Dave Hughes on his home town of Warrnambool. As told by Angie Kelly.
What are your fondest memories of Warrnambool?
I grew up spending long summer days on the coast around Middle Island, though we locals called it “penguin island” for obvious reasons. The island has been closed since 2006 to protect its colony of little penguins but back then we used to go there and jump off the cliffs into the ocean and snorkel in Stingray Bay.
Describe growing up there.
It was safe and a great place to grow up. On your days off from school, you would get on your bike and spend the day exploring nature, either at the beach or the two nearby rivers, Merri and Hopkins. I took my own kids to play on the beach at the mouth of the Merri when we visited this summer.
What took you away?
The comedy dream was in my head from the age of 15 but it’s pretty hard to “make it” in a small community. At 18 I started an IT degree in Melbourne; it was 1989 and the industry was on the cusp of great things. But I quit. I just couldn’t handle the big city so my dream of being Bill Gates ended right there. At 21 I headed to Perth with a mate who was driving over and started doing comedy.
How often do you go back?
Not often enough but I was back in January. My mother, sister and brother live there and I always look forward to seeing my school friends who are still in town. Childhood friends are lifelong; we usually catch up over a few games of golf.
Has it changed much, and how?
It has whole new suburbs now. The town’s footprint has probably doubled, if not more, since I lived there.
What’s your favourite thing to do there?
The Warrnambool Golf Course is an absolute ripper; some of the holes look out to the ocean over sand dunes and, with tea-trees lining the fairways, it’s just magnificent.
What do you miss about Warrnambool?
When I grew up there, every day was fun, playing tennis, footy and golf. When you’re in a big city, your friends aren’t as close by but back then I had so many friends just five minutes from home.
Name something about Warrnambool that you think would surprise outsiders.
People don’t realise how beautiful it is; it’s actually stunning. Warrnambool’s near the end of what they call the Shipwreck Coast. It’s a lovely town surrounded by spectacular scenery.
What are three things you think visitors should do?
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a great celebration of the maritime history of the area. Take young ones to Lake Pertobe, where there’s a huge free adventure playground. Then get your snorkel and goggles on and explore the kid-friendly rock pools around the coastline.
A gold-rush port in the mid-19th century and now an agricultural centre that’s home to about 34,000 people, Warrnambool marks the end of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. It hosts a major annual festival, Fun4Kids; Logan’s Beach, south-east of town, is a nursery for southern right whales.
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