It's been seven years since a grand final holiday was declared on the Friday before the AFL's big game, and figures show it has cemented its place on the region's tourism calendar.
And tourist towns across the south-west are reaping the rewards.
Warrnambool council said the football holiday had proven to be a busy day for tourism in the city with traditional accommodation all but booked out in the region from Thursday.
The addition of the Queen's memorial day public holiday this year had brought an added bonus for tourism-based businesses which are still trying to recover after being hit hard during the two years of harsh pandemic restrictions.
The council-run Surfside Holiday Park had 65 bookings already which was above average for this time of year.
"A number of Warrnambool's popular cafes and venues have opted to remain open on the public holiday which is great news for visitors and residents," a council spokesman said.
"Some are closing, so to avoid disappointment we're encouraging people to call venues to confirm opening hours and to make bookings.
"We're expecting more than 1000 visitors to Flagstaff Hill over the four-day break and we're seeing higher-than-usual visitor numbers at Flagstaff Hill for the first week of the school holidays which could be as a result of the long weekend."
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum service manager Paul Pinkerton said visitation to the village had gradually increased over time with the long weekend growing in popularity.
He said its long-running holiday program had been refreshed to include different hands-on activities and drawn on its volunteer workforce which dressed up in period costume, adding a historical vibe to the visitor experience.
The popularity of the football grand final public holiday has certainly grown with visitors to regional Victoria.- Paul Pinkerton
"The popularity of the football grand final public holiday has certainly grown with visitors to regional Victoria," Mr Pinkerton said.
"Warrnambool's definitely a long weekend destination.
"We're seeing a lot of people out of the western suburbs of Melbourne and other areas of Melbourne who are certainly getting away.
"We are becoming a destination for that long weekend."
Mr Pinkerton said 700 people went through the doors in 2018 and in 2019 the number of visitors across the weekend had jumped to 800.
This weekend those numbers are expected to top 1000.
Mr Pinkerton said some people had taken three days' annual leave to take a week off work including the two public holidays.
He said postcode surveys at the museum showed strong numbers of visitors coming to Warrnambool from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.
"It's typically the start of the school holidays in Adelaide but I think with the long weekend you'll see a few people cross the border as well," he said.
Warrnambool's CBD was jumping with people on Thursday and Friday, resembling a bustling summer holiday scene. Most shops and eating outlets were open, although some adopted restricted operating hours.
Style Active by Chloe owner Chloe Williams said she hoped more people would travel to the region for the four-day long weekend with the extra public holiday providing more opportunity to get away, compared to the regular three-day weekend.
Images Restaurant owner Jonathan Dodwell said bookings for the long weekend were "coming in thick and fast".
The Warrnambool council spokesman said Friday was traditionally a buoyant day on the retail front in Warrnambool. "The grand final day provides the potential to further boost spending on the busiest retail day of the week," he said.
While SpendMapp data only goes back to 2018, trends show that Fridays were the biggest spending day for shoppers in Warrnambool.
People part with $2.76 million on average on a Friday compared to $2.53 million on a Thursday.
Shoppers tend to spend less on a weekend with $2.42 million being spent on a Saturday and $1.59 million on a Sunday.
Port Fairy's population is also swelling with Moyne Shire Council reporting "a significant increase" in long weekend bookings at its caravan parks compared with previous years.
A shire spokesman said the additional public holiday had helped boost the seaside town's visitation numbers.
"Since the announcement of the additional public holiday we have had a number of guests extend their stays and a number of additional bookings and inquiries," the spokesman said.
"We have a number of school holiday activities running at both the Gardens and Southcombe Park including movies, wildlife shows, yoga and craft sessions which are proving popular," he said.
Ashmont Motor Inn owner Dean Robertson, who is also part of the Port Fairy Tourism Association, said the grand final weekend was traditionally a busy weekend for tourism, and adding an extra holiday to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II had made it even bigger.
"It's certainly made it a very busy weekend in Port Fairy this weekend and anywhere else along the coast as well," he said.
Mr Robertson said he had no vacancies on Thursday or Friday night, and just a few left for the Saturday night.
"It's a really good weekend for us no doubt," he said.
"Coming out of the winter months, it's the first extended long weekend for some months, the timing's good.
"It's certainly great for Port Fairy and the tourism operators.
"There's a lot of people in Port Fairy. The main street is busy."
The Ismail family from Cranbourne East only booked their Warrnambool trip last week as a result of the unexpected four-day long weekend.
Parents Rumies and Shezmin Ismail took Wednesday off work to make it a five-day long weekend, bringing their daughters Aaliyah, 12, and Aleena, 10, to the south-west for the school holidays.
Mr Ismail said it was their first time visiting Warrnambool and they couldn't believe its size and what was on offer. "It's amazing," Mr Ismail said. "Absolutely amazing. We didn't realise it was a huge city."
He said they travelled to various Victorian locations whenever they had the opportunity.
The family visited Flagstaff Hill's Sound and Light show on Wednesday night, returning to tour the maritime village on Thursday.
While in the city, they stayed overnight at a motel and dined at cafes and restaurants, providing economic benefit to Warrnambool and the wider region as part of their visit.
"We didn't know Warrnambool was such a big, amazing town," Mrs Ismail said. "We thought it was going to be a sleepy, quiet shipping town.
"We are coming back because there's so much to see and do.
"I think people should make it a holiday destination."
The Ismails will meet up with other family members who are holidaying in Port Campbell, where they will spend the weekend.
Port Campbell Motor Inn manager Wayne Aspland said he was at 100 per cent occupancy this weekend, and was fully booked for the same school holiday period last year.
"History says it's always busy. It's good to see people out and about," Mr Aspland said.
Port Campbell Hotel venue manager Mace Williams said the weekend was looking busy and there was definitely an increased number of visitors in town.
He said the accommodation and hotel was close to fully booked but they would work to squeeze extra people in where they could.
"This is the most cars I've seen in weeks," Mr Williams said.
IN OTHER NEWS
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.