The coast around Warrnambool and down to Cape Otway is known as the Shipwreck Coast, due to the large number of water vessels that ran aground in the 1800s and early 1900s due to ferocious weather conditions and the rocky coastline.
These days, Warrnambool is a popular tourist destination with an extensive commercial centre based around Liebig Street, Kepler Street, Koroit Street and Timor Street, separated from the ocean by coastal reserves and parkland. Historic buildings within the city centre include the post office (built in 1870), courthouse (1871) and Western Hotel (1869).
The Princes Highway through Warrnambool opens up into the grand boulevard of Raglan Parade, lined with Norfolk Pines within the wide central median strip.
Warrnambool enjoys a good variety of coastal attractions. The main swimming beach is the patrolled sandy expanse of Bathing Beach, situated at the top of Lady Bay. Behind the beach is the 20 hectare Lake Pertobe Adventure Park with its playgrounds, fitness equipment, BBQs, a kiosk, and a large lake with footbridges, islands and paddle boats. At Logans Beach, adjacent to the mouth of the Hopkins River, is a whale viewing platform, making it one the region's best observation points for these mammals during the calving season between June and September. Fishing is popular from the breakwater constructed at the western end of Lady Bay, while to the west of the breakwater are two islands, sheltered swimming areas at the sandy mouth of the Merri River, and the attractive rocky coastal features of Pickering Point and Thunder Point.
As well as the extensive coastal reserves lined with walkways, Warrnambool boasts a number of attractive parks and gardens including the colourful Fletcher Jones Gardens, set within the grounds of the clothing factory and floodlit at night. The Botanic Gardens are laid out around a large lily pond which is rich in bird life, and include a rotunda, fernery and selection of other plant life.
Warrnambool's rich maritime history can be explored at Flagstaff Hill, which is a recreated 19th century sea port with interactive displays and buildings created from authentic materials.
A short drive east of Warrnambool are the Hopkins Falls, located on the Hopkins River, with picnic areas and walking tracks. Roughly half-way between Warrnambool and Port Fairy is the Tower Hill State Game Reserve, covering 615 hectares within an extinct volcano and including walking tracks, lookouts and lakes.
12 kilometres east of Warrnambool, where the Princes Highway meets the Great Ocean Road is the small town of Allansford. Points of interest in the area include Cheeseworld - a cheese and wine cellar - as well as the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory which has been manufacturing products from milk since 1888.