entering competitions from the wrappers. (I think that was how I won the fantastic cricket game “Test Match”, which arrived on the morning of my middle sister’s birthday, some months later. When she discovered it wasn’t for her, she promptly burst into tears). I remember finding a handgun underneath the granny flat out the back.
When left to babysit us, I remember my eldest sister (a very fiery 13 year old) slamming the head of one of the girls from the other family into the floor repeatedly. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it had something to do with the other girl pulling a poster of Scott Baio out of a magazine that didn’t belong to her. Whatever the reason, it was all immensely entertaining. I remember the night all the kids were given a crisp five-dollar note with which to go nuts at the sea-side carnival. I had a chocolate sundae before going on one of the rides, after which I vomited into my cupped hands and presented it to my mother, much to her embarrassment. (I was only eight, I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do).
Much to my embarrassment, this event is still brought up at family gatherings. I remember that the day before we came home all five of my family got horribly sunburned at McCrae beach. Its not often you’ll read nostalgia about the time a family got cancer together, is it?
Contrary to what I just wrote, I don’t actually have anything against Blairgowrie at all. That holiday is still my gauge of a truly fun, typically Australian mixed-bag of a summer. Any holiday you’re still talking about 30 years later must have been a memorable one and I have spent pretty much every year since then trying to recapture it with a special blend of barbecued meat, flies, cricket, sunburn and vomiting. So here’s to you, Blairgowrie, thanks for the memories.
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