We have had a few interesting days in Warnnambool. It is the biggest place we have seen for over 3 weeks; 32,000 people live here. It is the technical end point of the Great Ocean Road and is the last stop on the railway line from Melbourne. It is a telling point that back in the early 1930s ‘we’ hacked a road out of the wilderness along the coast to here, built a railway further west to Port Fairy and then in the 1980s (?) closed it down! I think some people live here in Warrnambool and commute to the big smoke to work. It seems a very 1960/70 ish town, many of the houses have that look. Those 3 bedroom brick, red tile roof houses with the step back from the front lounge room, then there is the porch and a little further back is the third bedroom……there is a lot of these in town. I’m sure there are more ‘modern ‘ areas around but we didn’t see any, except for up at the Hopkins River mouth and the area near the whale sighting platform over looking the Bay.
Some nice old buildings have been preserved around the town, no longer hosting their original purpose but retaining their facades; if not ‘defaced’ by today’s marketing ‘graffiti’. We enjoyed the movie ‘Ladies in Black’ at the old revamped Capitol Cinema. The old 1800s bakery was a highlight, we later saw an old historic bread cart at Flagstaff Hill. The old Boathouse on the river is now a restaurant and function centre.
Warnnambool’s history story is actually quite tightly controlled within the confines of the Flagstaff Hill complex. All that needs to be known seems to be here. The Ship Wreck Coast gets a good run, but underlying that are also the stories of the early settlement days, particularly whaling. Flagstaff Hill is a ‘model’ early/mid 1800s village seaport. It is very well done, with much of the infrastructure and displays consisting of original items from the era. Indeed some of it is constructed from ship wreck materials, including slate roofing tiles from England. We also enjoyed the Light Show depicting the seafaring and whaling history, along with the Loch Ard ship wreck saga. The story of the ‘survival’ and subsequent display of the china peacock is amazing.
Another landmark for the town is the Fletcher Jones manufacturing complex, long closed. Some of my readers may remember Fletcher Jones, they specialised in men’s trousers. They started out in the late 1940s, manufacturing trousers in Warrnambool and then retailing them off around Australia in company owned stores. Every one in those days wanted a pair of Fletcher Jones. Allthego in his younger days remembers the Fletcher Jones store in Parramatta and in more recent years there was one in Indooroopilly, using the brand name but made o’seas in you know where. Today most of the complex is in mothballs, except for an area occupied by ‘antique’ sellers. Well manicured gardens surround the entrance to the complex. Some of the ‘antiques’ could perhaps be labelled otherwise, but it is an enormous collection of stuff, you could spend hours wandering through the place. Allthego could see little gems of memorabilia everywhere, Homealone was not that impressed with the opportunities. Nothing was acquired!
We are now heading off further west to Port Fairy for a couple of nights. It’s a long drive of about 35 km. The wind has really got up and Warrnambool is living up to its name as a windy place.