Apollo Bay to Anglesea
The coastline between Apollo Bay and Lorne has spectacular landscapes and some of the world’s best surf beaches. But not everyone realises that the seascapes below the waves are equally awe-inspiring. Limestone reefs along this coast create diverse underwater habitats, including caves and fissures, home to some amazing sea organisms.
What are the key natural features of this area?
- The marine environment along this stretch of Victoria’s coastline is exposed to intense wave action from the southwest. The waves shape coastal landforms as well as the animals and plants that live in the area. They nourish life in the sea, bringing much-needed food and oxygen.
- Sandy beaches, underwater sandy plains and intertidal reefs are all found on this coastline. The area is a home for a range of invertebrates, fish, algae, birds and wildlife.
- Old coastal landforms on the sea floor, such as an underwater canyon formed by the old path of the Kennett River, a lake and old shore lines, are also features of this area.
- Offshore there are many small rocky reefs, including Ingoldsby Reef near Anglesea, famous for its seadragons.
- Rhodolith beds, mobile beds of spherical boulder-like objects formed by red coralline algae, cover several square kilometres in waters protected by Point Addis Marine National Park.
- Accessible, fascinating and diverse intertidal reef is exposed at low tide. Covered with a network of small boulders, seaweed beds, crevices and pools, the wide variety of spaces in these reefs harbours a great diversity of animals under or attached to rocks, in pools, or hidden in cracks.
- The diverse and spectacular underwater environment of rock platforms, caves, fissures and boulder fields, and reefs of basalt and limestone with potholes, gulches, bommies and caves is a habitat for a wide range of species. Kelp forests sway under the waves, and vast sponge gardens grow on the rocky reefs.
- The Barham River Estuary is a regionally significant saltmarsh and estuary system, providing nesting, roosting and feeding habitat for many species of bird. Sandy beaches in the area are important habitat for many seabird species and inconspicuous invertebrates.
- In large sandy areas, sea-squirts, sponges, stinging hydroids and sea-moss are abundant, and shelter fish such as ling. Larger species like stingrays and shrimps can be found on the surface of these sandy plains, while the water-filled cavities between the sand grains are a habitat for nematodes and flatworms.
- In Point Addis Marine National Park, there are large meadows of Sea-nymph seagrass in the sand between the reefs.
- Beds of Neptune’s Necklace and Sea Lettuce blanketing intertidal rock platforms hide a diversity of invertebrate life. The highest rocks along the rocky shore may be encrusted with cyanobacteria, algae and lichens. Small gastropods, isopods and amphipods shelter under moist rocks. Keyhole limpets, crabs, mussels and barnacles are abundant, and Banded Brittle-stars and carnivorous worms emerge from under rocks to feed at nightly high tides.
- A staggering diversity of sea slugs, known as opisthobranchs, is found at Point Danger. Unlike garden slugs, sea slugs appear in a range of exquisite shapes, colours and sizes. Around 20% of the 96 species of sea slugs recorded from this site have not been scientifically described.
- Under the waves, inshore reefs are covered in brown, red and green seaweeds, habitat for sessile (fixed) invertebrates such as sea anemones, ascidians, hydroids, sponges and echinoderms, molluscs, and polychaetes. Colonial ascidians, bryozoans, rock lobsters and abalone can be found on lower reefs.
- Ingoldsby Reef near Anglesea is one of the longest shallow offshore reefs in Victorian waters and is home to a diverse range of marine life, including the rare Leafy Seadragon. Some 114 species of algae, as well as colourful ascidians, gorgonians, hydroids and sponges, cover the reef.
- Rhodolith beds create a diverse benthic habitat, and are thought to be nursery grounds for many species.
- In deeper water you can find areas of large mushroom-shaped reefs, the tops of which are covered in kelps and vast sponge gardens. Urchins, sea pens and sponge-hydroid are scattered in some of the deepest waters.
- The area’s abundant fish-life includes Blue-Throated and Senator Wrasse, Sea Sweep, Banded Morwong, Magpie Morwong and Southern Hulafish, blue-throated wrasse, leatherjackets, toadfish and stingrays. Scott’s Weedfish is thought to be at its westerly limit in Point Addis MNP.
- Behind the breaking waves on a sunny calm day, you can often see Australian Fur Seals, cooling themselves on the sea surface by sticking one flipper into the air. Dolphins are also common.
- A breeding colony of 20 pairs of Little Penguins is present at the Apollo Bay breakwater. Along the coast of the nearby Otway National Park there have also been incidental sightings of the Fiordland Penguin.
- Other species of birds roosting in the area include the Hooded Plover, Arctic Jaeger, Australasian Gannet, Crested Tern, Pacific Gull, Sanderling and Shy Albatross.
Marine Protected Areas:
Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary
Point Danger Marine Sanctuary
Point Addis Marine National Park