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Merri Marine Sanctuary

Located within the City of Warrnambool in western Victoria, Merri Marine Sanctuary (29 hectares) stretches from Thunder Point in the west to Breakwater Rock in the east. It abuts a coastal reserve and surrounds Middle and Merri Islands, with Pickering Point a prominent headland. 

Sea life here prospers in the cold, crystal-clear, oxygen-charged waters of the Southern Ocean. Rock platforms are covered in algae while numerous sea snails cling tightly to the rocks to avoid being washed into the sea by the strong waves.  The seabed at the river mouth is a mixture of reef and sand, providing a range of habitats that support diverse marine life.

Two islands, Middle and Merri, sit just offshore, the remains of an ancient sand dune  built up thousands of years ago.  The canyon between the islands is packed with sea life with kelps swaying with the waves, colourful sponges beneath the overhangs, and protected Rock Lobsters hiding in the crevices.

The main habitats protected by the sanctuary include soft sediments made predominantly of fine sand, intertidal and subtidal reefs made of calcarenite, and the water column. 

The intertidal soft sediments are an important feeding and roosting habitat for shorebirds with beach-washed materials on the sandy beaches contributing to the detrital cycle that nourishes many of the invertebrates, such as bivalves, living in the sand. 

Subtidal reefs are the dominant marine habitat and are either patchy and interspersed with areas of sand, or more consolidated hard reef cut by deeper depressions and large crevices. These support extensive kelp forests which provide a rich habitat to explore for snorkelers and divers. 

Merri Marine Sanctuary’s beaches are popular for swimming, and walking tracks along the foreshore lead to points of interest.  Visitors may also access Middle Island at low tide to see a colony of Little Penguins.

 

Things To Do

 

Snorkelling and diving in the sanctuary

When sea conditions are suitable the reefs in the Marine Sanctuary provide a great place for snorkelling and SCUBA diving with an abundance of fish and invertebrates typical of this cool water environment.  

Rockpools at Merri

At low tide the rock platforms at Merri Marine Sanctuary are great places to explore and guided walks are provided by rangers and volunteers as part of holiday programs.

Wildlife viewing at Merri

A colony of Little Penguins lives on Middle Island and these birds are protected from foxes by Maremma Dogs, made famous in the film “Oddball”, that also live on the island. These can be visited only at low tide and great care shoud be taken accessing the island.

Merri Marine Sanctuary

This area is well known for its wildlife. Keep an eye out for:

Little Penguins
Seals

Tours and adventure experiences in parks

One of the best ways you can get into nature is with a Licensed Tour Operator.

There are more than 400 Licensed Tour Operators across Victoria who are ready and waiting to help you experience and connect with Victoria’s spectacular parks and waterways.

Discover more than 60 different types of nature-based experiences including hiking, mountain biking, boating, four-wheel driving, indigenous culture tours, birdwatching, surfing, diving and so much more. 

Licensed Tour Operators know all the best places to go and will plan and prepare your visit to ensure you are safe and can enjoy your nature-based adventure to the fullest.

Find a Licensed Tour Operator

How to get there

Merri Marine Sanctuary

Merri Marine Sanctuary is located near the Breakwater within the City of Warrnambool, around three and a half hours drive west of Melbourne via the Princes Highway. 

Join a guided walk to explore local marine life as part of the annual Summer by the Sea program in Warrnambool. 

Need to know

Merri Marine Sanctuary

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