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Best places to see Victoria’s underwater wildlife

February 22, 2019 Attraction No Comments Email Email


To celebrate United Nations World Wildlife Day on Sunday 3 March, Parks Victoria has picked the best places along Victoria’s coast to see underwater ecosystems and encounter marine wildlife.

The internationally recognised day is to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. This year’s theme is ‘Life below water: for people and planet’.

Over 90 per cent of marine plants and animals living in Victoria’s southern waters are found nowhere else in the world so pack your togs, wetsuit and a snorkel and head to the coast this autumn!

Don’t want to get your hair wet?

  • Explore the rocky shores at Point Cook Coastal Park, Point Lonsdale and Mushroom Reef.
  • Head to Jawbone Marine Sanctuary near Williamstown to find wildlife hiding between the boulders.

Bring your snorkelling gear here.

  • Piers and jetties in Port Phillip Bay – many people are surprised to learn that they’re home to an amazing array of marine life. Rye Pier is home to fabulously colourful sponge gardens and Flinders Pier is the best place to see Victoria’s marine emblem, the Weedy Seadragon.
  • Jawbone Marine Sanctuary is close to Melbourne and full of friendly sea creatures.
  • Mushroom Reef down at Flinders is one of the best areas for snorkelling in Victoria.
  • Along the Surfcoast there are also four marine sanctuaries at Barwon Bluff near Barwon Heads, Point Dangernear Torquay, Eagle Rock near Aireys Inlet, and at Marengo near Apollo Bay, that are all accessible from the shore and great places to see some of our diverse marine life.
  • Swim through the seagrass meadows at Corner Inlet and you’ll be surrounded by colourful marine life, from shy pipefish to cheeky decorator crabs.

Immerse yourself with a dive.

  • Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park is Australia’s first Global Ocean Refuge, hosting an impressive array of marine life and is renowned for being one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world.
  • Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park – Pope’s Eye, Mud Island and Portsea Hole are among the best diving spots in the world for marine wildlife encounters like inquisitive Australian Fur Seals and an incredible variety of fish.

Quotes, attributed to Parks Victoria Marine Communications Officer and keen diver Tamara Vekich:

“Just like our fantastic system of land-based national parks, our marine national parks and sanctuaries exist to protect Victoria’s incredible marine ecosystems and the many unique plants and animals that live in them.”

“Autumn is a great time to swim because the water is often warmer in March than in December. This is because it holds onto the heat from the summer sun.”

“Remember that everything within these parks and sanctuaries is protected by law, so you’re not allowed to take away any animals, plants, shells, rocks, sand or artefacts.”

A few reminders when you visit Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries:

  • Take only pictures, leave only footsteps (marine national parks and sanctuaries are no-take zones)
  • Before visiting any marine areas remember to check the weather forecast. Beware of sudden changes in weather, especially when you’re in open water
  • Also check the tides and swell conditions before planning your snorkelling and dive trips as many locations on the open coast can be dangerous with heavy seas
  • Don’t put your hands where you can’t see them – potentially dangerous creatures hide under seaweed and rocks
  • Wear closed-toe shoes that grip well when walking on rock platforms
  • Never go in the water by yourself
  • Stay away from cliff edges
  • Beware of large unexpected waves when on rock platforms and along the shore
  • Be careful of strong currents and undertows when swimming and snorkelling
  • Diving should only be undertaken by experienced and qualified divers
  • Slip, slop, slap!

More info about some of our marine parks and sanctuaries below

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, west of the beach at Williamstown, has been protected from the rest of the world for over one hundred years by the adjacent rifle range. The area is now a haven for coastal and marine life, only half an hour from the city.

When the tide is out you can wander across the boulders to find sea stars, crabs, urchins and tiny fish among the pretty gardens of green and pink algae.

As the tide comes in, water flows over the mangroves and allows fish and other creatures to swim in and feed. Bring your snorkelling gear and swim with them.

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary

Portsea, Rye and Flinders Pier

Did you know that Parks Victoria manages Port Phillip Bay and many of its piers and jetties? Looking at the incredible marine life that lives underneath these structures, you’ll understand why it’s so important to protect the bay.

Flinders Pier is renowned for its communities of Weedy Seadragons – Victoria’s native marine emblem! The calm, clear waters surrounding Portsea Pier are teaming with marine life. Rye and Portsea Piers are one of the best places in Victoria to see fabulously colourful sponge gardens.

Rye, Flinders and Portsea Pier

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park

Beginner and experienced snorkelers can experience Victoria’s impressive underwater life in relative ease in the intertidal reefs at Point Lonsdale or Point Nepean. Some of the most stunning marine life in Victoria is only accessible by boat, but Mud Island, Portsea Hole and Popes Eye are well worth the extra effort. Popes Eye is a popular tourist destination for underwater photography, bird watching and education programs.

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park

Corner Inlet Marine National Park

Corner Inlet Marine National Park has a range of different environments that are home to more than 300 different marine species. Tin Mine Cove is the best spot to explore here. Swim below the seagrass canopy and you’ll be surrounded by colourful marine life including sponges, sea squirts, seastars, snails, stingrays, crabs, pipefish, toadfish and leatherjackets!

Corner Inlet Marine National Park

Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park

Its variety of marine life is impressive, including heaps of different fish, invertebrates and marine mammals. Anemones and seastars are common on the rocky shore, rays and harmless sharks cruise above the sandy seabed, giant octopuses venture out at night and the area is frequented by leatherback sea turtles, whales and fur seals.

Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park



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