As a travel photographer specialising in island and coastal destinations, I’ve spent my fair share of time in the ocean capturing Australia’s most stunning underwater environments. If swimming with manta rays at Ningaloo, playing with bait balls of yellowtail in Sydney or cruising the coastline of Lord Howe Island alongside turtles sounds like your idea of a good time, I think we have some things in common and I’d definitely recommend scrolling down for a read. Here are the top spots I’ve visited in Australia to jump in for a snorkel…
1. Lord Howe Island
Just a two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane, the World-Heritage listed Lord Howe Island is a photographer’s dream. With idyllic beaches, lush forests, vibrant reefs, breathtaking peaks and an abundance of rare wildlife, it is a place of natural wonder.
Highlight: Swimming with schools of butterfly fish around the wreck of the Favourite at North Bay.
Join me on my next trip to the island for a photography & snorkelling adventure! Click here for more info.
2. Lady Elliot Island
An idyllic coral cay situated at the Southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island is home to an abundance of marine species including turtles, reef sharks, schools of coloured fish and the island’s main attraction; manta rays.
Highlight: The almost-certainty that you’ll be swimming with turtles every single time you jump in the water!
3. Fairy Bower, Sydney
I always look forward to winter when huge schools of yellowtail, dusky whaler sharks and giant cuttlefish come out to play in the crystal clear water at Fairy Bower, just around the corner from Manly Beach in Sydney. The cool water temperature usually keeps most people out of the ocean, so it’s entirely possible to have this underwater wonderland all to yourself!
Highlight: Swimming with huge schools of yellowtail in the clear winter water from about May-July.
4. Coral Bay, WA
Swimming with Manta Rays in Coral Bay really is an indescribable experience. This manta ray was probably 3-4m in width (picture two people lying head to toe with space to spare), and that’s not even a big one! Fully grown oceanic manta rays can grow to the length of a minibus! There might not be as many mantas at Ningaloo as Lady Elliot, but then again, they’re not really the main attraction here, are they…
Highlight: Swimming with humpback whales or whale sharks during the winter months.
5. Orpheus Island
The fact that the only way to get to the island is via a scenic helicopter charter over the Coral Sea is the first sign that Orpheus is a little different to most Australian islands. 80 km North of Townsville, this secluded Great Barrier Reef island is covered with lush eucalypt forest, a smattering of palm trees, 11 kilometres of pristine beach and the luxurious Orpheus Island Lodge, accommodating just 28 indulged guests at a time.
Highlight: Private charters to the outer Great Barrier Reef – crystal clear, more fish than you’ve ever seen and just your mates to share the reef with!
6. Noosa Fairy Pools
The always-popular seaside village of Noosa on Australia’s Sunshine Coast boasts an abundance of incredible experiences and natural sights to enjoy in-between irresistible lazy days by the sea. The absolute must-visit attraction in the National Park is the Fairy Pools – a pair of natural rock pools on the ocean’s edge, a local secret.
Highlight: Lined with coral and filled with crystal clear water, the pools are stunning from both above and below the surface. Visit early in the morning to give yourself the best chance of enjoying them all to yourself.
7. Fitzroy Island
Boasting stunning white sand beaches, fringing reefs swarming with turtles and an ocean-front resort that offers a variety of room options from camping to family suites, Fitzroy Island may be one of the most underrated islands in Australia. Just a 40-minute ferry ride from Cairns, it’s worth a visit even if only for the day.
Highlight: The reef is no more than 30m from the foot of your bed, so you can jump in and swim with turtles any time you wish with no hassle at all!