Estuaries are where rivers meet the sea – a mixing place of seawater and the freshwater that flows from the catchment. They are highly valued by the local and broader community for their scenic beauty, recreational fishing, swimming, camping, bird watching and boating. Most estuaries have towns or other settlements along them and they are a significant drawcard for tourism. There has been investment in public infrastructure to support recreational use of estuaries, particularly those near population centres at Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Yambuk, Narrawong, Portland and Nelson.

All estuaries are culturally significant places. As highly productive parts of waterways, they provided a source of food to the Traditional Owners, marked boundaries and were important meeting places. They continue to be important to Aboriginal people of the region. The Fitzroy Estuary sits within the UNESCO-listed Budj Bim World Heritage Cultural Landscape.

Estuaries are dynamic, ever-changing environments that provide habitat for a wide diversity of species adapted to survival on the interface between the marine and freshwater environments. They provide essential breeding areas and drought refuge for many fish species, along with critical breeding and foraging areas for birds, invertebrates and aquatic mammals. They also support a diversity of aquatic plants, from sea grasses to salt marshes. 

Glenelg River estuary