Warrnambool Great Ocean Road

the ultimate travel guide toWarrnambool

Windswept beaches, hot springs, dormant volcanoes, scenic waterfalls: Warrnambool may be the largest city on the Great Ocean Road, but it’s also brimming with natural features. Part of the infamous Shipwreck Coast, on the far western edge of the scenic coastal touring route, Warrnambool and its surrounds are also a habitat for countless wild creatures, great and small. From the humpback whales that cruise the waters when the weather cools, to the little penguins that populate an island that lies just off Warrnambool’s shore, and the native animals (emus, kangaroos, koalas) that reside in the nearby Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.

Yet the city centre offers its fair share of draws too. From farmers’ markets to maritime museums, family-friendly attractions, art galleries, cafes and restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.

Top things to do in Warrnambool

Hot springs and attractions

Home to Australia’s richest collection of shipwreck artefacts, Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is captivating. Aside from showcasing relics from some of the 200 ships known to have been wrecked along this coast, underwater video displays and a guided tour are also included.

For a spot of culture, visit The Warrnambool Art Gallery (admission free), or check out the local street art. And for a spot of self-care, make a beeline for the Deep Blue Hot Springs, which features open-air rock pools, sensory caves, an infrared sauna, and a day spa.

Nature and wildlife

Within just a 20-minute drive of Warrnambool lies the 90-metre-wide Hopkins Falls, which is spectacular after rainfall, and houses two viewing platforms; it’s a popular spot for a scenic picnic too.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to natural attractions in Warrnambool: spend a morning exploring the Bay of Islands, go fishing on the Hopkins River, surf the clear waters of Lady Bay, or go for a stroll along sweeping Logan’s Beach.

Warrnambool is only a short drive from one of Victoria’s most significant ecological and geological sites: Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. Formed by volcanic eruptions nearly 30,000 years ago, the reserve is home to emus, kangaroos, koalas and more and features a wildly diverse terrain to explore (think wetlands, crater lakes and bushland).

Part of the so-called ‘whale corridor’, you might just spy humpbacks and southern right whales splashing around in the sea if your visit coincides with whale watching season (May to September).

Family activities

Warrnambool is not a destination that’s short of family-friendly activities. Visit the eight-hectare Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground, play a round of miniature golf (Mini Golf by the Sea), send the kids to the skate park, hop on one of the lakeside motorboat rentals, stop by the Warrnambool Aquatic Leisure Centre (AquaZone), or pencil in an evening at maritime museum Flagstaff Hill for its sound and light show.

Warrnambool accommodation

Camping and caravan parks

Close to the heart of the action, the powered and unpowered sites at Surfside Holiday Parks are just steps from a trifecta of attractions: the beach, the lake, and the city centre. Outside of peak season, the spacious park is also pet-friendly.

Small but perfectly formed, and situated slap bang in the centre of town, the BIG4 Warrnambool Figtree Holiday Park is home to a variety of caravan and camping sites, including grassed, powered, and slab en-suite sites. The grounds feature a heated indoor pool, a tennis court, a playground, a games room, and gas barbecues.

Hotels and motels

A modern wellness-focused hotel, The Deep Blue has its own hot springs and day spa on-site. Whatever room category you opt for, each has its own balcony, and some boast ocean views.

When self-catering is on the agenda, pick the serviced-apartment-style hotel rooms at Quest Warrnambool. Choose from a studio, or a one-, two-, or three-bedroom apartment and exploit the gorgeous courtyard pool.

If you’re on a tight budget, try the Mid City Motel Warrnambool, which has a pool, a restaurant and spartan yet spacious and clean rooms.

Warrnambool restaurants and pubs

The Fresh Market Warrnambool is a great place to pick up provisions, whether you’re self-catering and need some staples (hello organic sourdough loaves) or fancy a stroll and want some snacks (we’re looking at you, Danish chocolate marshmallow domes).

Piccolo Coffee Roasters is one of the best spots in town for your daily caffeine fix. Drop in for an expertly poured flat white and maybe even a toastie, or pick up some ethically sourced beans for your pantry.

Going strong since 1949, Kermond’s is the local go-to for hamburgers. Burgers are made to order, and the rustic takeaway joint’s steak sandwiches and thick shakes win rave reviews too.

Occupying a plum spot, at the very tip of the Warrnambool Foreshore Reserve, lies the Pavilion Cafe & Bar. Gorge on sea views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and tuck into a carefully curated selection of international lunch dishes, such as Sri Lankan chicken curry, a chilli tofu ‘soul bowl’, and beer-battered local flake.

A watering hole with plenty of character and charm, head for Seanchai Irish Pub when you’re in the mood for a drink or three.

Fancy some fish and chips? You’re spoiled for choice in this coastal city. Local favourites include Parker’s, Family’s, Scotty’s, and Seafoods.

Other local standouts for upscale sit-down dinners include Myrtle Bar & Kitchen and Proudfoots by the River.

Getting to Warrnambool

Warrnambool is located approximately 265 kilometres west of Melbourne (roughly a three-hour drive). Alternatively, there are direct V/Line train services between Melbourne and Warrnambool, with a journey time of three-and-a-half hours. Melbourne’s Avalon Airport is the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, and the closest to the coastal town, at 213 kilometres away. But rather than rushing straight there, take it slow and take in the Great Ocean Road on your way.

Best time to visit Warrnambool

The ocean winds keep winters warm and summers cool on the Great Ocean Road. Visit in autumn/winter (May to September) for whale watching, or in summer if you’d like to idle on the long sandy beaches. Otherwise, it’s fair to say that Warrnambool is a year-round destination.

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