Port Phillip

Point Lonsdale: Glaneuse Reef

Glaneuse Reef in Point Lonsdale is an exquisite site situated approximately 1.5 hours from Melbourne and is home to some of the best rockpools along the southwestern coastline. The reef is part of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, which also includes Swan Bay, the Mud Islands, Point Nepean and Pope’s Eye. The reef extends from Point Lonsdale Lighthouse (a historically important icon of the area) to a series of open rockpools that are easily accessible from the shore.

While the area is a popular holiday destination during January, the rest of the year it remains relatively uninhabited and is an ideal spot for both experienced and inexperienced snorkelers. The reef is easily distinguishable at low tide due to Neptune’s necklace (Hormosira banksii) covering the entirety of the reef.

For several reasons, the reef is best snorkeled approximately two hours before or after low tide to avoid waves and strong currents. During this time period, a series of rockpools and small tunnels become available, creating a perfect underwater garden to be explored. Amongst the rocky outcrops a multitude of species can be found including rays, wrasse, zebrafish, anglerfish, old wives, weedy seadragons, Port Jackson sharks and many more. If little or no ocean swell is present, a steep precipice (5 to 6 metres in depth) off the back of the reef can be explored. There, larger species of fish can be seen floating amongst the rocky crevices.

On a clear Summer’s day, this is a spot nothing less than magical and few spots match it in terms of accessibility, species diversity and picturesque landscape. So whether you are an experienced snorkeler or diver, or it’s your first time, this spot is a must-see.

Summary:

- Only a 1.5 hour drive from Melbourne.
- Easily accessible for unexperienced snorkelers or divers.
- Wide variety of species to be seen. 

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Cover image taken from Wikimedia Commons. 

Blairgowrie Pier & Marina

A favourite among locals, this busy marina offers protected snorkeling and diving amidst an exquisite gallery of colourful sponges.

The Blairgowrie Pier and Marina is a bayside snorkeling and dive spot located at the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron. About 1.5 hours out of Melbourne, with all day free parking and in close proximity to a good selection of cafes, this site is perfect for a day trip out of Melbourne.

The key feature of this site is the plant and animal life that has grown on the pier structure itself. The community structure changes with depth and distance from the beach, which means that each pylon reveals new discoveries. In the shallow waters close to the beach, a patient snorkeler might discover a seahorse hiding among the long brown algae. At mid depths, the pylons and pier wall are coated with changing communities of sponges and encrusting animals in many colours. Closer inspection of these might reveal a lolly-coloured nudibranch or two (a common sight here), camouflaging fish such as blennies or leatherjackets, or the transparent red-handed shrimp. Some pylons are absolutely covered in hundreds of tiny hermit crabs!

On the sandy sea floor, flathead, rays and even the odd stargazer lie camouflaged. Large schools of yakka, longfin pike and baitfish species can often be seen between the pylons, while leatherjackets and sea sweep stick close to the walls.

The best way to enjoy this site is to walk in from the beach and snorkel to the end of the pier, which has a ladder for exit. However, at a distance of about 280 metres, this swim may be too long for some swimmers. Conveniently, a second ladder midway along the pier allows snorkelers to choose to swim just the shallow or the deep half of the pier, and is an easier entry point for divers. Some divers may choose to get in at the end of the pier and investigate the 200 metre marina wall.

Protected on two sides by a concrete wall and cladding on their pier, this site can be enjoyed by snorkelers in most conditions. Divers should aim to visit the site at slack-water, since there can be a strong undercurrent. Snorkeling at different tides allows access to different environments.

Summary

 
  1. Diverse fauna found on pylons and marina wall

  2. Easy access with free parking

  3. Good for snorkeling and diving with two entry/exit ladders


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Portsea Pier

Easy accessibility and a high diversity of marine life has made Portsea pier one of the most popular dive spots around Melbourne, particularly for beginners.

An hour and a half out of Melbourne’s CBD, Portsea pier is located right next to Portsea’s town centre and best dived on a weak southerly wind.

Shallow sea grass beds and kelp gardens on the west side of the pier are accessible to snorkellers, but with depths getting to 5m towards the end of the pier, the area is also a great dive spot - particularly for beginners. 

The area hosts a diverse range of marine fauna such as weedy sea dragons, smooth stingrays, banjo sharks, leather jackets, and the occasional wobbegong.

Colourful sponges growing on the pier pylons provided an ideal habitat for crabs and blennies as well as several species of nudibranchs including the impressive Verco’s Nudibranch.

It’s important to note that during the summer months the area can be busy with boat traffic, predominately on the east side of the pier, so appropriate awareness is necessary whilst using the area.

Furthermore, due to Portsea’s close proximity to Port Phillip heads, Portsea can be subject to strong surges. 

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Summary 

  1.        Great easy scuba dive for beginners

  2.         Great for snorkelling

  3.         Sea grass bed and kelp gardens

  4.         Home to weedy sea dragons

  5.         Easy access from Car-park

  6.         Busy during summer months

  7.         Can be subjected to strong surges

Location of Portsea Pier. 

Location of Portsea Pier.