Bunurong Marine National Park
The Bunurong Marine National Park extends along approximately 5 km of coastline from 2.5 km east of Cape Patterson in Southern Gippsland to the eastern end of Eagles Nest Beach (about 6 kilometres south-west of Inverloch), and offshore for approximately three nautical miles to the limit of Victorian waters, encompassing a total of approximately 2,100 hectares.
The Bunurong coast is special - a coast full of striking rock formations, attractive sandy coves, rugged sandstone cliffs and prominent headlands. The coastal waters also contain a remarkable range of habitats that support abundant marine life, nurtured by an unusual set of environmental conditions. The name "Bunurong" refers to the local Aboriginal group that have lived in this area for thousands of years and have used the coast extensively for food gathering.
These coastal waters share the cool waters of Victoria's central and western coasts, but unlike those shores, are relatively protected from the southwesterly swell by the position of far away King Island. The gently sloping rocky seafloor is also uncommon in Victoria.
The park contains extensive intertidal platforms and subtidal rocky reefs that are uncommon along the Victorian coast. These sandstone areas provide numerous microhabitats and contribute to the area having a very high diversity of intertidal and shallow subtidal invertebrates. There is a mixed assemblage of brown algae and seagrass, supporting a high proportion of Victoria's marine invertebrates, including brittle stars, sea cucumbers, barnacles, sea anemones and chitons.
Things to Do
The most common activity at Bunurong Marine National Park is observational rockpooling, about 22 per cent of tourists visiting the rockpools at some stage in their visit. Other activities include sunbathing, beach activities, swimming, surfing, cliff-top sight seeing, observational SCUBA diving and boating, as well as education and research.
The major tourism activities are focused around the township of Cape Patterson, situated to the west of the Marine National Park.
Most visitor facilities are located in a caravan and camping park at Cape Patterson. The township of Inverloch, situated east of the Marine National Park also provides extensive visitor facilities and accommodation.
The Bunurong Marine National Park is readily accessible with carparks and beach access tracks or staircases provided at all the popular visitor sites. Facilities have been provided specifically where concerns for public safety and environmental damage have been apparent. Works undertaken in Bunurong for these reasons include provision of pedestrian access tracks and steps, viewing platforms, fencing along paths such as those at Eagles Nest, and barriers to vehicular access near cliff edges.
The Bunurong Aboriginal people were the custodians of this stretch of coast for thousands of years prior to white settlement. Five clans made up the Bunurong tribe. The Yowenjerre clan occupied the area west from the Tarwin River and quarried the outcrops of volcanic roads which they fashioned into axeheads and which they traded with neighbouring tribes. Middens containing charcoal and shellfish mark the location of their campsites along the coast. These are important cultural sites and are protected to ensure this important part of Australian history is respected and maintained.
In 1797, George Bass set sail from Sydney in a whaleboat to explore the southern mainland coast. He discovered and named the first natural harbour and the strait that bares this name. On his journey that resulted in the discovery of Western Port, he passed by this area.
The habitat types represented within the park include sandy beaches, intertidal and subtidal rocky reefs and subtidal soft sediments. The intertidal rock platforms are extensive and exhibit a diverse range of marine life. The subtidal rocky reefs include numerous microhabitats, extending several kilometres offshore in relatively shallow water.
The diversity of intertidal and shallow subtidal invertebrate fauna is the highest recorded in Victoria on sandstone. A high proportion of the common invertebrates occurring along the Victorian coast are found here, for example seven of the eight species of brittle stars, nine of 11 sea cucumbers, eight of eleven barnacles, all 5 sea anemones, and 15 of 20 chitons.
The underwater reefs of Bunurong look different to those in other parts of Victoria. For example, crayweed, the large brown seaweed that covers many Victorian reefs, is mostly absent here. Instead, a multitude of more unusual plants and animals flourish. The species richness of the Bunurong seaweeds is comparatively high and includes green, blue-green, brown and encrusting coralline red algal species. The subtidal marine flora of the area is characterised by a mixed assemblage of brown algae consisting predominantly of Acrocarpia paniculata, Seiroccus axillaris, Cystophora retorta, Cystophora platylobium and Cystophora moniliformis. The seagrass Amphibolis antarctica is also an important component.
Invertebrates found in the subtidal zone include limpets, barnacles, Blacklip Abalone, several species of crabs, seastars, urchins, feather stars, and brittle stars, numerous sea snails, and small crustaceans. The zone is dominated by macroalgae, particularly brown algae species, with an understorey of other green and red algae.
Besides the reefs, there are many other habitats at Bunurong. Extensive intertidal rock platforms are covered in fields of Neptune's Necklace (a brown seaweed that looks like strings of beads), pink coralline algae, barnacles and a diverse range of marine molluscs.
Beds of Sea-nymph seagrass grow in the bays, with tough wiry stems and roots that can withstand the waves. Many smaller seaweeds and encrusting animals live on the stems and leaves. The sandy bays also host a specialised community of minute animals that feed on debris from broken pieces of seaweeds and seagrasses, and become an important food source for larger animals such as fish.
Several animals and plants have only been recorded in Victoria at Bunurong, and many others are at their most easterly location here, preferring the cool waters of Victoria's west coast. The coastline is also well known amongst marine naturalists for its diversity of flat 8-plated grazing molluscs known as chitons.
At least 87 species of fish have been recorded within the waters of Bunurong Marine National Park. Common species of fish sighted by recreational divers within the park include Blue-throated Wrasse, Common Bullseye, Old Wife, Gunns Leatherjacket, Scalyfin, Tasmanian Blenny and Stranger. A range of pelagic species also utilise the area periodically, including many species of shark (eg. Gummy Shark, School Shark, Common Saw Shark, Angel Shark and Elephant Shark), mullet, pike, flathead, snapper, tailor, King George Whiting and Barracouta.
Brightly coloured seastars, feather stars, crabs, large marine snails, and many smaller animals are plentiful here. Around the rocks at Eagles Nest and Twin Reefs, numerous Port Jackson Sharks rest under the ledges, rock lobsters fill the crevices and Zebra Fish, sweep and wrasse dart about the seaweed. Eagles Nest provides habitat for breeding peregrine falcons and hooded plovers. The park also adjoins a foreshore area consisting of dunes (in the west) and high cliffs (to the east) which support important remnant coastal and dune vegetation.
Port Jackson Shark (Heterodontus portusjacksoni)
Harmless, docile and gregarious in nature, this seafloor-dwelling shark is commonly seen nestled in groups under rocky ledges in Bunurong. At night Port Jackson sharks venture out and explore the reef, their flattened rows of pointed teeth and their strong jaws enabling them to crush reef animals such as marine snails, urchins, and crabs. Often these sharks will regroup in the same crevice as daylight approaches.
Each October the females lay between 10 and 16 dark, corkscrew-shaped egg cases that they wedge into ledges with their mouths. You might be lucky enough to find one of these hatched egg cases on the beach.
Pheasant Snail (Phasianotrochus eximius)
With its large, elongated conical shell and pretty colouration, the Pheasant Snail, also known as a Painted Lady, is one of Australia's most beautiful marine molluscs. Growing to a length of 4 centimetres, it can be found grazing in the dense algal growths at Bunurong, and is most conspicuous on brown seaweeds.
Like all small snails, Pheasant Snails use their tiny, file-like 'tongue' to rasp tiny algal plants from the surface of the reef and from seaweed fronds. Pheasant Snails are only found in southern Australian waters.
Geological, Hydrological and Landform Features
Bururong Marine National Park contains extensive intertidal platforms and subtidal rocky reefs that are uncommon along the Victorian coast, seperated by sandy beaches. They have arisen as a result of the normal weathering and erosion processes affecting coastal sediment formations, including wind, waves, wetting and drying, salt crystallisation, sea water solution and runoff. These processes mainly operate above low tide level and are inhibited below specific intertidal levels, thus accounting for the almost horizontal shore platforms of the area. The rock platforms extend offshore, with a gradual increase in depth to a maximum of 12 ? 15 metres deep, several kilometres seawards.
The Bunurong coast is full of amazing natural sandstone sculptures, attractive sandy coves, rambling cliffs and prominent headlands and the marine life is nurtured by an unusual set of environmental conditions. Between Cape Patterson and Inverloch in areas exposed to the southwest, the Cretaceous rocks have formed steep, high headlands and cliffs, with little vegetation covering the rock faces. In the lee of headlands, small sandy beaches occur, with the adjacent bluffs being less steep and usually completely vegetated to the high tide mark. Where more resistant elements of rock occur, weathering has often created differential erosion patterns, sometimes resulting in pronounced shelving.
The shallow, gradually sloping nature of the subtidal area protects the coast from the very high-energy waves that occur in other locations such as at Cape Liptrap and Cape Schank. On easterly facing shores and in the lee of headlands, the prevailing southwesterly waves are weakened by refraction. Less frequent, less vigorous, easterly winds (mainly in summer) also result only in moderate wave energy, and consequently cause less erosion on shores facing this direction.
The drainage basin of the Bunurong coast is relatively small, and no major creeks or rivers enter the ocean. Coal Creek drains the country south of Wonthagi and several smaller non-perennial creeks including Wreck Creek drain the land north of Bunurong. Along the coast, small watercourses from localised runoff may result in temporary waterfalls, notably at a site west of Eagles Nest. Eagles Nest is also a known fossil dinosaur locality.
Looking After the Park
For the protection of the marine environment, a number of activities are prohibited within the boundaries of Victoria's marine national parks and marine sanctuaries. No fishing, netting, spearing, taking or killing of marine life. All methods of fishing, from the shore or the sea, are prohibited. As users of the marine environment, you can help minimise your impact on these areas by being mindful of the following points:
>>enjoy the marine environment without removing the plants and animals
>>minimise your impact while diving and snorkelling by:
>>being careful to avoid damage to marine life caused by fins
>>developing good skills in buoyancy control
>>securing all gauges and pressure hoses to avoid snagging them on objects
>>take any rubbish home with you - do not dump rubbish into the sea
>>avoid stressing marine life by not chasing or grabbing free-swimming animals
>>exercise great care if approached by large marine animals (including birds) & avoid blocking their paths if moving
>>take care where you anchor your boat (anchor in sand, rubble or mud, avoiding sensitive areas, and use mooring buoys where provided)
>>do not pollute the water with sewage - ensure that if your vessel has an onboard toilet that it has an approved sewage holding facility and that >>sewage is disposed of appropriately on land
>>take the time to learn more about Victoria's marine animals and plants and the habitats they depend upon.
Remember, Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries are NO TAKE ENVIRONMENTS. All objects (artefacts), animals eg. fish and crustaceans, plants, and the seabed are totally protected.
For your own safety, only undertake activities appropriate to your skills and abilities. Take all necessary precautions, be aware of changing conditions, and watch for potential hazards, such as rips. A number of Victorian marine animals are potentially harmful if not treated with respect and care, so ensure that you familiarise yourself with these species. Sunburn and hypothermia are also potentially harmful but easily avoided.
SCUBA diving is a potentially high risk activity and should only be undertaken by appropraitely qualified people that have completed recognised training and certification. Victoria's cool water environments can be extremely challenging to those used to diving in warmer waters so ensure that local knowledge is sought before undertaking a dive in a new location. Dive charter operators can provide some of the best advice on diving in Victoria.
How to Get There
The Bunurong Marine National Park is located approximately 6 km southwest of Inverloch (east of Melbourne) and is an extension of the existing Bunurong sanctuary zone.
The marine environment of the Bunurong Marine National Park has been used extensively for marine education and public information purposes. Teachers from schools and others with knowledge of the area utilise the coast for educational excursions, especially school groups, to investigate natural resources such as the geological and marine features of the park.
Interest groups, including the Inverloch Historical Society and recreational groups, including SCUBA divers and surfers, have also provided information or undertaken activities within the park. In addition local Rangers and Coastcare Staff have been involved in assisting and organising environmentally oriented activity programs over peak visitor periods. Park Rangers often disseminate information on regulations, inform the public of environmental values and provide people with an appreciation of the effects of human activities.
Marine National Park and Marine Sanctuaries Resource Kit – This education resources kit contains a comprehensive collection of many materials produced by Parks Victoria in relation to the Marine National Park system including lesson ideas for teachers and links to other resources.
>>Bald Hills Wetland Reserve
>>Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park
>>State Coal Mine
>>The Gurdies Nature Conservation Reserve
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks Victoria