There are a number of interpretations of the origin of the name Warrnambool, the most common being land between two rivers (The Merri and Hopkins Rivers).
Whalers and sealers were seasonal visitors to the natural harbour of Lady Bay in the early 1800’s and permanent settlement in the area by graziers began in the 1840’s. Government land sales, which began in 1847, resulted in an influx of settlers from the UK, Ireland and Germany.
Warrnambool grew quickly in the 1850’s benefiting from the private ownership of Port Fairy. The first jetty was built in 1850 which gave impetus to the shipping of wool, potatoes, onions, wheat and dairy products from the surrounding area.
The opening of a railway line to Melbourne in 1887, 3 years prior to the Port Fairy connection, enabled the rapid shipment of agricultural and dairy products to Melbourne.
Development of services encouraged growth in textile, clothing industries and dairy processing plants.
The main industries and services are now agricultural support, dairy farming and milk processing, meat processing, education, health and tourism.
Koroit, located on the northern rim of Tower Hill state park, derives its name from the Koroitch Gundidj people, one of the original occupiers of the area. Irish immigrant farmers and pastoral lessees originally settled the area in the 1840’s and 50’s and the town grew to supply the needs of the local small grain and potato farmers who “took their produce down the slope to Warrnambool”, until the railway arrived in 1890.
The town and district was characterized by a strong catholic Irish contingent, close settlement and intensive agricultural activity in the rich volcanic soil surrounding the town. Koroit still maintains its fascinating Irish charm as can be seen by a short cycle ride along the main street and into the side streets.
Dairying has slowly taken over much of the earlier agricultural land making it the major farming activity of the region.
The Port of Port Fairy was a whaling station in the early 1800’s.The port was named in the 1820’s by Captain Wishart after his boat “The Fairy”. The town area was originally called Belfast by James Atkinson, a local squatter, who put aside some of his land in 1843 for a settlement.
Supported by the gold rush, the port and good access to pastoral land to the north, Port Fairy grew rapidly until the economic crash in 1862. Development “spurts” from 1885, aided by agricultural expansion, sea trade, the railway to Melbourne and the growth of dairying in the 1920’s, helped slow the steady contraction of the town. Tourism in the 1970’s associated with good beaches and the old world charm of the town, started the revival of the town as a major holiday resort, with the town quadrupling in size over holiday periods.