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Photograph: Fabien Graff

These are the best places to go snorkelling in Sydney

Spot coral, kelp and cod without leaving town

Written by
Time Out editors

You don't have to head north to the Great – and sadly fading – Barrier Reef to catch sight of some colourful underwater scenery. Sydney is home to several great snorkelling spots that veteran pipe-breathers reckon are among some of the best sites in the country.

From a strange little island in La Perouse to Shelly Beach at Manly, these are the places to go on a snorkelling safari in Sydney.

You can catch seals and even dolphins around these gorgeous harbour beaches. 

Sydney's best snorkelling spots

Bare Island
  • Things to do
  • La Perouse
  • price 1 of 4

Fact one: Bare Island was used as the set for the finale of Mission Impossible II. Fact two: the old fortress-slash-island is also one of the most exciting snorkelling spots in Sydney. It's suitable for beginners to advanced snorkellers, so you can take your own "mission" to explore the waters around the island and the surrounding reefs. Expect to see sand rays, nudibranchs (a shell-less sea snail), colourful sponge life – and maybe even the resident turtle.

Captain Cook's Landing (Botany Bay National Park)
  • Things to do
  • Kurnell

When James Cook pulled his boat into Botany Bay, he probably had little idea of the teeming world of under-da-sea-life beneath his feet (Banks probably had a better idea). This site, located just inside the National Park, has a rocky entry – so is suitable for intermediate snorkellers – but there's a lot to see, including Sydney's Weedy Sea Dragon.

Clovelly Beach
  • Things to do

Snorkel Safari assures us this is a great site for all the family as it's safe and protected in most conditions. There is easy entry and exit from the concrete steps near the Surf Club and when you get in and around the weed beds, overhangs and reefs, tonnes of good-looking marine life. Bluey the famous blue groper is sadly departed (may it rest in peace), but you can still spot his cousins, plus octopi, moray eels and schooling fish. For a sense of adventure: try it at night.

Oak Park Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Cronulla

This Cronulla park and pool is popular for snorkelling and scuba diving for beginners through to experienced. Enter on the right-hand side of the pool and snorkel along the arc-shaped wall – there are overhangs and crevices to explore. You'll likely find yourself followed by a friendly groper, and spot some cuttlefish and crayfish. It's always an interesting site.

Shelly Beach
  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Manly

North of the Harbour, Shelly Beach in Manly is a protected haven for marine life. It's a gorgeous location, safe for all the family and there is easy beach entry and exit. Snorkel Safari suggests you snorkel the reef to the right-hand side of the beach, or enter at the boat ramp and snorkel along following the walkway towards the fairy bower and back. The clear waters make this site a must-do for all Sydney snorkellers.

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