Western Port, commonly but unofficially known as Western Port Bay, is a large tidal bay in southern Victoria, Australia, opening into Bass Strait. It is the second largest bay in the state. Geographically, it is dominated by the two large islands; French Island and Phillip Island. Contrary to its name, it lies to the east of the larger Port Phillip, and is separated from it by the Mornington Peninsula. It is visited by Australian fur seals, whales and dolphins, as well as many migratory waders and seabirds. It is listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international significance.
The area around the bay and the two main islands were originally part of the Boonwurrung nation’s territory prior to European settlement. Western Port was first seen by Europeans in 1798 when an exploration crew in a whaleboat led by George Bass, journeyed south from Sydney to explore Australia’s south eastern coastline. Due in most part to a lack of food, the expedition was halted, spending two weeks in Western Port before returning to Sydney. As it was the most westerly charted point at the time, it was named Western Port; however, it actually lies in the eastern half of Victoria and to the east of the larger Port Phillip and Greater Melbourne.
The bay is home to the three Marine National Parks—French Island, Churchill Island and Yaringa, while the land adjacent to the north is largely used for farming purposes including cattle and wineries. Today the bay is mostly used for recreation; however, there is also a military base (HMAS Cerberus), shipping and oil production facilities adjoining the bay. Western Port is around one hour from Melbourne by car and a small number of holiday villages with sandy swimming beaches lie on its shores.