The eastern side of the Westernport Bay coastline in Bass Coast Shire is largely unknown, certainly under-acknowledged for the beauty and diversity of its shorelines and shapeshifting tidal inlets.
The original dwellers and current Indigenous custodians are the Boon Wurrung (Bunarong). The area is historically significant, with some of the earliest exploration and first settlement in Victoria occurring around Corinella and Bass, but abandoned by 1828.
Locals are now drawn to the solitude, the access to untrammelled beaches, and the intertidal mangroves with their tangled, snorkel-like root systems. They walk the beaches season in and out, drink in the views and marvel at wildlife as magnificent as sea eagles, and plant life as minute as orchids and lichens. Lured by seasonal runs and diverse catches, canny fishermen navigate the tidal gauntlet of sandbars in their tinnies, or try their luck from a pier.
The environmental significance of the area, its coastal and marine wildlife and flora, results in its recognition and inclusion as a RAMSAR Convention site. The Waterline towns between Pioneer Bay and Coronet Bay enjoy a unique place in this precious balance.
Nestled into the hillside approximately 90 kilometres from Melbourne, just off the Bass Highway, over 300 Pioneer Bay locals retreat from the world and enjoy the peace. Daisy Street Park is the focus of community events while down the hill, through a foreshore dense with tea tree, a boardwalk ventures through mangroves to the pristine shoreline. Residents and visitors are beckoned to the shores of Pioneer Bay and are rewarded with sweeping views along the coast and out to French Island.
Once a supply port for the settlers in the adjacent hill country, Grantville was a timber town. Four sawmills were linked by tramway to the jetty where timber was shipped to Melbourne. Grantville, the largest town in the Waterline area, now boasts traffic lights, a small shopping centre, a foreshore caravan park, municipal offices and park, a jetty, boat ramp, toilets and a picnic area with barbecue facilities.
The western-facing foreshore opens out to an often millpond-still panorama of Westernport Bay with a backdrop of French Island. Sunsets can be dazzling with shards of incandescent sunlight filtering though clouds, while bushland around Grantville has over 54 species of native orchids providing a great drawcard for international enthusiasts.
Situated in lush farmland between Grantville and Corinella, an undulating avenue of a hundred houses leads to a secluded pathway and a hidden north-facing tidal beach with yet another idyllic view of Westernport Bay and French Island. A favourite with fishermen, who at low tide cast their lines into the deep channel, and also with nature lovers who tramp the shoreline in both directions observing the geological landforms and abundant birdlife.
A diverse area ranging from cliff top views at Settlement Point Lookout to a very active jetty and boat launching ramp, Corinella is both a tourist destination and home to wise locals. Watching the boats launch and return to the boat ramp makes for a bit of fun, try your luck fishing from the pier or walk the many lovely coastal trails within the area.
Corinella is one of the larger towns in the Waterline with its own historical significance. It has a general store, community halls, a bowling green and many community organisations. Black swans and other water birds can be seen nesting, and there are many fine examples of environmentally important white mangroves clustered around the waterline.
The shallow, safe, sandy beach at Coronet Bay is a haven for families with small children, especially on hot evenings when the picnic and barbeque areas fill with locals and visitors and the smell of cooking. It is a beautiful place for walking, with beach and tracks extending to Corinella and beyond. The west-facing beaches take in glorious views toward Phillip Island, and back to Settlement Point, Corinella. The houses clustered along the foreshore and on the hillside are serviced by a local general store.