Definitions of waterways

The table and maps on this page detail the three categories of waterway in Victoria.

Both the rules relating to speed and distance from shore change and the types of safety equipment you must carry and/or wear depend on the type of waterway you are operating on.

The specific operating rules for each Victorian waterway are set out in the Vessel Operating and Zoning Rules (VOZR).

Inland, enclosed and coastal waters

Inland waters Rivers (inside the seaward entrance), creeks, canals, lakes, reservoirs and any similar waters either naturally formed or man-made and which are either publicly or privately owned but does not include any navigable rivers, creeks or streams within declared port waters.
Enclosed waters
  1. The declared port waters inside the seaward entrance of the following local ports:
    1. the Port of Apollo Bay
    2. the Port of Anderson Inlet
    3. the Port of Gippsland Lakes
    4. the Port of Snowy River
    5. the Port of Mallacoota
    6. the Port of Port Fairy
  2. The declared port waters of the  Port of Barwon Heads  upstream of the Barwon Heads–Ocean Grove road bridge
  3. The declared port waters of the Port of Corner Inlet and Port Albert east of a line between Port Welshpool shipping pier and Bentley Point (inside the entrances)
  4. The waters of Shallow Inlet
  5. The declared port waters inside the entrance of the  Port of Portland
  6. The declared port waters of the Port of Port Phillip
  7. The waters of Western Port landward of its western entrance joined by a straight line drawn between West Head to the southern tip of Seal Rocks to Point Grant and landward of its eastern entrance joined by an imaginary line drawn between Cape Woolamai and Griffith Point as shown on the chart AuS 150 Australia - South Coast – Victoria - Western Port, published by the Australian Hydrographic Service from time to time
  8. The waters between the seaward entrance of Tamboon inlet and the northerly boundary of a straight line drawn between Flanders Track and the creek on the eastern side of the inlet
  9. The waters between the seaward entrance of Wingan Inlet and the northerly boundary of a straight line drawn between Rocky Creek and the bank directly opposite to the west
  10. The waters between the seaward entrance of Sydenham Inlet and the mouth of the Bemm River.
Coastal waters All waters other than inland waters or enclosed waters, and extending 3 nautical miles seaward.
Hazardous Area (a) Port Phillip Heads, or
(b) Any area of State waters declared by the Safety Director.

State waters

The following waterways are recognised as Victorian waters for the purposes of transport safety legislation:

  • The waters of Ovens River south of the Murray Valley Highway Bridge
  • The waters of Lake Hume downstream of the Bethanga Bridge
  • The waters contained within the Victorian border of the lower Glenelg River.

NSW waters

Waters of the Murray River, Lake Mulwala and Lake Hume not listed above are within New South Wales jurisdiction. Operators are advised that NSW legislation applies on these waters.

Download the guide: Get to know your interstate boating rules - New South Wales and Victoria PDF, 328.2 KB

More information on the NSW Roads & Maritime Services website.

Maps showing waterway types

These maps show coastal waters coloured blue, enclosed as green, inland as grey.

Dangerous conditions

  • Strong tides, currents and dangerous waves may exist where enclosed waters meet coastal waters
  • Enclosed waters sealed off from coastal waters may break out causing extremely dangerous conditions

Bass Strait – Port Phillip and Western Port

Graphic of Port Phillip and Western Port

Designated Hazardous Area - Port Phillip Heads

Port Phillip Heads means all the waters between an imaginary line drawn between Shortland Bluff and Point Nepean, and the seaward limits of an imaginary line consisting the arc of a circle with a radius of three nautical miles centred on Point Lonsdale (as indicated in red above).

This definition of Port Phillip Heads now includes the area at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay where conditions are known to present additional risks to vessels operating there. Port Phillip Heads and any area of State waters declared by the Safety Director is classified as a Designated Hazardous Area.

Port of Portland

Graphic of Port of Portland

Port of Port Fairy

Graphic of Port Fairy


Graphic of Warrnambool

Barwon Heads

Graphic of Barwon Heads

Melbourne and Port Phillip

Graphic of Melbourne and Port Phillip

Anderson Inlet

Graphic of Anderson Inlet

Shallow Inlet

Graphic of Shallow Inlet

Corner Inlet and Port Albert

Graphic of Corner Inlet

Lakes Entrance

Graphic of Lakes Entrance

Snowy River

Graphic of Snowy River

Sydenham Inlet and Tamboon Inlet

Graphic of Sydenham and Tamboon Inlets

Wingan Inlet and Mallacoota

Graphics of Wingan Inlet and Mallacoota

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