Wetland Wanderings - Swan Bay

Brochure 6 in the series covering information on Wetland Wanderings.

Welcome to the amazing area that is Swan Bay.  The natural values of Swan Bay are of regional, national and international significance and the site is listed under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance Ramsar, Iran 1971.  This is a great spot to take a walk down the jetty and observe all the amazing birdlife tat relies on this environment for survival.


Swan Bay is located directly between Queenscliff and St Leonards on the Bellarine Peninsula east of Geelong.

Swan Bay is a component of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and incorporates Swan Bay to the eastern shoreline of Swan Island, Rabbit Island and Duck Island excluding the channel to the Swan Bay Jetty.

Site description

Swan Bay is a shallow marine inlet partly closed by spits and barrier islands such as Swan Island.  It is generally less than two metres in depth, with 700-1000 hectares of mudflats exposed at low tide.

The area of Swan Bay is tidal being linked to Port Phillip Bay and has a few ephemeral stream inlets.  The bay is of high value for its flora and is very productive for birds, molluscs and fish.  The saltmarsh and intertidal seagrass meadows are regionally significant and the bird species sites are extremely diverse with 190 bird species recorded.

The area is also part of the Port Phillip (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site and is used by species listed in international agreements such as the Japan-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (JAMBA) and the China Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (CAMBA) for the protection of migratory birds

The entire ecosystem of Swan Bay is one of the most significant in Port Phillip Bay because of its high ecological values.

Map of the Swan Bay area showing points of interest
Click to Enlarge Image

Biodiversity values

The espanse of subtidal Seagrass beds is a major nursery habitat for many species of fish, some of which have commercial value.

The intertidal mudflats and surrounding fringe of Saltmarsh support large numbers of wader birds including many that migrate from the Northern Hemisphere during summer months

The Swan Bay component of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park contains the best representative sample of Seagrass beds within the park.

The Seagrass habitat act as an important feeding area and nursery ground for numerous fish species including leather jackets, flounder, King George whiting, Black Bream, Garfish and Flathead.  The importance of Swan Bay as a fish nursery area has long been recognised by Queenscliff fishermen and was protected unofficially for nearly 100 years, before being officially protected under legislation from net fishers in 1970.

In addition, the Seagrass habitat is important for Black Swans, which feed on the Seagrass, as well as providing resting and breeding ground for Spoonbills, Cormorants and Egrets.

The rare and endangered Orange-Bellied Parrot uses the Saltmarsh fringing Swan Bay as a winter refuge and feeding ground.

Logos of sponsor organisations: action Salinity & Water Australia, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Geelong Region Wetlands Project and Parks Victoria

A project sponsored by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality program. A joint Initiative of the Victorian and Australian Governments.

This site is part of the Wetland Wanderings Ecotour. Each wetland site has its own brochure highlighting the features of the site in more detail. Some sites may be drive by only and some are close to a parking bay so you can stop, read the site information from the selected brochure and go for a wander around the wetland.

Happy Wetland Wandering.

Page last updated: Monday, 9 December 2019