Call it what you will—reverse floating, mouth-breathing, bum-up swimming—but snorkelling is pretty darn cool and a swell (see what we did thee?) way to get in a little incidental meditation. After all, who doesn’t like bobbing your troubles away and watching a seahorse or two?
We’ve done the hard work for you—and inhaled our fair share of salt water by way of snorkel —to help you on this journey of underwater discovery, relaxation and burnt tooshes. You’re welcome.
Not only is The Basin one of Sydney’s most popular beach camping spots thanks to top facilities (showers, toilets, drinking water and the ol’ barbie) but it’s also a primo spot for water sports. Try the Sydney Sea Horses Snorkeling Tour with EcoTreasures to view Ku-ring-gai’s estuaries aka ocean nurseries. The Basin is filled with Cuttlefish, Leatherjackets (the fish, not the badass accessory), Starfish, and between December and May, a number of tropical fish varieties. Don’t worry if you’re not a pro, you can rent a mask and snorkel from EcoTreasures while you’re there and they’ll teach you the ins and outs.
Kurnell And Botany Bay National Park
You learned about it in Year Four, but Kurnell is so much more than Captain’s Cook landing and a scent memory of crayons. Those keen on a snorkel should enter via Silver Beach before greeting giant Cuttlefish, Moray eels, Port Jackson sharks (super safe!) and weedy sea dragons —you can’t miss their bright blue stripes and yellow spots, they were made to show off. If you can tear your eyes away, the peninsula also features a commemorate obelisk for the big CC himself.
This is one to bring your GoPro for. One of the most popular scuba and snorkeling hangs in all New South Wales, Bare Island (north of Kurnell) is best known for Red Indian fish, big-belly sea horses, Port Jackson sharks, Gurnards and, just casually, being the site of Misson Impossible II’s villain lair. Not bad for an islet.
Little Manly Cove
A wise crustacean once said, “Darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter” and we’re pretty sure he was talking about Little Manly Cove. After all, LMC was practically made for the leisurely float (please, please put sunscreen on your behind) and thanks to its calm, relaxed conditions it’s ideal for those with kiddies in tow or folks averse to bumbling waves.
Perfect for the novice who still thinks blocking their mates snorkel with a thumb is funny, Little Bay is calm, populated by a variety of shy marine life and according to most, one of the cleanest beaches out there. You’ll find a smorgasbord of sea anemones, black urchins and itty-bitty fish in large schools; all without a wave to knock you sideways thanks to an encampment of rocky headlands. From one ‘there’s no such thing as a safe shark’ chicken to another… we’ll see you there.
Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve
As an aquatic reserve, Cabbage Tree Bay is a top spot to see goatfish, old wives, wobbegongs (a bottom-dwelling, docile shark) as well as more normal-sounding sea dwellers like flounder and flathead fish. Shelly Beach comes under the umbrella of this aquatic reserve as perfect for beginners thanks to clear, mostly calm waters; it’s an effortless snorkel spot if we ever saw one. Once the weather dips, this little cove becomes home to dusky whaler sharks that usually hang around the fairy bower. Winter swims are therefore recommend for more seasoned (and therefore calm) snorkelers.
Long Bay or Malabar Beach is, funnily enough, the big brother of Little Bay. Named after a 1931 Singapore to Sydney shipwreck (don’t worry, everyone survived) whose bits and pieces still dot the sea, Long Bay is filled with octopus, string rays and a wide variety of fish. Pop up to Coogee Pavilion when you’ve had enough ‘something touched my leg!’ fun to enjoy a post snorkel feed.
You’ll find blue groper, goatfish, giant cuttlefish, Moray eels, weedy sea dragons, Port Jacksons and more at this popular Sutherland Shire site. Filled with tidal pools and ocean baths for an easy pre-snorkel warm up (recommended if you’re a newbie), and plenty of parkland for the post-snorkel lie down, Oak Park is a favourite that can be enjoyed by both beginners and advanced divers. Win.
This one’s a pretty one folks! Tucked between Clovelly and Coogee beaches, Gordon’s Bay is a finalist for our ‘Most Likely to be Clear and Calm’ award, which is appropriate given that it boasts an underwater nature trail. Located on the northern side and seven hundred meters long, this trail consists of submerged drums detailing the aquatic life found in Gordon’s Bay. We don’t want to give away the whole story, but you’ll spot starfish, sea sponges, urchins, garfish and spotted goatfish at least.
Much like tales of Ol’ Nessie in the Scottish Highlands, Clovelly Beach has a famous host: Bluey. Legend has it Bluey, a 1.2 metre-long blue groper (aka a face only a mother could love) was murdered—illegally fished—but keeps reappearing to this day. As this particular breed of groper can change its gender as needs arise (the departure of Bluey 1.0 for instance), we’re skeptical, but keen for a ghost hunt nonetheless. Clovelly Beach is protected from most conditions and has easy access via concrete steps near the Surf Club, so if you’re a beginner, Clovelly’s the spot for you.
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Design credit: Gabrielle Stjernqvist