With over 34,000 miles of coastline, Australia is a snorkeler’s paradise. It’s home to two of the world’s best preserved and largest coral reefs, fantastic underwater flora and fauna and biggest marine mammals. Add to this year-round sunshine and a string of blockbuster cities and beach towns and it isn’t hard to see why it’s such a marine hotspot. From sprawling reefs to secluded cays, we’ve rounded up seven of the best places for snorkeling in Australia.
Where are the best places for snorkeling in Australia
This Unesco World Heritage-listed natural wonder is the world’s largest coral reef system. Composed of nearly 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for 2,300 km off the coast of Queensland, it’s one of the best places to snorkel in the world. While climate change is a challenge, it’s still the healthiest expanse of living coral on the planet. There are dozens of snorkeling spots to explore, but the Low Isles make for a particularly popular day trip. It’s a kaleidoscope of colours, with waters teeming with schools of tropical fish such as clownfish (Nemo), manta rays, Maori wrasse, giant clams and even sharks.
Australia’s second-largest coral reef stretches 260 km along the west coast of Australia. It’s just a two-hour flight from Perth to Exmouth, the closest town to the reef. Home to as many as 500 species of fish, it’s one of the best places in the world to get up close to the majestic whale shark – the biggest fish in the sea. You’ll likely bump into rays, dugongs and dolphins too.
The park’s 600,000 hectares encompass spots including Red Bluff, Cape Range National Park and the Jurabi Coastal Parks.
3. Baird Bay
Set 284 km (176 miles) from Port Lincoln in South Australia, Baird Bay is one of the best places in Australia to snorkel alongside resident pods of bottlenose dolphins and playful sea lions. Dolphins tend to hang out in deeper waters, while seals prefer the shallows. To reach this superb snorkeling spot, you’ll need to hop on a tour with a reputable company like Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience. Prices usually include gear rental too.
This tiny island floats off the coast of Cairns. It’s just 360 metres (1,200 feet) long and 50 metres (165 feet) wide, but it’s packed with wildlife. Its fringing reef is brimming with activity, though it’s best known for its abundance of giant clams.
Back on dry(ish) land, the small sand cay is home to thousands of ground-nesting seabirds, including Sooty Terns, the Common Noddy and the Crested Tern.
Tasmania’s underwater scene is better known for its deep-water dive sites, but there are some superb snorkeling spots too. Bicheno is a case in point. Located north of Freycinet National Park, this reserve encompasses sites like the Magic Garden, a 38-metre wall covered in marine life. Coral columns are packed with sea whips and yellow zoanthids, while the surrounding waters are brimming with butterfly perch.
6. Shelly Beach
Shelly Beach is arguably the best snorkeling spot close to Sydney. Located just north of Sydney Harbour Bridge, the waters here are clear and calm. Unlike most of the country’s best snorkeling spots, you can snorkel right off the beach too. Waters are busies that you might think too, with more than 200 fish species to discover, including the iconic blue groper. Waters reach a maximum depth of 12 metres, so it’s popular with both snorkelers and divers.
7. Stony Point
This psychedelic snorkeling experience is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets. You’ll need to time your trip right though. Between May and August each year, hundreds of thousands of colourful cuttlefish descend on the small stretch of coastline for a spectacular mating ritual which involves using colourful cells in their skin to put on a jaw-dropping light show. The waters are chilly, so you’ll need a wetsuit. For a truly memorable experience, it’s worth booking a tour with a reputable provider who can share insights into the spectacular event.