You don't have to paddle far from Australia's coast to experience some of the best snorkelling in the world. Blessed with coral reefs, fascinating shipwrecks and easy-to-access rock shelves, there's a plethora of colourful sea life just waiting to be discovered off on shores. All you need to do is grab your mask and dive in.
Tangalooma Wrecks, Queensland
Moreton Island, off the coast of Brisbane, is home to the Tangalooma Wrecks, a man-made dive and snorkel site full of coral formations and marine life. The wrecks aren’t far from the shore so you can swim out there from the beach.
Lord Howe Island, NSW
Only 400 tourists are allowed on Lord Howe Island at any one time, which makes a trip to the World Heritage-listed site all the more special. The west coast’s semi-enclosed coral reef, full of technicolour fish, is the perfect place to snorkel.
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Australia’s other big reef might not get as much press as the Great Barrier but it’s no less impressive. Ningaloo Reef on the Western Australia coast stretches for 260 kilometres and is home to more than 500 different species of fish, with seemingly endless coral to boot.
Jervis Bay, NSW
Though it's geographically in NSW, Jervis Bay is technically a part of the ACT so we'll count this as a Canberra beach. The bay is home to bottlenose dolphins, penguins, seals and whales, plus a huge variety of tropical fish. Hit the water to see them up close.
Shelly Beach, NSW
You don’t have to leave Sydney to experience world-class snorkelling. Just 20 minutes walk from Manly are two great sheltered spots: the calm waters of Shelly Beach and the aquatic reserve of Cabbage Tree Bay, which is home to stingrays, yellowfin bream and cuttlefish.
The Whitsundays, Queensland
With crystal-clear waters protected by the Great Barrier Reef, many of the Whitsundays’ 74 islands make for a great place to snorkel. Head out to Hook Island or Butterfly Bay on an organised tour or book your own boat and explore the area at your own pace.
Green Island, Queensland
The only rainforest on the Great Barrier Reef is found at Green Island, a 6000-year-old coral cay not far from Cairns. Add the white sand beach, sapphire waters and a magnificent array of underwater gardens and you’ve got a daytripper’s paradise.
Mackerel Islands, Western Australia
There are 10 distinct islands that make up the Mackerel Islands, a 20-minute boat ride from the WA town of Onslow. Snorkel here to see the large inky coral trees at Black Flag, then stay for a night at one of the two spots that offer off-the-grid accommodation.
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
With 63 beaches, 20 bays, a native quokka population and absolutely no cars, there’s a lot to love about WA’s Rottnest Island. Look out for seals and dolphins while you’re above water and hit the snorkel trails of Little Salmon Bay and Parker Point to see the marine life below.
Heron Island, Queensland
Around 60 per cent of all the fish and 72 per cent of the coral species that live in the Great Barrier Reef can be found at Heron Island, making this a great place to start your reef-snorkeling experience. The waters around the wreck of HMAS Protector, which was purposely sunk as a breakwater, are especially full of life. An added bonus: from June to September each year you can see migrating Humpback whales (keeping a safe distance, of course).