Warrnambool

A regional commercial centre for the western district, the city of Warrambool marks the “end of the road” for Great Ocean Road travellers.

Where is it?: Warrnambool is 263 km south west of Melbourne, approximately 3 hours drive via Geelong on the Princes Highway or Hamilton Highway.

Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre
Merri Street, Warrnambool, Victoria 3280
Ph: 1800 637 725

About Warrnambool

Warrnambool is a regional city of around 33,000 people – Australia’s 46th largest population centre – on the south-western coast of Victoria, Australia, located in the municipality City of Warrnambool. The word Warrnambool comes from the local Aboriginal name for a nearby Volcanic cone. It has been interpreted to mean many things including “water between two rivers”, “two swamps” or “ample water”.

The treacherous coast near the city is known as the Shipwreck Coast and evidence suggests the first ships to arrive were among the earliest international explorers. The legend of the Mahogany Ship is strongly linked to the city. Many believe the first Europeans to discover the area were Portuguese sailors, who surveyed the coastline nearby and possibly marooned near the site of the present town as early as the 1500s, however this is currently unproven. French explorer Nicholas Baudin recorded coastal landmarks in 1802. The area was frequented by whalers early in the 19th century. Matthew Flinders sailed the coast in the Investigator, and Lieutenant James Grant in the Lady Nelson also explored the area.

The first settlers arrived in the 1840s in the Lady Bay area, which was a natural harbour. The area was first surveyed in 1846. During the Victorian Gold Rush, Warrnambool became an important port and grew quickly in the 1850s, benefiting from the private ownership of nearby Port Fairy. Warrnambool was gazetted as a municipality in 1855; became a borough in 1863. Warrnambool was declared a town in 1883, and a city in 1918.

Warrnambool is a popular tourist destination and a comprehensive regional service centre. Major industries and services include retail, education, health, dairy, meat processing, clothing manufacture, and construction.

Trivia: Warrnambool played a part in Waltzing Matilda becoming a famous national song. Christina Macpherson was at Warrnambool’s Annual Steeplechase Race Meeting in April 1894 when she heard the Warrnambool Town Band play the traditional Scottish tune, Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea. Christina memorised the tune and played it to Andrew B. (Banjo) Paterson at Dagworth Station in Queensland in 1895. Banjo Paterson, inspired by a local event, wrote some words to match the tune and our national song, Waltzing Matilda, was born. Christina’s original 1895 manuscript of the music is held in National Archives Canberra.

Things to see and do:

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village: documents the many stories of shipwreck and survival on the Shipwreck Coast. The maritime village and museum is built around the state heritage listed Warrnambool Lighthouse (1858). More than 180 ships have come to grief along the Shipwreck Coast, with much of this tragic history being recounted at Flagstaff Hill.

Things to see and do:

Cudgee Creek Wildlife Park (19 km east) is home to deer, kangaroos, koalas, emus, monkeys and more.

Logan’s Beach: the coast of Warrnambool is a popular spot for viewing migrating Southern Right Whales. Between June and September, whales often swim within a hundred metres of the shore and can be viewed from a viewing platform at Logan’s Beach, where the females come to calve.

Depending on which way you are travelling, Warrnambool marks the start – or finish – of The Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s great drives. Stretching from Torquay, just south of Geelong, to Allansford, east of Warrnambool, the road winds along cliff tops beside breathtaking headlands, down onto the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through rainforests, offering ever-changing panoramic views of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.

Events:

February: Wunta Fiesta
March: Seaside Bowling Carnival
March: Gnatannwarr Multicultural Festival
Easter weekend: Day On The Hill Festival
May: Grand Annual Steeplechase

Surrounding area:

The Historical Shipwreck Trail extends for 110 km along the Great Ocean Road from Moonlight Head (near Princetown) to Port Fairy. The trail incorporates 25 shipwrecks marked by road signs and information plaques and provides a fascinating insight into the region’s shipwreck history.

Tower Hill (8 km) is a dormant volcanic cone overlooking one of the largest lava plains known to geologists. The Tower Hill Reserve, with its crater lake, is a haven for wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, emus, sugar gliders and many species of birds.

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