Melbourne sits on the northern shore of Port Phillip. Covering 1,950 square kilometres, 753 square miles, Port Phillip is the entrance to Australia’s busiest port. It is also one of Victoria’s most popular recreational destinations. The deepest portion is only 24 metres, 79 feet, and half the region is shallower than 8 metres or 26 feet. The volume of water in the bay is around 25 cubic kilometres or 6 cubic miles. The shoreline covers 264 kilometres, or 165 miles.
The best way to experience this fantastic bay is by boat, as the bay contains islands and marine reserves, many of which can be seen from the ferry journey between Queenscliff and Sorrento. The shallow water aids aeration and the many marine plants and organisms keep the bay in good condition.
Phillip Bay is home to over 1000 species of marine plants and animals as well as 500 species of fish. Rocky shorelines shelter a range of invertebrates. These include marine snails, starfish, anemones, crabs and worms. Sea squirts and shellfish are commonly found attached to rocks and pilings.
The Bottlenose dolphin is also a resident of the bay, as is the Australian fur seal. Both are particularly common in the waters surrounding the channel markers off Sorrento. They are often seen on the ferry crossing from Sorrento to Queenscliff. Humpback whales, southern right whales and Orcas have also occasionally been seen from the ferries during the winter months.
Port Phillip supports a large number of seabirds and waders, many of which range over large distances and visit the Bay during their migration. Of particular interest are little penguins, also known as fairy penguins, which are the smallest species of penguin. Burrows of these penguins are scattered around the edges of the bay.
The Bay is a habitat for many plants ranging from microscopic floating algae, to sea-grasses, seaweed and mangroves. Seaweeds are most commonly found on rocky seabeds. Large meadows of seagrass grow in many shallow areas of the bay, particularly along the north-west coastline. They are an important habitat for marine animals. Mangroves too can be found on the bay, and are generally found in sheltered inlets, thriving on the muddy sediments.
Port Phillip has many great beaches scattered around the entire shoreline, most of which are flat, shallow and long. The waves are more gentle than those on the beaches of the open ocean, making swimming quite safe. Because of this many families and tourists visit the beaches of Port Phillip during the summer months and school holidays. Because of the low swells, stand up paddle boarding, kite and wind surfing are very popular. Beautiful sandy beaches are located on the bay’s northern, eastern and southern shorelines. Although the western shoreline has a few sandy beaches, it has a greater variety of beaches, including swampy wetlands and mangroves. The occasional pebble beach and rocky cliffs can also be found, mostly in the southern areas.