Port Phillip Bay
Melbourne's 4 Seasons Playground

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Port Phillip Bay is situated at the bottom of the state of Victoria. This is separated from Bass Strait by the Mornington Peninsular to the southeast and Bass Strait to the southwest.

Entering the bay can be quite a treacherous experience with the entrance being quite narrow and the waters quite shallow with thick seaweed beds  disguising the depth of the water.

Large ships require expert navigation through what is known as The Heads.

Once inside, Port Phillip Bay is an incredible place to explore. With 1,950 square kilometres there is always something new to discover.

From the soft sands of Point Lonsdale to the wild and rugged shores of Point Nepean and the beaches in between, the Bay provides many hours of pure enjoyment.

Here you can swim, fish, beachcombe, boat and relax anytime of the year. Be it Summer, Winter, Autumn or Spring, Melbourne's Port Phillip beaches provide opportunities for all ages to have fun.

The Bay was founded in 1802 by Acting Lieutenant John Murray Commander of the Lady Nelson. It was originally named Port King and later renamed Port Phillip Bay.

Since then The Bay has been honed, refined, developed and now boasts as having some of the most beautiful, safe and pristine beaches that you could ever find.

st kilda foreshoreStanding on the St Kilda foreshore overlooking Port Phillip Bay

The Bay has many beaches, most of which are flat, shallow and long, with very small breaks making swimming quite safe. This attracts many tourists, mostly families, to the beaches of Port Phillip during the summer months and school holidays.

Most sandy beaches are located on the bay's northern, eastern and southern shorelines, while the western shorelines host a few sandy beaches, swampy wetlands and mangroves.

st kilda foreshoreForeshore walk along St Kilda beach

The occasional pebble beach and rocky cliff faces can also be found, mostly in the southern reaches. Soft sand and clear shallow waters makes these bayside beaches a perfect place for you and your family to enjoy.

There are rugged cliffs to explore, rocky shallow inlets to snorkel in, private deserted beaches to indulge in a little naked sun-worshiping.

Mornington beach cliff faceMornington beach cliff face along Port Phillip Bay

This piece of sea glass was collected along the foreshore at Mornington. Now it has been re-purposed into a beautiful necklace. You can be lucky to find sea glass and pottery shard treasures on quite a few of the Port Phillip Bay beaches. 

Due to the Bay's shallow depth, there are quite a few artificial forts and islands that have been built in the bay. One such Fort is the South Channel FortIt is a reminder of the bay's early history as part of the defence lines for Melbourne.

The artificial island was constructed in the 1880's to light up the channel at night and electronically explode mines under attacking ships coming through the Heads. A system of outdated gun emplacements and tunnels are a feature of the island which is now a significant refuge for seabirds.

The Popes Eye was initially proposed for defence purposes also, however the partially constructed artificial island was never completed.

South Channel Pile Light

By Paulp67 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Another example of an artificial Island is the South Channel Pile Light and it is one of the most recognisable features in the bay. The cottage style lighthouse was completed in 1874 and was occupied by lighthouse keepers until the early 1900's.

The light was finally switched off in 1985, having operated as a navigational beacon for some 111 years. The structure has been recently restored by Parks Victoria in accordance with Heritage Victoria guidelines. It now stands proudly in the bay, a local diving attraction and home for the fur seal colonies.

West Channel Light in Port Phillip BayPoster of the West Channel Light in Port Phillip Bay

The Port Phillip Bay is fringed with lighthouses built for ships to safely navigate the quite treacherous waters and coastline.

Some of these are actually built out into the bay. One such light is the West Channel Light.

Once used to house the light keeper, it no longer does so and thus places quite an historical component to the lighthouse history.

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There are only a few real islands and these are mainly sandy, muddy banks and shallows, most of these are situated on the western side around and in the marshy shallows of Swan Bay.

Almost half the bay is less than 8 meters deep with the greatest depth being 24 meters

Lighthouses Around The Bay

If you love Lighthouses then you will not be disappointed for this Bay has some really great examples.

  • Williamstown Lighthouse (1840, 1849, 1934) - Williamstown
  • Black Lighthouse (1843, 1862) - Queenscliff
  • Eastern Lighthouse (1854, 1883) - McCrae
  • Queenscliff Lighthouse (1862) - Queenscliff
  • South Channel Pile Light (1874) - Port Phillip
  • Point Lonsdale Lighthouse (1902) - Point Lonsdale
  • Split Point Lighthouse (1891) - Aireys Inlet
  • Port Melbourne Lighthouses (1924) - Port Melbourne
Split Point LighthousePoster of the Split Point Lighthouse near Airey's Inlet in Victoria

The Port Phillip Bay is fringed with lighthouses built for ships to safely navigate the quite trecherous waters and coastline.

The Split Point Lighthouse is a lighthouse located in Airey's Inlet, a small town on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia.

Originally called Eagles Nest Point, the lighthouse was constructed in 1891.

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Shipwrecks In The Bay

If you are into exploring shipwrecks you will not be disappointed. Dive or snorkel around these wrecks where you will find some amazing marine life.

Some of the more significant and historical shipwrecks in the bay include...

  • Mountain Maid - sunk off Swan Island after a collision with the SS Queen (1856)
  • Wauchope - sunk off the coast of Sorrento (1918)
  • Ozone - scuttled off Indented Head (1925)
  • HMVS Cerberus - scuttled in Half Moon Bay, Black Rock (1926)
  • HMAS J3 - scuttled in Swan Bay (1926)
  • HMAS J7 - scuttled off Hampton Beach (1926)

Cerberus 2007
By Ways (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Port Phillip Bay has grown to become Australia's busiest Commercial Port. Huge amounts of imports and exports move throughout the bay daily.

Transportation of dry bulk, oil, natural gas, steel, oil products, wool and live stock etc makes this a very busy stretch of water.

docklands in melbourne australiaCruising through the Docklands in Melbourne Australia

Plenty of large ocean liners visit bringing tourist and immigrants alike.

2014 saw my granddaughter and I cruising on the Dawn Princess out through the Port Phillip Bay heads and over to New Zealand. Seeing the bay from this vantage point is truly amazing. What an exciting cruise that was! The following year we cruised to New Zealand on the Golden Princess - wonderful time!

staion pier at port melbourneCruise ship docked at Station Pier at Port Melbourne

Locals and Tourist can enjoy trips around, across and along the bay with Ferries shuttling to and fro.

The Searoad Ferry travels across the mouth of the bay each hour between Sorrento on the eastern shore to Queenscliff on the western shore.

You can drive your car onto the ferry for a nominal price, cheaper these days than petrol to drive all the way around the bay and of course far more convenient once on the other side.

Searoad ferry at QueenscliffThe smaller of the Searoad Ferry Fleet setting sail at Queenscliff, Victoria

Ferries also run from St Kilda to Williamstown across Hobsons Bay.

There are also lots of recreational cruises that depart from various locations around the bay. A short cruise up the Yarra River to the river's mouth makes for an interesting day out and this can be done from Southbank in the central business district of the city.

The ultimate Ferry Cruise, more like a small ocean liner, is travelling on the Spirit of TasmaniaThis passenger and car ferry transports you through the bay, out through the Heads and into the open ocean of Bass Strait. You travel in comfort all the way down and across to Australia's beautiful state of Tasmania.

If you get the chance do visit this magnificent part of Australia. Tasmania is packed full of early Australian history, the most incredible scenery and the friendliest of people. Oh and by the way, the beaches are glorious too.

spirit of tasmaniaSpirit of Tasmania docked at Station Pier in Port Melbourne

There are plenty of Lifesaving Clubs around the bay to help keep swimmer safe.

They are manned by volunteer lifesaving services and usually operate during the weekends, public holidays and during the busy summer months some are manned during the week.

For a full list of the Port Phillip Bay Lifesaving Clubs just visit this website, The Victorian Lifesaving Association ( http://www.lifesavingvictoria.com.au/www/html/1401-life-saving-clubs.asp )

And when swimming in the bay always remember swim between the flags.

Because of the temperate water, the Bay is a favorite destination for scuba diving.

You can dive from the many piers scattered around the bay or from boats out on the water, whichever way you can be assured some great finds.

Scuba diving in Port Phillip Bay Victoria AustraliaScuba diving in Port Phillip Bay Victoria Australia

There are lots of different diving environments including ...

  • Wrecks
  • Reefs
  • Drift Dives
  • Scallop Dives
  • Wall Dives

In, on and around the 1,950 square kilometres of the bay the fishing is great. Be aware of fishing rules and licenses and always be ready to catch the unexpected.

There are lots of recreational activities to enjoy at any of the Port Phillip Bay beaches. A family Picnic on the foreshore with plenty of free to use electric BBQ's and playgrounds for the kids to keep themselves amused.

What better way to enjoy the sun and nature's water playground than at one of Port Phillip Bay's beautiful beaches. Grab all the picnic gear, the kids and the car keys and head on down to the beach and remember to keep safe.

Enjoy visiting Port Phillip Bay as I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Wildlife Sightseeing Tour around Port Phillip Bay

seals seen on the Wildlife Sightseeing Tour

Watch in wonder and amazement as pods of dolphins and seals swim right alongside the vessel on this Queenscliff dolphin sightseeing cruise. Over the course of 90 minutes, you’ll get up close and personal with a myriad of curious and playful marine creatures including Australian Fur Seals playing, pods of dolphins gleefully darting in and out of the water and Humpback Whales making their annual winter migration.

The vessel is equipped with a rooftop viewing platform and plenty of viewing decks to enjoy uninterrupted views of the wildlife throughout the Queenscliff dolphin cruise. This is a wildlife encounter you'll remember forever. Head to Queenscliff Boat Harbour to join the dolphin cruise every day at 12.30 pm.


  • 90 minute seal and dolphin cruise
  • 30 minute debrief / check-in
  • Snacks and light refreshments
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