The pristine waters of the Batemans Marine Park are home to the most amazing sea life; cheeky seals, exotically coloured fish, glowing jellyfish, big cruising rays, waving sponge beds; endangered species and lush green kelp forests. Montague Island is recognised as one of the top ten dive spots in the world and swimming or snorkelling with the seals off Montague Island is a world class ‘Must Do’ experience. But you don’t have to be a ticketed diver to experience these amazing water activities. Swim with seals and snorkel with seahorses, everything is possible in Eurobodalla. There are many sheltered exquisite beaches and coves from which to start your snorkelling adventure, and there is plenty of information available to help.
The snorkelling trails below offer suggestions for safe, family-friendly snorkelling in shallow calm water, to more adventurous trails.
Approximately 14kms south of Batemans Bay
McKenzies Beach is a small, beautiful, undeveloped beach; popular with locals and visitors alike, but is only to be tackled by more experienced snorkelers. Enclosed by two headlands with rocks that ease down to greet the ocean and form natural reefs, the conditions must be perfect if you’re entering the water snorkelling.
The beach is known for its rugged surf and is open to the swell, which can impact on visibility. It’s not an area for novice snorkelers. Places to explore for experienced and fit snorkelling enthusiasts include the amphitheatre around the rocks at the southern end of the beach. Enter the water round the corner facing Jimmy’s Island - water depth is from five to eight metres deep.
The amphitheatre is a special world of its own with spectacular rock formations and marine life such as baby cuttlefish to happen upon. At the northern end of the beach the wave and current movements have led to an exposed long reef to explore – the reef system is shallower and in a nor-easter is well protected. Common marine life to be seen at McKenzies Beach includes Port Jackson sharks, crayfish; gropers; sting rays and lots of schooling fish.
To get there:
McKenzies Beach is about 14 kilometres south of Batemans Bay, watch for the turn off from George Bass Drive as it is non-signposted. Access is via a car park next to the beach and there are no amenities.
Approximately 20kms south of Batemans Bay
The water at secluded Guerilla Bay is clear and inviting and provides different experiences for snorkelers of varying abilities. A prominent small rocky island is a feature of the bay and divides the safer, more comfortable snorkelling waters to the south of the gravel spit, from the more adventurous and dangerous waters to the north of the spit.
On this northern side is “the pot”, which depending on the tide, can be difficult to access as some jagged rocks need to be negotiated to get to the water - but for more experienced snorkelers in the right conditions, it is worth the effort. The pot is a deep hole with ridges of rock rising from the bottom, the ocean sides of the ridges are covered in growths such as encrusting sponges of various colours. On the far side of the pot is a small “cave” that you can swim into and surprise the numerous small resident crabs.
The sheltered bay on the southern side of the spit is a comfortable location for beginners. The bottom is rocky with flat like reef extending up, on a roughly 35 degree angle and sheer walls that stretch up to ten metres. The seaweed-covered rocks and the crevices between them offer shelter to a wide variety of fish species such as mado, sweep, rock cale, blue groper, crimson banded wrasse, senator wrasse and luderick. There is usually an abundance of stingrays, nudibranchs, eels and more.
To get there:
Guerilla Bay is approximately 20 kilometres south of Batemans Bay along the coast road. Take the Guerilla Bay turn off from George Bass Drive into Burri Pt. Rd, then turn left into Beach Parade and near its end turn right to the car park. Guerilla Bay lies within a sanctuary zone of the Batemans Marine Park so no fishing or collecting is permitted. There are no amenities and during summer the car park, which is located only a few metres from the water’s edge can be crowded.
Approximately 16kms north of Moruya
Snorkelling off the beaches and rocks around here is like having your own big aquarium to play in. Tomakin Cove is a protected sandy cove with shallow lagoon-like qualities that make it popular with novice snorkelers and groups. The cove in Broulee Bay is almost completely surrounded by rocky outcrops and reefs - on its southern side rocky platforms extend out into the bay, while to the north the cove is sheltered by Melville Point.
Above the water the rocks at Tomakin Cove are known for their beautiful afternoon hues, while below the water snorkelers commonly see stingray species such as stingarees and eaglerays buried in the seabed floor, as well as schools of small whiting, mullet and baitfish feeding over the sand. On the seaward side of the cove the dense cover of kelps shelter many small fish, and garfish are common in the deeper gutters near Melville Point.
Tomakin Cove is backed by dense vegetation which hides the houses of Tomakin village. To the south of Tomakin Cove is Tomakin Beach where there are amenities including toilets, wood barbecues and picnic tables.
To get there:
Tomakin is approximately halfway between Batemans Bay and Moruya. Turn off George Bass Drive into Ainslie Parade and then first right into Sunpatch Parade. To access the southern end of the cove follow Sunpatch Parade into Kingston Place and into the Tomakin Beach car park. To get to the northern end via Melville Point follow Ainslie Parade right around and turn right at Red Hill Parade. There is also access via a walkway from Sunpatch Parade. Tomakin Cove is within a general use zone of the Batemans Marine Park but just north of Melville Point the zoning changes to habitat protection zone, where certain restrictions apply. Check your Batemans Marine Park zoning guide for more information.
Approximately 12kms north of Moruya
Broulee Island is regarded as one of the best snorkelling spots along the Eurobodalla coastline. Two areas on the island are sought out by snorkelers - one is at the bay near Pink Rocks which is the north eastern point of the island.
The bay, which was a boat harbour during early European settlement, is reasonably shallow at about two to four metres deep and is protected in terms of swell. It’s also home to seagrass meadows, with sting rays and banjo sharks sometimes seen amongst the grass. It’s fine for beginners in the right conditions, as is the southern side of the island which is also protected in terms of swell.
The southern side is an extremely productive area, with different habitats around the reef system such as flat sands, big reef walls and shallow reefs, which all combine to make it a superb spot for snorkelling. More adventurous snorkelers will discover a drop-off of about 30 metres that exists some way offshore. As you’re exploring Broulee Island watch out for a number of ‘rogue’ green turtles that have made the island home and the endangered weedy sea dragon and eastern blue devil fish. Old discarded ballast rocks from the vessels that entered the island harbour may also be discovered in the Pink Rocks area.
Broulee Island is a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Nature Reserve and lies within the Batemans Marine Park. Most of the marine park around the island is sanctuary zone, which means no fishing or collecting is allowed. To be clear about zoning obtain a Batemans Marine Park guide and read the signs that have been placed around the area.
To get there:
From the coast road to get to Broulee and the car park follow the signs from George Bass Drive, turn on to Broulee Road, then Grant Street and finally Heath Street. From the Princess Highway, turn into Broulee Road, then Grant Street and finally Heath Street. Access to Broulee Island is from car parking either along Broulee Beach - north, where there are shops and amenities or, from a large car park near Broulee Beach - south. A 300 metre walking track leads from the car park around to the southern end of Broulee Beach to Broulee Island.
Approximately 7kms east of Bodalla
Snorkelling off the beaches and rocks around here is like having your own big aquarium to play in.
At Potato (Spud) Point snorkelers can find themselves suddenly enveloped in a school of kingfish or salmon. It’s not an area for novices and even experienced snorkelers need to be aware of a few important tips to make exploring this diverse and exciting marine habitat a safe and rewarding experience.
On the northern side of the point facing Potato Beach is a concrete boat ramp which is a good entry and exit point from the water, but there is a slight rip near the boat ramp which needs to be considered. If you do get caught up in the rip don’t panic and don’t try and swim against it. It doesn’t take you far out and you can then swim further north and exit along Potato Beach.
Other marine life you might encounter at Potato Point include wobbegongs; Port Jackson sharks and stingrays; the rocky reefs and sandy gutters also contain fingers of habitat such as sea squirts and urchins. The northern side of Potato Point is the best area for snorkelling around the point. The southern side is more exposed and can be dangerous.
To get there:
Potato Point is seven kilometres east of Bodalla. Follow Potato Point Road until Long Point Street, then follow this street around until you reach the beach reserve, where you’ll find amenities and access to the boat ramp and beach. Potato Point is within a general use zone of the Batemans Marine Park.
Narooma, Bar Beach South
Approximately 1km north of Narooma
Great For kids
One of the safest beaches for children to learn to snorkel at along the Eurobodalla coastline is Narooma’s Bar Beach South. Its naturally enclosed and protected position near the mouth of the Wagonga Inlet is further enhanced by the break-wall at its northern end.
The marine habitat includes juvenile fish, squid and jelly fish. It’s also possible to occasionally see small seahorses which will be sure to give young naturalists a fun and rewarding introduction to the marine world. The beach is enclosed by netting and its sheltered position makes the beach popular not only with novice snorkelers but divers as well.
Close to Bar Beach South is Apex Park which has all the necessary amenities and more for families making a day of it, including a playground, covered picnic tables and barbecues and plenty of parking.
To get there:
Bar Beach South from north of Narooma turn off the Princes Highway at Kianga and follow Dalmeny Drive for 500m ; turn right into Centenary Drive and continue until the turn off into the Apex Park area. Approaching from a southerly direction Centenary Drive can be accessed via a right turn after the bridge; continue to the Apex Park area. Bar Beach South is within a habitat protection zone of the Batemans Marine Park. Certain restrictions apply in this area, for more information obtain a copy of the Batemans Marine Park zoning guide, available at most outlets.
Approximately 9km offshore, east of Narooma
One of the greatest snorkelling adventures in the Eurobodalla is a trip out to Montague Island to snorkel with the seals. Depending on the season between 400 and 2000 New Zealand and Australian Fur Seals adorn the majestic granite rocks, that distinguish this special wildlife sanctuary, looked after by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The island is a destination for eco-tourists; whale watchers; lighthouse history buffs and divers looking for the endangered Grey Nurse Shark. Less well-known is the life-affirming opportunity to snorkel with the playful and curious island seals. The water around the island is deep so experience and confidence is a must, as is good weather.
To get there:
Charter boats go out to the island regularly and tours can be booked for purely snorkelling or scuba diving or combined with a land-based tour of Montague Island which is available as a day trip or as an overnight or longer stay in the refurbished lighthouse keeper’s quarters. The Narooma Visitors Centre has up to date details regarding which charter boats and tours are operating and can advise and book your experience. Phone the Visitor Centre on 1800 240 003 or visit www.eurobodalla.com.au.
Content published with permission from http://eurobodalla.com.au/diving-snorkelling/