Gippsland Bird Research and The Rotamah Island Bird Observatory Inc.

Rotamah Island is a naturalists bushland delight, surrounded by lakes Victoria and Reeve to the north and the dunes of the 90 Mile Beach to the south. Rotamah Island along with Little Rotamah Island and Sperm Whale Head comprise The Lakes National Park. Rotamah Island is only accessible by boat usually via Paynesville (6km) or Loch Sport (18km).

How the island was formed

The Gippsland Lakes area was once part of a large bay.
Over many thousands of years, sands deposited by the sea formed a number of barriers, including Sperm Whale Head, Little Rotamah Island, the 90 Mile Beach and Rotamah Island. These barriers, now up to 38m high, enclose the waters that make the Gippsland Lakes.

From past to present

Aborigines of the Kurnai nation were numerous at the time of settlement. Shell middens in the sand dunes along the 90 Mile Beach provide evidence of their existence. The abundant wildlife and mild climate of the Gippsland Lakes provided an ideal area to inhabit.

In 1840 explorer Angus McMillan reached the shores of Lake Victoria and soon cattle runs were taken up in the district. During this period much of the Island was cleared and cultivated for grazing.

Rotamah Island had a number of occupants until 1975 when it was bought by the Victorian Government. In 1978 Rotamah and Little Rotamah Islands were added to The Lakes National Park.

In late 1979 the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union took up a 20 year lease of the Island's homestead, to operate as a bird observatory. The Council of Birds Australia opted not to renew the lease on its expiry. 

Currently a lease of the observatory building is being negotiated with Parks Victoria by the not for profit Incorporated Association -RIBO Inc. The research programs are being continued and soon the Observatory will be again running regular weekend natural history courses.

Plants, animals and birds

Rotamah Island supports eucalypt and banksia woodland on it's sandy soils. Much of the island is open woodland, a reminder of the grazing that once occurred on the island. The lower lying areas contain dense stands of melalcuca. From August to November The Lakes National Park is at it's best with a spectacular show of wildflowers.

The Island supports good populations of eastern grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies, possums, echidnas, wombats and bats.

It is the prolific bird life that Rotamah Island has become renowned for. More than 200 species of bird have been recorded on the island. Commonly sighted birds include emus, grebes, cormorants, pelicans, rosellas, robins and the graceful white-bellied sea eagle.

Things to see and do

Picnicking. A small picnic area is set aside adjacent to the observatory only a short stroll from the jetty. There are barbecues, toilets, picnic tables and fresh water available. Many kangaroos frequent this area. Please do not feed them because our processed foods are not part of their normal diet.

Camping is restricted to groups who book in advance. Fireplaces, toilets and water are provided. A small fee is charged and groups must book through the park office.

The Observatory offers good accommodation facilities as well as providing excellent reference material and educational opportunities. Fees are charged and all inquiries should be directed to the wardens. 


Clearly defined tracks offer some exceptional views and bird watching opportunities. The tracks are generally sandy and gently undulating and are suitable for family outings.

Looking after the park

Please remember

For further information

We hope you enjoy your visit to the Island. If you would like to find out more about the area, please contact:

The Wardens,

Rotamah Island Bird Observatory Inc.,
PO Box 70
Sale 3850


Parks Victoria

Ph 131963