10 best snorkelling sites in Queensland

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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 sites in Queensland that are worth getting wet for!

Beach snorkelling

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.

Tangalooma Wrecks

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

Langford Spit Beach

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.

Hayman Coral Collage

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

island snorkelling

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), 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.

Ben :)

 What is your favourite snorkelling site in Queensland?

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.didcock Scott Didcock

    Sorry guys but the best island Isnt on here, Fitzroy Island is far superior, been to most including Green Island, and they got nothing on Fitzroy,
    Beautiful island and underwater is something spectacular…

    • http://twitter.com/Bensouthall Ben Southall

      I agree it’s a superb island to visit Scott, but Fitzroy is subject to some huge currents around the island which mean there’s often a lot of sediment in the water…not ideal for those perfect photos! Did you take many there? Maybe send them to us and we’ll add them to the blog?

      • Krystle

        Yes Fitzroy is magnificent. We went for a week around 25th oct last year. And it was amazing and perfect weather so many fish and reef life just a few meters off the beach

    • https://www.clippp.com/phyllisgray/a-background-design background design

      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.

  • Eve

    Major omission … Heron Island!

  • Fernando

    Awesome!! If you dont have all the time and need to choose 2 sites, which ones would you pick? Thanks!

    • http://queensland.com/blog Queensland Blog

      Hey Fernando, it all depends on where you’re staying or travelling to. If you’re keen to tick off a few sites in one short trip, we’d suggest you head to Cairns, Port Douglas or The Whitsundays for easy access and lots of day trip options. Otherwise many of the Great Barrier Reef islands give you access to several different sites too! Hope that helps :)