Snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef
The following snorkel sites can be reached by conventional vehicle but for the more adventurous, there are sites that can only be reached by 4WD. Please note that for sites in the Cape Range National Park, entrance fees will apply. Snorkel gear is available for hire or purchase from the Ningaloo Visitor Centre.
Exmouth's premier snorkelling sites are all located in the Cape Range National Park, roughly 42kms from Exmouth town. All are easily accessible from the shore.
A great, all-tide snorkel spot for swimmers of moderate to high fitness and capability. From the carpark, walk 500m south (left) along the beach past the first Sanctuary Zone marker before entering the water. Snorkel out around 100m to find the most spectacular coral formations which are located between the shore markers and the two yellow floating buoys.
Lakeside features a series of large coral bommies that tend to attract larger marine creatures such as turtles, bigger reef or pelagic fish, stingrays and harmless reef sharks. You may also spot a resident giant grouper that lives in a coral cave here.
Turquoise Bay Drift Snorkel
Considered to be one of the best snorkel sites in the area, the Turquoise Bay Drift takes you across verdant coral gardens swarming with colourful reef fish only metres from the shore. This is one snorkel not to be missed!
Access to the Turquoise Bay Drift is from the 'Drift Snorkel' carpark. From here, walk south (left) along the beach for at least 100m before entering the water. Swim straight out and let the current carry you north over the dense, fish filled coral gardens. Exit the water at the sandbar which marks the start of Turquoise Bay proper.
Be aware that moderate to strong currents prevail through the Turquoise Bay Drift due to a break in the reef further out, so weak or inexperienced swimmers are not advised to attempt this snorkel. This snorkel site is suited to swimmers of at least an average fitness and snorkelling ability. Please be sure to visit the Ningaloo Visitor Centre or Milyering Discovery Centre for information and recommended times to snorkel the Turquoise Bay Drift.
Snorkelling within Turquoise Bay itself is quite rewarding and easy - a perfect spot for beginners to practice their skills! Enter from the beach and snorkel out over sand and scattered coral bommies. Currents do not normally affect the bay area, but always check conditions to be sure.
Oyster Stacks is an excellent site for families or inexperienced snorkellers, as the coral reef and it's very prolific fish life can be viewed just steps from the shore in calm, shallow water. Take care entering the water as the shoreline here is rocky with some sharp oyster shelled areas. Enter the water at the end of the walking track and snorkel either north or south.
Please note that this area is shallow, so should only be snorkelled around a high tide of 1.2m or higher to avoid damaging the fragile corals. On a high tide, carefully peer under the large, oyster covered rocks that give this site its name to spot painted sweetlip, mangrove jack and other large reef fish that live beneath the rock ledges.
Located at the end of the Robinson Street in Coral Bay, the sheltered waters of Bill's Bay make for an ideal swimming and fantastic snorkelling beach. Easily accessed by foot from any accommodation in Coral Bay, verdant, fish filled coral gardens are just a very short swim from the beach. Average water depth is around 3 metres.
Ayre's Rock - a massive porite coral formation that can be seen from shore at low tide - is located around 300m out from the northern end of Town Beach and can be reached via a long swim or by hiring a kayak. Please note that Bill's Bay is the the mooring site for glass bottom boats, so please be aware of moving boat traffic while snorkelling.
Purdy Point is located 500m south of Bills Bay. Snorkeling from this point allows access to some fantastic coral bommies. Please stay away from offshore channel markers as there is often a lot of boating activity here.
Paradise Beach Drift Snorkel
Around Purdy Point and just to the south of Bill’s Bay, Paradise Beach is a good snorkelling location for confident swimmers. A moderate current sweeps along Paradise Beach, so this site is not recommended for children or inexperienced snorkellers.
Stronger swimmers, however, will enjoy allowing the current to carry them across the huge coral formations that can be found a short swim from the Paradise Beach shoreline. Keep an eye out for the large patches of brightly coloured lavender coral here.
Five Fingers Reef
Five Fingers Reef is located around 4.5 kilometres south of the Coral Bay township and is accessible by four wheel drive vehicle or a reasonable walk. The five fingers of parallel reef that give this place its name run from the beach to around 200 metres offshore and are home to a huge array of colourful reef fish and other marine life, including turtles which are very common here. In fact, Five Fingers Reef is arguably the best location near Coral Bay to swim with turtles.
As the water around the reefs here is shallow, calm and brimming with marine life right close to shore, Five Fingers Reef is the perfect place for children and beginner snorkellers.
Other recommended Coral Bay snorkelling sites such as Oyster Bridge and The Lagoon require 4WD access. There are tour companies that offer tours to these snorkel areas. For more information, please contact the Ningaloo Visitor Centre.
Wherever you snorkel, always be aware of currents, weather conditions and tidal movements before entering the water. Never touch coral or marine life - you may damage it or it may damage you! Snorkel equipment can be hired from the Ningaloo Visitor Centre.