There were about 700 shipwrecks along the Victoria coast in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lady Bay, on which the town of Warrnambool sits, claimed 29 of those wrecks.
We were the only people wandering around Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool early on the morning of August 17. Flagstaff Hill is a maritime museum and 10 acre creation of a Victorian village. So when we passed a group of men hanging outside a police trailer, they pounced on us.
“It’s International Lighthouse Day,” a man in a Seattle Mariner’s t-shirt told us. “Go take a look at our set-up inside.”
International Lighthouse Day was created to call attention to radio communication as a maritime safety tool, and between the two lighthouses at Flagstaff Hill, the local police had set up a CB station to communicate with lighthouses around the world. I love lighthouses but had zero interest in looking at a CB set-up, and clearly none of the others in my party had any interest either. My brother busied himself petting a dog that belonged to one of the policemen, and his girlfriend from Seattle struck-up a conversation with the Mariners guy.
So I decided to take the bullet for the group and went into the trailer. The two men working inside looked at me, surprised. “They told us we could look at the set-up,” I explained.
“We aren’t quite ready yet,” said one of the men, apologetically. I tried not to look too relieved. “But here.” He handed me what looked like a business card. “I don’t know if you’re driving, but have this.”
The card explained the drinking and driving laws in Australia. “My brother’s driving,” I said as I backed out. My brother doesn’t drink alcohol at all, but I saw my chance to escape. “I’ll go give this to him.”
Flagstaff Hill has two lighthouse complexes, both moved in 1871 from lower beach locations to hillside land that is now part of the village. They, along with a garrison artillery battery built in 1887 (because of concerns, after the Crimean War, that the Russians may invade), are the only true Victorian elements at Flagstaff Village. The rest has been built since 1975.
I didn’t find the village itself worth a visit from a History Tourist perspective. But attached to the village is a small museum on the Victoria shipwrecks that exhibits finds from the wreckage. That, I thought, was worth the price of entry.