Craig Tansley finds 10 things to do during a day by the bay.
1. Play golf on an island
Queenscliff Golf Club on Swan Island is built up by drifting sand and is surrounded by the natural habitat of Port Phillip Bay. Twilight games in summer are a highlight and golfers can play among the local bird life, including the pelicans, swans and royal spoonbills. And the fact the course is built on drifting sand means no amount of summer storms can make it unplayable. Green fees are an affordable $25. Phone 5258 4344, see queenscliffgolfclub.com.au.
2. Swim with dolphins and snorkel with fur seals
Just 1 hours' drive from Melbourne's CBD, Moonraker Charters has a half-day tour leaving from Sorrento's car ferry terminal that allows you to snorkel with fur seals for half an hour at nearby Chinaman's Hat Marine Park, then find pods of wild bottlenose dolphins that will come and swim with you as you trawl behind the boat in snorkelling gear. Tours cost $105 for adults and $95 for children. Phone 5984 4211, see moonrakercharters.com.au.
3. Fish for salmon or snapper
In January, Port Phillip Bay is teeming with salmon and snapper and it's up to you to spot them jumping clean out of the water. You can also nab other species such as leatherjacket, whiting or squid and your catch will be cleaned and filleted for you to take home. Tours are from four to eight hours, a four-hour tour costs $75 for adults and $50 for children, while eight hours costs $115 for adults and $90 for children. Phone 0458 504 058, see kyena.com.
4. Catch a ride on a seaplane
Starting at Williamstown, you'll fly above the Bellarine Peninsula to Queenscliff before banking across the headlands to Point Nepean, Portsea and Sorrento. You'll then fly back to Melbourne for a look at some of the city's most famous icons, such as the MCG and the Westgate Bridge. The flight takes 75 minutes and costs $255 a person. Phone 0418 688 388, see seaplane.com.au.
5. Dive the wrecks
You don't have to go to the Great Barrier Reef to experience some of the world's great sea dives – there are more than 60 19th-century shipwrecks and four sunken submarines from World War I in Port Phillip Bay – one of the most interesting underwater habitats in the world. You can dive or snorkel on Port Phillip Bay with the Queenscliff Dive Centre. Phone 5258 1188, see divequeenscliff.com.au.
6. Kayak with the kids
Get close to the creatures of Port Phillip Bay and see the diversity of the coastline under your own steam. On a three-hour sea kayak adventure with Bayplay Adventure Tours from Portsea, you'll see penguins, dolphins and fur seals as you paddle across to Point Nepean National Park. Special 1-hour kayak tours are also available for parents with young children in kayaks designed for maximum safety. The tour costs $55 for adults and $44 for children and the three-hour tour costs $88 for adults and $55 for children. Phone 5984 0888, see bayplay.com.au.
7. Cycle the national park
Hire a bike and ride the stunning coastline of Point Nepean National Park. As well as pristine beaches and rugged bushland, Point Nepean National Park's naval history – from tunnels, lookouts and fortifications to walk through – is all here. You can also walk the beach where former prime minister Harold Holt disappeared in 1967. The park is one kilometre from Portsea. Bike hire costs from $16.80 for three hours. An entrance fee costs $8.10 for adults, $3.90 for children or pay a family rate of $20.60. Phone 5984 4276, see parkweb.vic.gov.au.
8. Take in the local wineries
Toast the beauty of Port Phillip with a glass of award-winning pinot noir or riesling from wineries overlooking the bay. Scotchmans Hill on the Bellarine Peninsula at Swan Bay has magnificent bay views from the shady veranda. Phone 5251 3176, see scotchmanshill.com.au. For the best views of the bay from the Mornington Peninsula, stop at Morning Star Estate in Mount Eliza, set among nine hectares of gardens with views to Melbourne. Phone 9787 7760, see morningstarestate.com.au.
9. Try a tour with bite
Book a tour from Sorrento Pier, taking in the coastline around Portsea and Point Nepean, and then go beyond the heads and into Bass Strait where you'll see sharks cruise the berley trail. Try to pull in a mako shark, bronze whaler, thresher or blue shark or, alternatively, just watch the shark show in the water. Phone 0429 846 279, see prolinecharters.com.au. Shark tours are available January to April.
10. Munch on mussels
You don't even have to leave Melbourne to taste the best seafood of Port Phillip Bay. Buy fresh mussels straight off the boat at Gem Pier in Williamstown every Sunday from 10.30am until sold out. These Australian blue mussels come straight from local mussel farms; you can even call the boat direct to place an order. See Sea Bounty Mussels, seabounty.com.au or phone an order direct to the boat on 0438 520 842.