Aside from the tour of MollyDooker winery, our second day on the Great Ocean Road ranks as my favorite experience so far thanks to some (very) close encounters with wildlife. More on that later, but first, some history:

Back within Port Campbell National Park, we hiked down to Loch Ard Gorge, named for the ship that met its tragic end nearby. The clipper had set sail from Gravesend (appropriately creepy name), England, on March 2, 1878, en route to Melbourne. On the last night of the three-month journey, a thick mist shrouded the Cape Otway lighthouse, and the Loch Ard sailed much too close to shore. The bow caught on a reef and smashed to pieces. The wreck claimed 52 lives, the entire crew and passenger list except for ship’s apprentice Tom Pearce and Irish immigrant Eva Carmichael, both 18. Tom heard Eva thrashing in the clipper’s wreckage and gallantly pulled her to the secluded beach cove where he cared for her until help could be found the following day. But despite the perfect “Blue Lagoon” set-up, this is not a tale of romance. Eva promptly returned to Ireland and eventually married some other bloke. There’s an interesting cemetery within the park that honors the Loch Ard victims, including Eva’s parents and her five siblings.

After a morning spent hiking to lookouts for various offshore rock formations, we detoured toward the Otway Lighthouse ($20 admission!). As native Floridians, we appreciate a good lighthouse, but the real draw for us was Cape Otway Lighthouse Road’s koala population. We knew to stop the car when we came across a cluster of vehicles parked haphazardly alongside the road. I grabbed my camera equipment, shoved the videocamera into Him’s hands and ran to join the growing throng of tourists gaping at the fuzzy gray bears perched on branches of eucalyptus. Many of the koalas were at eye level and close enough to fill the entire frame on an iPhone. I snapped several hundred photos before I noticed a koala padding across the road just in front of me. Following with my camera, I walked beside him and captured each step. He was on a mission.

“Hey, Megan,” Him said from behind me, videocamera rolling. “You may want to back up a little.”

But I was in wildlife heaven. Here was my chance to play National Geographic photographer. Nothing could stop me. I inched closer and closer.

The koala mounted a tree, his sharp nails tapping audibly against the bark. He climbed to about eye level, to a fork where another koala was seated. Paw to paw combat ensued, a battle to win the coveted tree fork. POW! The interloper koala clocked the other. His opponent fell, but still he pursued, jumping down after him. Both bears landed about a foot from where I squatted.

“Oh $%&*!” I exclaimed, stumbling backward as the interloper took a swipe at my leg. Him and the throng of Japanese tourists behind me laughed.

You can watch the whole episode caught on video here:

By this time, the koalas had become quite annoyed with their human spectators. They began growling, a deep guttural sound similar to the noise I imagine a dying cow might make. From high above our heads, a drop of koala blood fell and splattered onto Him’s sleeve. Now it was my turn to laugh.

“This is how diseases spread!” he shouted, dashing toward the car to bathe in hand sanitizer. Thankfully, he never did succumb to Mad Koala Disease, and we were able to continue on our way.

Other memorable pit stops of the day included a trip to Castle Cove Lookout (where I convinced Dion, the Kawasaki-riding Torquay native to pose with Paper Sis) and the beautiful Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk known for its unique carnivorous snails and massive, moss-covered trees. Him navigated past pristine beaches, rocky coves and pine forests.

“Now I know why it’s a high-accident area,” Him said, referring to the ominous street signs we passed. “No one’s looking at the road.”

The Great Ocean Road is a high-accident area for birds as well. Over the course of three days spent in Victoria, our car managed to strike (and likely murder) three birds. Like Florida’s lizards, Victoria’s birds are notorious daredevils that wait until the last possible moment to dart in front of moving objects. Are they engaged in a game of high-stakes “chicken?” Are they addicts of the latest bird designer drug craze? Or perhaps this is mating season, and everyone is deliriously horny. We will never know. From the passenger seat, I watched as Him progressed through the five stages of loss and grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and blasting the horn at any living creature remotely near our vehicle.

Decidedly mournful, we pulled into the Anglesea Big 4 Holiday Park for the night. This place has it all: camp sites, fully-equipped air-conditioned cabins, free DVD loans, go-kart hire and something intriguingly described on the brochure as a “giant jumping pillow.” Better yet, the Big 4 was just down the road from the Anglesea Golf Course, a popular evening dining spot for wild kangaroos. The golf course was covered in them, so much so that I imagined the green has to be closed early every night to accommodate them. I spent about an hour photographing a mother kangaroo and her adorable joey. As mom munched on grass in the front, the joey — legs somehow folded above his head — grazed from her pouch.

To sweeten my animal-packed day, we returned to our Big 4 cabin to discover another mother kangaroo and joey dining about 20 feet from our front door.  Yet no one seemed to notice. Children continued shrieking on the playground and couples sat quietly consuming their own dinners.

“Did you see the kangaroo?!” I asked all campers within earshot. “Did you see the mother and joey?!”

They had, but I guess I was addressing Australians, and kangaroos are about as commonplace to them as raccoons are to us.