Top 23 Places To Snorkel In New South Wales

by Meri Gasem

Snorkelling is one of the best ways to get closer to the rich marine life of New South Wales. We’re usually the spectators who enjoy dolphin and whale watching, but snorkelling takes us a step closer to the natural habitat of the majestic underwater creatures.

New South Wales has a lot to offer in marine life; 3 sea turtle species, dolphins, over 500 fish species, fur seals, shellfish, seabirds, corals, and various seaweeds.

If you’re an avid snorkelling fan, these are the best snorkelling spots in New South Wales.

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1. Julian Rocks, Byron Bay

Julian Rocks is a magnificent marine reserve, rated as one of the best snorkelling spots in Australia. Here you can see tropical marine life typical for the Great Barrier Reef. You can snorkel in very shallow water – up to 10m depth or deep waters up to 64m.

What can you see: 3 species of sea turtles, 400 species of fish, colorful corals.
Visibility level: 5-30 metres.
Access: By boat, 10 minutes from Byron Bay.


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2. Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is a genuine underwater haven. It’s home to the only fringing coral reef lagoon in NSW and a UNESCO World Heritage marine park. It’s an excellent place for beginners with shallow dives starting at 5 to 8 metres.

What can you see: Over 450 species of fish and 90 species of corals.
Visibility level: 30 metres.
Access: By plane from Sydney, Brisbane, and Port Macquarie. You can sail to the island but must apply for a public mooring before arrival.


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3. Fly Point, Port Stephens, Nelson Bay

Fly Point is one of the best shore dive sites with rich marine life. It’s suitable for divers of all levels and provides effortless access. There are even some little bits of blue coral!

What can you see: 400 species of fish, 200 species of sea slugs and Nudibranchs, octopus, urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers, crabs, crayfish, shrimp, squid.
Visibility level:7-15metres at its best, in high tide, and less than 1 metre at its worst.
Access: You can reach Nelson Bay by plane, bus, or car. Once you arrive, travel to Neil Caroll Park and walk down the staircase opposite the amphitheatre.


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4. Montague Island, Narooma

What about snorkelling with seals? Montague Island is home to the largest seal colony in NSW, and you can meet inland and in the vivid turquoise water.

What can you see: Fur seals, 15 species of penguins, dolphins, 90 species of sea birds,
Visibility level: 10-30 metres.
Access: Get on a 30 minute charter boat from Narooma.


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5. Mystery Bay, Narooma

The rocky Mystery Bay beach is divided into two sections – the south and north section. The south part is larger, protected from large waves, and great for amateurs, while the north is an open area for skilled divers.

What can you see: Big fish, dolphins, seals, sharks and rays. 
Visibility level: 10-30 metres.
Access: Car or bus, only 10km from Narooma.


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6. Maloneys Beach, Batemans Bay

Swim your way into the unspoiled waters near the rocky formations in Maloneys Beach while admiring the magnificent marine life. It’s the first stop on Batemans Bay snorkelling trail – an underwater adventure to remember!

What can you see: Diverse array of fish, invertebrates and algae, rocky reefs, kelp beds, seagrasses, and sponge gardens.
Visibility level: 10 metres.
Access: From Batemans Bay get on Northcove Road for 12km and onto Chain Bay. There is a sandy track down to the beach and a car park.


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7. Sunshine Cove Beach, Batemans Bay

The perfect location for family snorkelling in calm waters. The sea bottom is a mixture of rocky reefs, sand, and seaweed beds. It’s protected from southerly swells and enclosed by two ridges.

What can you see: Endemic fish such as red morwong, luderick, bream, and groper, as well as lobsters and abalone.
Visibility level: 10 metres.
Access: 5km from Batemans Bay along Beach Road at Sunshine Bay.


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8. Guerilla Bay, Batemans Bay

The waters of Guerilla Bay are fit for different levels of snorkellers. A striking little rocky island divides the waters into safer flat reef to the south part and more adventurous waters to the north.

What can you see: Large variety of fish species as blue groper, wrasse, luderick, and more.
Visibility level: 10-15 metres.
Access: From Guerilla Bay, get on George Bass Drive and onto Burri Point Road. Once you arrive at Beach Parade, turn right to the beach carpark.


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9. Shoal Bay, Port Stephens

Shoal Bay keeps the best of Port Stephens when it comes to underwater adventures. It’s a great shore dive year-round. The rock shelves at the sea bottom are beaming with marine life waiting to be explored!

What can you see: Coral, fish, octopus, jellyfish, sponges, sea turtles.
Visibility level: Up to 18 metres at high tide.
Access: 30 minutes from New Castle and 2.5 hours from Sydney.


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10. Merimbula Wharf, Merimbula

The Merimbula Wharf is the type of snorkelling site where unexpected species can appear. The rocky reef is covered in kelp and sponge gardens, with numerous caves serving as homes to the vast fish species.

What can you see: Despite diverse fish species, you can see Kapala stingarees, stargazers, flatheads, sand stars, coffin rays, gurnard perch, Australian angel sharks, seahorses, draughtboard sharks, grey-spotted catsharks, sea turtles, cow tail stingray.
Visibility level: 8-15 metres.
Access: Once you reach Merimbula, go to the end of Lake Street.


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11. Solitary Islands Marine Park, Coffs Harbour

The Solitary Islands Marine Park is a group of five off-shore islands, with unique underwater terrain. The caves, walls, and canyons are covered in marine life.

What can you see: 550 reef fish species, 90 hard coral species, and 600 mollusca (shellfish) species.
Visibility level: 15-30 metres.
Access: 20-60 minutes boat ride from Coffs Harbour.


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12. Trial Bay Gaol Beach, South West Rocks

Trial Bay Gaol Beach is a sheltered beach in South West Rocks, immune to most swell directions. It provides a break wall that protects you while snorkelling over the rocks underwater. An impressive dive for beginners and experts!

What can you see: Wobbegong sharks, turtles, grouper, wrasse, morays, cuttlefish, humpback and southern right whales, pilot whales, dolphins, grey reef sharks.
Visibility level: 5-40 metres.
Access: From South West Rocks, get on Cardwell Street until you reach Trial Bay Gaol


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13. Hat Head Creek, South West Rocks

Hat Head Creek is a wonderful snorkelling spot at high tide, with an abundance of marine life. It’s a natural habitat for protected fish species. It’s only 2 metres deep, so perfect for beginners.

What can you see: Fish, wobbegong sharks, hermit crabs, flathead, mullet, octopus.
Visibility level: 2 metres.
Access: 5km drive from South West Rocks.


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14. Toowoon Bay, Central Coast

The prime family snorkelling site, Toowoon Bay, hides a wildly rich marine life in its pristine waters. It’s a picturesque snorkelling adventure you can’t miss!

What can you see: various fish species, diverse marine animals, thick seaweed, coral reefs, dolphins.
Visibility level: 8-10 metres.
Access: Train, bus or car 1hr 45min from Sydney and 70min from Newcastle


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15. Maitland Bay, Bouddi National Park, Central Coast

Maitland Bay is a secluded beach in the wilderness, in the heart of Bouddi National Park. It offers perfect snorkelling conditions, from perfect blue water to sandy sea bottom.

What can you see: Fish, squid, dolphins,
Visibility level: 15-30 metres.
Access: Hike 900m through Bouddi National Park.


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16. Murrays Beach, Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay

You’ll recognise Murrays Beach by the towering sandstone cliffs right off the shore. It provides shallow and deep snorkelling along rock reefs, sand zones, sea grass meadows, sand-flats, and caves. One of the top snorkelling spots in Jervis Bay.

What can you see: Over 100 fish species, blue groper, sea turtles, squid, sea-dragon, eastern blue devilfish, bottlenose dolphin, and little penguin.
Visibility level: 15-20 metres.
Access: From Murrays car park, walk towards Bowen Island, over the rock platform, and onto Murrays Beach.


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17. Greenfield & Blenheim Beaches, Vincentia, Jervis Bay

These two beaches are hidden away from the crowds and connected by a sand walk. Greenfield Beach has minimal waves, so it’s great for beginners, while Blenheim Beach is most popular among locals for offering the best snorkelling in the bay. During winter, it’s the spot to go to watch the humpback whale migration.

What can you see: Over 100 fish species, like eastern blue devilfish, weedy sea-dragon, sharks, rays, marine mammals like bottlenose dolphins and little penguins, shellfish, and marine plants.
Visibility level: 10 metres.
Access: Take the 3km long Scribbly Gum Track from Vincentia.


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18. Cabbage Tree Bay (Shelly Beach) Manly, Sydney

Shelly Beach is a fully protected aquatic reserve on Manly’s southern end and Sydney’s most popular snorkelling spot. It’s sheltered from the ocean swell with clear, calm waters most days. It’s amateur snorkellers’ paradise!

What can you see: Large schools of mullet and trevally, goatfish, old wives, flounder, flathead fish, dusky whaler sharks, wobbegongs, hawksbill turtles.
Visibility level: 8-10 metres.
Access: From Manly Centre take a 15-minute bus ride, or walk 20 minutes via Marine Parade.


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19.Little Manly Cove, Manly, Sydney

If the sea is too rough on Shelly Beach, Little Manly Cove is a good option. It provides a leisurely float while you admire the underwater world.

What can you see: 500 species of sea life, including sea dragons, cuttlefish, seahorses, octopus, blue swimmer crabs, pygmy leatherjackets, Port Jackson sharks, starfish, blue groper etc.
Visibility level: 5-10 metres.
Access: Take a 10-minute bus ride from Manly Centre or walk via Marshall St and Darley Rd.


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20. Bare Island, La Perouse, Sydney

Bare Island is a heritage-listed islet settled in south-eastern Sydney famous for being the shooting location of Mission Impossible 2. The tucked-away coves provide a calm snorkelling experience, suitable for both amateurs and professionals.

What can you see: 100 fish species, 1,000 invertebrate animals, including grey nurse shark, wobbegong, wrasse, giant cuttlefish, sea slugs, octopus, pineapple fish, turtles, and sponge gardens.
Visibility level: 10-30 metres.
Access: Located on the end of Anzac Parade, open for visitors April to October 7am to 7pm, via car or bus.


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21. Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, Sydney

If you like secluded spots, The Basin Campground, on the east shore of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, is your snorkelling haven. A shark net protects the bay, so you can dive in peace.

What can you see: Seahorses, cuttlefish, rays, cuttlefish, stingarees, sea stars, seagrass beds, mudflats, leather jackets, and tropical fish in the warmer months!
Visibility level: N/A
Access: Take the trail from West Head or get the ferry across from Palm Beach.


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22. Kurnell, Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Sydney

Kurnell is a hidden gem when it comes to snorkelling near Sydney. Located on the southern part of Botany Bay – Captain Cook’s first stomping ground has more than rich underwater life. It’s the home of the largest weedy sea dragon population in Australia.

What can you see: Weedy sea dragons, cuttlefish, moray eels, Port Jackson sharks, and even Antarctic fur seals.
Visibility level: 1- 20 metres depending on the conditions.
Access: By car or bus, only 35 kilometres from Sydney.


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23. Cook Island Aquatic Reserve, Tweed Heads

Cook Island is home to the green Hawksbill turtles, caves, canyons, and colorful coral reefs. You can enjoy snorkelling in crystal clear water with an abundance of marine life year-round.

What can you see: 100 fish species, 73 coral species, green sea turtles.
Visibility level: Up to 60 metres.
Access: 20-minute boat ride from Coolangatta/Tweed Heads.


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