Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published May 15th 2012
There is something endlessly fascinating about rock pools. Even most adults can't resist the pull of these watery sea-side treasure trove. It's also a fabulous place to while away the hours happily - and for free! - with even very young children: perfect for summer days, but just as much fun on clear days throughout the year. You can find all sorts in Melbourne's rockpools - small fish, plenty of crabs, endlessly fascinating sea anenomes, starfish, coral, shells, sea grass and sea sponges.
Living around the Bay as we do, Melburnites have some good options for a bit of serious rock pooling: just remember to time your visit with low tide! You can check the tide times here. Here's some of my kids and my favourites.
Rickett's Point (Melways 86 C9).
Just beside the car-park and tea rooms, off Beach Road, Beaumauris, this shallow, safe bay is hugely popular with families of young children throughout the summer. At low tide, the extensive rock pools are fully exposed and full of interesting sealife and shells. The entire area is a protected Marine Park.
Red Bluff (Melways 76 E8) Red Bluff offers spectacular views of red sea cliffs, and has lots of little nooks and crannies to explore at it's base. You can also walk on to Half Moon Bay for fish and chips, or to hire a boat.
Just past Williamstown, the rocks at Pt Gellibrand extend for a long way out at low tide, and offer good rock-pooling. There is also the rare lava blister tucked nearer to the shoreline to discover.
If the weather is just too terrible to contemplate, you could also head to the indoor rock pools and 'petting tanks' of the Melbourne Aquarium, where kids can get up close and personal with all sorts of fish, crabs, shark eggs, star fish, sea urchins and even sting rays!
Further afield, but worth the drive, try St Paul's Beach at Sorrento, the base of Barwon Heads Bluff and beneath the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse and under the cliffs at Queenscliff - all at low tide. There is also the fabulous Marine Discovery Centre at Queenscliff, which in addition to an indoor rockpool, also runs school holiday activities for Children, including guided rock pool rambles where children can learn all about the ecology of rockpools in Port Phillip Bay.
Do be conscious when poking around the rock pools, that Melbourne is also home to the tiny but potentially lethal blue-ringed octopus in some spots, so it's important you supervise your kids and explain to them to keep away from the pretty little octopuses with the blue rings. Many of the rockpools in Port Phillip Bay are also part of protected Marine Parks, so while you can look and explore, you can't take shells home with you. Shoes with a good grip, like volleys, old runners or even crocs, are perfect for grip and for protecting feet when rock-hopping.
One quibble: Ricketts Point is a Marine Sanctuary. This means nothing may be removed, whether rocks, shells, feathers, anything. I think this really needs emphasis as this is such a special place and one of Port Phillip Bay's only fully protected areas. Thanks.