Victorian Marine Protected Areas

Victoria's Marine Protected Areas

Victoria's marine protected areas include marine national parks and marine sanctuaries that are highly protected no take areas which cover approximately 63,000 hectares or 5.3% of Victorian state marine waters. Other marine protected areas in Victoria are multiple use and allow for some forms of recreational fishing and include marine parks, marine and coastal parks, and a marine reserve.

Marine National Parks

Bunurong Marine National Park — Located about 6 kilometres south-west of Inverloch in South Gippsland, this park covers 2100 hectares and about 5 kilometres of coastline. This coastline is beautiful, full of striking rock formations, attractive sandy coves, rugged sandstone cliffs, dunes and prominent headlands. The coastal waters protect a remarkable range of habitats including intertidal reefs, subtidal rocky reefs, algal gardens and seagrass beds. The waters here are cool, akin to Victoria's central and western coasts, however they are relatively protected from south-westerly swells due to the location of far away King Island. The marine life of the region is considered special due to the unusual set of environmental conditions. The intertidal sandstone reefs of the area boast the highest recorded diversity of intertidal and subtidal invertebrates in eastern Victoria. The range of seaweed species is also large and includes greens, blue-greens, browns and encrusting, coralline reds. Seagrass meadows and sandy bays are also important habitats within the area. The diversity of habitats supports many marine animals including seastars, featherstars, crabs, snails, Port Jackson Sharks and up to 87 species of fish. If you are lucky you may see Humpback Whales, Southern Right Whales or Subantarctic Fur Seals.

Cape Howe Marine National Park — Situated in the far east of Victoria alongside the border with New South Wales, Cape Howe National Park is 4,050ha. This park protects habitats that support a mixture of cool water southern marine species and warmer waters species more common in the north. The habitats found in the park include kelp forests, granite and sandstone reefs, sandy beaches and soft sediments. The reefs range from intertidal to subtidal, up to depths of approximately 50m. The rocky habitats have complex form and structure and are constantly exposed to the prevailing easterly swell.

Churchill Island Marine National Park — Located south of Rhyll, on the eastern shore of Phillip Island, in Western Port, the park extends from Long Point south of Rhyll township to the north point of Churchill Island and along the island's western shore to the bridge. Within this park there are many habitats including mangroves, sheltered intertidal mudflats, seagrass beds, subtidal soft sediments and rocky intertidal shores. The seagrass beds are a major food source for black swans as well as providing a nursery habitat for many commercially viable species such as King George Whiting, Black Bream and Yellow-eyed Mullet. Many invertebrate species such as pippies and worms reside in the mudflats and provide food for birds and fish. The park also protects many beds of lampshells, a living fossil which once had thousands of species and is now reduced to only a few.

Corner Inlet Marine National Park — This 1,550 hectare park is located to the north and east of Wilsons Promontory National Park adjacent to the southern shores of Corner Inlet. Corner Inlet is the most easterly and consequently the warmest, of Victoria's large bays. The national park protects large areas of seagrass including the only extensive Posidonia australis meadow in southern Australia. Beneath the seagrass canopy there are sponges, sea squirts, seastars, snails and crabs, including the cryptic decorator crab. You may also be lucky enough to see the charismatic dumpling squid or a venomous Blue-ringed Octopus. There are a range of fish species present including pipefish, cobblers, gobies, toadfish, globefish and leatherjackets. Larger animals include stingrays, Banjo Sharks and Southern Fiddler Rays.

Discovery Bay Marine National Park — The park covers 2830 hectares adjacent to Cape Bridgewater along the coast from Blacks Beach to Whites Beach and offshore to three nautical miles. Between Whites Beach and Cape Duquesne the park boundary commences 500 metres from the coastline. The park abuts the Discovery Bay Coastal Park. The wrecks of three wooden sailing barques, the Jane, the Ann and the Marie, are thought to be in the vicinity of the park.

French Island Marine National Park — Located 10km south of Tooradin, French Island Marine National Park is adjacent to the northern shoreline of French Island National Park in Western Port. The tidal channel system of varying depths, profiles and orientations, contributes to the high diversity of habitats, including many seagrass beds in the surrounding waters. These seagrass beds are particularly important as they have largely disappeared in other areas of the bay since the 1950s. The seagrass beds support many commercially viable species such as King George Whiting, Black Bream and Yellow-eyed Mullet. The mudflats support a wide variety of benthic animals such as worms and bivalves. These animals are important for nutrient cycling because they convert the detritus of the bay into animal tissue which is fed upon by birds and fishes.

Ninety Mile Beach Marine National Park — Located 30km south of Sale and adjacent to Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park, this park covers 5km of coastline. This untamed stretch of coastline runs alongside the slender strip of sand dunes that protect the Gippsland Lakes. Beneath the water, vast plains of sand stretch in every direction. The huge subtidal sandy expanses characteristic of the area, are teeming with marine life. In fact, they are known to have one of the highest species diversity levels of any place on the planet, with 860 species discovered within 10 square metres. These sand dwelling critters can include tube building worms, small molluscs and many tiny crustaceans. Larger animals are less common, but octopuses, brittle stars, crabs and an unusual coral species can be found. You may also see a Stargazer peering up at you from the sand or many pelagic (free-swimming) fish species feeding on the smorgasbord of tiny animals within the sand. Young Great White Sharks can be found in the area chasing snapper, one of their favourite foods.

Point Addis Marine National Park — The shoreline features wide sandy beaches and the world famous surfing venue of Bells Beach. The park features spectacular scenery with wide sandy beaches, crumbling limestone and sandstone cliffs, rocky platforms and copious small rocky reefs. The coastline is exposed to intense wave action from the southern ocean, a major contributor to the shaping of this rugged coastline. In calm weather conditions Jarosite and Ingoldsby reef can provide good places to explore the unique local marine life.

Point Hicks Marine National Park — The park covers 3,810 hectares and adjoins Point Hicks Lighthouse Reserve and the Croajingolong National Park. The park includes Whaleback Rock and Sensation Reef.

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park — The park is an internationally recognised dive site, offering excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities for varying levels of experience. Divers and snorkelers have a wide choice of exciting destinations within the six sectors of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park: Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye, and Portsea Hole.

Twelve Apostles Marine National Park — The iconic golden cliffs and crumbling pillars of the Twelve Apostles can be found 7 km east of Port Campbell. They are protected by the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park which covers 7500ha and runs along 17km of stunning coastline. As well as the above water beauty the park protects some of Victoria's most dramatic underwater scenery. Spectacular arches, canyons, fissures, gutters and deep sloping reefs make up the environment below the waves. Wild and powerful waves of the Southern Ocean constantly pound the coastline which has shaped the area into what you see today. The remarkable underwater structures provide a complex foundation for magnificent habitats including kelp forests and colourful sponge gardens. Many animals prosper both above and below the water including seabirds, seals, lobsters, reef fish and sea spiders. The intertidal and shallow subtidal reefs are known to have the greatest diversity of invertebrates on limestone reef in Victoria. Marine mammals, such as whales, are also known to visit the area.

Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park — There is a huge diversity of marine life within the waters at the Prom. Brilliantly coloured fish are present such as the Red Velvetfish, Eastern Blue Groper and Wrasse as well as Leafy Seadragons and schools of Barber Perch. Intertidal molluscs such as limpets and snails, as well as anemones, brittlestars and seastars, are also common within the waters. Divers will experience fascinating sponge gardens which consist of a techni-coloured assemblage of sponges, sea tulips, sea whips, lace corals and seafans. Octopus emerge at night whilst sharks and rays roam the sandy areas. The offshore islands support many colonies of fur seals and oceanic birds such as Little Penguins, Fairy Prions, Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls.

Yaringa Marine National Park — Located between the mainland and Quail Island Nature Conservation Reserve in Western Port, this park encompasses a variety of ecologically important habitats including saltmarsh, mangroves, sheltered intertidal mudflats, subtidal soft sediments and tidal channels.

Marine Sanctuaries

Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary — Located near the mouth of Barwon River, Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary protects 17ha predominately composed of reef. The eastern half of the reef is basalt, formed from lava flow, and is exposed to the flow of the river. The western side is old sandstone and influenced by ocean swell. On the outer edges of the reef are the wrecks of two ships. The variation in conditions across the reef results in the presence of a huge diversity of plants and animals. Divers can see anything from feather stars and barnacles to rock lobsters, rays and schools of fish. Bull Kelp, sandstone arches and sponge gardens create a fascinating and complex underwater world.

Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary — Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary protects partially exposed granite reef that is home to abundant marine life and is a haul-out site for Australian and New Zealand fur seals. Forests of Bull Kelp and the remains of a shipwreck make for excellent diving sites. Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary can be found south east of Cape Conran in East Gippsland. It is composed of a granite outcrop that emerges from the sandy floor approximately 28m deep and rises to around one metre above the surface at low tide. The reef is 70m long above water and continues for 1km below the water to the southeast. There are also three shipwrecks within the park. The temperate, clear waters of Beware Reef support an abundance of marine life. The shallow parts of the reef are covered in Bull Kelp and other brown algae interspersed with furry green and red algae. The exposed tip is a favourite resting spot of the Australian Fur Seal whilst the Bull Kelp frequently hides Maori Octopus. Deeper parts of the reef host filter feeding sponges, sea fans, sea tulips, sea whips and anemones. Fish are prolific on the reef including boarfish, morwongs, trumpeters, wrasses and sea sweeps. Wobbegong and Port Jackson sharks may be found resting in sandy hollows.

Bunurong Marine Park — The broad rock platforms and underwater reefs of Bunurong Marine Park support a remarkable range of habitats, containing a diverse array of plants and animals. Put on a mask, snorkel and flns and venture into the remarkable world that lies beneath the water's surface. There are a number of good spots to snorkel in the park such as Flat Rocks with its profusion of large rock pools and The Caves which has a large pool opening out to the sea that is accessible at low tide.

Corner Inlet Marine & Coastal Park

Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary — the iconic brown seaweed Neptune's Necklace which is unique to Australia and New Zealand. Within the rockpools you can find fascinating creatures such as octopus, chitons and decorator crabs. Offshore, Eagle Rock and Table Rock are fringed with swirling Bull Kelp and in deeper waters colourful sea tulips and encrusting sponges can be found. The beautiful habitat provided by these species supports a vast array of marine life from wrasse and mullet to Cat Sharks, Port Jackson Sharks, skates and rays. Many birds use the area as feeding and roosting habitat and at certain times of year you may also be able to spot whales passing through the area. Of the twenty five species of fish found in the sanctuary, the most abundant include the blue-throated wrasse, scalyfin and the yellow-striped leatherjacket. Other fish species include the horseshoe leatherjacket and sea sweep, while the magpie morwong also occurs in low abundance. Sharks and rays such as the Port Jackson shark, necklace carpetshark and sparsely spotted stingray have been recorded on the subtidal reef.

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary — The little promontory, west of the beach at Williamstown, has been fenced off from the rest of the world for over 80 years by a coastal rifle range. This forgotten and unspoilt place is now considered a haven for coastal and marine life right next to Melbourne.

Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary — Just past Apollo Bay, off the world famous Great Ocean Road, Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary protects 12ha of ocean waters. About 150m offshore, this sanctuary protects a reef system known as Little Henty Reef. Two sections of the reef, the inner and outer reef, 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. Visitors exploring the intertidal reef may come across many invertebrates including sea snails, tubeworms and abalone. In slightly deeper waters there are beautiful seaweed gardens including towering Bull Kelp forests and beds of delicate green and red species. Between the two small islands, calmer waters support colourful soft corals, sponge gardens and sea urchins. The diverse range of habitats provides resources for a huge range of species including Australian Fur Seals, schools of Zebra Fish and many species of wrasse.

Merri Marine Sanctuary — Merri Marine Sanctuary, located at the mouth of the Merri River in Warrnambool, covers 25ha of coast from the Breakwater to Thunder Point. Merri and Middle islands sit just offshore and are the remains of an ancient sand dune that stretched from Pickering Point thousands of years ago. Between these islands is a deep canyon packed with sea life. Such a diverse range of marine life can be found in the area because of the varying sandy and rocky habitats and cool, nutrient rich, oxygen charged waters. Within this sanctuary, kelps and colourful sponges create an alluring underwater world. Overhangs and crevices provide excellent hiding spots for marine animals including Giant Cuttlefish, Draughtboard Sharks, Parrotfish, schools of Zebra Fish and Southern Rock Lobsters.

Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary — The Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary is named after the shape of its largest intertidal platform. Its large intertidal isthmus or 'stalk' has been formed by incoming waves refracting around the reef platform and depositing basalt cobbles into the gap between the platform and the shore, an unusual coastal landform known as a tombolo.

Nooramunga Marine & Coastal Park — Protected from the pounding surf of Bass Strait by barrier islands, the quiet waters of Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park create an intricate network of waterways and islands, framed by the majesty of Wilsons Promontory. The park consists of shallow marine waters, isolated granite islands, intertidal mudflats and a complex of over 40 sand barrier islands.

Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary — The Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary is located in the north east corner of Port Phillip, a mere 30 minute drive from the Melbourne CBD. The park is largely protected from the hype of the suburbs by the coastal dunes and adjacent wetlands of the Point Cook Coastal Park and Cheetham Wetlands. Off the coast a series of basalt cliffs rise from the muddy seafloor, the remains of a larval flow that poured across the plains thousands of years ago.

Point Danger Marine Sanctuary — Located in Torquay the reef is ideal for snorkelling and exploring the diverse marine life at low tide. Divers and snorkellers can find a diverse array of marine life throughout the small offshore reef whilst at low tide other visitors can explore the underwater world within the rockpools. The area between Torquay's back and front beaches is formed of beds of crumbling limestone and a narrow rock platform which extends to the west. A small reef which is only exposed at the lowest of summer tides lies just offshore and is often isolated from the beach by a deep sandy channel. One shipwreck is found within the park, the Joseph H. Scammell. The limestone reef is an enthralling feature of this park. Covered in small boulders and intricate seaweed beds, the reef is home to a number of weird and wonderful creatures. Most noteworthy is the huge diversity of seaslugs, currently 96 species known to occur in this sanctuary, many of which are endemic. These fascinating creatures can be any colour of the rainbow and come in a range of exquisite shapes and sizes. Also present are carnivorous worms, delicate brittle stars and majestic eagle rays.

Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary — With its rockpools close to shore, Ricketts Point is the perfect place to introduce kids to the wonder of Victoria's underwater marine life. Sandstone platforms are home to an array of marine creatures and are excellent for rockpool exploration. During summer the beach is patrolled by the life saving club, making it a great option for a summer family outing.

Shallow Inlet Marine & Coastal Park — Nestled between Waratah Bay and the majestic peaks of Wilsons Promontory, the sheltered waters of Shallow Inlet provide a secluded and peaceful setting for a range of water based activities.

The Arches Marine Sanctuary — Just off the coast near Port Campbell, The Arches Marine Sanctuary protects 45ha of remarkable seascape. This area is known for the above water limestone landscape, however 19 to 25m below the waves there is a labyrinth of towering limestone canyons, caves, arches and walls. It is these structures which give the park its name. The area is characterised by high energy waves and cool water with flows from the Southern Ocean. The complex structures beneath the waves provide a foundation for brilliantly coloured seaweeds and sponges to grow on. Due to the shaded underside of the underwater arches, habitats here are typical of those found in the deeper waters of Bass Strait. There is a diverse array of life including gorgonians, sponges, bryozoans and hydroids. The upper side of these structures are covered in the thick, brown kelp Ecklonia radiata with an understory of delicate red alage. These habitats support schools of reef fish, seals and a range of invertebrates such as lobster, abalone and sea urchins.

Wilsons Promontory Marine Park — This marine park consists of extensive sandy beaches, seagrass meadows, rocky reefs and offshore islands.

Wilsons Promontory Marine Reserve 

Marine Park and Sanctuary Restrictions

for the protection of the marine environment, a number of activities are prohibited within the boundaries of Victoria's Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries.

You may carry fin-fish on board tour boat within the park boundaries if you caught the fish outside the parks, and you may also carry (but not use) a fishing rod or a spear gun.

You may also have abalone or rock lobster and associated equipment securely stowed on board the boat provided that you are travelling straight through the park by the shortest practicable route.

No fishing, netting, spearing, taking or killing of marine life. All methods of fishing, from the shore or at sea, are prohibeted.

No taking or damaging of animals, plants and objects (artefacts).

KML File for Victorian Marine Protected Areas, Piers and Jetties

Back in April 2013, Parks Victoria published a KML file containing the geographic mapping data for all of the Victorian Parks and Conservation Reserves. We've taken that file and removed everything except for the Marine Protected Areas (marine national parks and marine sanctuaries), Piers, and Jetties. With this information loaded into your dive boat GPS unit you'll know if you're in a protected area, or not.

Download/view the Victorian Marine Protected Areas Piers and Jetties April 2013 (KML file | 609.43 KB | 03-Mar-2019) in the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth and Google Maps.

Some marine GPS units can import the information from a KML file. For others you can use use a file translate program (e.g. GPSBabel) to convert the KML file into an import file format (e.g. GPX) supported by your GPS unit.

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