Snorkelling or scuba diving Shelly Beach is one of the best things to do in Manly for nature lovers. The waters between Manly Beach and Shelly Beach – the Cabbage Tree Reserve – is protected and home to many marine species. It’s fantastic to have such easy access to a shore dive!

Blue grouper at Shelly Beach in Manly

Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.

How to dive Shelly Beach?

The easiest way to go scuba diving Shelly Beach is to book a guided tour with the dive centre in Manly. They organise shore dives there or at a nearby site almost every day. They can bring the equipment down all the way to the beach.

If you have your own equipment, it will only cost you $12 to refill your tank at their shop. I was surprised by how quickly they could do it every time we showed up. It took less than five minutes!

When to scuba dive Shelly Beach?

Shelly Beach is a fantastic shore dive as you can dive it almost anytime. It’s in a protected bay so you don’t need to wait for high tide (although the incoming tide is often the best bet to get better visibility). It’s also well protected from the wind, especially as you can choose to dive on the right or left-hand side.

We dived at Shelly Beach in summer as we drove down to Sydney with our scuba gear. It’s also a good time to enjoy the warm water, which is important for us as we’re used to Queensland’s temperatures!

However, summer isn’t the best time to dive Shelly Beach and Cabbage Tree Reserve. First, it’s harder to find a car park and there are a lot more people in the water, which can scare off critters. Our friends who snorkel there all year round say they see less life during summer compared to the rest of the year.

If you want to pick the best day to dive Shelly Beach, keep an eye on the Sydney VIZ Facebook group reports.

What to look for when scuba diving Shelly Beach?

The easiest way to dive Shelly Beach is to follow the rocks on the right-hand side. If the conditions are good, you may want to push to the point where weedy sea dragons are sometimes spotted. Early in the dive, you may want to leave the rocks and look for a motorcycle wreck. We used this map from VIZ on web to plan our dive.

At the right season, when the water is cold, you can see giant cuttlefish when diving Shelly Beach. Port Jackson sharks are also regularly spotted.

We saw many stingrays, old wives, a few blue groupers, a couple of wobbegong sharks, lots of flatheads, a cute small cuttlefish well hidden under a rock, a few colourful fish and a beautiful fiddler ray. Be careful not to touch the rocks: we also saw many huge stonefish (their sting can hurt a lot).

Is Shelly Beach the best dive site in Sydney?

Shelly Beach is an easy dive site in the Northern Beaches. We found it easy to access and navigate. However, if you can go south, I highly recommend going to Kurnell (Botany Bay) and diving The Steps. We saw more interesting macro life and corals there than in Shelly Beach.

Where is Shelly Beach and Cabbage Tree Reserve?

Shelly Beach is located in Manly, on the ocean side. Although it’s a short and lovely walk from Manly Wharf, it’s rather far if you plan to carry your gear there (one kilometre). It is easy to get to Shelly Beach by car as there’s a car park at the top of the hill. Many cars go down the road and ignore the “authorised vehicle only” sign to unload gear. Parking fees are $10 per hour, and we needed three hours in total to gear up, dive slowly and pre-rinse our gear using the shower facilities.


Eloise is the creator and writer of She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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