Swan Bay located at the eastern end of the Bellarine Peninsula is one of the region’s most important eco systems regarded as having international significance.
The 30 square kilometre shallow marine embayment lies between St Leonards to the North and Queenscliff to the South makes up part of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. The bay was originally called Swan Ponds and was named by explorer Matthew Flinders who was amazed by the large numbers black swan found in the waters. The black swan is only one of a number of important species found in the bay there the list of bird life is stunning with waders, seabirds and the orange bellied parrot which is one of the rarest birds in Australia with its name on the Critically Endangered list and an estimated 50 birds still alive in the wild. There are countless species of birds on the bay but pelicans, gull, spoonbill, sandpipers, oyster-catchers, terns and various species or duck are quiet common sights. Birds of prey like owls, eagles and hawks are also common sights.
The bay is one of the region’s favourite spots for recreation. Bird watching is a favourite past time in the area as are some water based activities including scuba diving, kayaking and boating. As the area is part of the Marine National Park there are strict rules on where and what to fish. The scenic Bellarine Railway which runs from Queenscliff to Portarlington also offers spectacular views of the bay.
The bay is an important breeding ground and nursery for many of Port Phillip Bay’s fish including mullet, whiting, flounder, and snapper. Much of the bay is covered in sea grass which offers food and protection for the sea life.
The scrub and vegetation around the bay is also an important feature. The southern tip of the bay is home to some of the peninsula’s only real native bushlands with dense coastal tea tree and coastal beard heath. The shoreline has plenty of coastal saltbush and shrubs like Glasswort and Austral Seabite which also offer food and shelter to the abundant bird life.
Separating Swan Bay to Port Philip Bay on the Queenscliff side of the bay is Swan Island. This small island is home to the Queenscliff Golf Club which has an amazing course overlooking the bay. The Department of Defence also occupies a large portion of the island and uses it as a training facility including a counter terrorism training centre for the Australian Special Forces. Swan Island also houses the Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club and waters of the island are popular dive spots especially around the wreck of the Mountain Maid which sank off the island in 1856. A J-Class Submarine was scuttled there in 1926 and also offers a great dive.
Swan Bay is the setting for one of the Geelong region’s oldest legends or myths. The southern shoreline I meant to be home to buried pirate treasure which was allegedly hidden by Pirate ‘Bloody Sword’ Benito Bonito. The treasure called the ‘Lost loot of Lima’ consisted mainly of golden religious figures and jewels, was taken from the west coast of the Americas and hidden on Swan Bay in the early 1820s. No one has ever found the treasure, so who knows it may still be out there and on today’s market could be worth more than $300 million. Poor old Bonito was caught by the British not long after leaving Port Phillip Bay and after a drum head court martial and was hung taking any secrets he had to his death.