Once a township in its own right on the Merri River, Dennington has recently been absorbed into Warnambool. Set on Lady Bay, Warnambool is the largest coastal city on the Great Ocean Road and is a major trading centre in the state’s Western District.
The city’s showplace is the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. Developed as a re-creation of a late 19th century sea port, the complex includes original lighthouses - built to protect ships on this magnificent but treacherous stretch of coast - period sailmaker’s loft, bank, town hall and chapel.
The museum’s collection also features relics from many of the ships wrecked on the southern coast, including a porcelain peacock saved from the ill-fated Loch Ard which was driven on to rocks at the foot of Port Campbell in 1878.
Only two of the ship's 42 passengers and crew survived. A young midshipman, Thomas Pearce, swam ashore, but, attracted by cries for help, returned to the boiling sea to save a girl whom he revived by rubbing with brandy before he went to summon assistance.
It was the second time Pearce had cheated the sea. He had previously survived the wreckage of the Eliza Ramsden off Port Phillip Heads. His father and skipper went down with the Gothenberg in the Flinders Passage in 1875.