Popes Eye

Reef DiveReef Dive | Boat access

Ideal For Snorkelling Inside Port Phillip Marine Park - No Fishing Night Dive Site Open Water Rated Reef Dive Site

Depth: 2 metres (6.6 feet) to 14 metres (46 feet)

Dive, Snorkel or Watch Reef Cam Live!

Pope's Eye
Pope's Eye
© Unknown

Pope's Eye is a natural sand shoal with a partially completed bluestone fortification, the Annulus, the foundation of which was to be an island fort built in the 1880s to protect Port Phillip and the gold-rich Victorian Goldfields of the time. It is located four kilometres from the heads between Portsea and Queenscliff in Port Phillip, Victoria. Advances in weapons technology made the defence plan obsolete and so it was never completed.

Pope's Eye is a semicircular, horse-shoe shaped ring of large basalt blocks on top creating an artificial reef. This provides a safe anchorage for pleasure craft as well as an immensely beautiful locale for snorkellers and scuba divers. The bluestone foundations measure approximately 204 metres (669 feet) in length, 22.4 metres (73 feet) wide at the bottom to 1.25 metres (4.1 feet) wide at the top, and rising to a height of 2.75 metres (9 feet) above sea level at low tide.

Marine Life

The intertidal and subtidal reef is an artificial basalt structure providing important habitat for the feather star, plus hulafish, and supports abundant large fish. It is about 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) deep within the ring and drops off to about 10 metres (33 feet) metres around the outside. The tops of the rocks are covered by green algae and extensive beds of brown kelps including both giant kelp and leathery kelp. Beneath the kelp a magnificent and colour marine environment awaits. The reef has open patches of turfing red algae that are maintained by the Scalyfin and used as important feeding areas for other fish.

Popes Eye has a fish community that is distinct from elsewhere in the Marine National Park. Fishing has been banned since 1976 and the reef has higher species richness, as well as an abundance of fish, including larger fish, than elsewhere in southern Port Phillip. The northwest corner of Popes Eye is a minor haul-out area for the Australian fur seal. Popes Eye is also a minor roost for cormorants and a breeding colony for Australian gannets

Arguably just as enthralling as a tropical reef, Pope's Eye is a sanctuary for a huge variety of species including colourful reef fish, octopus, featherstars, cuttlefish, seals and gorgonian corals. There are Scalyfin, Old Wives, Sea Sweep, Horseshoe Leatherjackets, Blue Throat Wrasse, Purple Wrasse, Rosy Wrasse, Magpie Perch, Barber Perch, Leatherjacket, Southern Hulafish, Herring Cale and Cow Fish, just to name a few commonly seen. The elusive Warty Prowfish is known to be a resident here too.

The large blue-throated wrasse are males, with all juveniles and smaller adults being females. A few larger, dominant females change sex to male and guard their harem of females against intrusion by other males.


Popes Eye and Seals | Credit: David Bryant, Seapics

The spaces in the basalt blocks of the reef provide important habitat for feather star. There is also plenty of purple sea urchin and some blacklip abalone. The biscuit star is also common.

Australia's smallest Marine Park, this horseshoe-shaped artificial reef is part of the Harold Holt Marine Reserve with an absolutely no-take policy. It is a haven not only for fish but for birds, invertebrates and algae. Other attractions to look out for are Seastars, Abalone, Nudibranchs, Giant and Leathery Kelp, Sponges and soft corals. The occasional seal can be seen having a siesta at the end of the rocks!

Bird Life

During Summer the small platform of the navigational beacon changes from a year-round roosting site, to an overflowing nesting ground for the Australasian Gannet. It is, in fact, one of the few man-made structures in the world where this species will breed.

Diving Popes Eye

The concentrations of fish are testimony to the success of marine reserves. The fish have no fear and get in your face. Nowhere else in Port Phillip will you find more fish in such a small area.

The inside of Pope's Eye provides a safe anchorage in two to three metres of water. Depending on the height of the tide, people can sometimes stand up. Outside, the kelp covered rocks slope away to a depth of 14 metres to 10 metres and sand.

A ship's anchor is resting on its side at 12 metres in the middle of the ebb side and if diving on the flood side, there is an old wooden butter churn at the bottom in the middle. These can assist in navigating your location when underwater.

Popes Eye can only be reached by boat and is a favourite location of divers and snorkellers due to the protection it provides from tidal currents. Because of this, many operators use this site for beginners' first open water dive. It is a fascinating dive and snorkel site for both experienced and novice water goers.

While the best time to dive Pope's Eye is on the start of an Ebb tide, it provides a great dive in all weather conditions. Local divers often dismiss this site as many learnt to dive here. Pope's Eye is an easy dive but should not be underrated.

See WillyWeather as a guide for the tide times and the height of the tide.

Reef Cam

The Nature Conservancy Australia installed Reef Cam at Pope's Eye. It's Australia's first ever rocky-reef, live-feed, combined under and above water webcams.


Reef Cam Highlights | Credit: The Nature Conservancy Australia

Marine Park

Ninety years after its construction, in 1979, the artificial bluestone reef and surrounds encompassing some 10 acres were declared a Marine National Park. Fish, marine fauna and flora, as well as bird-life, have thrived and flourished providing nature lovers with a wonderful repertoire of nature to enjoy.


Popes Eye - Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park | Credit: Parks Victoria

This site lies in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. The park is made up of six separate marine areas around the southern end of Port Phillip: Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye, and Portsea Hole.

See also, Parks Victoria: Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park - Map (PDF 1.4 MB),
Divers Guide - Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park (Adobe PDF | 7.72 MB), and
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park Identification Booklet (Adobe PDF | 16.34 MB).

Latitude: 38° 16.598′ S   (38.276633° S / 38° 16′ 35.88″ S)
Longitude: 144° 41.922′ E   (144.6987° E / 144° 41′ 55.32″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 01:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2020-08-24 13:24:30 GMT
Source: GPS
Nearest Neighbour: Popes Eye Anchor Farm, 88 m, bearing 351°, N
Depth: 2 to 14 m.
Dive only on: SWF, SWE, Ebb, Flood.
Mean water temp - summer: 18.2°C.
Mean water temp - winter: 12.5°C.



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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