Western Australia and Ningaloo Reef, one of Earth’s last ocean paradises

Western Australia is home to hundreds of snorkeling spots, scattered along its 10,000 kilometers of coastline on the Indian Ocean. Many reserves and National Parks, where marine life abounds, protect this immense territory still wild and preserved.

Ningaloo Reef is Western Australia’s snorkeling hotspot. This coral reef fringes for 300 kilometers the coast which stretches between the Gulf of Exmouth in the north and Kalbarri in the south. Never far from the shore, it can be snorkeled from the beach in many places.

Aerial view of Ningaloo Reef
Aerial view of Ningaloo Reef, the largest fringing reef in the world.

Coral Bay and Exmouth are the two main locations from which to visit Ningaloo Reef. In Coral Bay, you can snorkel from Coral Bay Beach, but also at Bill’s Bay and Purdy Point. Reachable only by 4×4 or boat tour, Oyster Bridge and The Lagoon are also great options.

Exmouth is the starting point for visiting Cape Range National Park, which can be reached in about 45 minutes by car from the city. Turquoise Bay, where you can spot sharks, rays and turtles while letting yourself be drifted by the current, is the most beautiful spot in the region. Lakeside, 7km further north, is also home to a colorful underwater world.

It is also from Exmouth that you can go encounter one of the most remarkable resident of Ningaloo: it is estimated that 300 to 500 whale sharks gather near the reef each year, mainly between mid-March and the end of September. You will find in town or online many boat tours to swim with these impressive fish.

Aerial view of Ningaloo Reef
Turquoise Bay, near Exmouth, is considered the best snorkeling spot in northern Ningaloo Reef.

South of Ningaloo Reef, the Abrolhos Islands are renowned as one of the top snorkeling destinations in all of Australia. Crystal clear waters surround the 122 islands that make up the archipelago, where topical and temperate underwater worlds mix. Located about sixty kilometers from the coast, they can be explored by boat tour from Geraldton.

The Perth region, the capital of Western Australia and the country’s 4th largest city, can boast of having several snorkeling sites at its doorstep. In the southern suburbs of Perth, about 50km from the city center, the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park is a great option. Little penguins, Australian sea lions and pretty reefs await you around the small islands located 5 minutes by boat from the coast.

From Perth, take the ferry to treat yourself to great snorkeling time in the Rottnest Island Marine Reserve (for example at Parker Point, The Basin or Little Armstrong Bay) or Marmion Marine Park, where very popular Mettams Pool is located.

Snorkeling with Australian sea lions at Jurien Bay
Jurien Bay is home to a large colony of Australian sea lions.

About 220km north of Perth is Jurien Bay, where one of Australia’s most fascinating snorkeling experiences awaits: above the seagrass beds, you can swim in the company of playful sea lions, who do not hesitate to come and swim around the snorkelers.

Also 220km from Perth but heading south, Busselton Jetty is another iconic spot. 300 species of tropical and subtropical fish live around this pontoon, often described as one of the most beautiful artificial reefs in Oceania.

On the south coast of Western Australia, Albany, Hopetoun and especially Esperance (starting point for exploring Woody Island and the Research Archipelago Nature Reserve) also boast great snorkeling, despite cooler water and less colorful fish.

Sharks sanctuary, Coral Bay
Coral Bay (here, Sharks Sanctuary) is a perfect destination for shore snorkeling. Note the small sharks swimming in the shallows near the beach.

What will I see while snorkeling in Western Australia?

Huge territory crossed by the hot currents of the Indian Ocean and different climatic zones, Western Australia is home to exceptional marine biodiversity. For example, 500 species of fish, 200 species of coral and 150 species of sponges have been recorded on the Ningaloo reef alone.

Whale sharks, manta rays, green sea turtles and reef sharks are among the emblematic species of the region. They are easy to see while snorkeling on many locations, as are angelfish, butterflyfish and clownfish.

For even more unusual experiences, go encounter Jurien Bay‘s Australian sea lions, or Penguin Island‘s little penguins, however difficult to see underwater.

Whitetip reef shark at Turquoise Bay
A whitetip reef shark in Turquoise Bay.

When to go snorkeling in Western Australia?

Western Australia has a tropical, arid or Mediterranean climate depending on the latitude. The Ningaloo Reef, with its arid climate, around 320 days of sunshine per year and temperatures varying between 25 and 40°C (77-104°F), offers exceptional conditions for snorkeling. Only the wind, which sometimes rises in the early morning, can make the outings less pleasant.

Going down to the south, the climate cools down, especially in the Perth region. If the Austral summer months are ideal for snorkeling (with an average day temperature of 32°C/90°F in February), the weather becomes cold and rainy in winter, with for example an average of 8°C/46°F in July.

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