Australian Wetlands Database

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Towra Point Nature Reserve


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

21 February 1984

Vegetation consists of sedge and herb, saltbush shrubland, and extensive grassland and swamp communities (1996), Photo: Daryl Chapman

Australian Ramsar site number:



2, 3, 4, 8


New South Wales


603.7 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

South-East Coast

Wetland type: 

  • B - Marine subtidal aquatic beds; includes kelp beds, sea-grass beds, tropical marine meadows
  • E - Sand, shingle or pebble shores; includes sand bars, spits and sandy islets; includes dune systems and humid dune slacks
  • F - Estuarine waters; permanent water of estuaries and estuarine systems of deltas
  • G - Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats
  • H - Intertidal marshes; includes salt marshes, salt meadows, saltings, raised salt marshes; includes tidal brackish and freshwater marshes
  • I - Intertidal forested wetlands; includes mangrove swamps, nipah swamps and tidal freshwater swamp forests
  • J - Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
  • K - Coastal freshwater lagoons; includes freshwater delta lagoons

Key features of the site:

Towra Point Nature Reserve lies on the northern side of Kurnell Peninsula, forming the southern and eastern shores of Botany Bay, and is approximately 16 km from the Sydney city centre in New South Wales. It is the largest wetland of its type in the Sydney Basin region and represents vegetation types that are now rare in the area. It is an estuarine complex comprising a mixture of spits, bars, mudflats, dunes and beaches.

The Ramsar site consists of a variety of habitats such as seagrass meadows, mangroves, saltmarshes, dune woodlands, Casuarina forest, small occurrences of littoral rainforest and sand dune grasslands. The vegetation within Towra Point Nature Reserve is regionally significant, with the reserve containing around 40% of the remaining mangrove communities and 60% of the remaining saltmarsh communities in Sydney. Furthermore, almost 300 plant species have been recorded within the Ramsar site including the threatened Magenta Cherry.

Towra Point Nature Reserve is an important area for bird species, with approximately 200 species recorded in the area. This includes 34 species listed under international migratory bird conservation agreements. Large numbers of Eastern Curlew, Lesser Golden Plover, and Ruddy Turnstone have also been recorded within the Ramsar site. The state-listed threatened Little Tern and Pied Oystercatcher are known to breed within the Reserve.

Middens, rock shelters, engravings, burial sites and other items of indigenous heritage have been found within Towra Point Nature Reserve. Captain James Cook anchored in Botany Bay in 1770 and Towra Point was explored, mapped and used as a source of freshwater. It was here where the ship's botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, took the first recognised botanical and zoological samples of Australian flora.

The Ramsar site is part of a dedicated Nature Reserve, with activities restricted to nature-based recreation such as bird-watching and fishing.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Towra Point Nature Reserve Ramsar site meets four of the nine criteria:

Criterion 2: Towra Point supports three nationally threatened species under the EPBC Act: magenta lilly pilly (Syzygium paniculatum), green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea),and grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus. The green and golden bell frog and grey-headed flying fox are listed as vulnerable species and have been recorded at Towra Point. Towra Point also supports 23 threatened species and five endangered ecological communities under the TSC Act as well as 34 species listed under three international migratory bird agreements (JAMBA, CAMBA and ROKAMBA)

Criterion 3: Towra Point Nature Reserve is an important area for maintaining the biodiversity of the Sydney region. Its seagrass beds, in conjunction with its mangrove and saltmarsh communities, provide critical shelter and food for juvenile fish and crustaceans. It is also recognised as one of the four most important migratory wading bird sites in NSW and Towra Spit Island was named the second most important breeding area in NSW for the little tern (Sterna albifrons). Thirty-four species of migratory birds listed under international agreements (JAMBA, CAMBA and ROKAMBA) have been recorded at Towra Point Nature Reserve. The brown honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta), mangrove gerygone (Gerygone levigaster) and wallum froglet (Crinia tinnula) are at the southern extent of their distribution at Towra Point.

Criterion 4: Species of fish such as common silver biddy (Gerres ovatus), yellow bream (Acanthospagrus australis) and flat-tail mullet (Liza argentea) are found in high numbers at Towra Point and use the mangrove habitats exclusively during the vulnerable juvenile stage of their life cycle. Juvenile luderick (Girella tricuspidata) also prefer the mangroves after an initial stage in the adjacent seagrass beds. Due to loss of habitat along their migratory route, Towra Point Nature Reserve is critical for migratory shorebirds protected under the international agreements, JAMBA, CAMBA and ROKAMBA. The birds roost in saltmarsh within the Ramsar site and feed in the intertidal zone along the shoreline of Botany Bay to replenish their fat reserves before embarking on a long northward migration.

Criterion 8: Towra Point is a significant habitat and food source for at least 60 species of fish of which 25 are of economic significance. Fish utilise the saltmarsh (wetland type H), mangroves (wetland type I) and seagrass (wetland type B) habitats at and adjacent to Towra Point Nature Reserve for food, protection and as a nursery habitat during the early stages in their life cycle. The use of saltmarsh areas by fish and birds allows nutrient cycling and energy transfer and demonstrates the ecological connectivity of the area. The tidal regime in Botany Bay supports the food web at Towra Point by exporting crab and crustacean larvae from saltmarsh to intertidal and subtidal areas, and by transporting detritus from seagrass meadows to intertidal and supratidal areas.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.