Point Cook Coastal Park features abundant birdlife, a historic bluestone homestead, intertidal sand banks and a Marine Reserve. Located 20 km southwest of Melbourne, it is a popular destination for birdwatchers, nature lovers and family groups.
Things to Do
- Enjoy a barbecue or picnic by the beach.
- Explore the area via the many tracks located in the park.
- Watch birds from the tranquil Spectacle lakes birdhide, or from the Cheetham Wetlands Tower.
- A favourite activity at Point Cook is watching vintage airplanes operating from the nearby Point Cook RAAF base.
- Picnic shelters, free gas barbecues, two playgrounds, change rooms and clean toilets are provided. Barbecues under wooden shelters are provided for the use of all and may not be reserved.
- A viewing tower overlooks the Cheetham Wetlands, which provide a refuge for birds migrating to Victoria to escape the northern hemisphere winter.
- Baby change facilities.
The series of ponds that now make up the migratory bird habitat and conservation area called Cheetham Wetlands were constructed in the 1920s by Cheetham Salt Pty Ltd. Sea water was fed into the shallow ponds and allowed to evaporate. Dried salt was then harvested form the floor of the lagoons. This operation continued until the early 1990's, when the site was purchased by the Victorian Government. The more environmentally important bayside part of the original saltworks now comprises Cheetham Wetlands and the higher, western section is being developed privately.
Point Cook was once part of the huge pastoral estate belonging to the Chirnside family, who built Werribee Park Mansion. The Homestead, stables, and outbuildings were the original Chirnside family home from 1857, before Werribee mansion was built, and are classified by the National Trust and included on the Government buildings Register of Historic Buildings. Restoration of the grounds and buildings was begun by the former Board of Works in 1978.
Over 250 fauna species have been recorded at Point Cook Coastal Park. During the Victorian summer, visiting migratory birds move between the wetlands and saltmarsh at Point Cook, the beach sand flats and Cheetham Wetlands, depending on the tides. The endangered Orange-bellied Parrot is known to feed in the saltmarsh at Point Cooke. The Double-banded Plover flies from New Zealand to spend the winter in Australia, and the Eastern Golden Plover migrates here from Siberia and Alaska.
The Marine Reserve was declared in 1982 to help preserve the diverse flora and fauna of the reef. It is one of the last relatively unspoiled reef ecosystems in the bay and is an important feeding ground for sea birds and a refuge for marine life.
Point Cook is a low rainfall area and the soil has a relatively high salt content. The natural vegetation at the time of European arrival comprised scattered clumps of trees, grasses and shrubs, frequently burned by the Aboriginal inhabitants. Extensive areas of saltmarsh vegetation grew in wetter areas close to the coast. There was a band of bush, probably wattles and shrub species, inland from the beach. This was known as the Point Cook forest and was felled as the area was settled.
The present day vegetation of Point Cooke is largely remnant basalt plains grassland, with areas of coastal salt marsh, grassy wetland and sedgeland. There are several natural waterbodies in the park supporting aquatic species. A notable plant found on the shores of the highly saline RAAF Lake at Point Cooke is the Chaffy Saw-sedge, which provides habitat for the rare Altona Skipper Butterfly. Selected sites in the park are now being planted with trees grown from seed collected from remaining natural specimens.
Looking After the Park
How to Get There
- All native plants and animals in the park, including snakes, are protected.
- The Marine Reserve is a protected shellfish habitat and collection of marine flora or fauna is not permitted.
- Fishing on the reef is not allowed within 200 metres of the shoreline high tide mark; this boundary is marked by yellow posts set in the seabed.
- Snorkeling and SCUBA diving are allowed, but spearfishing is prohibited.
- Open fires are prohibited for safety reasons; the park's gas BBQs are free and may be used at any time.
- Dogs, cats and horses may not be brought into the park.
- Vehicles and motorbikes must keep to the paved roads.
- Point Cook Coastal Park does not supply rubbish bins, so please take rubbish with you.
Point Cook Coastal Park is located 20 km southwest of Melbourne. Cross the Westgate Bridge and exit the Princes Freeway at the Point Cook Road sign, 12 km from the western end of the bridge. The park entrance is approximately 6 km south on Point Cook Road (Melway ref: map 207 ref K12, and map 198 ref K1).
The park gates are open from 8:30am seven days a week all year round.
From April to October 2009 the gates are locked at 5.00pm.
In November 2009, February 2010 and March 2010 gates are locked at 6.00pm.
In December 2009 and January 2010 gates are locked at 7.00pm.
At the Tower Parking Lot gates are locked one hour before the Point Cook Coastal Park closing time.
Yet to be reviewed.