We’re pretty spoilt here in Queensland with the temperature of the ocean dropping no lower than 21°C during the coldest months of the year and in Tropical North Queensland during the summer months it can hit 28°C – warmer than most baths I’ve taken!
If you want to take a closer look into Neptune’s world there are so many idyllic locations to choose from. I’ve managed to single out 10 of the best snorkelling destinations around the islands and beaches of the state that are worth getting wet for!
Straight off the beach…
1. Tangalooma Wrecks, Moreton Island
Fifteen wrecks were deliberately sunk just north of Tangalooma Island Resort a few years ago to create a man-made reef, which offers some of the best snorkelling in South East Queensland. Expect to see green turtles, wobbegong sharks, hundreds of fish and maybe even a dugong. Clear water, golden beaches and only an hour from Brisbane.
2. Shelving Beach, Great Keppel Island
There’s 17 different beaches on Great Keppel all offering something different from calm swims to roaring surf. On the western tip of the island lies a hidden gem that’s worth exploring – Shelving Beach. It’s accessed from Fisherman’s Beach nestled in between rocky outcrops and coral reefs and there’s always something to see amongst the colourful marine life that lives there.
3. Chalkies Beach, Haslewood Island, Whitsundays
With the world-famous Whitehaven Beach on the opposite shore of Whitsunday Island, Chalkies Beach is often forgotten about. But with its white silica-sand and usually clear waters, the fringing coral reef that lies just offshore adds another reason to stop here, away from the crowds for an underwater adventure with the fishes.
4. Langford Spit Beach, Whitsundays
Technically this should be called an island-snorkel but there’s so much beach and so little island it satisfies both categories! It was one of my first-ever snorkels during Best Job in the World and it still sticks in my mind as one of the best.
Langford Island has a huge variety of soft and hard corals in every shape, size and colour can be found here. In 45 minutes I managed to photograph all of these with a simple underwater compact camera. Truly memorable.
5. Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail – Magnetic Island
Before starting out make sure you collect a swim-card from one of the retailers on the island then wander straight off the beach opposite Arcadia Hotel and follow the surface and sub-surface floats that have been installed there for a fantastic guided tour of Geoffrey Bay.
There are loads of fish around the wreck of the Moltke and stronger swimmers can continue on to the WWII aeroplane propeller and engine block from a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon. Magnetic Island is full of old military surprises above, and below the water.
Download a PDF for a map of the trails here - Magnetic Island Snorkel Trail Info
6. Lady Elliot Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
As the tide drops away the lagoon out the front of the restaurant on Lady Elliot Island comes into its own, with deep channels left between the coral reef flats that concentrate the marine life into easy-to-swim-through pools and gullies. If you’re a nervous swimmer or Olympic hopeful there’s something to keep you amused as you wind your way over sea cucumbers, past turtles and out into the open ocean.
7. Hayman Island, Whitsundays
Blue Pearl Bay on the northern side of the island is a little piece of paradise. Hundreds of people visit here every year and there’s a simple reason – impeccable fringing coral reef.
I don’t think there are many other places on the planet where you can rub noses with friendly Maori wrasse, swim through soft coral gardens, be surrounded by hundreds of reef fish all off the beach or the back of your tour boat. Make sure you have an empty memory card as you’ll be snapping continually at this site!
8. Orpheus Island, north of Townsville
The world-class snorkel site outside the Research Station on Orpheus Island to the north of the main resort is somewhere I could spend days. Not only are there hundreds of giant clams (which have to be seen squirting water at low tide – see the video below), some of the most colourful colour bommies on the entire Great Barrier Reef, thousands of damsel fish but also sheltered warm waters in the lee of the island.
No wonder James Cook University have their students out here to study marine science!
9. Green Island, off Cairns
With seagrass beds to the west and coral reef to the east, Green Island has to be one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself to snorkelling if you’re a first time water baby.
Turtles are in abundance, as are stingrays, reef fish and you may even spot a migrating humpback whale cruise past the island between June and October.
10. Low Isles, off Port Douglas
With spectacular coral reef surrounding the picturesque Low Isles this is probably my most complete snorkel site of the lot. The range of hard corals is huge with colourful staghorn, plate and brain coral bommies creating an undulating sea floor which reef sharks, turtles and rays all call home.
I struggle to pull myself away and am always the last one to hop back in the boat every time I visit. Make sure you have your mask cleared and your camera fully charged – oh the memories are flooding back!
Wherever you decide to dive into the water you’re bound to come up at the end fulfilled and exhilarated. Just remember to always snorkel with a buddy, apply loads of sunscreen well before entering the water and please don’t touch or handle anything below the surface – we are mere visitors in the marine world!
Have a superb time underwater.