10 OUTINGS WITH THE KIDS IN WARRNAMBOOLby Silke
Warrnambool is a fantastic family-friendly destination, with bucket loads of things to do, from exciting locations to explore to wildlife and sports.
And, it’s only a couple of hours drive from Melbourne, making it the ideal family getaway in Victoria.
Here are my top 10 things to do in Warrnambool with children:
Most kids will enjoy a round of mini golf, and why not? It’s easy to master, entertaining to watch, and a pretty fair game where age doesn’t really matter.
Don’t be fooled by the look of this particular mini golf course – even adults will find it rather challenging! Nothing wrong with a little bit of family competition, and afterwards the kids can get some more exercise on the jumping pillow.
This is the gem in Warrnambool’s crown. A huge 20 acre area that has been transformed from a swamp to a lake and park. Suitable for all ages and well equipped with lots of shady areas, toilets and free barbecue facilities, this park offers so much to explore that the kids will want to come back over and over again. In fact, after discovering this huge adventure playground with my own family the kids asked if we could move to Warrnambool permanently!
Lake Pertobe has no reason to hide behind its big city peers: there are plenty of climbing options here, a flying fox, sandboxes, slides, even a maze. It is all spread out around the park, with plenty of space for ball games in between.
3. Great Ocean Road Ten Pin Bowling
Rainy day? Not a problem! Just take the kids down to The Bowl, Warrnambool’s very own Ten Pin Bowling facility. The family deal at $35 is very reasonable and includes shoe hire, perfect if you decide spontaneously to give it a try.
4. Whale watching
Who doesn’t love whales? Warrnambool is perfect if you want to spot some of these ocean giants on their north-south migration along the Australian coast.
Logans Beach in Warrnambool is the best place to start: it is a whale nursery, a place where you can easily watch Southern Right Whales give birth and nurse their calves from May to early October.
5. Middle Island
If you, like me, never heard of maremmas before, here is some quick information. Maremmas are large fluffy guardian dogs that have been used for generations on Australia’s big sheep and cattle farms. They are the perfect breed to protect livestock like sheep or chickens. They are not just friendly and cute, they are also extremely useful.
Some time ago, a local farmer named Swampy Marsh realised that the protective qualities of the maremmas could be put to good use in another environment. Just off the coast in Warrnambool, basically in swimming distance and/or walking distance depending on the tide, is Middle Island.
It's a breeding ground for penguins, but, because these cute little birds can't fly, they are easy prey for predators like foxes. Warrnambool locals tested successfully the use of maremmas to protect the local penguin colony, and by the looks of it the population is now recovering. The maremmas program is so successful, it even made them stars on the big screen – the movie 'Oddball' was released in 2015.
You can meet the maremmas in two different locations, depending on the time of year. From April to November the dogs live at Flagstaff Hill, but during the breeding season from December to April they move out to the island. It’s the perfect way to gain rare access to Middle Island and meet the maremmas. Fees are very reasonable and support the penguin conservation program.
6. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and Museum
One of the best things you can do with the kids when visiting Warrnambool is a visit to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. This village is like an open-air museum, a collection of historic buildings – sheds, cottages, a church, businesses, lighthouses, etc – that together form a historic village. It is representative of all the settlements that used to pop up along Shipwreck coast.
Explore the houses together as a family, go on a treasure hunt, feed the ducks, have some scones in the tea rooms, climb on top of the lighthouse, look at the cannons, explore the salvaged goods in the museum gallery.
In the evening, make sure you also attend Shipwrecked! the light, laser and sound show which tells the story of a doomed clipper bound for Melbourne which never made it to its final destination. A highly recommended experience.
7. Paddle boats at Lake Pertobe
I already mentioned the Adventure Playground in Warrnambool, which you really cannot miss when you travel with children to the area, but there is another exciting thing you can do right next door on the lake. On a good day, why not rent a paddle boat or a canoe? You can take turns, have fun with the water birds and enjoy the peaceful scenery.
You can combine this with a barbecue using the free facilities of the park, or maybe you would like to treat the kids to some fish and chips?
8. Foreshore promenade
Do your kids have a bike or a scooter? Bring it along when you travel to Warrnambool! The foreshore promenade is perfect to let them ride along while you take your time enjoying the views and taking lots of amazing pictures. This scenic promenade is 5.7km long, from the Breakwater to Logans Beach (which, as you may remember, is also a whale nursery).
Make sure you also pack your swimmers and some towels, as the beaches along the way are offering wonderful opportunities for an invigorating swim.
9. Tower Hill Reserve
For wildlife encounters that they won’t forget, take the children to Tower Hill Reserve. Situated in the spectacular surroundings of a dormant volcanic crater, this wildlife and nature reserve aims at returning back to pre-settlement roots.
You can explore the reserve in your own time, or with a guide, but truth be told the best animals encounters are to be had right at the car park next to the picnic grounds. Emus, koalas, echidnas and maybe a wallaby or two, even snakes, are all part of this great family adventure. You can read my review here.
10. Hopkins Falls
You know what is the best thing about a couple of rainy days? Waterfalls are much more spectacular than during a dry spell! One of the best to visit along the Great Ocean Road are the Hopkins Falls. From Warrnambool it’s just a 15km drive, so an easy afternoon destination for a picnic or a walk in nature.
Hopkins Falls are an amazingly 90m broad, which make them visually quite appealing and turn them into a rewarding photo opportunity. There are two viewing platforms that you should both visit. In winter, see if you can spot the baby eels jumping the rocks during their annual migration.