Warrnambool is located 187km southwest of Geelong via Princes Hwy or 276km via the Great Ocean Road. It is the western gateway to the spectacular coastal tourist route and the capital of the “shipwreck coast”. Warrnambool is rich in maritime history, once being Victoria’s busiest port.
Its marine history can be discovered at Flagstaff Hill, which is a replica village of the 1800’s and museum with a collection of historic pieces. The Lady Bay lighthouses remain standing on the grounds and you can enjoy the panoramic views from the top. Wander through the pioneer marine village by day and return in the evening for the sound and light show “Shipwrecked”, which re-enacts the tragic shipwreck of the Loch Ard vessel taking 52 lives at nearby Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road. Flagstaff Hill is located at the Visitor Centre on Merri St. The centre is open daily from 9am to 5pm and the evening show begins at dusk. Advance bookings are required.
The treacherous coastline along Lady Bay has claimed 15 shipwrecks in its time. Explore Warrnambool’s coastal tourist route which these days is a whale watching haven between May and October. The Logans Beach Whale Nursery east of town is a breeding ground for Southern Right Whales which arrive from the sub-Arctic in the colder months to calve. The whales can be seen up to 100 metres from the beach.
At the mouth of the Hopkins River is Point Ritchie which overlooks Blue Hole. It is in these waters at the river mouth where short finned eels await the rains and the opening of the mouth to the Southern Ocean, where they swim out to sea and spawn. The Hopkins River is also a popular fishing spot from the bridge and the banks.
The Foreshore Promenade
with its swim and surf beaches is patrolled by lifeguards and has a waterfront restaurant/bar. Simon’s is open daily and serves breakfast from 9am, lunch from 12pm and dinner from 6pm. Pet owners will appreciate the dog friendly beer garden outside.
On the western side of Lady Bay is the Breakwater, a very popular fishing spot along this massive concrete groyne. Adjacent to this is Stingray Bay and Middle and Merri Islands are just offshore, which are breeding grounds for Little Penguins, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Black-faced Cormorants. There is no public access to the islands as the Maremma Guardian Dog Project is being undertaken, where these special dogs are guarding the islands and their inhabitants from other dogs and foxes.
Further around is Thunder Point Lookout which overlooks the Southern Ocean and the dune limestone cliffs, which are quickly eroding into the sea.
The Botanic Gardens
on Botanic Rd are open daily from 7am until sunset. Neat manicured lawns and flowerbeds and a lake filled with birdlife make a scenic and peaceful spot for a walk, picnic or to feed the ducks.
Warrnambool has several caravan parks to accommodate tourists, however they can become busy in peak holiday season and pets are prohibited during these periods.
The Showground/Greyhound Track on Koroit St offers overflow camping and permits pets, The grounds have basic amenities and fees are payable to the caretaker. If you’re lucky and the greyhounds are running you get to watch all the action from your campsite for free.
Another camp ground to consider is Killarney Beach Camping Reserve, which is located about 15km west of Warrnambool on Mahoneys Rd. Camping is permitted around the outskirts of the recreation oval, there are limited powered and unpowered sites, amenities and fees are payable to the caretaker on site. The beach here is absolutely beautiful and dogs are permitted here on lead.
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Destinations in Victoria
Great Ocean Road
Return from Warrnambool to Victoria