WARRNAMBOOL: THE STUFF FAMILY MEMORIES ARE MADE OFby MATTY STEWART
As a local kid that grew up in Warrnambool, I’ve now got kids of my own here, and it’s fair to say this place has so many magnificent things to experience as a family, all year round. In one weekend you can go from standing on the rugged South West coastline gazing out into the wild ocean, to sampling a drop of whisky at the Timboon Distillery or tasting locally made cheeses at Great Ocean Road Cheeseworld. Plus, there’s plenty of active adventure to have in between.
Here are some local hot spots that I’d like to share with you if you’re thinking of checking out ‘my backyard’, especially in winter:
The thundering Hopkins Falls
The Hopkins Falls is a beaut place to take the kids and is only a 10 minute drive from Warrnambool. Winter is by far the best time to see the falls - especially after a heavy downpour. Watching the torrent of water belt down the 90 metre drop from the Hopkins River is a wild, loud, and thrilling experience. With a stunning picnic ground, this really is a hidden local gem I’d encourage every visitor check out. Just take a quick detour from either the Princes or Hopkins highways and follow the signs.
Step inside the Myrtle Bar
This new cocktail bar and fine dining restaurant in the heart of Warrnambool offers a really special night out. Lock in a baby sitter, and grab your better half to settle into the cosy little restaurant out back where the menu is devoted to regional produce. Choose from a mouth watering selection, including duck prosciutto, or dry aged Angus beef temptingly on display behind the glass meat cabinet at the end of the dining room. Then cap off the night in the front bar with a craft beer or cocktail and soak up the atmosphere of the town’s busy restaurant precinct at the junction of Timor and Liebig streets.
Hit the Laneway Art Trail
Warrnambool is famous for its arts and culture and we’re lucky to have an emerging street art movement that adorns the walls of several laneways and other public spaces. These masterpieces tell local stories about our community and unique natural landscape. From the fun and funky to the reflective and thought-provoking, the artworks are constantly evolving. It’s a real eye opener for the kids, so rug up and let your feet take you on an inspiring journey through the city centre.
Choose your own adventure at Lake Pertobe
My whole life I’ve been a regular at Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground. From a little tacker and now with my own kids, I’ve watched it improve time and time again over the years and, today, it has a multitude of playgrounds for different ages and abilities. Of course there’s the famous flying fox (my favourite) and the maze (with public art), along with the paddle boats and motor boats for hire. Plus some nice and easy short walks along the winding paths, footbridges and islands. It’s always a hive of activity any time of year with undercover barbecues too (get there early to claim yours), plenty of parking, plus huge lawn areas to kick the footy. Make sure you check out the new bocce court too if you’re up for a bit of friendly local competition.
Night history lesson at Flagstaff Hill
Few visitors (and even some locals) are aware of the history surrounding our wild shipwreck coast. Probably the best and most exciting lesson you can have is at the multi-million dollar Flagstaff Hill Sound and Light Show. The story is told using lights, sounds and images in the maritime village that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Friendly tip; make sure you wear an extra coat as you’ll be outside at night time for the most part.
Winter surfing, yes I’m serious…
Surfers drive for hours to catch a winter wave here in Warrnambool, proving just how good the surf is all year round. For me, I’m more than happy to watch from the Logans Beach look-out, The Flume or the main swim beach on Lady Bay – which is a good spot if the kids are keen to jump on the boogie boards. You can warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate or glass of red at The Pavilion Café or Simon’s Waterfront, both right on the water.
Look out for whales
The whales can be fickle to find in winter, but they’re always cruising along the Great Ocean Road at some point. Join Facebook alerts like WhaleMail or drop by the Visitor Information Centre for the latest sighting report. On a whim, I head to Logans Beach Whale Nursery on the outskirts of Warrnambool. If I’m lucky, I’ll see a mother and her newborn calf putting on a show. It’s luck-of-the-draw, but totally worth investing the time to see these massive, beautiful creatures. Make sure you take your own binoculars, as nobody likes sharing theirs once they see a whale!
1. For me, Warrnambool is iconic for quality burgers, so make sure you stop by Kermonds Hamburgers - a local institution.
2. If you’re up for a hit of golf, we have two of the best golf courses in the world at Warrnambool and Port Fairy, complete with ocean views; so pack your clubs!
3. Rug up. It’s not called the Shipwreck Coast for nothing. Bring a warm coat, scarf, raincoat, gloves and beanie. Then you’ll be ready to take on anything.