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Warrnambool, VIC

Major coastal rural centre to the west of the Great Ocean Road

Warrnambool is a coastal city located on Lady Bay (also known as Warrnambool Bay) between the Merri and Hopkins Rivers. It is known for its safe, sheltered beaches, its moderate climate, its parks and gardens, and Logans Beach where southern right whales come to give birth each year between June and September. Surf, rock, sea and river fishing are popular, particularly at Levys Beach, Killarney Beach and on the Hopkins and Merri Rivers. It is a popular holiday destination in the summer months. The city is an important manufacturing centre although it has increasingly become an important seaside holiday resort town. Warrnambool's industrial base includes milk-processing and dairy product plants and, historically, the Fletcher Jones clothing company which started in the city in 1924. It has a large number of interesting historic buildings and its relatively modest population, well under 40,000, has ensured that high rise development has not despoiled the historic nature of the city.


Warrnambool is located 258 km west of Melbourne via the Princes Highway and 21 metres above sea-level.


Origin of Name

Warrnambool comes from the language of the Kuurn Kopan Noot Aborigines. It is said to mean either "two swamps", "a growing tree", 'place of plenty" or "ample water".


Things to See and Do

Warrnambool Heritage Trail
There is an easy, 3 km walk around the centre of Warrnambool which passes a total of 22 places of heritage and historic interest. It can be downloaded at https://www.warrnambool.vic.gov.au/sites/warrnambool.vic.gov.au/files/documents/discover/about/maps/Heritage_Walk_Map_0.pdf. The places of significant interest include:

2. St John's Church
Located on Spence Street St John's Presbyterian Church was built of local sandstone and dedicated in July, 1875. The architect was Andrew Kerr and the cost of the building was £4,330. The church was enlarged in 1885 with transepts being added. It features a memorial plaque to the shipwreck Enterprise. There is also a drinking fountain dedicated to J.R. Bruce who went to China as a missionary and was killed during the Boxer Rebellion of 1902. The 24-metre tower was a marker for ships coming into Lady Bay. The church was largely destroyed by fire in 1920 but it had been rebuilt by 1922.

3. Ierne
Located on the corner of Spence and Kepler Streets, 'Ierne' is an impressive two-storey residence built in 1883 for Dr. Fleetwood. It was designed by George Jobbins, architect.

5. Victorian Villas
Located at the end of Fairy Street (opposite the primary school), this series of free standing Victorian villas, some dating back to the 1870s, have impressive Italianate-style barge boards.

6. Fairy Street
A walk along Fairy Street is an interesting historic experience. It was once an attractive avenue along which produce was carted to the port tramway and, from 1890, to the railway terminus. To the left are a series of two-storey buildings, many dating from the 1880s when they served as lower floor stores with upper storey residences. At 181 Fairy Street there was once McSweeney's cordial factory and 165 Fairy Street was the Olive Branch Hotel. On the corner of Lava Street is a building (Monaghan's Pharmacy) with a wheat sheaf motif above the awning to indicate it was originally Smith's bakery (1892). 

7. Christ Church
Located at 64-66 Henna Street and 224-230 Koriot Street, the Christ Church complex, as the Victorian Heritage Council explains: "comprises the church, rectory, hall and school building and a stable, all enclosed by an extensive stone wall, with tennis courts and a pavilion in an adjoining block. The foundation stone for Christ Church was laid on 2 December, 1855 by the Rev Peter Teulon Beamish (1824-1914) who was the first Anglican vicar in Warrnambool. He arrived in the town in 1850. The architect Nathaniel Billing designed the original church (south nave) which was completed in 1856 and in January 1861 called for tenders for an addition (north nave). The stone porch was added in 1874. On 9 December 1879 tenders were advertised for the erection of a spire and tower by Melbourne architects Terry & Oakden and Warrnambool architect Andrew Kerr. The plans were modified and advertised for tender in 1881 and the bell tower dedicated and bells installed in 1882.The Gothic Revival church is constructed of sandstone with a slate roof. Its construction in stages has resulted in an unusual plan with two parallel naves and a square battlemented tower. The interior features timber trussed ceilings, a carved stone pulpit (1897), a tiled Soldiers Memorial Tablet (1923), and chancel with a highly decorative reredos (1870), painted ceiling and encaustic tiles (1878) and a Fincham & Hobday organ (1890). The church has a large collection of stained glass windows ranging from the 1860s to the 1960s including works of Ferguson & Urie, William Montgomery and Brooks Robinson, many of them are memorials to local families." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4343 for more information.

8. Ellerslie College
Located at 241 Koriot Street, Ellerslie College, built in 1889, is a two room structure constructed of two room stone. The Victorian Heritage Register offers a fascinating insight into the architectural thinking that produced this building: "The hall was built in an early mediaeval style and is formed by two rooms in an L shaped configuration with gable ends. The place is entered through a round arched doorway into a parapeted entry foyer. The windows to the hall are double lancet in form with bulbous centre pilasters. Internally the classrooms are plain with timber lined ceiling following the line of the roof trusses ... The use of the Gothic Revival style for schools was associated with high aspirations in learning and moral vigour, particularly through the promotion of Gothic Revival architecture by the Oxford Movement and the Cambridge Camden Society. The use of Gothic Revival also had associations to the prestige of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Its use can be seen in a range of educational buildings of the nineteenth century both in Australia and in Great Britain which draw references from early medieval to Tudor architecture." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4341/download-report.

12. The Former Warrnambool Standard Office
Located at 170 Koriot Street this handsome grey building dates from 1872 and was once a skin and hide dealer. It was sold in 2008 and during restoration it was found to possess hidden tiling at the entrance, an old bank-style vault, pressed ceilings and it was actually three buildings which had been developed at different times. It was the home of the Warrnambool Standard until 2008.

13. Ozone Coffee Palace
Sadly the Ozone Coffee Palace, widely regarded as the most impressive structure ever built in Warrnambool (see https://warrnamboolhistory.org.au/warrnambool-history/ozone-hotel for details and a photograph), was burnt down in 1929 and today is replaced by the much more modest Warrnambool Hotel. The Coffee Palace was a remarkable building.

14. Intersection of Kepler and Timor Streets
At the corner of Kepler and Timor Streets are the former Bank of Australasia (1850); the Western Hotel (1869), once a Cobb and Co staging post; the National Bank and the former A.M.P. office. A reminder of the prosperity of the district.

15. Timor Street
A walk along Timor Street includes the impressive Post Office (1870) at 187 Timor Street and a number of other significant, historic buildings.

16. Gilles Street - Court House, Police Complex and Customs House
Most interest in Gilles Street focuses on the historic precinct which includes the old Court House (1871) which is actually facing Koriot Street, the old Police Station and stables, lock up and residence and the old Customs House.
The Court House, although now greatly altered, is listed by the Victorian Heritage Council as "a simple bluestone and brick structure, was built in 1870-71 by the Public Works Department. Originally the building comprised a centrally located court room with two rooms for clerks on the western side and separate rooms for magistrates, barristers, and prisoners on the eastern side. The court house furniture was purchased in 1871, specifically for this court house. Many other country courthouses were supplied with furniture from a centrally ordered store of items.
"The building today is largely the result of substantial alterations and additions to the north elevation made in 1889 to the design of J. H. Marsden, architect of the Public Works Department. The design in the Victorian Free Classical style featured a highly decorated projected entry, arcade and gabled roof. The 1889 extension included an enlarged court room in the centre of the building; new passageway and jury room to the east; an arcade and relocation of the stairs to the north; and a new library and waiting room to the west side. Major alterations in 1967 involved the addition of a second court room and related rooms." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1193.
The Police Station, at 7-9 Gillies Street, is actually a "complex of four police buildings, comprising police station, residence, stables and lock-up, all constructed between 1883 and 1888 from the designs of Public Works Department architect, ER Laver, is important for its associations with the history of police establishments in the Western District." See https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1194 for more details.
At 3 Gillies Street is the former Customs House, built of locally quarried bluestone in 1860 and designed by Charles Maplestone for the Public Works Department. There is a very detailed history at https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4248.

17. Commercial Hotel
Located at 59 Liebig Street, the Whalers Inn was built as a two-storey rendered brick building in 1856. It was extended in 1869, 1871 and, as the Commercial Hotel, had a new facade in 1876. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database - check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69922/download-report. It is recognised as the city's oldest surviving pub.

19. Timor Street - the Art Gallery and Lighthouse Theatre
Located just beyond the Civic Green, at 26 Liebig Street, is the Warrnambool Regional Art Gallery, established in 1886. The north-western corner of the building is the former Steam Navigation Company office (1886). The gallery features a range of 19th and 20th century art: both Australian and European. "The Warrnambool Art Gallery offers a diverse collection of artworks, from elegant European salon paintings to the Avant-garde modernism of the Angry Penguins. Artworks range from the romanticised colonial landscapes of Eugene Von Guerard and Louis Buvelot, to contemporary Australian printmaking by Juan Davila, Barbara Hanrahan and Ray Arnold." It is open Monday to Friday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and weekends from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm, tel: (03) 5559 4949. Check out http://www.thewag.com.au for further information.
Adjacent, at 180 Timor Street, is the Lighthouse Theatre which features theatre, ballet, opera and popular music concerts. and a foyer with a major tapestry and embroidery display, along with changing exhibitions, tel: (03) 5559 4999.

22. St Joseph's Church
Located at 169 Kepler Street, St Joseph's Catholic Church is surrounded by a fine bluestone and iron fence. In 1849 a small wooden building was erected on the corner of Kelp and Timor Streets. By 1853 Dean Thomas Slattery, the first Parish Priest of Warrnambool, was living in the city.  In 1856 the foundation stone of the present parish hall on the corner of Kepler Street and Raglan Parade was laid by Bishop Goold from Melbourne.  The building was used as a school and Church but by 1867 it was obvious it was too small and plans for a new Church were made. The Church was built in two stages and the present St Joseph's was finally completed on the 23rd September 1889.  In 2002 a Gathering Space was built onto the Church. 

St John's Presbyterian Church
Located at 22-26 Manifold Street, the Warrnambool Presbyterian Church, was built in 1865 and partially destroyed by fire in 1920. The interior was rebuilt. There is a very detailed history of the church which can be downloaded from the State Library of Victoria. Check out http://digital.slv.vic.gov.au and type in St John's Presbyterian Church. 

History House - Heritage Works
Located at 2 Gilles St is Heritage Works, the home of the local Historical Society and Family History organisations, which is open from 10.00 am - 12.00 pm and 1.30 pm - 3.30 pm Monday to Friday. Tel: (03) 5561 0283 or check out https://warrnamboolhistory.org.au. It has extensive collections of photographs, documents and other records. 

Cannon Hill
Lying beyond the roundabout at the bottom of Liebig Street and up Artillery Crescent is Cannon Hill Lookout which offers panoramic views across Lady Bay and Lake Pertobe. It is named for the World War I howitzers and the anti-aircraft gun. A marble marker commemorates the likelihood of early Portuguese exploration in the area. On the hill leading up to the lookout there is a war memorial dating from 1925 and, more recently (in 2010), an Aboriginal Soldiers Memorial with the dedication: "This Memorial Is Dedicated To All Aboriginal Men And Women From South West Victoria Who Served Their Country Proudly Along With Fellow Australians Since World War I. We Say Thanks To Those Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice." See http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/multiple/display/94912-aboriginal-war-services-memorial for more details.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village 
Located on the rise which overlooks Lady Bay, at 89 Merri Street, is Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village - a re-creation of a late 19th century coastal port complete with cobblestone streets. A path leads to the re-created village where each building portrays an important aspect of 19th century port life. Some are original buildings, including the chart room, two operating lighthouses and the lighthouse keeper's cottage. The Upper Lighthouse and outbuildings (1859) were brought from Middle Island in 1871-72, and the Lower Lighthouse was erected on Lady Bay Beach in 1859, dismantled in 1871 and the light placed on an obelisk at Flagstaff Hill. The hill was named in 1854 when a flagstaff was placed on the hill as a navigational aid. The fortifications on Flagstaff Hill were completed in 1887. They were installed to defend against a possible Russian attack. 
There are more than 40 buildings, all re-created using authentic materials. They include St Nicholas Seamen's Church, the Steampacket Inn, the Bank of Australasia, a brass foundry, newspaper office, ship chandler's office, slipway, steam-powered workshop, shipping agent, Masonic lodge, gaol, sailmaker's loft, cooper's workshop, armoury and officers' huts, port medical officer's surgery, school house and bond store. There is also a working blacksmith's, a shipwright's workshop, a leadlighter, a photographic studio and a glassblower.
There is a museum which features a life size earthenware statue of a peacock which is valued at $4 million. It was being transported from England to Melbourne aboard the Loch Ard clipper for the 1880 International Exhibition when the vessel sank in a gorge off Port Campbell with only two survivors. The statue washed ashore virtually unharmed in its packing case. There is a 40 minute guided tour which starts at the Loch Ard peacock at 11.30 am every morning. The village is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, tel: (03) 5559 4600. For further details check out http://www.flagstaffhill.com.
In the evening (it occurs at dusk and time changes according to the season) there is Tales of the Shipwreck Coast, a sound and light show which starts with the Aborigines of the area, moves through the whaling era and then onto the reasons the coast is known as The Shipwreck Coast. It starts in an immersive theatre, moves to a lantern tour through the cobblestone streets and ends at the Wharf Theatre. Check out http://www.flagstaffhill.com/sound-and-light-show for details and online bookings.

Lake Pertobe
Located off Pertobe Road, which heads from the CBD to the foreshore, Lake Pertobe has picnic areas, a walking track and a suspension bridge leading across to islets and there are paddleboats and small family motorboats. Most impressively there is the Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground - an 8 ha playground constructed on reclaimed swampland. It includes a timber maze, a flying fox, swings, a fort and giant slides. There is also mini golf.

Lady Bay and the Beachfront
On the ocean side of Pertobe Road there are a number of car parks adjacent to the town's main beach which offers safe swimming, windsurfing and yachting. The 3.4km Lady Bay Promenade is an easy walk along the foreshore with great views across the bay.

Stingray Bay
Stingray Bay is a small inlet into which the Merri River flows. Located off Viaduct Road, it is a sheltered destination which is popular for safe, family swimming.

Middle Island and the Maremma Dogs
Middle Island lies a very short distance offshore from Stingray Bay. It is home to a small fairy penguin colony which was over 800 in 1999 and reduced to ten in 2006. with the arrival of Maremmas, dogs which protected the penguins, the colony has increased. It is a protected island and even the fascinating Meet the Maremmas tour does not venture onto the island.

Meet the Maremma Experience
It is possible to meet the maremma dogs who protect the penguins. You meet the dogs, not the penguins.
"In a world-first, Maremma dogs were trained and placed on Middle Island to protect the penguins from foxes during the breeding season. The project has been a huge success using guardian dogs for conservation and raising community support and awareness of the environment..
"Middle Island has been closed to the public since 2006 to protect penguin burrows from human trampling which can harm penguins, penguin chicks and eggs. The closure of the island has contributed to the increase in penguin colony size. over summer each year, people can book a place on the ‘Meet the Maremma Tour’ and experience the project firsthand.
"Our Maremma guardian dogs spend time on Middle Island during the penguin breeding season and our Maremma ambassador dogs spend time at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, interacting with visitors and helping to educate people about environmental conservation." To book a tour check out https://visitwarrnambool.com.au/middle-island.

Thunder Point Coastal Reserve and Shelly Beach
Beyond Stingray Bay it is possible to cross over the Merri River at the Merri Bridge or drive towards the coast on MacDonald Street, and head towards Thunder Point Lookout and the Warrnambool Coastal Reserve. The area is known for its walking tracks (there is a boardwalk which runs along the cliffs), rock pools, birds, tiny inlets and glorious views over the ocean and rocky shoreline. It is a popular spot for fishing, skin diving and bird watching. There are some good photos and interesting text at https://www.weekendnotes.com/thunder-point-coastal-walk.

Hopkins River Estuary
The mouth of the Hopkins River, located on the eastern side of the city's beachfront, is a popular fishing spot. There are beautiful cliffs at Point Ritchie, rock formations and plenty of rock pools. A walking trail leads off Hickford Parade and there is a drive along Point Ritchie Road to the Hopkins River Lookout which lies on the western side of the estuary mouth.
Further west, and off Hickford Parade, is Granny's Grave (near Granny's Grave Beach) where Mrs James Raddleston - the first white woman to be buried in the area - was laid to rest in 1848. The monument was erected in 1904. On the eastern side of the estuary is Logans Beach and Logans Beach Whale Watching Platform.

Whale Watching - Logans Beach Whale Watching Platform
At the end of Logans Beach Road (on the east side of Hopkins River) is a whale viewing platform - the Logans Beach Whale Watching Platform. Warrnambool Bay is known as Australia's southern right whale nursery. From this vantage point, between June and September, it is possible to see whales which come to within 100 metres of the shore. The area is known as a breeding ground for southern right whales. The calves are five or six metres in length and up to 1500 kg at birth and the species of whale is black, has no dorsal fin and features crusty white-grey outgrowths on its body known as callosites. The name - 'right' whale - was given to the species because they were easy to hunt as they swam slowly (around 5 km per hour), close to the shore, floated when killed and yielded profitable levels of oil and whalebone. By 1935, when they became a protected species, there were thought to be only about a thousand in existence. It is now believed there are around 10,000 of the creatures which live in the southern oceans unable to travel to warmer waters because of their thick layers of blubber.

Warrnambool Botanic Gardens
The idea for the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens was first addressed in the 1850s but the land chosen, at the mouth of the Hopkins River, was unsuitable. Finally, in 1866, twenty acres of wilderness were chosen further up the Hopkins River and William R Guilfoyle was employed to design the gardens. He had been the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne since 1873. The Botanic Gardens website (https://wbgardens.com.au/the-gardens/history) describes Guilfoyle's gardens as "wide curving paths, large sweeping lawns dotted with specimen trees, glimpses of water, dense shrubberies displaying a rich variety of plants and focal points composed of plants of dramatic form and colour such as Doryanthes, Palms and Bamboos.
By the end of the century, a transformation had taken place. A visitor in 1891 noted that the formerly rugged piece of ground had been converted into a tranquil and beautiful park. Additional attractions had been included: a fountain with gold and silver fish, a fernery, rockeries, several aviaries and a number of animals such as monkeys, kangaroos, wallabies and guinea pigs. The aviaries of birds and the collection of animals have long since disappeared, but the restored fountain and fernery continues to delight." The gardens are located at the corner of Botanic Road and Queen Street, tel: (03) 5559 4800.

Fletcher Jones Gardens
These popular landscaped gardens and floral displays were created on an old quarry site when the company built its factory here in 1948. The Victorian Heritage Council has listed the gardens with the description that "Fletcher Jones established an attractive ornamental garden setting for his employees. Work commenced in 1949 and the gardens were extended to the west in 1951. The gardens quickly became popular among employees, local residents and tourists. The highly manicured landscape consists of flower beds, lawn, rockeries, pergolas, a sunken garden and pond and several large floral baskets. Also located in the garden are a variety of sculptures, including a basalt sculpture designed by Warrnambool artist Robert Ulmann as a memorial to Fletcher Jones. Other sculptures include the Fletcher Jones man, a bas relief sculpture of a man clad in permanent press trousers and shirt, and the Sphere and Trilon sculpture, copied from the 1939 New York World Fair, which Fletcher Jones regarded as a symbol of progress. Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/2409 for greater details. Within the award-winning gardens are the remains of a hawker's wagon, wishing well and waterfall. They are floodlit at night and are located at the corner of Flaxman Street and Raglan Parade.

Wollaston Bridge
Built in 1890 across the Merri River at Wollaston Road, this unusual Wollaston Bridge (which has now been replaced by a much more functional and conservative structure) consists of a timber deck superstructure suspended from steel cables which are strung between square tapered stone towers. It is said that cables from Melbourne's early cable trams were used in the construction. The bridge was erected over the Merri River to improve access to the private estate of Sir Walter Manifold. Manifold paid for the structure which was built by a local contractor. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "Wollaston Bridge is of architectural and aesthetic importance as an excellent and rare surviving example of a cable suspension bridge in Victoria. It is a sophisticated engineering structure of a substantial span and of notable aesthetic quality with its combination of materials including the stone pillars with cast iron capping, timber substructure and steel cables. Wollaston Bridge is of social and historical importance for its associations with Sir Walter Manifold who paid for the bridge and who managed the Wollaston property from 1885 until the end of World War One when the property was divided up for soldier settlements." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1202 for greater detail.


Other Attractions in the Area

Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Track
Officially opened on 31 May, 2012 this rail track runs for 37 km from Port Fairy to Warrnambool. The trail from Port Fairy to Illowa follows the path of a former branch line which ran from Port Fairy to Warrnambool and from Illowa to Warrnambool. It follows the old alignment of the Princes Highway on a dedicated bicycle lane beside the roadway. From the end of Millers Lane, the trail continues south off-road across Kelly's Swamp, then east parallel to the coast to Levy's Point. From there, the trail largely follows the cutting of the Merri River virtually all the way to the end of the trail at the Warrnambool Breakwater. 
The brochure on the rail track suggests three shorter rides:

1. Port Fairy-Koriot - 17.7 km (90 minutes to ride, 3 hours to walk) passes through "open farming land with small areas of remnant bushland. There is a slight uphill gradient from the Moyne River to Koroit."

2. Koriot - Levys Point Car Park - 14.3 km (90 minutes ride, 2.5 hours walk) the trail "meanders through open farming land with views of Warrnambool and the sea in the distance. The gradient is down hill to the Princes Highway. The trail goes under the highway and along the old Illowa Road. It then crosses the extensive Kellys Swamp wetlands, where you will see many types of water birds and frogs; then to the Levys Point track. The trail splits near the car park with one branch going onto the top of the dunes with extensive views of the sea."

3. Levys Point Car Park - Warrnambook Break Water - 5.7 km (45 minutes ride, 75 minutes walk) "the trail runs along the Kellys Swamp Wetlands to the Merri River and then parallels the river to the Warrnambool Breakwater Precinct. This area also has a rich variety of bird life."
The useful brochure with a detailed map can be downloaded at https://www.warrnambool.vic.gov.au/sites/warrnambool.vic.gov.au/files/documents/discover/explore/Port_Fairy_Warrnambool_Rail_Trail.pdf.

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
Located 14 km west of Warrnambool on the Princes Highway, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (614 ha) is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano which formed around 30,000 years ago when a violent eruption created the funnel-shaped crater which was later filled by the lake. Access is via a sealed one-way road which leads off the highway and past a lookout area before crossing a land bridge to the main body of land which is virtually surrounded by Tower Hill Lake. It continues on past a picnic area with toilets and barbecue facilities to the Tower Hill Visitor Centre which outlines the geology and history of Tower Hill. The centre is open Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm, tel: (03) 5565 9202 or 0428 318 876.
Aboriginal relics from the Peek Whurrong people have been found in volcanic ash. They indicate Aboriginal occupation from the time when the volcano was still active. The first known Europeans to sight the hill were the party of French explorer, Captain Nicolas Baudin in 1802.
By 1860 the natural nature of the crater had disappeared as a result of European settlers clearing the land and grazing cattle. However, five years earlier, the Austrian-born painter Eugene Von Guerard had painted Tower Hill and this painting was so accurate as a record of the original state of Tower Hill that in 1961 a regeneration program was started using Von Guerard's painting as a model. Today Von Guerard's painting is in the Warrnambool Regional Art Gallery and a copy is in the Tower Hill Visitor Centre. The regeneration - more than 300,000 trees and an on-going program - has led to the return of kangaroos, emus, koalas, wombats, sugar gliders, possums, echidnae, numerous waterbirds including black swans, Cape Barren geese, musk ducks, spoonbills and chestnut teals. Guided tours, led by members of the local Worn Gundidj Aboriginal people, can be booked.
A detailed Visitor Guide, with an excellent map, can be downloaded at https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315662/Visitor-Guide-Tower-Hill.pdf.
It suggests four self-guided walks. All of which start near the Visitor Centre.
Peak Climb - a distance of 1.5 km, steep hills, 30 minutes return. This walk goes to the Yatt Mirng Crater and offers panoramic views to the coast.
Lava Tongue Boardwalk - a distance of 1.6 km, flat, 30 minutes circuit. An easy walk past the rocky outcrop of an old lava flow which crosses the wetlands to Fairy Island and provides opportunities for bird watching (there is a bird hide) and spotting reptiles, koalas and echidnas.
Wagon Bay Loop - a distance of 1.5 km, flat with a few steps, 30 minutes circuit. An easy walk which circles Wagon Bay pond which offers good sightings of bird life and views back to the Visitor Centre.
Journey to the Last Volcano - a distance of 1.9 km, some steep hills, 1 hour circuit. This is an undulating walk around the most recently active volcano crater and provides good views over the reserve.

Hopkins Falls
Located 15 km north-east of Warrnambool via Wangoom, the Hopkins Falls are unusual because they are only 11 metres high and 90 metres across (reputedly the widest in the country). They were formed by a wide deposit of basalt lava. There are a number of excellent vantage points, some genuinely interesting signage and facilities for picnicking, fishing and walking. For a few days in early summer baby eels migrate upstream and struggle over the falls. The World of Waterfalls website has good photographs and details. Check out https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/waterfalls/australia-hopkins-falls.

The Mahogany Walking Track
The Mahogany Walking Track is a 22 km trail (it takes between 5-8 hours) along the beach from Warrnambool to Port Fairy, past the possible site of the Mahogany Ship. This strip of coast was once coastal forest but was cleared for agriculture by early European settlers. The walk starts at Thunder Point Coastal Reserve car park and finishes at Griffiths Island car park at Port Fairy. The track is marked with treated pine posts featuring distinctive triangular Alcoa Landcare symbols. It takes visitors to the best vantage points and ensures the protection of the most fragile areas. There is a particularly good, and detailed, description of the walk at https://weareexplorers.co/long-walks-beach-mahogany-walk-vic.
The Mahogany Ship was first sighted by Europeans in 1836 when two shipwrecked sealers noticed an ancient wreck with dark timbers on the sand dunes to the west of Warrnambool. Others noted its existence until it disappeared in 1880. It is now presumed lost under shifting sands. Desliens World Map, published in 1567, shows a southern coastline of Australia to a point 6 km west of present day Warrnambool. Historians have speculated that the map is the result of a secret 1522 Portuguese voyage headed by Christovao Mendonca. This has led to speculation that the Mahogany Ship is a wreck from this voyage. As a consequence the state government offered a $250,000 reward in 1992 for its rediscovery but withdrew the offer in 1993. It is worth reading Wikipedia on the Mahogany Ship because it covers much of the research and raises serious questions about the history of the story and the vessel. Check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahogany_Ship.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Kuurn Kopan Noot Aboriginal people occupied the area.

* The first known European to visit Lady Bay was the French navigator and explorer Nicolas Baudin in 1802. 

* Whalers and sealers utilised the bay on a seasonal basis in the 1830s.

* By 1839 the Watson brothers had a holding on the Hopkins River and the Allan brothers were grazing at Allansford. 

* Lady Bay was surveyed and named by whalers in 1844. 

* Permanent European settlement in the area began when graziers, notably the Boldens and Thomas Manifold, arrived in the early 1840s. 

* The novelist 'Rolf Boldrewood' (famous for Robbery Under Arms) camped by the mouth of the Merri River for six months while overlanding stock in 1842. 

* The townsite began to emerge in the 1840s around Lady Bay which served as a natural harbour. 

* A survey of the townsite was carried out in 1846. 

* In 1847 the township was proclaimed and the first land sales occurred.

* In 1848 a bridge was built over the Merri River. A punt across the river at Dennington was established that year.

* By 1850 the town had a school, a community chapel, two hotels and a blacksmith. 

* The Warrnambool Examiner was established in 1851. 

* The first jetty was built in 1850 and Warrnambool emerged as an important port for the shipping of wool, wheat, potatoes, onions and dairy produce from the surrounding area. It benefited from the fact that the port at Port Fairy was privately owned. 

* Warrnambool became a free port in 1854. A road board was established that year.

* It was gazetted as a municipality in 1855. At that time it had a population of 1,500.

* Although lighthouses were built on Middle Island and Lady Bay Beach, in 1859 there were numerous shipwrecks in the area. 

* Warrnambool became a borough in 1863. 

* The Botanic Gardens were completed in 1869.

* J.F. Archibald, who later founded the Bulletin, started work at the Examiner in 1871, aged 14.

* The lighthouses were moved to Flagstaff Hill in 1871-72.

*  Gun emplacements were installed in the 1880s due to fears of a Russian invasion.

* A local woollen mill was established by public subscription in 1874.

* One wreck, frequently sighted to the west of town until 1880, was thought to be the remains of a 16th-century Portuguese vessel though it has since disappeared, presumably beneath shifting dunes.  

* The woollen mill burned down in 1882. 

* Warrnambool officially became a town in 1883. 

* A breakwater was built from 1876 to 1890 but chronic silting problems (exacerbated by the breakwater) caused the mouth of the Merri River to almost close up and the natural harbour was rendered virtually unusable.

* In 1887 gun emplacements were installed on Flagstaff Hill.

* In 1888 a butter and cheese factory was opened at Allansford.

* The railway reached the town from Terang in 1890. The railway station was built that year.

* The Ozone Coffee Palace opened in 1890.

* A new Town Hall was opened in 1891.

* The Merri River Water Supply Scheme provided a reliable water supply to the town in 1893.

* Hopkins River Trestle Bridge was opened in 1894.

* In 1896-1897 the Warrnambool Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures was held.

* An Agricultural High School was opened in 1907.

* In 1909 the Farnham Cream and Butter company was bought out by Nestles.

* The woollen mill reopened in 1910 and is still operating today.

* In 1912 an attempt was made to dredge the Merri River and the breakwater was extended. However, after 100 metres were added, it collapsed and the project was abandoned. 

* The City of Warrnambool was officially recognised in 1918.

* The port virtually ceased to operate in the 1920s. 

* The greatest loss of life in the area occurred when a motor launch named the Nestor sank in Hopkins River, near Warrnambool, in 1921 with ten lives lost.  

* The port was closed in 1942.

* An attempt to reactivate it in 1944 failed. However, the silting up effectively extended the beaches, increasing its attractiveness to holiday-makers.

* The Fletcher Jones clothing factory opened in 1948.

* In 1975 Flagstaff Hill maritime museum complex was opened.

* Swampy Lake was drained and landscaped in 1980.

* In 1983 a performing arts centre was opened.

* The city's Art Gallery was completed in 1986.

* The Fletcher Jones factory closed in 2005. 


Visitor Information

The Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre, 89 Merri Street and the Foreshore Pavilion Information Hub, tel: (03) 5559 4620, or 1800 637 725.


Useful Websites

The official local website can be accessed at https://visitwarrnambool.com.au.

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1 suggestion so far
  • Warrnambool Woollen Mill extract from their timeline on their website: http://www.warrnamboolwoolenmill.com.au
    The original Woollen Mill was located in Woodford prior to its current location today. Some great information on the website.
    The Woollen Mill is now a housing estate, the old storage tunnels have been converted into 3 story houses. Some of the old pumps have been kept and displayed throughout the estate. There is also a cute community garden along the bank of the Merri River.

    Great information on here, I definitely learned something new!