Located just beyond the end of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, this seaside town is a destination in itself. Discover some of the best things to do in Warrnambool, no matter what the season.
The Great Ocean Road is one of the best road trips in Australia.
And if you happen to find yourself in the happy situation where you’re heading west from Melbourne, consider taking a couple of days on your trip, to explore the town of Warrnambool.
There’s plenty of things to do in Warrnambool for couples, families or even the solo traveller.
Explore ancient landscapes, take in stunning views and soak up the seaside vibe.
Let’s go see what Warrnambool has to offer.
This guide to the things to do in Warrnambool will cover:
Is Warrnambool worth visiting?
Warrnambool in Victoria is located right near the Great Ocean Road. It’s a decent sized town, with around 30,000 people living in and around its borders, but has a relaxed, beachy vibe.
Here you’ll find gorgeous scenery, maritime and Indigenous history, lovely parks and gardens, hot springs, a thriving arts scene and delicious food and drink.
You can stop in Warrnambool on the drive from Adelaide to Melbourne (or vice versa) or visit it at the end of your Great Ocean Road trip. And here’s a guide to making the most out of your time in Adelaide.
What is Warrnambool known for?
Warrnambool is known for its sheltered beaches (particularly Logans Beach, where you can sometimes spot whales 100 metres from the shore), mild climate, parks and gardens, coastal shipwrecks and fairy penguin population.
Things to do in Warrnambool
So, what exactly are Warrnambool’s attractions? Read on to discover what there is to do in this coastal town.
1. Take a dip in the Deep Blue Hot Springs
Deep Blue is the first hot springs hotel in Australia.
The hotel’s Hot Springs Sanctuary is outdoors and consists of a bunch of different rock pools, sensory caves and flowing waterfalls.
Relax in soothing thermal mineral waters, as you drift from pool to pool. Deep Blue tends to be less busy than the hot springs on the Mornington Peninsula and so offers a far more restful experience. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Warrnambool.
If you’re peckish, you can order food, drinks and nibbles at the onsite Nourish Dome Cafe.
Other experiences at the hotel include salt therapy, a day spa and indoor bath house and swimming pool.
You don’t have to stay in the hotel to use the hot springs – but you can if you want an extra indulgent or romantic weekend in Warrnambool.
If hot springs are your thing, consider planning a trip to the towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs in Victoria’s Spa Country.
2. Stock up on cheese
The Great Ocean Road technically ends in the town of Allansford, which is close to Warrnambool.
The top attraction here is Allansford Cheese World, which is – as you may have guessed – a smart place to stock up on cheese.
The label is best known for its cheddar. Grab some to enjoy on crackers during your trip to Warrnambool, or take it home with you in an esky.
3. Drop into the Warrnambool Art Gallery (WAG)
Most regional towns and cities in Victoria have excellent art galleries and Warrnambool is no exception.
Within this gallery you’ll find over 2000 artworks. There’s regular workshops, exhibitions and artist talks. Check their website for the latest, before you visit.
And best of all, there’s no entry free, making it one of the top free things to do in Warrnambool. Love it.
4. Marvel at Hopkins Falls
If you’re chasing waterfalls, you’ve come to the right state. Victoria is home to some of the most impressive falls in the country, particularly in this part of the state.
These are located around a 15 minute drive from the town centre.
They’re a majestic 90 metres high and are best viewed in winter or after heavy rain. Ogle them from the viewing platform or from the foot of the falls.
At the site you’ll find gas BBQs, toilets and plenty of perfect places to throw down a blanket for a picnic (here’s where that Allansford cheese will come in handy).
For more, check out my guide to the best waterfalls in Victoria.
5. Visit Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village
This open-air museum is the main Warrnambool tourist attraction.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village sprawls over 10 acres, with over 40 buildings and volunteer characters in period costume. Come during the day or pop in at night, to experience the Sound and Light Show – stories told through projections onto the walls of the museum’s buildings.
The museum is home to Victoria’s largest maritime and shipwreck collection, including the Loch Ard Peacock. This $4 million relic was saved from the Loch Ard, a boat wrecked in Loch Ard Gorge in 1878.
The fun doesn’t end there. You can even stay at Flagstaff Hill’s Lighthouse Lodge.
Much like Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, the museum is a great place to learn about very recent history – and the kids will love it.
6. Learn about the Middle Island Maremma Project
Did you know Warrnambool is home to a colony of fairy penguins?
These little penguins have long called Middle Island home. However, their numbers began sharply declining due to fox predation.
Enter the Maremma Dogs, who in a world first, were trained and popped onto Middle Island.
Their mission? To protect the penguins from foxes during the breeding season.
While Middle Island is closed to humans to protect this colony, you can take part in an an education program which outlines conservation efforts and allows you to meet the dogs!
This is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Warrnambool.
7. Check out Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
This area of Australia once consisted of volcanic plains. Extinct volcanoes and craters have left behind a landscape of fascinating and significant geological formations.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve sits within one of these large volcanic craters and is part of an ancient Aboriginal cultural landscape.
Tour the reserve and you’ll see old lava flow, wetlands, birdlife and all sorts of wildlife like koalas, emus, roos, echidnas and more.
Alternatively, you can take a guided tour through an Indigenous lens, provided by expert local guides.
8. Go scuba diving
Can you imagine learning how to dive in a more picturesque location than just off the Great Ocean Road?
Hire equipment, take a course or get PADI certified.
9. Go for a swim or a surf
Victoria’s south west coast is known for its epic breaks.
While the waves tend to be wilder closer to Melbourne, there’s a few places around Warrnambool where you can hang ten:
- Lady Bay has surf breaks for all levels
- Main Beach and the Flume are great for beginners
- Grannys Grove is for surfers with some experience
- seasoned surfers should head to Logans Beach.
10. Go whale watching
In the cooler seasons from June to October, female Southern Right whales head to the waters of Logans Beach to calve. They’ve been doing this almost every year for centuries.
They can often be seen within 100 metres from the shore. The best vantage points are a purpose-built platform in the sand dunes or from the beach.
11. Wander the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens
Warrnambool Botanic Gardens were designed by landscape gardener William Guilfoyle, who is also responsible for Melbourne’s gorgeous Botanic Gardens.
Spreading across 8.1 hectares, it’s a great spot for events, parties and picnics.
In the centre of the gardens you’ll find the Lone Pine, planted in 1934 and harvested at Lone Pine in Gallipoli.
12. Explore Childers Cove
Many parts of the Great Ocean Road are popular and therefore quite busy. If you’re after accessible beaches without the crowds, try Childers Cove, Murnanes Beach and Sandy Cove.
Childers Cove is around 15 kilometres west of the Bay of Islands. Turn onto Childers Cove Road and follow it for around 7 ks to access this secluded but scenic beach.
13. Catch a sunset at Thunders Point
Head to Thunder Point, located just off MacDonald Street in town, to take in some glorious coastal views, particularly at sunset.
If you fancy stretching your legs, you can follow a trail from the carpark to Shelly and Levys beach.
14. Pop over to nearby Port Fairy
Wondering what’s close to Warrnambool, besides the Great Ocean Road?
While the town of Port Fairy is a destination in its own right, you could squeeze in a side trip if you’re spending a few days in the area.
Wander the streets of the town centre to take in the maritime architecture. Drop into the historic Merrijig Inn for a tipple or feed.
Head over to Griffiths Island, home to a breeding colony of short tailed shearwaters or mutton-birds and snap a picture of its lighthouse.
15. Hire a boat on Lake Pertobe
Here’s another fun and romantic thing to do in Warrnambool.
Hire a boat and get out onto Lake Pertobe.
Take in the views, wave to passersby, watch out for local birdlife and just relax.
16. Ride the Rail Trail
Victoria is full of ‘rail trails’, disused former railway lines that have been repurposed as biking and walking tracks.
A 37 kilometre trail connects Warrnambool’s foreshore with the Moyne River in Port Fairy, passing through the village of Koroit.
Bring your own bike or hire one from Cycles Cafe Company in Warrnambool or the Port Fairy visitor information centre.
Alternatively, take a 6 kilometre journey from Levys Point carpark to the Warrnambool breakwater – a tourist attraction in itself.
Where to eat in Warrnambool
Sip on cocktails or order pizza and natural wine from Dart & Marlin. Or tickle your taste buds with tapas from The Hairy Goat.
The Fresh Market is held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month. Load up on local produce or simply wander around.
Where to stay in Warrnambool
So there you have it – a round up of some of the best things to do in Warrnambool and surrounds. Are you convinced that this is a regional town worth stopping in?
For more on Australia, see my Australia Travel Guide.
These experiences take place on the lands of First Nations peoples. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of these lands and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.