Melbourne. Sporting capital of Australia. Cultural Capital of Australia. Coffee capital of Australia. When it comes to titles, Melbourne holds more than its fair share, and with good reason. But for all its wonder and variety, there are still aspects of Melbourne that fly under the radar.
Boating and sailing, for one. Unless, of course, you’re already an enthusiast, you’re more likely to think of the NGV than motor yachts when someone mentions Melbourne. Which, perhaps, is a shame. Melbourne—and Port Phillip Bay in particular—has a wealth of nautical delights waiting to be explored. Not sure where to start? Here is a brief but helpful guide about what you need to know when embarking on a boating and sailing voyage in and around the City of Melbourne and the waters of Port Phillip Bay.
Know the rules
How well you need to know the rules will depend on what you plan to do on the water. If you’re happy to hire a yacht charter and kick back with the sun on your face, then no doubt your captain will explain everything you need to know. Lifejackets, behaviour onboard, how to use a buoy, and all the other elements of boating and sailing safety training.
If you’re planning to captain the vessel yourself, though, you’ll need to have the right licence for that vessel, as well as a good understanding of sailing etiquette. There’s no way around this either, and nor would you want there to be. Just as there is nothing to gain and everything to lose from driving on the road without a licence, the same goes for captaining a vessel out on the water.
The great thing is, you only need to pay a visit to the right government site to get all the information you need about boating and sailing safely and legally in Melbourne. There are digital resources out there for everything, from getting your licence and registration sorted to rules around mooring and watersports to what you need to do in an emergency. No matter what information you need to have the safest, best time possible, you’ll find it on trusted websites like Transport Safety Victoria and perhaps even in the resources provided by your sailing school or instructors.
Learn the basics
Again, all your necessary boating basics will depend on what you plan to do on the water. If you only plan to be a passive passenger, then you’ll probably only need to know what to do should trouble strike. If you plan to play a more active role, though, you’ll at least need to know the basics of boating and sailing, but particularly so with sailing. As opposed to powerboats, which are relatively straightforward to drive, sailing boats are much more complex.
Thankfully, learning how to sail is easier than you may think, just as long as you’re willing to put in the time and attention required to learn this timeless art. And rest assured, you can learn how to sail like a pro right here in Melbourne. With a number of fantastic sailing schools across Phillip Bay, you’ll be ready to do your best Captain Ahab impression in no time.
The waterway is your new highway
While being out on the water in Port Phillip Bay can be a wonderful way to spend a long weekend or two, it is also a wonderful way to get around Melbourne and surrounding areas like Geelong. For example, rather than spend your time in traffic trying to make your way down to Mornington Peninsula, why not sail down instead? Park your boat at one of the moorings between Tootgarook and Blairgowrie and visit the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, or even the Peninsula Hot Springs if you’re looking to recover from a bitter winter’s day worth of manning the helm.
If you’d rather keep your sailing escapades closer to the city, then you have the option of docking your boat at St Kilda and visiting Luna Park, or perhaps even catching a show at the Palais Theatre. The takeaway here is that boating and sailing are great ways to get around Port Phillip Bay and experience wider Melbourne, alongside being great pastimes and leisure sports themselves.
Think beyond Melbourne
Yes, this is advice about boating and sailing around Melbourne. But if you truly have the sailor’s spirit within you, you’ll want to explore more than just the waters of Port Phillip Bay. And when you do so, you’ll quickly realise there are many great places to visit in the regions around Melbourne too. From stopping in at Phillip Island to threading your way through the Gippsland Lakes District to taking a riverboat up the Murray River, once you have a taste for adventure on water, we guarantee you’re going to want more. So use Melbourne as your base, and your possibilities are endless.
The wonderful thing about boating and sailing in Melbourne is that it caters to any level of enthusiasm. If this is the beginning of your life at sea, Port Phillip Bay is a great place to learn the ropes—pun intended—and develop your sea legs, before you strike out from the bay and toward the open ocean and bigger adventures.
And if boating and sailing is simply a chance to experience another colour of the kaleidoscope that is Melbourne, then you won’t be disappointed here either. And while the smooth waters of Port Phillip Bay may not have quite the instantly recognisable postcard quality that Sydney Harbour possesses, there is still more than enough diversity or variation in sights to please even the most seasoned Melbourne-based sailors. The trick—as with any new activity—is to be flexible with your plans and keep an eye on the forecast. That way, when the clouds part you can lose your mooring and spend some quality time with your friends, family, and other loved ones at sea – the breeze brushing through your hair and the salty spray settling on your cheeks.
Be sure to check out our Melbourne travel ideas to get inspired and learn about the many ways you can see and experience Victoria.