Often overlooked is the Point Cook Marine Sanctuary. Just 15 kilometres from Melbourne, this tucked-away spot has plenty of prickly sea urchins, sponges and small (harmless) sharks. In late summer smacks of jellyfish feed in the nutrient-rich water.
When conditions in Port Phillip Bay aren’t ideal, it’s worth checking out the adjacent Westernport Bay. Flinders Pier is getting a reputation as one of the key spots to see Victoria’s marine emblem, the common seadragon. Unlike the sandy bottom of Port Phillip, Flinders Pier has a grassy floor with plenty of colour and life, especially around the pylons. And it’s these seagrass meadows that make it the perfect location to seek out the well-camouflaged and extraterrestrial-looking common seadragon.
This is also a good spot to see cuttlefish, toadfish, banjo sharks, starfish and crabs. There are always a couple of giant smooth stingrays or eagle rays gliding along the ocean floor and they’re slow and graceful enough to allow swimmers to follow them through the pylons and over the grasses. The pier is also a popular fishing spot, so stay clear of the hooks and lines.
Another place to spot the weedy seadragon is just around the corner at the Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary. There’s also a heap to see on this sub-tidal reef, however caution is needed as it’s an unpatrolled ocean beach with strong currents.
But you don’t even need to get into the water to see a range of fascinating species. Colourful sea stars and anemones as well as numerous species of crabs can be found by searching the many rock pools.
All these spots are great for families, and there’s plenty to see in the shallows. But of course, basic safety precautions should always be practised. When snorkelling around piers, never swim beneath the berths and always keep an eye out for boats, especially on weekends.
As far as equipment goes, all you really need is a snorkel and goggles. Fins are useful for darting around at speed or chasing after that elusive seadragon. And a wetsuit is a worthwhile investment. We are in Victoria after all.