Let’s face it, 48 hours at any destination is never going to be enough to see and do it all, but I think we had a fair crack at it when visiting Warrnambool. As always, interests and weather conditions play a big part in deciding what to see and do, but here are some tips on ways to spend the time.
The city of Warrnambool is a 345 kilometre drive from Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, or if you take an inland route it cuts it down to 265 kilometres. The distance from Adelaide is 580 kilometres. Warrnambool is pretty huge with a population of over 34,000 people. We stayed at the Warrnambool Discovery Park which is within walking distance to Lake Pertobe, the hub of a lot of community activity. The caravan sites at the park I have to say were a little squeezy and it took a bit of to and fro and borrowing space from helpful neighbours to manoeuvre our 24 foot caravan onto and off of its site.
Having Lake Pertobe nearby is a bonus with this 20 hectare park having playgrounds and walking tracks, a maze, free BBQs and picnic shelters and paddle and motor boats to hire on the duck and swan filled lake. If you are in Warrnambool over a weekend you can visit the Fresh Market which is held here on the first and third Sunday of every month. This farm produce and craft market is choc-o-block full of stall holders, some of them so well liked that queues form before they miss out. Obviously it’s well worth the wait.
Above Lake Pertobe is Common Hill lookout, a good spot to visit for an overall view of this part of Warrnambool. The views take in the lake and park, all the way to the ocean and breakwater beyond. You can drive to the breakwater and stroll on the walkway along the top. Signs do warn to watch out for huge waves that can clear the top of the breakwater at times, so you’d obviously need to exercise caution on certain days.
On the way back from the breakwater stop and take a look at Stingray Bay with Merri Island and Middle Island just off shore. Middle island looks close enough to walk to and at times the tide does recede so far that you could! It isn’t permitted or advisable though as the incoming tide can rush in quickly and people have been stranded and worse. Middle Island is home to fairy penguins which use it as a breeding ground. With numbers of the penguins declining Maremma dogs were introduced to the island to guard and protect the birds from predators. This breed of dogs have been used on farms for protecting chickens but to be used in this way was a world first. When these dogs aren’t on the island during breeding season you can meet them at the Flagstaff Maritime Village, where you will also find the Visitor Information Centre.
If history is your thing then a visit to the village would be a must. The village and museum has over 4o pioneer buildings housing artefacts and stories of the life of seafarers who discovered this shipwreck coast in the 19th century and life in general at the time. There are also historic lighthouses that were relocated to the site. Entry cost is $19 per adult during the day and there is a light and sound show at night for $31 per head.
If you prefer to see more rugged and natural landscapes I’d recommend driving to see Thunder Point coastal reserve nearby. This area is known for its spectacular coastal views, a place to see the powerful southern ocean swells and if you’re lucky, seals. At the right time of year another place to visit is Logans Beach whale nursery which as the name suggests is an ideal spot to see whales as they migrate to and from Antarctica from June to September. At other times of the year, well it’s just a gorgeous view anyway.
Another beautifully scenic spot only 15 kilometres out of town is Hopkins falls. This curtain waterfall is around 90 metres wide and has a drop of 12 metres. You can view the falls from above and from two other viewing areas including at the base, but from a distance. For a split second I thought I had spotted a platypus here, something I’ve never seen in the wild, but sadly it was only a water rat. The falls are definitely worth a look and are an unexpected sight amongst the dairy country that is in this region.
Speaking of dairy, you may also want to visit Allansford cheese world where you can taste and buy cheese including some made at the factory directly across the road. Apart from cheeses there are small goods to buy and souvenirs as well as a dairy museum on site. It’s free to visit, open 7 days a week and the place to pick up some goodies, including wines, for a picnic.
If the weather isn’t conducive to a picnic then the next best thing would be to visit Simon’s Waterfront restaurant, located above the Warrnambool surf lifesaving club. It’s just the spot to have a nice glass of red or two and some hot and tasty food in a very comfortable setting with panoramic views of the ocean and surfers taking on the waves.
Cheers to them.