Instead of heading north when the temperatures turn south, why not head to Warrnambool and discover why it’s the perfect winter escape? There’s a lot going on there and plenty to keep everyone entertained morning, noon and night. Here are a few things I recently discovered that I think you’ll love.
Warrnambool is one of the best spots to watch out for migrating whales as they slowly head towards Antarctica with their young calves. Logans Bay Whale Nursery is where everyone heads for the chance to witness the whales frolicking in the bay. The council have erected an easily accessible walkway that provides the best seats in the house.
You can expect to see southern right, humpback and blue whales as well as the occasional orca. A pair of binoculars is a big help and patience comes in handy too. Make sure you rug up, as when the southern winds start to blow, it doesn’t take long for your extremities to feel frozen. While watching for whales to appear, the surfers below will keep you occupied. They’re crazy, lying on their boards in the icy water, waiting patiently for the right wave. Once they catch one, they turn around and head back out.
Whaling & Shipwrecks
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village has developed since its inception in 1975. It’s here that you can learn a lot about life in the 19th century; whaling, shipwrecks and security. During the day, explore the old buildings as you follow the cobblestone road. Check out the Garrison Artillery Battery built to defend the colony from a Russian invasion and learn how one of the two lighthouses on the hill was relocated stone by stone in 1871.
When the sun goes down, settle in to watch the “Tales of the Shipwreck Coast” sound and light show. The journey takes you back to the Aboriginal Dreamtime, then onto the time when whaling was the primary industry before telling the tragic story of the Loch Ard, a ship that crashed into the coast leaving only two survivors.
They say the early bird catches the worm, but in Warrnambool, the early bird gets to watch racehorses enjoy the sand and saltwater at Worm Beach. Rug up as the mornings can be chilly, but you are welcome to sit and watch the equines enjoy a swim or canter up and down the beach. Generally, the horses are about from just before dawn until around 10 am with Friday being the busiest day. The best place to view them is while enjoying a hot breakfast at the Pavilion Café & Bar.
Wicked Street Art
The popularity of creative street art is a growing trend and is also extending to wheat silos and water towers. Street art is abundant in Warrnambool, some easy to find like the Ngatanwarr mural on the corner of Merri and Keplar Street, whilst others are hard to spot like the Fox and Penguins in Little Liebig lane. The staff at the Visitor Information Centre will be able to show you where all the good art is.
Being a self-confessed foodie, a lover of gastronomic delights and the odd counter meal, I was amazed by the number of options available. In July, the Cally Hotel celebrates all things Yankee where you can enjoy buffalo wings, mac‘n‘cheese or southern fried chicken. The Myrtle Bar & Kitchen has a fridge full of aged steak, itching to be cooked to perfection over hot coals, the shucked oysters are as fresh as you can get or savour one of the signature dishes, hanging skewers. If you’re heading to the sound and light show at Flagstaff Hill, why not enjoy dinner at Pippies by the Bay. The menu offers fresh produce and local seafood complimented by some of the best local wines.
Allansford Cheese Factory has undergone refurbishment recently that has really opened it up. There’s a new tasting area that provides more space to look after cheese lovers. The old tasting room is now a lounge area with tables and chairs and couches that will be used for wine and cheese tasting or just a place to relax over a glass of wine and a platter.
Just 14km from Warrnambool is Tower Hill Reserve. Sitting within the crater of a dormant volcano the reserve is home to native wildlife, stunning views and cultural history, generations old. There are self-guided walks that showcase at the best sites or join a guided walk and learn more about the local Indigenous People as well as the flora and fauna that make this place so special.
Chase the Waterfall
Ten minutes from Warrnambool is Hopkins Falls, one of Victoria’s widest falls coming in at 90 metres. The views are spectacular with a couple of viewing platforms on offer as well as foot access to the base of the falls. This is definitely a massive Instagram photo opportunity, but also a place where the more adventurous photographer can whip out a couple of filters, take a long exposure and create a truly special image.
Where to stay
Surfside Holiday Park is one massive park operated by the Warrnambool City Council. It is also very beautiful and has several access points to the beach making it an easy walk. Offering grassy powered and unpowered sites that are well proportioned, even the largest of rigs can be accommodated. The amenities are kept clean and the large campers kitchen makes it easy to cook up a storm.
If you’re after something a little more comfortable, there are three types of cottages available to suit all budgets; beach chalet, cedar cottage or mariners cottage. All the cottages are fully self-contained with great outlooks from the deck. The are plenty of attractions within easy walking distance of the park and loads of things to keep the kids occupied.
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