Did you know you could go snorkelling in Byron Bay and see turtles? Byron Bay is famous for its surfing, its beaches, its lighthouse and the celebrities who call it home. But you may have read on the blog that I love Byron Bay for a different reason.

It’s also a fantastic destination for scuba diving and snorkelling, and I’m always surprised how only a small fraction of visitors get to enjoy the underwater treasures of Byron Bay. So here’s an overview of great spots for snorkelling in Byron Bay to see turtles.

While in Byron Bay, check out Broken Head, my favourite beach and walk near Byron Bay.

Hawksbill turtle while snorkelling in Byron Bay (Clarkes Beach)
Hawksbill turtle while snorkelling in Byron Bay (Clarkes Beach)

Snorkelling Julian Rocks

Julian Rocks is my favourite spot for scuba diving and snorkelling in Byron Bay. The marine life is abundant and often spectacular. Turtles can be seen all year round. In winter, it’s the season to see grey nurse sharks and hear the whales sing. In summer, leopard sharks and manta rays take their place.

How to access Julian Rocks: You’ll need to book a tour on a boat to access the marine reserve. It takes only five minutes to reach the rocks.

Snorkelling Clarkes Beach

I was so surprised to find so many things underwater at Clarkes Beach. It’s funny to imagine how many people visit the beaches in Byron Bay and do not see turtles when they are actually swimming just a few meters away from them.

Clarkes Beach is located between Main Beach and The Pass, which are often busier as they are patrolled beaches. Clarkes Beach isn’t usually patrolled.

We saw many fish when snorkelling Clarkes Beach, but also a shovelnose ray and at least two green turtles and one hawksbill turtle – which is rarer to see as they are unfortunately critically endangered, whereas the green turtles are “only” endangered. The green and hawksbill turtles can be hard to differentiate. They are about the same size, but green turtles have smooth and round shells, whereas hawksbill turtles have a curved beak and a saw-like shell edge.

However, conditions are not always good for snorkelling at Clarkes Beach. It’s better to aim for high tide to increase your chances of good visibility. It can be a bit too shallow at low tide.

How to access Clarkes Beach: You can simply drive to Clarkes Beach and leave your car at Clarkes Beach car park ($4/hour capped at $20.00, 90 spaces only). Alternatively, you can walk along the coastal pathway from Main Beach (also $4/hour with a 4hr parking limit); it takes about 15 minutes.

Snorkelling The Wrecks

This isn’t my favourite spot for snorkelling in Byron Bay, but turtles and wobbegong sharks are regularly spotted there. It’s often very busy, in and out of the water, as it’s reputed to be one of the best surfing spots in Byron Bay.

The shipwreck is only 30 metres offshore, and it’s impossible to miss as parts of it stick out of the water. There’s another wreck (Tassie III) 100 meters offshore in front of Fish Head restaurant, but it’s quite far and hard to locate, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

How to access The Wrecks: The Wrecks is at the southern end of Belongil Beach, not far from Main Beach car park ($4/hour with a 4hr parking limit). There are smaller car parks on Border Street, Don Street and Childe Street.

What’s your favourite snorkelling spot in Byron Bay to see turtles? Share your experience in the comment

When is the best time to go snorkelling in Byron Bay?

The best time for snorkelling is when there’s no wind and no swell.

You can go snorkelling in Byron Bay all year round. The water will be chilly in winter, but you’ll be fine with a good wetsuit on a sunny day. Wearing a wetsuit is also good for sun protection in summer and to avoid getting stung by jellyfish.

Responsible travel tip: Did you know your sunscreen can pollute the water and harm animals? The best way to protect your body from the sun is to cover it with long sleeves and pants. If you do have to use sunscreen, choose a mineral one (like zinc) to avoid harmful substances (see the full list here) and apply it at least 20 minutes before entering the water. 

Map of where to go snorkelling in Byron Bay

Byron Bay is on the east coast of Australia, in the north of New South Wales. It takes about two hours to drive there from Brisbane and about one hour from the Gold Coast.

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Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. 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!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Agnes

    Such an insightful post! Absolutely can’t wait to visit those spots.

  2. Linda Jane

    I went snorkelling in the Low Isles on the Great Barrier Reef & saw several green turtles. Unfortunately, the water visibility at Byron Bay was not good when I was there but it sounds like Byron Bay was perfect for you. It’s so exciting to see an endangered animal in the wild!

  3. Elena Pappalardo

    I absolutely love sea turtles! Thanks for convincing me to add Byron Bay to my travel list!

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