Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park
Address: Point Nepean Rd, Portsea, Victoria 3944
Freecall: 131 963
With its proximity to Victoria's largest city the southern end of the Bay has high visitor usage throughout the year with a huge peak over the summer months. The southern Bay is Melbourne's summer playground and many of the areas within Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park are popular for a range of recreational pursuits from snorkelling and SCUBA diving through to passive recreation on the beach.
Habitat types found within the park include seagrass beds, sheltered intertidal mudflats, intertidal sandy beaches and rocky shores, subtidal soft substrata and rocky reefs, as well as the open water environment. The diversity and abundance of marine flora and fauna in this region are greater than many comparable habitats elsewhere in the world. The park is located in an area renowned for its diversity of migratory wader birds and includes a number of sites listed under a number of treaties to protect migratory bird habitat including International Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention).
The high diversity of marine life around the mouth of Port Phillip is due to the wide range of habitats in the area and its central Victorian location. The area marks the end of the range for some animals and plants that prefer the cold waters of western Victoria, but it also supports warmth-loving species from eastern Australia that can survive in the bay's relatively calm, shallow waters.
Before you go
Conditions can change in parks for many reasons. For the latest information on changes to local conditions, please visit the relevant park page on the Parks Victoria website.
Be bushfire ready in the great outdoors. Refer to the Bushfire Safety section on the Parks Victoria website for tips on how to stay safe.
Content: Parks Victoria
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The region which now is covered by the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, has a long history of use by both the Aboriginal inhabitants of his region as well as featuring significantly in early European settlement and migration. There are a number of significant sites adjacent to the Marine National Park where the remains of shellfish and other animals are found in large numbers, in what are referred to as shell middens. These remains show us clearly that the native peoples of this area used the marine environment extensively as a source of food. Midden sites are all protected as they provide us with an important record of he rich cultural history of indigenous Victorians and the coast. In early European settlement, Port Phillip Heads was the major access point to the important grazing lands of the early colony and later to the rich goldfields of central Victoria. As a consequence a vast number of ships from other parts of the world plied their way through Port Philip Heads, some of which came to grief on the hidden reefs and the narrow entrance to the Bay. A number of the wrecks that occurred in this area are now found within the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. These include the Holyhead, George Roper and Conside on the Lonsdale Reef. The Eliza Ramsden near Point Nepean and the William Salthouse, an important wreck near Popes Eye, lie near the park. The southern Bay was also an area of concern to the emerging colony as a potential route for invasion by foreign powers expanding their influence in the region in the latter half of the 19th century. Funded largely by gold, Melbournians paid for the construction of a number of forts, some of which are still used by the Department of Defence. Within the Marine National Park, Popes Eye was established as the base of a fortress that was never completed. Alongside the artificial island called South Channel Fort, the extensive fortifications at both Point Nepean and Queenscliff, and a fourth fort built on Swan Island, Popes Eye was intended to protect the entrance to the Bay, although by the time the other forts were completed, it was made obsolete by the range of guns from the other locations. The rocks placed on the sand bar at Popes Eye were soon colonised by kelp and many other plants and animals, and today the site is considered one of the most important dive and snorkelling sites in the Bay.
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