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                                                                                                              Discover shipwrecks, colourful marine anD birD life, anD

                                                                                                              picturesque seasiDe towns in melbourne’s extensive waterway.
                                                                                                              By fiona harper

                                                                                                              K     nown variously as Port Phillip Bay, Port           to explore, with frequent windless days creating

                                                                                                                    Phillip or just The Bay, this expanse of           a surreal, glassy sea devoid of ocean swells.
                                                                                                              water covering almost 2000 square kilometres             And of course, there are none of those crowded
                                                              Little penguins on Phillip Island Nature Park   is Melbourne’s maritime answer to Sydney                 waterways experienced by mariners exploring
                                                                                                              Harbour. Defined by the graceful arch of the             The Bay’s more famous cousin to the north.
                                                                                                              Westgate Bridge in the north, Point Lonsdale and
                                                                                                              Point Nepean protect The Bay from Bass Strait            Queenscliff

                                                                                                              in the south, dissected by the narrow turbulent          The charismatic Couta boats, a regular sight
                                                                                                              channel known as The Rip. Formerly a river plain         on The Bay, can be seen in all their glory in the
                                                                                                              forming an estuary through which the Yarra, the          annual Couta Boat Regatta, held each summer.
                                                                                                              Maribyrnong and other creeks flowed to the sea,          These elegant boats with their expansive sail
                                                                                                              Port Phillip Sands now create a maze of sandbars         area are indigenous to the charming town of
                                                                                                              inside the entrance, while almost half The Bay is        Queenscliff. Imposing turrets, bizarrely shaped
                                                                                                              less than eight metres deep.                             lighthouses, an ancient pier and majestic Norfolk
                                                                                                                                                                       pines all meld to provide the glorious grandeur
                                                                                                              Marine wildlife                                          that is Queenscliff. Street corners seem to be
                                                                                                              Navigationally challenging for ancient mariners,         dominated by either churches or grand hotels.
                                                                                                              evidenced today in shipwrecks scattered across           These impressive 19th-century hotels were
                                                                                                              the entrance, these mudflats and sandbars host           designed to catch the summer sea breezes,
                                                                          Sorrento, Mornington Peninsula
                                                                                                              many historically significant beacons at Point           and, suitably dignified, in the late 1800s they
                                                                                                              Lonsdale, Queenscliff and throughout the                 became the fashionable holiday destination for
                                                                                                              South and West Channels. South Channel Fort              Melbourne’s elite, who travelled down by paddle
                                                                                                              was originally built on an artificial island in the      steamer. Today’s Visitor Centre is housed in
                                                                                                              1880s to repel foreign ships. Its dilapidated gun        the oldest municipal building still in use, while
                                                                                                              emplacements and tunnels now provide a home              unassuming fishermen’s cottages are interspersed
                                                                                                              for storm-petrels, penguins, cormorants and fur          among majestic architecture.
                                                                                                              seals. Similarly, the South Channel Pile light,              Nearby Point Lonsdale is perched atop the cliffs
                                                                                                              recently restored and relocated, along with the          overlooking Bass Strait, with the Point Lonsdale
                                                                                                              replacement for the derelict Chinaman’s Hat              Lighthouse providing an important landfall for
                                                                                                              beacon, now serve as refuges for fur seals and           mariners seeking safe harbour. Port of Melbourne
                                                                                                              both are becoming significant tourist attractions.       has set up webcams which make fascinating viewing
                                                                                                              The Pope’s Eye is another former artificial island       for land-based mariners wanting to check out
                                                                                                              fort that is now a wildlife haven popular with divers.   conditions at The Rip (
                                                                                                                   The somewhat unflatteringly named Mud
                                                             Croajingolong National Park, East Gippsland      Island is one of the few islands in the entire           Portarlington
                                                                                                              bay. Its Marine National Park status makes it a          Further into The Bay, and approximately 20
                                                                                                              fascinating place for exploring at low tide. The         nautical miles southwest of Williamstown,
                                                                                                              Bay is home to more than 1500 species of marine          Portarlington sits north facing on the Bellarine
                                                                                                              plants, fish and wildlife, including a delightful        Peninsula behind ancient beachfront Cyprus
                                                                                                              colony of penguins that reside at the St Kilda           trees. This region of gently rolling hills is
                                                                                                              breakwater. Take one of the many boat tours that         quietly developing a reputation for fine dining,
                                                                                                              depart from Queenscliff, Sorrento and Geelong            supported by a thriving fishing fleet (particularly
                                                                                                              and you are likely to see dolphins and penguins.         mussel boats), burgeoning vineyards and
                                                                                                                   Given its location at 30 degrees south, The         olive groves. Jutting well out into The Bay,
                                                                                                              Bay is often subjected to the weather systems            Portarlington has stunning night-time views of
                                                                                                              that Bass Strait is famous for. With boisterous          the city lights of Melbourne.
                                                                                                              cold fronts rolling through in winter and fresh              Boats can anchor west of the Portarlington
                                                                                                              sea breezes in summer, the shallow waters of             pier in southeast to southwest winds, but the
                                                                                                              The Bay have developed a malevolent reputation.          anchorage is untenable with winds from a
                                                                                                              However, with careful attention to the weather,          northerly quarter. Temporary berthing may be
  Point Lonsdale lighthouse                          Culinary treats at                                       Port Phillip Bay has an abundance of charms in           available on the busy pier itself after the fishing
                                                     Portarlington’s Ol’ Duke hotel
                                                                                                              all seasons. Winter can, in fact, be the best time       fleet has departed to work the bay.

16 docklines |                                                                                                                                    | docklines 17

                                                                                                                         heart of Docklands, comprises striking corporate
                                                               Melbourne’s popular Docklands precinct
                                                                                                                         buildings and stylish apartment developments, all
                                                                                                                         linked by waterfront promenades and parklands.
                                                                                                                         Public art features prominently, with further plans
                                                                                                                         afoot to introduce a major new waterfront park,
                                                                                                                         designed to celebrate where the water comes to
                                                                                                                         Melbourne’s front door.
                                                                                                                             d’Albora Marinas Victoria Harbour is located
                                                                                                                         right in the middle of the action, with Telstra
                                                                                                                         Stadium in the foreground of a stunning city
                                                                                                                         view. Less than two years old and with temporary
                                                                                                                         berths available to visitors, the modern 72-berth
                                                                                                                         marina boasts a Marina Club lounge. It offers the
                                                                                                                         perfect opportunity to spend a weekend lapping
                                                                                                                         up the Docklands action, where boardwalks buzz
                                                                                                                         with buskers, diners and day-trippers, particularly
                                                                                                                         on summer weekends, with residents and visitors
                                                                                                                         mingling to create a vibrant atmosphere. Why not
                                                                                                                         catch a game of football or make a reservation at
                                                                                                                         one of the restaurants and enjoy Port Phillip Bay
                                                                                                                         boating in the heart of the Melbourne CBD? ☸
        With defined channels directing shipping, Port         DOcKlAnDs                                                  fact file
        Phillip Bay is home to one of Australia’s busiest      cOnTinues TO
        ports. The Port of Melbourne recently confirmed        ThRive ... wiTh eAsY                                       recommenDeD reaDing:
        its position among the world’s leading container       Access BY BOAT                                             Creeks and Harbours of Port Phillip
        ports, moving an average of 6500 containers a
        day. Station Pier, where the Spirit of Tasmania
                                                               OR TRAm, sOme Of                                           by Richard Hawkins (In-depth Publications,
                                                                                                                          RRP $44.95)
        ferry is often seen, and Webb Dock, at the             melBOuRne’s BesT                                           Crawford’s Mariners Atlas (Apollo Bay to Jervis
        entrance to the Yarra River and Swanston Dock          ResTAuRAnTs AnD                                            Bay) Crawford House Publishing, RRP $79.95
        on the north bank just before Docklands, are           BARs ARe heRe.                                             (both available at
        major shipping docks. All of which creates a
        challenging navigational environment whereby                                                                      more information:
        boaties heading towards Docklands may find
        themselves dwarfed by a towering container ship
        while traversing the river.                                                                             
            Docklands itself continues to thrive as the                                                         
        modern hub of Melbourne with its work, live
        and play diversity. With easy access by boat or                                                                   berths in the bay:
        tram, some of Melbourne’s best restaurants and                                                                    Casual and permanent berths are available
        bars can be found here, including the superb
                                                                                                                          at d’Albora Marinas Victoria Harbour: for
        over-water Mecca Bah. The Victoria Harbour
                                                                                                                          bookings, call 03 9602 4511.
        precinct, with its distinctive peninsula in the

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        18 docklines |

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