Our 5 Favourite Ningaloo Reef Snorkelling Spots
Cover photo: Turqoise Bay. Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia
When people dream about snorkelling in Australia, they immediately think of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. It is a world famous attraction that makes it to the top of many a travel bucket list. But equally magical snorkelling opportunities are abundant in Ningaloo Marine Park here in Western Australia, too. With 300 km of coral reefs, it’s home to 250 different species of coral, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, dugongs, and a dazzling array of tropical fish. So, what are you waiting for? We have some incredible undersea experiences and adventures waiting for you!
In Exmouth, you’ll find some of the best marine life in the world – not just in Australia. If there’s one must-do activity, it’s snorkelling the underwater paradise of the Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site. After all, can you really say you’ve been to Exmouth if you haven’t explored these beautiful crystal-clear turquoise waters? The answer, of course, is no!
If you’re planning a trip to Exmouth, the good news is you won’t have to travel far to reach our premier snorkelling sites. Most are in nearby Cape Range National Park, the start of which is just 40 km from the township. National Park entry fees will apply if you want to visit.
Whether you’re an experienced snorkeller or it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, you will find plenty of perfect snorkelling sites for all ages and abilities in Exmouth and Ningaloo. Let’s look at five of our favourite snorkelling spots you need to explore.
We love Lakeside Beach because it’s calm and sheltered. So, it’s ideal for beginners as well as more confident swimmers. You can snorkel straight off the beach and swim between the Coral Bombies (large coral formations). Conditions are usually excellent all year round, and we think it’s just as good a spot as Turquoise Bay. And it’s quieter too. Head south from the car park, and after walking 500 m, you will come upon the Lakeside sanctuary marker. Two yellow buoys in the water act as markers to show you where you can swim. Don’t forget that the Lakeside snorkel area is within a sanctuary zone, meaning marine life here is protected.
The water at Sandy Bay is shallow, and the current isn’t as strong as most of the other sites on our list. Which means it’s an ideal snorkelling spot for the whole family. Known for its stunning turquoise waters and beautiful white sandy beach, Sandy Bay is as picturesque as they come. We consider it to be something of an overlooked gem. While Turquoise Bay gets all the adoration, we recommend you check out this beautiful spot. You might even have it all to yourself, depending on the time you visit.
With its rocky shoreline, some might find Oyster Stacks a bit of a challenge. With large oyster-covered rocks – which is how it gets its name – you will need to take great care when you enter the water. But it offers calm, shallow waters and a different experience from the other snorkelling spots. Oyster Stacks is also tide dependent; you can only snorkel here at high tide. The corals are fragile. So, to avoid damaging them, snorkelling here is only permitted in at least 1.2 m of water. If in doubt, pop along to the Milyering Visitor Centre to check the recommended snorkelling times.
We would be remiss if we missed the iconic Turquoise Bay off the list! Around 60 km south of Exmouth, it’s one of Ningaloo’s premier snorkelling sites and everyone’s go-to spot. There’s no question it’s stunning, with some of the best snorkelling in the area. If you’re a snorkelling beginner, you can snorkel off the beach. Strong swimmers and more experienced snorkellers can also drift snorkel at Turquoise Bay. Walk south from the drift snorkel car park for around 100 m. Once you enter the water, you’ll quickly realise why it’s such a popular snorkelling site. The marine life here is extensive and diverse, with turtles, reef sharks, rays, and an abundance of colourful fish. Just be aware that the currents here can be moderate to strong. So, if you’re neither a confident nor strong swimmer, avoid this part of Turquoise Bay. Or if it’s just a little too busy for your comfort level, head to Lakeside instead.
Osprey Bay is one of the best snorkelling sites for swimmers of all abilities and a short walk from Sandy Bay. If you’re driving directly from the town, it’s roughly an 80 km drive. Locals call Osprey Bay the aquarium because the water is teeming with marine life just 100 m from the shore. If you’ve always wanted to swim with sea turtles, your chances are high at Osprey Bay, which is another reason why this snorkelling site is one of our favourites.
Whether you want to snorkel straight from the beach, on a boat or take a snorkel tour with one of the local tour operators, the snorkelling opportunities in and around Exmouth are endless. We have one of the most magnificent and accessible coral reefs in the world, and just metres from the beach. And depending on the time of year you visit, you can snorkel with whale sharks and humpback whales. Who wouldn’t want to tick that life-changing experience off their bucket list?
Earlier this month, you may have seen that Qantas was offering 13,000 discounted tickets for flights between Perth and Exmouth. Were you one of the lucky ones to book a flight in the sale? If not, don’t worry. Why not hit the road instead and take off on a Perth to Exmouth road trip? You will have an incredible adventure as you explore more of Western Australia’s diverse and captivating landscapes.
If you would like more inspiration for your next Exmouth trip, read our recommendations for the best things to see and do in Exmouth and Ningaloo. Although you might have a problem finding the time to fit it all in. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you!