There are some great spots to snorkel in Adelaide and around South Australia. While the water might be a little cool, the variety of snorkelling opportunities makes up for it. There are snorkels for all ability levels. We have also included a few tours that deliver unique snorkelling experiences.
We have given each snorkel a rating of easy, intermediate and advanced. For the easy level, we assume you can swim and are happy using fins, a facemask and a snorkel. Where a snorkel is beyond easy, we’ll explain why, and you can decide if it’s for you.
Even in summer, it is a good idea to wear at least a shortie wetsuit when you snorkel in South Australia. At best, summer water temperatures are in the low 20s. Not only do they provide a bit of sun protection, they keep you warmer which lets you to stay out and snorkel for longer. Grab your gear and let’s hit the water!
Rapid Bay Jetty
What: Snorkelling around the pylons and under the old Rapid Bay Jetty
Where: Rapid Bay is a bit over 90 minutes south of Adelaide
Level: Intermediate. There is a 200 metre swim to get out to the old jetty. Water depth is about 10 metres. If the tide is running, you can notice currents swirling around under the jetty.
What will you see? Heaps! This is possibly SAs best snorkelling and dive spot. There are big schools of fish and the colour and life on the pylons is fantastic. Don’t let the depth put you off, there are fish everywhere.
Tips: Best to try here at the change of tide or when there is a neap/dodge tide to avoid currents. We would again emphasise the benefit of using a wetsuit. Stay warm and stay out there! There is easy access to the old jetty from the new Rapid Bay jetty. The new jetty has an excellent platform to launch from.
Highlights: The number of fish in a small space is amazing. There are over 40 fish species around the jetty so you never know what you will see.
While You are in the area: visit Second Valley. It’s a beautiful spot to swim, kayak, walk and fish.
What: Snorkel around Lasseter’s Reef and sea caves
Where: Second Valley is 90 minutes south of Adelaide
Level: Easy to advanced. Snorkel straight off the beach. It is safe and fun although marine life can be sparse. Advanced – The real action is on Lasseter’s Reef which is a 400 metre swim from the beach in open water. You can access the sea caves from an adjacent bay but beware of strong currents.
What will you see? Around the caves and bays, you can see leafy sea dragons but you will need a good eye to spot them. Lasseter’s Reef has abundant fish life and is the pick of the spots if you don’t mind the swim out.
Tips: These are quite exposed snorkels so look for calm conditions on the change of tide.
Highlights: Look out for the blue devils on Lasseter’s reef. Their iridescent blue is stunning.
While you are in the area: Stop at the HMAS Hobart lookout. There are great views and you can read how the Hobart became one of South Australia’s top dive locations.
port willunga – star of greece
What: Snorkel straight off the beach around some rock pools or head out a bit further to the Star of Greece wreck.
Where: Port Willunga is just under an hour from Adelaide
Level: Easy to moderate. There is easy snorkelling around the rock pools or off the beach at Port Willunga. You will see more near the rock pools with all kinds of critters and little fish lurking about. Moderate – The wreck of the Star of Greece is 200 metres out from the beach in about 4 to 6 metres of water.
What will you see? The skeleton of the 125 year old wreck is still visible. The ship was 80 metres long so there is quite an area to explore. It is home to a variety of fish.
Tips: The easiest way to find the wreck and the best time to snorkel over it is at low tide. The wreck is a couple of hundred metres north of the café that also bears the ships name. At low tide you can see one of the masts sticking out of the water which makes it easy to locate.
Highlights: See if you can find the plaque commemorating the wreck. Despite being so close to shore 18 lives were lost when the ship ran aground. On a brighter note, we have snorkelled here twice. On both occasions we had dolphins swim past us on our way back into shore so keep an eye out!
While you are in the area: Port Willunga is a beautiful spot. The beach is white and clean, the water can be a gorgeous turquoise and in the late afternoon the cliffs glow red. Look out for the fisherman’s caves that have been dug into the cliff face and the ruins of the old Jetty. The Star of Greece Café is fantastic too.
Port Noarlunga Reef
What: This reef snorkel is one of the most popular in Adelaide. Access it from the beach or the Noarlunga Jetty
Where: Port Noarlunga is just over 40 minutes from Adelaide
Level: Easy to moderate. The popularity of Noarlunga Reef is due in no small part to how protected the inner reef is. If you are newer to snorkelling and feel like you want to venture out of the shallows, this is a great place to start.
Moderate – The outer reef is subject to more of the usual waves and currents of the open water. The depth increases sufficiently on the outer reef for it to be a popular dive spot. To get to the outer reef, stay left of the jetty and swim along the inner reef to a gap in the rock that lets you through to the other side.
What will you see? This is the fun thing about Noarlunga, you never know what you’ll see but you will always see something. Near the jetty you’ll see schools of fish. Along the reef you’ll spot all kinds of fish and starfish. You might even bump into a harmless Port Jackson shark (honest, they really are harmless!).
Tips: Plan your snorkel for low tide. This is when the water will be at its calmest, clearest and most shallow. Depth can range from 2 to 5 metres.
Highlights: Port Noarlunga has a great vibe. After your snorkel grab some hot chips and relax. The personality of the beach changes as the tide rises and falls over the long reef that runs parallel to shore. Come for a snorkel, stay for the day and watch the sun go down. Perfect!
While you are in the area: Check out Onkaparinga River National Park. There are some great walking and bike tracks. Kayak hire is available too, it’s a great way to explore the river and its birdlife.
Harvey’s Return – Kangaroo Island
What: Swim with giant blue groper.
Where: Kangaroo island off the coast of South Australia. Easiest access is by ferry from Cape Jervis, 90 minutes from Adelaide.
Level: Advanced. The track down to the beach is steep and you have to lug your snorkelling gear down. The only thing worse, is going back up. Harveys Return is on the North West edge of Kangaroo Island so quite exposed. The swells and currents were at a moderate level for our visit. It is definitely a calm weather, still tide snorkel
What will you see? From the beach, snorkel around the rocky edges of the bay. We were in the water for around 40 minutes and spotted three blue gropers a bit less than a metre in length. Even with the poor visibility we had, they were an impressive sight.
Tips: Don’t do this if you consider yourself of below average fitness. The walk up and down is difficult. The climb and conditions aside, this is a lovely spot. You’ll likely have it to yourself if you get down there. Just make sure you don’t leave anything you want in the car!
Highlights: To be honest, this is one of the toughest snorkels we have done but seeing the groper made it worthwhile. The nearby Cape Borda Lighthouse is also worth a visit.
While you are in the area: Kangaroo Island is one of our favourite spots. Read our posts about the island’s wildlife and other attractions. It’s a bit of an effort to get there but we are sure you will love it too.
Ewens Ponds – South East
What: Snorkel in crystal clear freshwater channels and sink holes.
Where: Ewens Ponds is in the far south east of South Australia. The ponds are half an hour south of Mount Gambier.
Level: Moderate. The sink holes are up to 13 metres deep. Most challenging though is the cold. Water temps are about 14 degrees – and that’s in summer!
What will you see? A lush, vibrant underwater garden in water clearer than you can imagine.
Tips: Did we mention the cold? We were stupid enough to do this in our shorty wetsuits and almost froze. We could hear divers wearing dry suits laughing at us as we got in the water. We recommend covering yourself in as much neoprene as possible because you won’t want to leave the water. The ponds close to the public each year between September and December.
Highlights: It is hard to go past the clarity of the water. Forget about the 5 or 10 metres visibility you get in the ocean. Here, we are talking visibility of up to 80 metres!
While you are in the area: If you are here over summer, visit the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier. The water is as blue and Ewens Ponds is clear. In May, check out the glowing mushrooms in the pine forests.
What: Snorkel with thousands of Giant Australian cuttlefish.
Where: Point Lowly in Whyalla, 400 km north of Adelaide.
Level: Easy. You can see them in only a couple of metres of water right off the shore. But, it’s cold!
What will you see? Thousands of giant cuttlefish. This isn’t like trying to find a leafy sea dragon, there are cuttlefish everywhere. They arrive here to breed, and they are very active.
Tips: The cuttlefish congregate from May to August – winter. You will want thick, head to toe neoprene. The water temperature is around 12 degrees. Unlike Ewens Ponds, this time we wore thick wetsuits but had nothing on our heads. It was like a thousand needles hitting your face when you went in the water.
We saw some people on a lilo with only their face in the water which looked like a good way to stay a bit warmer.
Highlights: Watch the cuttlefish change colour as the males compete for a mate. It is amazing to see the pulses of colour flash along their bodies.
While you are in the area: Make sure you check out the dolphins at the marina as they follow the fishing boats in. We think it’s one of the best dolphin experiences you will have in Australia.
Baird Bay Sea Lions (tour)
What: Snorkel with Sea Lions.
Where: Baird Bay is 50 km south of Streaky Bay. Streaky Bay is on the Eyre Peninsula, 700 kms west of Adelaide.
Level: Easy to moderate. Because it’s a tour you need to book which means you take a chance with the weather. If the wind gets up it can be a little bumpy although the area where you swim with the sea lions is sheltered. The tour organisers are great at catering for all ability levels.
What will you see? Sea lions! They’re wild and untrained and come over because they are curious and want to say hello. You don’t wear fins for this snorkel (for the protection of the Sea Lions) but don’t worry, the sea lions will come to you.
Tips: This tour also includes the possibility of swimming with dolphins. You never know if and for how long the dolphins will be around but it’s a nice bonus to the sea lion swim.
Highlights: The pups are especially interactive. It’s not uncommon to be face to facemask with them. They really seem to want to play but good luck keeping up with them!
While you are in the area: There are all sorts of things to do around Streaky Bay that you can read more about here.
SWIM WITH TUNA (TOUR)
Photo Credit: Oceanic Victor
What: Swim and hand feed southern bluefin tuna in an open water aquarium.
Where: Victor Harbor, 90 minutes south of Adelaide.
Level: Easy to moderate. The water in the tuna enclosure is well sheltered. The biggest challenge is being confronted by an 80 kilogram bluefin!
What will you see? Huge southern bluefin tuna take food straight from your hand! There is a second aquarium on the platform. There you can snorkel with snapper, Port Jackson sharks and a range of other fish.
Tips: Even if you don’t fancy getting in the water with the tuna, it is still great seeing them fed. The snapper aquarium is an easy and fun snorkel. There is also a great underwater observatory.
Highlights: Feeding the tuna is a blast. Watching them hurtle towards you as they line up the pilchard you’re waving around is super exciting. It’s great seeing the big tuna up close. Patting the port Jackson sharks is also great fun.
While you are in the area: Victor Harbor is a great holiday location that has something for everyone. Read our post on Victor Harbor and neighbouring Port Elliot to see all the things you can get up to.