Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Somewhere, beside the sea

We got back from a week away in Warrnambool, a town and regional centre on Victoria's southwest cost ("the Shipwreck Coast"), on Sunday afternoon. It was a fantastic holiday; we enjoyed ourselves immensely and we all came back feeling refreshed and reconnected (which is what family holidays are best for, in my experience).

We're slowly working our way around Victoria in our holidaying - starting with Blairgowrie, on the Mornington Peninsula, in 2007, we've stayed at Phillip Island (2008) and Bendigo (2008), Echuca (2010) and the Yarra Valley (2010), Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road (2011 and 2012) and a farm in Gippsland (2011), and also Mt Hotham for a snow trip (2012). While we've yet to take the kids out of the state, let alone the country, I don't see how we could have had any more fun or any better an experience than what we had a mere a 3.5-hour drive away from home. (We are planning to expand our horizons in the coming years - a north Queensland holiday in Port Douglas, to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree, is planned for sometime next year, and we are toying with Fiji for 2015. Thus far, though, local has been the word and that's been a great thing).

Warrnambool is a beautiful place to holiday. It ticked all our boxes:

a) Beach? Yus, several beautiful ones.

b) Reasonably priced accomodation? Absolutely - we stayed in a lovely 2-bedroom unit with full kitchen, spa bath, full laundry, comfortable beds, and even a small yard with sandpit for the kids, for $120 a night.

Granted, this was partly because we did not go in high season (school holidays and public holidays are more expensive) but I thought the tariff was great for the quality of accomodation and the flexibility to prepare most of our meals at home.

c) Good places to eat? I'm doing a review of gluten free eating in Warrnambool on Thursday, but suffice to say - 5 meals out x NO glutening = Definite win. Warrnambool is big enough to have a nice variety of eating options, while small enough that you can stroll the restaurant strips comfortably.

d) Places to fish? Can't go past the breakwater, where even *I* caught something, and my husband caught a wrasse.

Fishing was a completely unexpected pleasure for us (well, unexpected for the adults - the kids were certain they wanted to go, and turned out to be right, although we did subsequently find out that their motivation actually came from the Sims!)

e) Horsies to ride? Even better - we went horse riding ON THE BEACH.
My 7yo, the natural rider of the bunch, thought this was the best thing she had ever, ever done, and even though my old bones were aching afterwards, I enjoyed it a great deal too.

f) Things to see and do that weren't totally about the beach? Oh yes, there are lots of things to do in and around Warrnambool for non-beach days (and nights).

We took the kids to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, which might best be described as a mini sea-town version of Sovereign Hill. It's a historical village, but I hesitate to call it a theme park - it's very non-gimmicky, and feels more like an interactive museum to me.

We all learned many interesting things from the 4 hours we spent happily wandering there.

The kids were most taken with the treasure hunt booklet that the reception staff gave them - the elder two really got into finding all the clues, and the little one liked the pictures.

We all enjoyed getting to board the ships and explore their spaces, and I found the 1878 schoolroom and the Historical Society Reading Room particularly enchanting.

The "Rules for Teachers" made me laugh and scratch my head; I wasn't surprised that teachers were forbidden from smoking,drinking and carousing, but getting a haircut at a barber's shop?

The girls all enjoyed feeding the ducks that followed us everywhere too, while two of Australia's best-fed pigs scored apples from our lunch bag.

We brought the kids back in the evening to see the Shipwrecked sound and light show, the story of the ill-fated voyage of the Loch Ard. It's an amazing and moving show, but I'd recommend caution if you have sound-sensitive littles (my 4yo found the noise level difficult) or emotionally sensitive older kids (both my 7 and 9 yos burst into floods of weeping when they realised that most of the passengers and crew were headed for a watery grave).

We also went to Tower Hill, the nature reserve just out of Warrnambool set in a massive extinct volcano crater. My husband and 9yo, who love geological things, found the crater drive absorbing, and we all enjoyed the lavender farm and gardens on the rim of the crater itself. We even got a pretty nice panoramic of the scene - see?

In the end, though, this holiday wasn't even about what we did, even though we did some fun stuff. It was about spending time together away from the pressures and time constraints of the everyday. It was about relaxing and talking (we did lots of both), and finding a family rhythm.

We have yet to have a bad holiday, even though every one comes with its challenges, and I think we need them more than ever as life gets busier and the kids grow bigger.


  1. Sounds perfect! Holidays are the best for finding that rhythm. I love victoria too.. we have the best of everything.

  2. I believe those volcanoes in western Vic are dormant rather than extinct. Which just makes visiting them all the more exciting in my view.

  3. Looks like an awesome trip.
    That's the one thing I find frustrating about living in Darwin; there aren't any small towns around the place that you can just visit for a quick getaway. Or none that you'd actually want to visit.

  4. Sounds like a great holiday, I love exploring the places in our state (WA). So many amazing places right under our noses here in Aus!! X Karen #teamIBOT