Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum.
Time gone by.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum.
On your next trip along the Great Ocean Road, head for Warrnambool, surrounded by dairy farms and rugged beaches.
Warrnambool, on Victoria's western coastline, lies between rolling emerald hills and the ocean. It is at the crossroads of the Great Ocean Road and The Grampians, and is sprinkled with dairy farms, fields of potatoes, sheltered and rugged beaches, fishing and shipping, and is a visiting spot for the southern right whale.
Known as the Shipwreck Coast, it is one of Victoria's most popular holiday destinations. It is also a busy commercial centre for locally produced wool and grain. There are around 30 wrecks at Warrnambool alone, and another 160 to the east and west.
The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool reflects the difficulties experienced by early mariners making their way along Victoria's treacherous southern coast. Around 70,000 visitors go to the museum and village each year, and it is one of Australia's best value family attractions. During school holidays, there are daily activities for children they can learn to make a toy boat, and experience going to school in the 1800s.
The museum has five sections with 30 displays, and is on four-and-a-half hectares, overlooking Lady Bay. The staff, most of whom are volunteers, wear period costume. You may even spot some pirates!
The Entrance Gallery depicts the Shipwreck Coast, looking at immigration, the whaling and sealing industries and the many shipwrecks. There is a full-size Huon pine whaling boat, artefacts, an archaeological dig and a southern right whale exhibit. There is a theatre with seven hours of film footage and a registered document storage facility.
A path from the gallery leads to a recreated port with a village typical of the 1850s. It includes medical and newspaper offices, a glass blower's shop, a leadlight studio, navigational instruments, a Bank of Australasia and a public hall. The Church of St Nicholas is still used for weddings, there is a Mission de Seamen, a cooper's shop, sail loft, shipping agent and the Steam Packet Inn.
The man-made lake has a wharf with a 26m sailing ketch, a 27.5m steam passenger ferry, an 1880s Hopkins River rowing boat and a couple of whalers. The 1940 Aeroplane Jelly surf lifesaving boat is in the boat building area, and along the lake are the ships' chandlers, which provided all goods and supplies.
Two lighthouses still guide boats in at night, there is a keepers' cottage and a chart room. Fortifications were built during the Crimean War to fend off possible Russian invasion, and there is a canon that is fired from time to time. Everything in this original historic building and structure area is heritage listed.
The Shipwreck Museum in the lighthouse keeper's assistant's quarters houses huge anchors, including one found this year that pre-dates 1870. There are bits and pieces there from the whole range of shipwrecks, including the Loch Ard, the Schomberg, and the Falls of Hallidale. The Loch Ard peacock takes pride of place. The colourful, porcelain bird, made by Minton Potteries, was aboard the tragic ship en route to the Great International Exhibition in Melbourne. It and two people were washed ashore, and they and the peacock in its crate were miraculously spared of damage. It is insured for $2 million!
Also on display is a mahogany ship that seems to lend credence to the story that Cristovao de Mendoca, a Portuguese mariner and explorer, may have made a visit to our continent in 1522. In The Deliens World Map, published in 1567, there is a mysterious landmass called Java La Grande in the vicinity of the then unknown Australian continent, and it has long given reason to believe the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach our shores.