First timers’ guide to Warrnambool

by I AM WARRNAMBOOL

Warrnambool is jam-packed with year-round appeal.

With the arrival of BIG4 Warrnambool Figtree Holiday Park to our network –  joining the existing BIG4 Hopkins River Holiday Park – we ventured to this vibrant city for a first-hand visitor experience.

Lush and green: Warrnambool and surrounds are massively inviting.

VIC’s Great Ocean Road region requires no introduction, consistently earning the eyes of the world for its breathtaking coastline and other natural wonders.

Yet tucked away at its western end is a city avoiding much of that gaze. And it’s a regrettable oversight.

Simply, Warrnambool is a thriving destination replete with first-class attractions. It not only punches above its weight but offers more variety than a week of Melbourne weather.

Warrnambool and surrounds are a scenic delight.

Quick profile

Where: 260km southwest of Melbourne.

Population: 34,000 (2015)

Nickname: The ‘Bool.

A three-hour drive from Melbourne, and you'll be in relaxation mode in no time.

Credit: Warrnambool City Council

For beachgoers

From June to September it’s whale-watching season in Warrnambool. Southern right whales can be spotted from an expansive designated viewing platform at Logans Beach, which is just a stone’s throw from the car park. Better yet, these giants often swim within just 100m of the shore. At worst you can soak up excellent views of the powerful coastline.

Logans Beach is also renowned for surfing, while protected Lady Bay suits swimming and other water leisure and is patrolled during summer.

Logans Beach makes for an essential visit.

For the path pounder  

Walking trails in Warrnambool offer countless rewards for varying tastes. Try this trio:

• Warrnambool Foreshore Promenade: Hive of activity, particularly during summer, with its 5km-plus path that suits walking, cycling, or skating.
• Warrnambool to Port Fairy Rail Trail: Smooth, mostly flat 37km long path that links these two locations. Ample highlights along the way; favoured by both cyclists and walkers.
• Warrnambool Heritage Trail: Traces the city’s oldest structures over 3km. Maps are available from the Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre on Merri St.

Walking and cycling paths are gateways to a vast array of exceptional views.

For the nature lover

Take the 15min drive from the city centre to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. It’s home to a massive volcanic crater and bursts with funky geological features, a lake, wetlands, and indigenous heritage. Wildlife abounds and includes kangaroos, emus, and koalas, and various native bird species. View it all on a series of walking trails of varying difficulty and length.

Prime wildlife-spotting ops are on offer at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.

For the photographer

A few key spots include:

  • Stingray Bay: Sheltered cove with gin-clear rock pools and endless angles for framing photos.
  • Bluehole: Also known as the mouth of Hopkins River. Features craggy cliffs, fabulous formations, and rock pools.
  • Heritage buildings: Grand old structures scattered throughout Warrnambool warrant time in front of the lens. The striking T&G building is a landmark.

Heritage abounds in Warrnambool, and this T&G building is an icon.

  • Hopkins Falls: Spectacular 90m drop with two viewing areas. A 15min drive from the city centre.
  • Logan’s Beach: The viewing platform we mentioned earlier is as accommodating for cameras as it is people.
  • Thunder Point: Pick of the places for a stunning sunset pic overlooking the ocean.
  • Cannon Hill: Lookout point with sweeping views over Lady Bay, Lake Pertobe, and more.

Hopkins Falls make for a postcard-worthy pic.

Credit: Warrnambool City Council

For the family

You can’t miss one of Warrnambool’s best attractions, Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village.

Inside, explore the area’s rich maritime past and retrace the compelling stories of the many ships that came to grief in these treacherous waters. Visually, the standout exhibit is the famous Loch Ard Peacock statue. Valued at $4 million-plus, it’s seriously impressive to gaze at, complete with a fascinating backstory.

Outside, wander through the maritime village and imagine life as it once was through a cluster of colourful old buildings. Then in the evening, a dramatic sound and light show recounts the past in stunning fashion.

Retrace a fascinating history at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village.

For the kids

If burning energy is required, head straight to Lake Pertobe Playground. Its wide assortment of amusements appeals to children of all ages and is backed by a relaxing lakeside setting and undercover barbecue area. Also within this precinct is a mini-golf course.

The shores of Lake Pertobe make a great setting for an action-packed playground.

Credit: Warrnambool City Council

To save a few pennies

On a pleasant day, the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens are ideal for a relaxing stroll or a picnic. These tranquil surrounds have several notable features, including a Dutch elm, a Wollemi pine, lake, and rotunda.

Relax in tranquil surrounds at the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens.

Credit: Warrnambool City Council

What is that?

Approaching the city from the east, you might notice a large silver sphere protruding from the skyline and balanced atop an orange ‘tripod’. Apparently, it’s an old water storage bowl, which is part of the iconic and colourful Fletcher Jones Gardens.

And a quick history lesson: the gardens are on the site of the Fletcher Jones & Staff trouser factory, which was once a major employer in Warrnambool but is now closed. The gardens remain open to the public, though, and are well worth a look.

The old water storage bowl will likely catch your eye when visiting Warrnambool.

For a caffeine fix

Four coffees from individual cafés were sampled in the making of this article, and all were up to a Melbourne-drinker’s standard. Topping the rankings was Hoppy’s Café (spacious; interesting artwork) just ahead of Bohemia (great ambience), and Coffee Treat.

But for excellent brews combined with sparkling views, you can’t beat Pavilion. Its spacious deck overlooks the water and attracts a busy brunch crowd, and in the arvo you can swap cappuccinos for cocktails. From this point there’s the easiest of access to the Warrnambool Foreshore Promenade.

Pavilion is among a cluster of winning Warrnambool cafes and warrants special mention for its spacious deck and glittering views.

For tasty pub grub

Options abound but special mention goes to Hotel Warrnambool for its cosy, rustic, and spacious surrounds and extensive menu and tap range. The Victoria Hotel has excellent food and super friendly staff in an old-school setting.

Elsewhere, Warrnambool teems with a vast array of cuisine. The precinct at the southern end of Liebig Street buzzes on weekends.

Classic: Tasty tucker and cosy surrounds combine at Hotel Warrnambool.

Credit: Courtesy Hotel Warrnambool

For a rainy day

The historical Warrnambool Art Gallery has a central position and showcases thought-provoking permanent and touring exhibitions. Year-round highlights include various Aboriginal artefacts as well as artworks depicting Tower Hill game reserve. A portrait of Warrnambool icon, David Fletcher Jones, is prominent.

Escape dreary weather with a wander through Warrnambool Art Gallery,

For the social butterfly

The essential time to visit is for the annual Warrnambool May Racing Carnival held at the start of the month. Dubbed ‘schoolies for adults’, the world-famous event boasts a 160-year history and features three consecutive days of thrilling action on and off the track. Top tip: Book your accommodation early.

Warrnambool is horse country with thoroughbreds frequently spotted at the beach, and a buzzing racing carnival to boot.


This Post was written by BIG4. BIG4 has two great parks in Warrnambool. BIG4 Warrnambool Figtree enjoys a central location within easy walking distance of the CBD. Meanwhile, BIG4 Hopkins River lives up to its name, occupying a prime riverside location that’s just a 5min drive from the city centre.

About the Blogger

I AM WARRNAMBOOL

Find us at the Visitor Information Center, we are a dedicated team of locals sharing our knowledge and passion of Warrnambool.

https://visitwarrnambool.com.au/visitor-information/
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