If we had to pick the most beautiful spot for snorkeling around Sydney, Shelly Beach would probably be our first choice without a doubt! A small sheltered bay protected for more than 15 years, with renowned species to come across like the Eastern blue groper or the Port Jackson shark … all of these amazing qualities create the perfect setting for snorkeling!
We can access Shelly Beach mainly from Manly, Sydney’s famous seaside resort. At the southern tip of Manly Beach, there is also a small, well-sculpted path along the seashore that leads you to Shelly Beach on foot (10 minutes).
Enter the water from the beach.
You can explore the whole small bay, which is well protected in the north (to your right when you are on the beach, facing the sea) by a “barrier” of rocks. The seabed starts off as completely sandy from the beach (↕0.5-1.5m), and then begins to change between algae meadows, sand, and rocks (↕1.5-3m). When you reach the center of the bay, you will find deeper areas (↕4-5m). When the sea is calm, it is possible to do a snorkeling trip between Shelly Beach and Manly Beach, along its rocky coast (about 800m).
Shelly Beach is part of the Cabbage Tree Aquatic Reserve, where fishing has been banned since 2002. The fish are plentiful, and not shy at all. The “barrier” of rocks is undoubtedly the most lively area to see. This is where you’ll spot maori wrasse, mado fish schools, rock cal, and the famous Eastern blue grouper as well. The male, that can be 90cm in lenght, has a beautiful blue color. In deeper areas, you can be surprised to find dusky flatheads (often well camouflaged under the sand), the Port Jackson shark, or wobbegongs. The smooth toadfish is very commonly found near the beach. There are more than 60 fish species in total that can be seen at this spot!
Shelly Beach is very popular with snorkelers and divers. However, outside of the summer season, when the water temperature rises, it is recommended to wear a suit to protect yourself from the cold.
Here on Shelly Beach, there is a restaurant located on the beachfront. You can also reach Manly Beach by a ten-minute walk. Here, you can find a lot of restaurants, lodgings, and supermarkets to choose from.
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Rocky and grassy seabed with fish and stingrays
Lagoon and reef drop off with sea turtles, manta rays and sharks
Small reef and shallow seagrass meadows with sea turtles
Fringing reef with coral and reef fish
Fringing reef with coral, fish and sea turtles
Marine reserve with shallow and healthy coral reef
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