Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park

Port Phillip Heads at Sunset

Port Phillip Heads is an internationally recognised dive site that offers excellent diving and snorkeling for any experience level. Southern Bay is Melbourne and Geelong’s southern playground.

The Marine Park is made up of six separate marine areas around the southern end of Port Phillip. These include Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye and Portsea Hole.

You’ll find a variety of habitats and vibrant ecosystems ranging from mudflats and seagrass meadows to deep and shallow reefs, rocky shores and beautiful stretches of calm water.

These varied habitats are home to a great abundance of marine species. Because of the mix of cold water and warmer water that exists around Port Phillip you get a huge variety of animals and creatures.

The region also has a rich history, from the storied knowledge of the Traditional Owners and the heritage surrounding early European settlement and migration. There are some significant sites around Port Phillip known as Shell Middens, where evidence of native peoples using the area as a source of food and provide an important record of the cultural history of indigenous Victorians and the coast itself.

Port Phillip Heads was a major access point to the important grazing lands of the early colony and later to the rich goldfields of Central Victoria. Many ships braved the waters and a number came to grief upon the hidden reefs and the narrow entrance to the Bay. As such a number of wrecks are now found within the Marine National Park including Holyhead, George Roper and Conside on the Lonsdale Reef. There’s the Eliza Ramsden near Point Nepean and the William Salthouse, a fascinating wreck near Pope’s Eye.

The region was also seen as a defensive gateway. Funded by gold, Melbournians paid for the construction of a number of forts, some of which are still used by the Department of Defense. Extensive fortifications still stand at both Point Nepean and Queenscliff and there are forts on Swan Island (Pope’s Eye) and on an artificial island called South Channel Fort, designed to protect the entrance to the bay. Pope’s Eye was abandoned after it was made obsolete by the range of guns from other fortifications, and as such nature took over. Today it’s considered one of the most important dive and snorkelling sites on the Bay with it’s waving underwater kelp forests and safe anchorage for pleasure craft.

Access the area by boat or on shore when heading to Swan Bay or Point Lonsdale. Portsea Hole, Point Nepean, Pope’s Eye and Mud Islands are only accessible by boat – however Queenscliff, Swan Bay and Portsea all have launching points.
Go swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, boating or just enjoy the seaside beaches. Explore rock pools, marvel at the many species of seabirds or go on a nature discovery tour and hope to see some of the magnificent ocean creatures like whales and dolphins.

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