Located 263 kilometres southwest of Melbourne, where the Princes Highway meets the Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool, population 28 000 is a coastal city bounded by two rivers, the Merri River to the west and the Hopkins River to the east. Warrnambool is renowned for its safe, sheltered beaches, moderate climate, parks and gardens, its first class sporting, cultural and entertainment facilities, and wool industry. One of the finest racecourses in Victoria is located here, as well as the sizeable Warrnambool campus of Deakin University.
Permanent European settlement in the area began with graziers in the early 1840s around Lady Bay, which acted as a natural harbour.
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. The port ceased operation in 1920s.
Although lighthouses were built on Middle Island and Lady Bay Beach there were numerous shipwrecks in the area. The lighthouses were moved to Flagstaff Hill and gun emplacements were added in the 1880s, for fear of a Russian invasion.
A local woollen mill was established by public subscription in 1874. It burned down in 1882 and reopened in 1910 and is still operating today.
The Fletcher Jones clothing factory opened in 1948. Warrnambool is still the headquarters of the company, which is a major local employer.
Many of Warrnambool old buildings are still standing and the Warrnambool Tourist Information Centre provides a number of heritage walks.
At Logans Beach, the southern right whales come within view of the shoreline to give birth each year between June and October.
Surf, rock, sea and river fishing are popular, particularly at Levys Beach, Killarney Beach and the Hopkins and Merri rivers, and there are several fishing competitions in the course of the year.
Annual events at Warrnambool include the Summer Music Festival in January, the Wunta Fiesta in February, the Victorian Heritage Festival in March, a 3 day racing carnival in May, the Rhapsody in June Music Festival, and the Melbourne to Warrnambool Road Cycling Classic in October.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a recreation of a late 19th century coastal port. At the entrance there is a whaleboat and a theatrette. Other features are an elaborate local tapestry that depicts historic themes and the Schomberg Diamond. The original buildings include the chart room, two operating lighthouses and the lighthouse keeper's cottage that houses the Shipwreck Museum.
Flagstaff Hill received its name in 1854 when a flagstaff was placed on the hill as a navigational aid and it too has been preserved here. The fortifications on Flagstaff Hill were completed in 1887. They were installed to defend against a feared Russian attack.
Recreated buildings, using authentic materials, include St Nicholas Seamen's Church, the Steampacket Inn, the Bank of Australasia, a brass foundry, newspaper office, slipway, steam-powered workshop, shipping agent, Masonic lodge, gaol, armoury and officers' huts, port medical officer's surgery, bond store, and a public hall.
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