When it comes to snorkelling in Australia, Ningaloo Reef takes centre stage, and with good reason. While popular places like Turquoise Bay and Oyster Stacks may feature in all the tourist brochures, here are some other gems that will make you forget all about the crowds. So, let’s air down those tyres and hit the road as we explore the best snorkelling spots on Ningaloo Reef.
Forget about Cape Range National Park
If you really want to beat the crowds and experience some world class reef don’t bother going to Cape Range; the area has been hugged to death, the visibility often poor, the camping limited, and you can’t bring your pets!
So pack up your 4×4 and head further South to Nyinggulara (Ningaloo) National Park. There you will find some top spots well away from the tourists.
Nyinggulara (Ningaloo) National Park
There are a string of remote campsites all managed by Parks WA, which means you’ll need to be self-sufficient. Bring along your own water, supplies, and a chemical toilet to minimise your environmental impact. The nearest shops are a bit of a drive away, with Exmouth 146km to the north (great services and supermarket) and Coral Bay 97km (overpriced tourist hellhole) to the south.
Yes, the 46km track into these campsites is rough, but don’t believe what people tell you. Air down your tyres to handle the corrugations, take it easy, and you should be fine.
We spent over 6 weeks in the area staying at Jane’s Bay, South Lefroy, North Lefroy, Steven’s Camp and Maggie’s. We did a supply run to both Exmouth and Coral Bay though Coral Bay was ridiculously expensive. Each camp has its strengths depending on your chosen activity, e.g. fishing, boating, but two stand out for snorkelling.
South Lefroy is an underwater wonderland
With plenty of campsites right on the beach (1-12), it’s just a short swim to get to the reef where you’ll see an abundance of marine life including coral, turtles and reef sharks.
As a reference, we found the easiest access to the reef was out from campsites 14-18, though if you are willing to venture out a bit further you’ll find great snorkelling anywhere out from campsites 1-32.
But here’s a word of caution: be mindful of the currents. There is a Northward current caused by water rushing in from the crashing waves, so be careful!
One of the key highlights of this spot is the consistent good visibility. You’ll find yourself amidst a vibrant underwater world teeming with coral and fish. It’s like stepping into a natural aquarium!
Winderabandi has something for everyone
The North facing beach of Winderabandi is popular for swimming and fishing, but just off the point lies another gem.
Although you can swim from the point to the reef quite easily at low tide, we found the visibility to be poor both the times we visited. Instead, we paddled our SUP boards a kilometre out to the edge of the reef.
There the coral gave way to the deep blue expanse of the drop-off. The reef in this area is equally spectacular, offering a diverse marine ecosystem that will leave you in awe, however, the drop-off adds a new dimension to this.
Note: to get there, there are very shallow sections where you may need to take your fin off to avoid damaging the reef. Please be mindful of this so we can protect this amazing ecosystem.
South Lefroy and Winderabandi: Gems of Ningaloo Reef
While Turquoise Bay may be the poster child for snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef, it certainly isn’t the best spot. If you are up for an adventure and don’t mind some bumpy tracks, then head to South Lefroy and Winderabandi.
What makes South Lefroy and Winderabandi special? Well, for starters, you won’t find the crowds that flock to places like Turquoise Bay and Oyster Stacks. Here, in some places you can have the underwater world almost entirely to yourself.
Don’t worry if you can’t book the perfect campsite; you can always drive onto the beach at the day use areas, or even visit the other camps along the coast which are all within 40 minutes drive.
Ningaloo Reef is a marine wonderland waiting to be explored. So, air down those tyres, pack your snorkel gear, and embark on a journey that will make you fall in love with this underwater treasure of Western Australia.