THE PLACE TO BE
From Port Phillip to Lake Eildon to the Gippsland Lakes, JOHN ZAMMIT reveals why Victoria is a great place to go boating...
Relatively small in size compared to most other states, and with a varied climate ranging from semi-arid and hot in the northwest to temperate and cool along the coast, Victoria is a great place to go boating.
Whether you’re into sailing, cruising, fishing or watersports; in salt or fresh water; Victoria floats your boat! What’s more, wherever you’re located in Victoria, you never have to travel far to get to water.
Melbourne, Victoria’s largest city and home to over four million inhabitants, is situated on Australia’s largest bay, Port Phillip. Covering 1930sqkm, most of it navigable by boat, it’s often described as an inland sea.
Over 30 yacht clubs and marinas, a host of launching ramps and countless piers, jetties and beaches means plenty of opportunities to enjoy every type of boating – including world-class sailing such as the ISAF Sailing World Cup, to be held at Melbourne’s Sandringham Yacht Club, from 2013 to 2016.
Boating opportunities abound. Sailing (off the beach or out of a marina), cruising (under power or sail) to destinations like Queenscliff, Portarlington, Geelong, Williamstown and Martha Cove – to name just a few – are wonderful boating destinations, be it for a short hop or a longer cruise.
With a coastline of over 264km, it’s always possible to find the perfect beach or sheltered cove, somewhere around the bay, to kick back and relax or enjoy watersports like skiing, wakeboarding or kayaking/canoeing.
Boating in Melbourne is not all about the bay, however. Rivers including the Yarra, Maribyrnong and Werribee, all accessible by boat from Port Phillip, provide facilities for boaters to enjoy cruising in urban surrounds – or the opportunity to stop-off at destinations like Docklands, in the heart of the city, or the idyllic Herring Island, which is a leisurely 40-minute cruise up the Yarra. During the annual spring racing carnival (in particular, the Melbourne Cup), a veritable flotilla of boats makes its way up the Maribyrnong River to Flemington racecourse.
To the east of Port Phillip, and separated from it by the Mornington Peninsula, lies Western Port – the second largest bay in Victoria. Opening onto Bass Strait, Western Port is dominated by two large islands, French Island and Phillip Island, which means it’s always possible to find a sheltered spot in the lee of land.
There are major marinas located at Hastings, Yaringa and Newhaven, with a dozen or so other yacht clubs located throughout the bay. Boat launching facilities at Stony Point, Blind Bight, Corinella, Hastings and elsewhere, provide boaters with options to launch, dependent on prevailing weather.
Both, Port Phillip and Western Port are popular with anglers, with species including flathead, King George whiting, bream, flounder, Australian salmon, garfish, trevally and gummy sharks regularly targeted. Not forgetting the huge annual snapper migration that locals call the ‘crimson tide’.
Situated around 250km southeast of Melbourne, the Gippsland Lakes system is one of Australia’s largest tidal waterways. Covering an area of 420sqkm the lakes stretch from Sale in the west to Lakes Entrance in the east. The network of waterways incorporates lakes Wellington, Victoria and King, which are fed by the Nicholson, Tambo, and Mitchell rivers.
A boating haven for everything from small sail and powerboats to large cruisers and even canoes and kayaks, there are countless beautiful destinations within these sheltered waters. Towns adjacent to the lakes include Lakes Entrance, Paynesville, Metung and the region’s commercial hub, Bairnsdale, which can be reached by boat along the Mitchell River.
Public jetties, casual and long-term berthing and moorings are available throughout the lakes and there is direct access out from these protected waters into Bass Strait via a man-made entrance at Lakes Entrance. The port at Lakes Entrance is also home to a large commercial fishing fleet.
Victoria is blessed with some sensational freshwater boating destinations. Lake Eildon, a vast inland waterway situated approximately 140km northeast of Melbourne, is one of them.
With over 500km of shoreline stretching from Bonnie Doon in the north to Jamieson in the south, a distance of around 60km, Lake Eildon is a popular boating destination. Home to over 700 houseboats, Lake Eildon is well serviced with fuel facilities, lakeside shops and boat ramps at Jerusalem Creek, Goughs Bay, Peppin Point and Howqua, as well as waterside hotels at Jamieson and Bonnie Doon.
Lake Eppalock, approximately 120km north of Melbourne, on the Campaspe River is another favourite with boaters, especially families and special interest groups. Over 30 boating clubs and associations have facilities here and the area features nine boat ramps, four caravan and holiday parks and numerous camping and picnic grounds.
Trailer-sailors share the water with canoeists, waterskiers, wakeboarders, PWCs and anglers. The regional towns of Heathcote (to the southeast) and Bendigo (to the northwest) are close by.
In the north of the state, the Murray River, while technically within the borders of NSW, is generally claimed by Victorians who flock to the river to enjoy boating of all persuasions. Canoeists, kayakers, waterskiers, wakeboarders and anglers all enjoy the river, as do people onboard houseboats and paddlesteamers.
Waterski enthusiasts flock to the Murray River each year for high-profile events such as the Southern 80 – an annual waterski race based at Echuca, which attracts over 400 competitors from around the world and more than 40,000 spectators each February.