Nature Play SA: Top 10 Snorkel Spots in SA
Nature Play SA know a thing or two about finding things to do outdoors with the kids!
With six weeks of school holidays having just kicked off in Adelaide, there has never been a more important time to make sure families and children have plenty of time outside.
IT’S BETTER OUTSIDE
Nature Play SA is Australia’s leading nature play authority, and they’ve launched their immensely popular #ItsBetterOutside program to coincide with the summer holidays in Adelaide, giving the concept of beach combing a whole new meaning.
The team at Nature Play SA have designed three extensive lists which we’ll be sharing over the coming weeks to help spread the word these holidays.
Top 10 Snorkel Spots in SA
WORDS: CARL CHARTER, EMS EXPERIENCING MARINE SANCTUARIES
Grab a buddy and jump in for an underwater adventure: summer is the perfect time to plunge into South Australia’s world-class marine parks and beaches.
Whether it’s your local coastline or something further afield, families can relax and explore the unique aquatic life of our beaches, rockpools, jetties, mangroves, and rivers.
Discover our top 10 snorkelling spots in SA to inspire your family’s nature play adventures, thanks to Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries. Go on, discover why #ItsBetterOutside these holidays!
If you’re new to snorkelling or don’t own equipment, we recommend booking with a snorkel tour company or group like EMS Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries. Trained guides, shore support, and safety protocols ensure safety and comfort, while pool snorkel 101 classes teach the basics and build your family’s confidence before venturing into the ocean.
When planning a snorkel, check weather and sea conditions, be sun smart, pack ample water, snacks, and well-maintained snorkel gear. Wear a wetsuit, snorkel with a buddy, and let someone know your snorkel entry/exit point and when you plan to return. A dive flag on a float and a cutting tool are essential for safety, as is a first aid kit and charged mobile phone. Find more safety tips below!
Adelaide Metro Coast
1. PORT NOARLUNGA JETTY AND REEF
A short drive from Adelaide, families can enjoy the beach and easy reef access at this captivating site located in the Encounter Marine Park and Port Noarlunga Sanctuary Zone. Beginners can enter from the shore (under the jetty) and explore the pylons and shallow southern reef. Advanced snorkellers can investigate life under jetty and along the reef via the jetty’s end stairs.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 3 January, thanks to support from Green Adelaide Landscape Board and City of Onkaparinga (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 30 km south
Parking and amenities: Parking and spacious visitor facilities with change rooms, toilets, shaded picnic tables, and outside showers. Easy access to the reef via stairs and dive platforms. Boat ramp to launch a kayak or stand up-board. Accessible car parking and ramps
Things to discover: At the jetty stair entry, you’ll be welcomed by large schools of sweep, silver drummer, leather jackets, and zebra fish. As you move along the reef, search for crabs, rays, reef fish, squid (and maybe even a dolphin or seadragon!) Along the beach entry areas, look for bright orange sea stars, crabs, bream, dusky morwong, rays, and – if you’re lucky – a harmless Port Jackson shark!
Image: Carl Charter
2. HALLETT COVE BEACH
Another spectacular destination in Adelaide’s south, Hallett Cove Beach offers countless opportunities to discover nature and our state’s unique marine life. Explore the rocky beach and shallow rock pools in the intertidal zone or learn what lies beneath the sea with snorkelling options for shallow and deeper water.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 27 February, thanks to support from Green Adelaide Landscape Board (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 23km south
Parking and amenities: Shaded picnic tables, grassy areas, playground, BBQs, toilets, and car parking. Accessible parking, ramps, toilets, and picnic area. Public transport available (trains and bus routes)
Things to discover: Encounter marine life like dolphins, eagle rays, reef fish, blue swimmer crabs, and squid breeding areas. Beachcomb and peer at rock pools along the shore. Visit the adjoining Hallett Cove Conservation Park to learn about the ice age, wildlife, and cultural and geological heritage via interpretative signage.
3. GAWLER RIVER MANGROVES
A short drive north of the city, nature lovers can immerse themselves in the Port Gawler mangrove forest, an important nursery area and habitat for an amazing variety of fish, crabs, and plant life. Located within the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park – Winaityinaityi Pangkara and Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, the mangroves are a truly magical place to snorkel and take in the scenery (above and below the water!)
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 21 February, thanks to support from Green Adelaide Landscape Board (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 45km north of Adelaide
Parking and amenities: car parking and small pontoon
Things to discover: Marvel at the mangroves and their upward growing roots called ‘pneumatophores,’ which help them take in oxygen. Underwater, keep your eyes peeled for crabs, sea squirts, sea anemones, fish, prawns, and rays. Spot resident and migratory shorebirds in the Bird Sanctuary (find more fun things to do here.) Kayak in bottle-nose dolphin habitat in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.
4. SECOND VALLEY JETTY AND REEF
Take a scenic drive through vineyards and the Mount Lofty Ranges to Second Valley, a small coastal town and beach north of Rapid Bay. Snorkellers can immerse themselves in Encounter Marine Park: beginners enter from the beach and head north along the shallow rocky shoreline, while advanced snorkellers enter from the jetty stairs, exploring jetty, reef, and seagrass habitats to the north.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 31 January (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 92km south
Parking and amenities:Parking, toilets, Second Valley Caravan Park and Jetty Store. A small jetty with stairs for snorkel entry and exit
Things to discover: From the beach, swim across seagrass and sandy patches alive with reef fish, colourful sea stars, and squid. Off the jetty, look for eagle rays, blue groper, and elusive seadragons. Advanced snorkellers can also walk south along a track to the second bay for deep water snorkelling by the cliff edge (look for iridescent blue devil fish, sea lions, large schools of reef fish, and seadragons.)
5. TUMBY BAY JETTY
Located in Sir Joseph Banks Group Marine Park, Tumby Bay jetty is a popular snorkelling destination thanks to its aquatic plant life, sponges, Leafy Seadragons, seahorses, and nudibranchs (colourful sea slugs). Beginners enter from the beach and head along the jetty while advanced snorkellers enter from the jetty stairs.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 15 January, thanks to support from Inspiring SA and National Parks and Wildlife SA (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 600km west
Parking and amenities: Long jetty with swimming pontoon, ladders, and steps for easy entry and exit. Shaded picnic tables, playground, BBQs, toilets, and car parking. Accessible parking and toilets
Things to discover: Marvel at the jetty pylons, encrusted with colourful sponges and soft corals. Look for sea stars, crabs, and small fish hiding amongst sponges and algae. In deeper water, you’ll be greeted by schools of angel fish, zebra fish, silver drummer, and large sea jelly. Leafy seadragons have been spotted on the swimming platform pylons in only 2m of water! Follow the marine life mosaic trail, which progresses to the shore and along the coastal walking track.
Image: Carl Charter
6. SMOOTH POOL
Located on the rugged West Coast near Streaky Bay, Smooth Pool is a safe and enclosed large rockpool that is more like swimming in an aquarium!
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 19 January, thanks to support from Inspiring SA and National Parks and Wildlife SA (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 700km west
Parking and amenities: A dirt road leads to a remote beach area with limited parking (follow the signposted side-track off the Westall Way Loop 25km northwest of Streaky Bay)
Things to discover: Swim amongst a fantastic variety of colourful reef fish and plant life (the blue groper is one of the star attractions, along with large schools of zebra fish.) Experience other breath-taking destinations and creatures within West Coast Bays Marine Park, like swimming with Australian sea lions in Baird Bay or watching for White-bellied Sea Eagles and Ospreys.
Image: Carl Charter
7. EDITHBURGH JETTY AND POOL
Edithburgh is one of South Australia’s most popular jetty snorkels, with easy step entry and exits, colourful pylons, large schools of reef fish, blue swimmer crabs, and squid. Beginners can enter from the jetty, heading north along the rocky shore and seagrass beds towards the ocean pool. Advanced snorkellers enter from the jetty stairs to explore under the jetty and adjacent seagrass meadows.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 12 April, thanks to support from Northern and Yorke Landscape Board (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 230km west
Parking and amenities: Picnic tables, toilets, and car parking. Tidal pool with change rooms and bathrooms
Things to discover: Explore the colourful pylons, home to crabs, fish, and nudibranchs. If lucky, you’ll spot elusive seadragon, sea horses, sea lions, rays, pyjama squid, and harmless Port Jackson sharks. Edithburgh is a day trip from Adelaide, but there is so much to do and see in the area (which includes Lower Yorke Marine Park) that an overnight trip is worthwhile.
Image: Carl Charter
8. WOOL BAY
A short drive north from Edithburgh jetty is Wool Bay, one of the best snorkel sites for beginners to spot the elusive leafy seadragon. Part of Lower Yorke Marine Park, the jetty lies in shallow waters and is surrounded by seagrass, the preferred habitat of leafy seadragons.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 13 April, thanks to support from Northern and Yorke Landscape Board (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 230km west
Parking and amenities: Toilets and car parking. Long jetty with easy entry and exit steps
Things to discover: Explore the seagrass meadows and rocky intertidal reef, looking for seadragons, schools of fish, and camouflage-specialists, the anglerfish. Maximise your holiday aquatic time by visiting other popular Yorke Peninsula snorkel and dive locations, like the Edithburgh jetty and tidal pool.
Image: Carl Charter
9. KINGSCOTE JETTY AND OCEAN POOL
Explore Kangaroo Island’s pristine waters and captivating marine life, starting with Kingscote swimming pool and surrounds. The safe and shallow seawater pool makes an ideal option for learners and kids, while the jetty offers shallow to deep water options and plenty to see.
Distance from Adelaide: 190km south (via ferry from Cape Jervis)
Parking and amenities: Toilets, picnic tables, BBQ facilities, shelters, and parking. Cold shower facility at the tidal pool
Things to discover: More experienced snorkellers can explore the jetty pylons (look for nudibranchs, leafy seadragons, seahorses, and octopus.) Learn about some of the marine plants and animals you may discover, as well as these fish species. Find more Island snorkel destinations and tips here.
10. EWEN PONDS
Experience the crystal clear, spring-fed limestone waters of Ewen Ponds Conservation Park. Three large ponds with a maximum depth of 10m flow towards the coast, boasting such outstanding visibility that it feels like you’re drifting in zero gravity. Beginners explore the first three ponds, while advanced snorkellers can go beyond the ponds and snorkel along eight mile creek to the coast. An option for more advanced snorkellers is to snorkel the ponds at night under the stary sky.
Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries will guide a snorkel session on 23 and 25 January (book your spot here.)
Distance from Adelaide: 465km southeast (36km south of Mount Gambier)
Parking and amenities: Picnic area, car parking, toilets and accessible toilets. Snorkel and dive permits are required
Things to discover: Look for freshwater bream, Glenelg River crayfish, eels, and the tiny Ewen Ponds pygmy perch. Spot freshwater plants, some growing to 6 metres (amazingly, the pond conditions allow land-based plants to live fully submerged underwater – something that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world). Snorkellers need to keep their fins on the surface to protect fragile pond vegetation. All snorkellers and divers must enter at the first pond and exit at the third pond. Each snorkeller must wear a full-length wet suit, fins, face mask and snorkel. No weight belts to be worn for snorkelling. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Image: Carl Charter
More top snorkel safety tips from Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries:
- Book a guided tour with wetsuit and snorkel gear at Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries
- Find links to dive tour companies via the Scuba Divers Federation of South Australia
- Snorkel on calm days at the change of tide (either low or high tide) when there are fewer currents (find helpful information via the Bureau of Meteorology or WillyWeather)
- Check Shark Watch SA for sightings, and don’t snorkel within 24 hours of a sighting. It is not recommended to snorkel along drop-offs, at dusk and dawn, or when water is murky.
- Download the Beachsafe and SunSmart Apps.