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Marengo Reefs

Reef Dive Reef Dive | Shore access Shore access

Ideal For Snorkelling Marine Park - No Fishing Open Water Rated Reef Dive Site

Marengo Reefs Dive
Marengo Reefs Dive
© Phil Watson

Depth: 1 m (3.28 ft) to 15 m (49 ft)

Marengo Reefs is a popular diving and snorkelling site near the Marengo township, just 2.5 kilometres south-west of Apollo Bay, off the world-famous Great Ocean Road (B100). This site is on Victoria's Otway Coast, facing south-east into Bass Strait. It lies in the Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary which protects 12.5 hectares of ocean waters. About 150 m (492 ft) offshore, this sanctuary protects the offshore reef system, known as Hayley Reef (aka Little Henty Reef and Marengo Reef).

The inner and outer Hayley Reefs are the only larger islands between Cape Schanck and Peterborough. They offer shelter and protect a foreshore beach that is a great shallow family day out for diving or snorkelling. The outer parts of Hayley Reef, on the exposed sides, offer some challenging diving.

Diving and Snorkelling Hayley Reefs

The two sections of Hayley Reef, the inner and outer islands, are usually exposed and separated by a narrow channel known as 'The Gap'. Composed of sandstone they support wonderful intertidal and subtidal reefs which are packed with sea life.

Most of the sanctuary is less than 15 m (49 ft) deep. Both the inner and outer reefs are steep-sided. The eastern shore of the outer Hayley Reef has overhangs and ledges, providing habitat for many marine creatures. The reefs were formed as offshore islands slowly eroded down.

Those exploring the rich intertidal reef areas along the top of the Hayley Reef sandstone islands may come across many invertebrates hidden in the rocks, pools, gutters and ledges. They include a huge variety of sea snails, from large abalone to tiny periwinkles, sea urchin. Numerous filter-feeding animals, such as tubeworms, barnacles and bryozoans (sea-moss) trap floating food brought by the waves.

In slightly deeper waters there are profuse seaweed 'gardens' thriving under the large writhing fronds of Bull Kelp that fringe the islands. The towering brown seaweeds grow luxuriantly, interspersed with beds of the attractive, delicate red and green species.

The channel between the two Hayley Reef islands, known as 'The Gap', is a rare sheltered haven on this wild coastline. The 7–8 metre deep calmer waters support colourful soft corals, sponge gardens and sea urchins. The diverse range of habitats provides resources for a huge range of species.

Bubble Weed is the dominant canopy seaweed in the areas protected from high wave energy by the outer Hayley Reef. Bull kelp dominates elsewhere. Fourteen other species of brown algae and seven species of red algae, including encrusting coralline algae, form an understorey below the canopy.

Around the islands, many kinds of wrasse scoot among the fronds. Schools of black and white Zebra Fish stand out dramatically from the seaweed, and the rotund spiny Globe Fish hovers over the rocks. Leather Jackets, purple wrasse, blue-throated wrasse, red mullet and magpie perch are common. Common invertebrates seen include black-lip abalone, periwinkles and sea urchins. Australian Fur seals use the larger island to sun themselves after foraging far off the coast.

The outer Hayley Reef island has a haul out area for approximately 200 Australian Fur Seals. Walking on the reef is not allowed to avoid disturbing the seals, birds and the intertidal animals.

Marengo Reef — Snorkeling with Seals | Credit: Sportilium

If you want a way more challenging dive, on a perfect day you could explore the 30+ metre deep gully off the southern tip of the outer Hayley Reef island. For a very rewarding boat dive, Henty Reef lies on the other side of the gully, much further offshore.

The Grange shipwreck lies east of Hentry Reef. While easier as a boat entry, in the right conditions, fit and strong divers and snorkellers can tackle it as a shore dive.

Marengo Reefs Parking
Marengo Reefs Parking
© Google Street View

Location: Marengo Crescent, Marengo, Victoria 3233

How to Get There
Marengo is approximately 220 km south-west of Melbourne and 2.5 km south-west of Apollo Bay. The sanctuary lies approximately 80 m (262 ft) offshore from Hayley Point, Marengo. It can be accessed by boat from the Apollo Bay Breakwater Road Boat Ramp. It can also be accessed by kayak, diving, snorkelling or swimming from the southern end of Marengo Beach.

Parking: There is car parking on the track leading to the entrance of the Marengo Holiday Park, off Marengo Crescent.

Marengo township has camping and accommodation available. Nearby Apollo Bay has a full range of facilities.

Warning: This can be a highly hazardous area. Always go with a buddy and be extremely careful. The areas outside the protection of the reef are for experienced divers and snorkellers only.

Entry/Exit: From the southern end of the beach in front of Marengo Crescent.

Ideal Conditions: Diving here requires a day of exceptionally good weather. Conditions need to be calm, with flat seas and no swell or rough weather coming in, which means the dive site is best in summer and autumn. Offshore westerly to northerly winds will flatten out the sea. It's an exposed site and conditions can change quickly. Beware of waves and tides when visiting this site. See WillyWeather (Marengo) as a guide for the tide times and the height of the tide.

Bass Strait Warning: Always keep an eye on sea conditions throughout any shore or boat dive in Bass Strait on Victoria's coastline. Please read the warnings on the web page diving-in-bass-strait before diving or snorkelling this site.

Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary Dive Site Map
Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary Dive Site Map | © The Scuba Doctor

Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary

This site lies in Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, Victoria's smallest marine sanctuary, and faces into Bass Strait. Near Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road, at the southern end of Mounts Bay, the 12.5 hectare santuary area is 150 metres offshore and includes an important haul out site for Australian Fur Seals. To protect the important marine life found here, Marengo was declared a sanctuary in 2002.

This sanctuary is an excellent site for both scuba diving and snorkelling when weather conditions permit. The shelter provider on the inside of Hayley Reef closer to shore is a great site for beginner snorkellers if conditions are calm on a good day. Outside the protection of the reef can be more challenging with the expose to ocean swell and strong currents creating a more dynamic environment better suited to experienced snorkellers and divers.

The two islands within the marine sanctuary are inner and outer Hayley Reef (aka Little Henty Reef and Marengo Reef), separated by 'The Gap'. They lie east of Hayley Point. The larger Henty Reef lies outside of the sanctuary further offshore to the south-east.

The Gap — The channel between the two parts of Hayley Reef, known as 'The Gap', is a rare sheltered haven on this wild coastline, supporting growths of soft corals and sponges.

Fish — Over 56 fish species have been recorded in and around the marine sanctuary. Common fish are Blue-throated Wrasse and Purple Wrasse. Other fish species include Herring-cale, Magpie Morwong and in low abundance the Horseshoe Leatherjacket.

Shipwrecks — There are two known shipwrecks in the area. The 1858 wooden barque international trader Grange lies in the marine sanctuary, and the wooden ketch coastal trader Wollomai lies nearby in Mounts Bay. Remains of the Grange hull and Wollomai windlass can be seen underwater in the sanctuary. Removal of any artefacts or objects from these sites is not permitted.

Australian Fur Seals: Australian Fur Seals stop in at the reef year-round and can be often seen diving into the water or resting on the rocks. They eat a variety of fish, squid and octopus and can dive to depths of 200m. The outer reef is a site of state significance with a special protection area to limit disturbance to seals. Be aware the seals can be aggressive and sometimes bite.

Special Protection Area - No Access — The outer Hayley Reef island is a resting place for the many seals that stop in for a break from hunting in the open ocean. Please keep a safe distance from the seals and remember access is restricted on the outer reef to help protect the seals. No anchoring, landing or launching of boats within 20 metres of the outer reef is permitted. You must keep at least 30 metes away from seals, whether you are on land or in the water. Please do not walk on the outer reef or approach the seals.

See also, Parks Victoria: Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary,
Park Note: Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary - Jan 2014, and
Park Note: Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary - Dec 2003.

There are also intertidal reefs close nearby at Hayley Point, outside of the sanctuary. It's a good spot at low tide to discover some interesting marine creatures.

You are not permitted to carry a spear gun while snorkelling or scuba diving in Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary.

See also, Marengo and the Grange Wreck in "Shore Dives of Victoria" by Ian Lewis, 3rd edition pages 12–13.

Eastern Maar country
Eastern Maar country

Traditional Owners — This dive site is in the traditional Country of the Eastern Maar people of south-western Victoria between the Shaw and Eumerella Rivers and from Yambuk in the south to beyond Lake Linlithgow in the north. This truly ancient Country extends as far north as Ararat and encompasses the coastal townships of Port Fairy in the west, Warrnambool, Peterborough, Port Campbell, Apollo Bay, Lorne, and Airies Inlet in the east, including the Great Ocean Road area. It also stretches 100 metres out to sea from low tide and therefore includes the iconic Twelve Apostles. "Eastern Maar" is a name adopted by the people who identify as Maar, Eastern Gunditjmara, Tjap Wurrung, Peek Whurrong, Kirrae Whurrung, Kuurn Kopan Noot and/or Yarro waetch (Tooram Tribe) amongst others. We wish to acknowledge the Eastern Maar as Traditional Owners. We pay respect to their Ancestors and their Elders, past, present and emerging.


Marengo Reefs Location Map

Latitude: 38° 46.630′ S   (38.777174° S / 38° 46′ 37.83″ S)
Longitude: 143° 39.837′ E   (143.663954° E / 143° 39′ 50.23″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map | Get directions
Added: 2021-01-29 03:21:06 GMT, Last updated: 2022-04-13 11:44:24 GMT
Source: Google Earth
Nearest Neighbour: Grange, 527 m, bearing 85°, E
Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, Otway Coast.
Depth: 1 to 15 m.

DISCLAIMER: No claim is made by The Scuba Doctor as to the accuracy of the dive site coordinates listed here. Should anyone decide to use these GPS marks to locate and dive on a site, they do so entirely at their own risk. Always verify against other sources.

The marks come from numerous sources including commercial operators, independent dive clubs, reference works, and active divers. Some are known to be accurate, while others may not be. Some GPS marks may even have come from maps using the AGD66 datum, and thus may need be converted to the WGS84 datum. To distinguish between the possible accuracy of the dive site marks, we've tried to give each mark a source of GPS, Google Earth, or unknown.


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