Western gateway to the Great Ocean Road.
Warrnambool is both the western gateway to, and largest town on, the Great Ocean Road. Situated some five hours from Melbourne (when driving the Great Ocean Road), this former port town also resides on the Princes Highway and has an array of activities and sights, not least its wide beach and promenade.
Those travelling down from Adelaide start their journey on the Great Ocean Road at Warrnambool, or indeed as a loop from Melbourne. And you can visit for a complete holiday as it has everything: shopping, dining, activities, buzz and the beach. The main shopping and entertainment district along Liebig Street is where it's at.
There are many galleries and boutiques along here, with many hotels residing one block north on Kepler Street. The beach and foreshore is several kilometres long and is easy to get to from town. There is good bathing and surfing potential and all sorts of boat trips.
Southern right whales and blue whales pass by here on their annual migration in winter. The promenade is a real boon, too, as you can stroll its length and get some fantastic views of the whales and water, plus there is a beautiful reserve between the water and town with activities for the family.
Other attractions include a cheese museum, a children's entertainment centre and the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, which is a recreated historic village with neat buildings and special effects. Nearby is the Tower Hill State Game Reserve, which is loaded with roos, emus and koalas, while families might take note of the annual Fun4Kids festival in July.
To get here, trains are fastest, coming from Melbourne via Geelong in three hours, while V/Line buses, though cheaper, are less frequent and take the longer Great Ocean Road route. Driving direct from Melbourne along the Princes Highway will get you here in around three hours; it will take five or six hours via the scenic route. The town is big enough to warrant a bus service.