STORY: JULIE HOBBS PHOTOGRAPHY: VISIT VICTORIA
Warrnambool is a picturesque coastal city of about 35,000 people at the end of Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road. The city features long beaches nestled between two rivers, the Merri and the Hopkins. Home to indigenous Australians for 35,000 years, the township was planned and surveyed in 1845 and became an important port through the Victorian gold rush.
In 2019, Warrnambool was rated Australia’s most liveable region after it top scored Ispos’s annual Life in Metropolitan and Regional Australia report. Based on a survey of 10,000 people, access to the natural environment and sports, a lack of traffic congestion and feeling of safety all scored highly. The growing popularity of the town was confirmed in the latest REA Insight Regional Australia report which recorded the quarterly property price growth in Warrnambool and surrounding towns at 5.8 percent – the strongest price growth in regional Victoria.
Health Care and Social Assistance is the primary employment industry in Warrnambool, according to data from Regional Development Victoria, followed by retail trade, education and training and accommodation and food services. The region is an important agricultural base and produces 25 per cent of Australia’s milk and 30 per cent of Victoria’s beef and lamb. Food processors are also an important industry.
Pristine beaches and rugged natural beauty attract thousands of tourists each year. Endangered Southern Rights are seen at the Logans Beach Whale Nursery in winter months while the Maremma Dogs Project protecting a penguin colony on Middle Island was made famous in the 2015 Australian movie, Oddball. Caravan parks line the main swimming beaches on the foreshore. The nearby Flagstaff Maritime Museum owns a rich collection of artefacts from some 200 ships known to have been wrecked along this coastline and just beyond the distinct rows of Norfolk Pines is an 8ha family-friendly adventure playground at Lake Pertobe.
“The region is an important agricultural base and produces 25 per cent of Australia’s milk and 30 per cent of Victoria’s beef and lamb. Food processors are also an important industry.”
Warrnambool is connected to Melbourne by road and rail, has a seaport and an airport, a major hospital and cancer centre and a choice of government, Catholic and private schools. Tertiary training is also accommodated at a Deakin University campus on the city’s edge, and South West TAFE in the CBD.
A strong arts culture celebrates live music and both fine and the performing arts. There is a street art walking tour and a range of galleries, including the Warrnambool Art Gallery and Lighthouse Theatre in a civic precinct. A new multi-million dollar library and learning hub is expected to be completed in mid-2022.
Restaurants range from fine dining, casual Australian to multicultural. The bottom of Liebig Street – the city’s main street – is the heart of the foodie district and it is here each January a Laneway Festival celebrating local produce, food and music is held. Just down the road, each March is the acclaimed Port Fairy Folk Festival.
Sport is an important fabric of the community. The area has long been a breeding ground for AFL footballers, is the finishing point of the longest one-day cycling race in the world, the Melbourne to Warrnambool. It attracts thousands of racegoers to its annual May Racing Carnival and interstate and international competitors in the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic each Australia Day.
Warrnambool has high rainfall, some wild wintry weather, but also pristine natural attractions. Unlike many regional towns, the bulk of the CBD is not dissected by its highway. Also, a coastal reserve allows public access to the beachfront along a popular boardwalk stretching several kilometres.
The Traditional Custodians of the land on which Warrnambool stands, are the Dhauwurd Wurrung, also known as the Gunditjmara people.
WATTLE ROAD 🖤: The area’s natural beauty; and the depth of services that saw it win The Most Liveable Region award last year.
DISTANCE FROM MELBOURNE: 260 kms
WHO LIVES HERE?
According to the 2016 Census:
♦ The median age of people in Warrnambool was 41 years. Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 17.4% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 19.9% of the population.
♦ Of the families in Warrnambool, 39.2% were couple families with children, 41.7% were couple families without children and 17.6% were one parent families.
♦ 83.7% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 1.7%, New Zealand 1.1%, Taiwan 0.5%, China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) 0.5% and Scotland 0.4%.
♦ The most common occupations in Warrnambool included professionals 19.4%, labourers 14.4%, technicians and trades workers 13.6%, sales workers 12.4%, and community and personal service workers 11.9%.
CLIMATE: Warrnambool has a mild climate. January average temperatures: max 23.2ºC, min 12.4ºC. July average temperature max 13.2ºC, min 5.7ºC.
MAJOR EMPLOYERS: South West Healthcare, The Midfield Group, Dairy product manufacturers.
SCHOOLS: Nine primary schools, four secondary schools, one special education school. University, TAFE, private training providers.
HEALTH CARE: There are two hospitals – Warrnambool Hospital and St John of God Warrnambool. Residents have access to an emergency department, paediatrics unit, midwifery unit, palliative care unit, a mental health services acute inpatient unit and an aged care facility within the region’s Southwest public health service. There are also a number of specialist practices including the Warrnambool Women’s Health Service
NBN CONNECTION: Fibre To The Node (FTTN)
PROPERTY PRICES: According to realestate.com.au, the property market in Warrnambool and surrounding towns experienced price growth of 5.8% between March to September, 2020 – the strongest growth of all regional areas in Victoria. The median house sale price is $390,000. The median unit price is $300,000.
SPORTS & RECREATION: Football, cricket, netball, surf lifesaving, swimming, basketball, greyhound racing, gymnastics, horseracing, tennis, golf, martial arts, boxing, motorsport.
ARTS & CULTURE: Warrnambool Art Gallery, the F-Project, The Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool Arts, Scope Gallery, Warrnambool and District Artist Society.
I grew up on a farm outside Warrnambool, then went to uni in Melbourne and lived overseas so have spent 10 years outside the district.
We came back because we didn’t want to raise our children in Melbourne. We looked at other regional cities, but I had family nearby and Warrnambool really does have everything.
We have arts, music, agriculture, a wide choice in quality education, a university and, of course, the ocean and beachfront.
There is also access to mountain bike trails and nature. Warrnambool is the capital of southwest Victoria so while its population is around 35,000, it probably serves 80-100,000 people within a 90-minute area.
There are high rates of volunteerism, we are connected by rail and road to Melbourne and the economy, though underpinned by agriculture, is diverse enough that we don’t have the extreme highs and lows. It is quite stable.
We wanted somewhere our children – and ourselves – could participate in the local community and Warrnambool provided that perfectly.
It’s a microcosm of a capital city, except it only takes you 10 minutes to get to everything.
People tell us Warrnambool is the state’s best kept secret, but it’s not perfect. We are not multicultural enough.
Travel time is approximately 60 minutes.
FIND A PROPERTY
11 Hopkins Road, Warrnambool
3 1 2
9 Baeckea Close, Warrnambool
3 2 2
8 Thomas Place, Warrnambool
3 2 2
3 Freedom Court, Warrnambool
6 3 4