What’s special

Victoria’s 11 marine national parks and 13 marine sanctuaries were established in 2002, following a long campaign in which we played a central role.

One of these parks, the high-profile Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, protects a significant proportion of Victoria’s marine flora and fauna species. Totalling 3,580ha, the park consists of six separate marine areas at the southern end of Port Phillip: Swan Bay; Mud Islands; Point Lonsdale; Point Nepean; Popes Eye and Portsea Hole.

Best time to visit

Experienced divers and surfers will have the right gear for any time of year. Families and novice snorkellers would probably prefer summer or autumn, although winter visits to Point Lonsdale with views of huge swells at the Rip can be awe-inspiring. Any season is good for walking and bird watching.

What to do

Divers and snorkellers have a wide choice of exciting destinations within the park. Pope’s Eye is protected from tidal currents, making it suitable for all levels of diving. It’s also popular for underwater photography, bird watching and education programs.

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Where

About 100km south of Melbourne. Approach via Princes Highway (west side of Port Phillip) or Nepean Highway or Peninsula Freeway (east side). Public transport (train and bus) available to both sides of the bay: train to Geelong or Frankston, then bus.

More about what to do

Divers and snorkellers have a wide choice of exciting destinations within the park. Pope’s Eye is protected from tidal currents, making it suitable for all levels of diving. It’s also popular for underwater photography, bird watching and education programs.

In ‘The Rip’ – the entrance to Port Phillip – appropriately qualified divers can experience spectacular wall diving and challenging drift dives, with colour and diversity rivalling tropical coral reefs. Portsea Hole is also popular with experienced divers.

Swan Bay, Mud Islands and the intertidal reefs at Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean allow snorkellers to experience Victoria’s underwater life in relative ease.

Surfing and body boarding on the outstanding breaks at Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean, canoeing and sea kayaking in Swan Bay and safe swimming on sheltered beaches are all popular. (Point Nepean’s surf breaks are only accessible by boat.) There is a patrolled surf beach outside the park at Point Lonsdale.

You don’t have to be on or under the water to enjoy the park’s diverse marine environment. There are wonderful coastal settings for mudflat wading, birdwatching, rockpooling or just walking on the beach.

Families can have a great time exploring rock pools at Point Lonsdale. Take a copy of our useful pocket guidebook Life on the Rocky Shores with you to help identify some of the intertidal species you’ll find.

Other parts of the park are accessible only by boat. Go birdwatching at Mud Islands or try snorkelling at Pope’s Eye. Queenscliff, Swan Bay and Portsea all have boat launching points. Several Queenscliff and Sorrento/Portsea tour operators offer boat, snorkelling and diving trips.

Marine Care Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park is involved in marine debris surveys, marine plant and animal surveys, seagrass monitoring, pest plant and animal removal and community education.

About the park

Indigenous tradition indicates that the Bellarine Peninsula (western) side of the park is part of the Country of the Wathaurong, and the Mornington Peninsula (eastern) side, including Mud Islands, is part of the Country of the Boon Wurrung/Bunurong. The remains of shellfish and other animals in shell middens at numerous sites adjacent to the marine national park are evidence that the Indigenous people used the marine environment as a source of food.

In early European settlement, Port Phillip Bay was the major access point to the grazing lands of the early colony and later to the goldfields. Ships from around the world had to enter the Bay through the hazardous Port Philip Heads, and many were wrecked in storms or on hidden reefs. A number of these wrecks are now within the park.

Port Phillip Heads was also seen as a potential route for invasion by foreign powers in the 19th century. Numerous forts were constructed to guard the Heads, many of which (such as at Queenscliff and Point Nepean) can still be visited.

Natural history

Habitats within the park are diverse, ranging from mudflats and seagrass meadows to deep and shallow reefs, rocky shores and beautiful pelagic waters. This habitat variety and the park’s central Victorian location result in a great abundance of marine species.

The area marks the range limit for some plants and animals that prefer the cold waters of western Victoria, but it also supports warmth-loving species from eastern Australia that can survive in Port Phillip’s relatively calm, shallow waters.

Friends groups

Friends of Mud Islands
Felicity Thyer
Phone: 52513186
Email: [email protected]

Marine Care Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park
Contact Parks Victoria on 13 1963 for more information