Warrnambool is a beautiful coastal town sitting at the western end of the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road drive is a world-renowned scenic drive. Each year, millions of visitors travel to Victoria from interstate and overseas to admire the spectacular coastal views along the Great Ocean Road. However, many of them do not actually end up visiting the stunning Warrnambool.
With that being said, with a pristine coastline and a range of family-friendly activities to enjoy, Warrnambool is a perfect day trip destination in its own right. Although Warrnambool is only a small coastal town, you will need to plan at least one full day to explore Warrnambool and its surroundings.
For the best experience, you may wish to stay a night or two in Warrnambool to fully appreciate this charming coastal town. For a list of accommodations in Warrnambool, you can check it out here on Booking.com.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a miniature village and an open-air museum showcasing a typical port town from the 1870s. Staff members within the village are also dressed in late 1800s costumes, which is very interesting to admire. At Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, you can also find Victoria’s largest shipwreck collection from the 1800s to learn the story of the ‘Shipwreck Coast’.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village also houses the Warrnambool Visitor Centre. From the visitor centre, you can purchase tickets to the maritime village, book a range of tours in and around Warrnambool, and get useful travel suggestions from the locals. Public toilets and a gift shop are also available at the visitor centre.
The entry ticket to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village was AUD 19 per adult when I visited in May 2022. For up-to-date pricing, you can check out here on their website. This ticket is valid for 2 consecutive days, so you can come back to revisit the village or to use the facilities at the Warrnambool Visitor Centre.
Night shows (sound & light shows) are also available at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village after nightfall. Additional tickets and bookings are required if you wish to participate in the night shows.
Depending on individual preference, you will need to plan at least 1 hour to cover all the buildings and landmarks in Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. Much more time is required if you are bringing kids to the village, as they tend to spend a lot more time in each of the buildings here.
Logans Beach is a stretch of soft sandy beach, only a 10-minute drive from Warrnambool town centre. In addition to its pristine beach, it is also famous for being a popular whale-watching spot during the winter months.
Logans Beach has been known as a whale nursery for hundreds of years. Each year between June and September, a great number of Southern Right Whales migrate from the sub-Antarctic waters to the warmer Southern Ocean. A number of these female Southern Right Whales will return to the calm water near Logans Beach to nurse their calves.
A well-constructed whale watching platform is available at Logans Beach to provide visitors with a better viewing experience. The ramp to the whale watching platforms is also relatively flat, which is suited for wheelchair access.
Although June to September is the best time for whale watching at Logans Beach, you can also spot whales around May and October. With that being said, whale watching is mostly a matter of luck & there is no guaranteed whale spotting, even if you are visiting on the best day possible.
To help with your whale-watching experience, make sure you bring a pair of binoculars (if you have them). Warm & wind-proof clothing is also essential to an enjoyable whale-watching experience, as it can get really cold and windy at Logans Beach.
Gusty the Wombat & Dad Emu
Along your drive from Warrnambool town centre to Logans Beach, you will drive under a small tunnel along Otway Road. Under the tunnel, there is a pair of interesting mural arts, Gutsy the Wombat & Dad Emu.
Both Gutsy the Wombat & Dad Emu are created by Warrnambool artist Jimmy Buscombe. Both of the mural arts are very vivid and cute. They have certainly captured the eyes of many passersby. Even if you are not a big fan of mural arts, it can still be a fun spot to check out on your way to Logans Beach.
Point Ritchie (Myojil)
Point Ritchie is a stunning oceanfront area at the mouth of Hopkins River. At Point Ritchie, you can find clusters of incredible rock formations along the coastline, enjoy a relaxing walk on its pristine beach, and admire a breathtaking sunset view over where the peaceful Hopkins River meets the wild Southern Ocean.
With only a short distance from Logans Beach, Point Ritchie is also a great spot for whale watching between June and August each year. Seals regularly frequent the beachfront area in Point Ritchie as well.
In addition to its natural beauty, Point Ritchie is also of historical significance. Evidence of human activities, such as shell remains and old fireplaces, have been discovered at Point Ritchie, indicating the existence of human activities in Point Ritchie back to tens of thousands of years ago.
Warrnambool Breakwater & Old Warrnambool Aquarium
Warrnambool Breakwater Rock Pier is a huge concrete breakwater that provides a safe environment for Warrnambool Harbour. This solid breakwater also provides locals and visitors with a great fishing spot. During the winter months, you can stand at the ocean end of Warrnambool Breakwater to admire the Southern Right Whales swimming by as well. Seals and stingrays are also regularly spotted around the breakwater.
Since the Warrnambool Breakwater Pier is massive, a return walk to and from the ocean end of Warrnambool Breakwater can take about 20 minutes, depending on individual fitness level. To make this walk more enjoyable and to admire the stunning views along the walk, you may wish to plan out slightly more time when visiting this rock pier.
Near Warrnambool Breakwater, you can also find the remaining structures of the Old Warrnambool Aquarium. The Old Warrnambool Aquarium was a popular Warrnambool attraction between 1971 and 1988. It has since been closed down and abandoned.
Nowadays, all that’s remaining from the Old Warrnambool Aquarium is its old dome roofs. When unknown of its past, many visitors will simply view and use these domes as ‘stepping stones’ for admiring the rocky coastline and the wild Southern Ocean.
Stingray Bay & Middle Island
Stingray Bay is located at the mouth of the Merri River, just a short distance from Warrnambool Harbour. The water within Stingray Bay is mostly shallow and peaceful, which has become a great family-friendly spot.
Stingray Bay also provides a lovely view of the nearby Middle Island & Merri Island. At low tide, there is usually a wide sandbar from Stingray Bay to Middle Island & Merri Island. However, since Middle Island is an important fairy penguin colony, public access to Middle Island is strictly prohibited.
Fun fact: Middle Island’s Maremma Project (a project utilising Maremma Sheepdogs to ward off predators & protect the fairy penguins populations on the island) is what the film Oddball was based on.
Thunder Point Coastal Reserve
Thunder Point Coastal Reserve features a rugged sandstone coastline with picturesque rock pools. It is one of the most beautiful places in Warrnambool & a perfect spot for sunset. Because of the breathtaking views along Thunder Point Coastal Reserve, the walk between Stingray Bay and Thunder Point Lookout has become one of the most popular scenic walks in Warrnambool.
To access Thunder Point Coastal Reserve, visitors can park at Stingray Bay before taking a short walk via Merri Bridge to the boardwalk along Thunder Point Coastal Reserve. This boardwalk will take you through Pickering Point Lookout to Thunder Point Lookout for an impressive view of this rocky coastline and the wild Southern Ocean.
The return walk between Stingray Bay and Thunder Point Lookout took me just under 40 minutes in a leisurely manner. It was a relatively flat and easy walk & can also be completed in about 30 minutes for people who are very fit.
In addition, car parks are also available at Thunder Point Lookout for visitors to start the walk from there. If interested, you can continue this walk further to visit the pristine Shelly Beach as well.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is about a 40-minute drive east of Warrnambool, along the renowned Great Ocean Road. It is a beautiful coastal reserve with a pristine coastline and impressive offshore rock stacks.
There are multiple viewing platforms & walking tracks along the Bay of Islands. You will need at least 1 hour to get a rough feel of the remarkable views at the Bay of Island.
Since there is so much to discover around the Bay of Islands, I suggest visiting at least the Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Islands Beach if you are time restricted. If you happen to have more time to spare, you may wish to also check out Bay of Island’s picturesque coastal walks, such as the Bay of Martyrs to Halladale Point walk.
Port Fairy is a picturesque coastal town, about a 25-minute drive west of Warrnambool along Victoria’s South Coast. It is well-known for its well-preserved historic buildings, stunning Port Fairy Lighthouse, and a pristine coastline overlooking the impressive Shipwreck Coast.
Although Port Fairy is a relatively small town, in comparison to its neighbouring Warrnambool and Portland, it is packed with history and stunning sceneries, which you may wish to take a day or two to explore.
In Port Fairy, you can spend a relaxing morning discovering its over 50 historic buildings after brunch; spend the afternoon exploring Port Fairy’s beautiful coastline along The Passage, Southcombe Beach, and Pea Soup Beach; enjoy a spectacular sunset near Port Fairy Lighthouse at Griffiths Island.
Since tourism is one of Port Fairy’s main industries, Port Fairy also offers a range of overnight accommodations to suit every budget and need. You can find them here on Booking.com.