Exploring Shelly Beach (Under and on Top of the Water)

Exploring Shelly Beach (Under and on Top of the Water)

Shelly Beach is one of Sydney’s most well known, shore-based, scuba and snorkelling sites. It’s located in Manly, and lies within the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, home to over 160 species of fish (so there’s plenty to enjoy). The site is perfect for beginners, and is sheltered from most weather conditions as it’s a west facing beach on the east coast.

We chose to dive Shelley Beach over December as it offers a wide array of activities, from swimming and snorkelling for the kids, to diving for the adults, all in close proximity to some amazing coffee shops. It’s also the home of Weedyland, so there’s always a chance of finding the gorgeous weedy seadragon.

Before going further, it’s worth calling out that one of the downsides of this site is parking. There’s a single small parking lot at the end of Bower Street, which will set you back $10 per hour in peak season, and has a 4 hour limit. That said, there is an offloading zone here, so you can dump all of your gear and then head off to park your car somewhere more reasonable (assuming you’re happy to walk a little).

After paying our $40, we walked down the short staircase, kitted up on the beach, and then headed out into the water in our buddy pairs. Sharon and I headed in first, while Nick and Tarryn looked after the kids. The site has 2 lines, either down the left or the right, both of which are great. We opted to dive the left hand side, primarily because we wanted to head out to Weedyland. It’s worth saving a little gas by swimming out on the surface, and only descending when you’re in 6 to 8 meters of water. The site can get crowded, so keep an eye on the snorkellers, and more importantly on the boat traffic, which can be high on sunny days.

We kept the bolders on our right hand side as we swam out, enjoying the wobbies, rays, flathead, old wives, octopuses, and cuttlefish. The site is also famous for it’s Port Jackson sharks, and the odd dusky whaler in winter, but we didn’t see either of these. Strangely, the rocks are completely devoid of life, with no sponges or corals to speak of.

Fun fact: There are a few sunken motorbikes in the area which are always worthy of a photo…

After a fantastic hour in the water, Sharon and I surfaced back on the beach, and Nick and Tarry headed out. I used my time on the surface to take the older girls out for a snorkel on the righthand side. The shallow water and abundance of life makes it a perfect spot, and the girls absolutely loved it. Sadly there were no turtles around, but the fish kept them more than busy.

By the time Nick and Tazz finished their dive our 4 hours (parking) was coming to an end, so we loaded up the cars and headed home to share a few stories.

Shelly Beach is a well known scuba site for a reason. It’s family friendly, is perfect for beginners, is protected from most weather, and has an abundance of wildlife. I’d highly recommend giving it a try, preferably outside of peak times, as it can get busy.

Check out this great map of the site on Viz.