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The Swan Bay component of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park incorporates Swan Bay to the eastern shoreline of Swan Island, Rabbit Island and Duck Island excluding the shipping channel to the Swan Bay Jetty.
The Swan Bay component of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park contains the best representative sample of seagrass beds within the park. The expanse of subtidal seagrass beds is a nursery habitat for many species of fish. The intertidal mudflats and surrounding fringe of saltmarsh support waderbirds, many that migrate from the Northern Hemisphere during summer months.
The seagrass habitat is a feeding ground for black swans, and provides a resting and breeding ground for spoonbills, cormorants and egrets.
Mud Islands (Great Sands)
The Mud Islands component is located in the south eastern part of Port Phillip approximately 6 km NE of Portsea. The Mud Islands are an exposed section of the Great Sands, the most extensive sandbank in Port Phillip, which is continually changing in shape due to storms and sand movement.
The fine sand and muddy sediments exposed between tides provide excellent habitat for many birds, including endangered and long distance migratory species. Some 70 species of birds have been recorded on the islands. Vegetation on the low-lying islands consists of saltmarsh and dune shrubland surrounding a sheltered lagoon.
The Mud Islands support a distinctive community of invertebrates that live in the sand and provide a source of food for many fish and birds.
Located between Queenscliff and the western side of the Port Phillip entrance, Point Lonsdale includes spectacular deep water scenery comprising cliffs, caverns, rocky reef walls, sponge gardens and kelp beds.
The Rip side of Point Lonsdale contains an extensive intertidal rocky platform covered with algae such as Neptune's Necklace, and has a number of larger rockpools suitable for snorkelling. The Point Lonsdale intertidal platform has the highest recorded invertebrate diversity of any calcarenite reef in Victoria.
The reefs offshore from Point Lonsdale provide spectacular underwater terrain with ledges, rock outcrops and bommies, and beds of bull kelp (Durvillea potatorum) on sections exposed to large waves.
Extending around Point Nepean on the eastern side of the entrance to Port Phillip, this component contains extensive shallow reefs up to seven metres in depth covered in kelp and supports a variety of marine life including Victoria's marine state emblem the Weedy Seadragon, seahorses, cuttlefish and numerous algal and invertebrate species.
Portsea hole is a depression within the bed of the old Yarra River that has flowed through this area during periods of glaciation and lower sea levels. The area is popular with divers and reaches depths of up to 30 metres. Portsea Hole acts as a shelter for a variety of fish and other reef species and the stratification of marine life on the wall provides special qualities as a dive site. It is one of the most popular deeper dive sites in Port Phillip.
The Popes Eye, located approximately 5 km north east of Portsea, is an artificial environment made of bluestone boulders that have been laid in a semi-circular ring which rise approximately 2.5 metres above the surface at low tide. The structure was originally intended to become one of the fortresses guarding the entrance to Port Phillip but was never completed.
On the tops of the rocks are extensive beds of brown kelps including both Giant Kelp and also Leathery Kelp. These species create a forest like environment. Beneath the kelp a vast array of colourful encrusting algae and sedentary organisms such as molluscs of many types, seastars, feather stars, sea urchins, sponges, sea squirts and soft corals adorn the rocks, making it in some respects, an artificial microcosm of the Heads reef environment.
The site is an important breeding site for Australasian Gannets which nest on the platform and rocks above the water, one of the few known sites where Gannets breed on a human made structure in the world. Australian Fur Seals are often seen in the area.
Because of its unique shape and protection from tidal currents Popes Eye is one of the most accessible snorkelling and dive sites in Port Phillip.