You might be headed to the paradise that is Australian beaches. So does many other marine creatures! Big or small we share what treasures are swimming in the crystal waters with you!
Australia’s coasts are patrolled by many kinds of sharks and despite attacks making the headlines, they are very infrequent. Typically they inhabit deep waters where their favourite food – seals and sea lions live.
Great White Sharks have the most fearsome reputation and they don’t get much bigger than off the waters of Eyre Peninsula coast in South Australia. Port Lincoln is the tuna fishing capital there and it is also where you can go swimming with them (safely) in a well-built cage. Tiger Sharks and Hammer Head Sharks also inhabit waters here but still wise to keep away from them if you do see them. Grey Nurse Sharks are one shark that will not bother about you being in the water. Typically you will need to dive to see them as they are not in very shallow water. New South Wales Coast has a few spots where there are colonies. The biggest and most spectacular shark though has to be the Whale Shark. Head to Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and get on a tour to see these gentle giants between March and August.
In southern Australia here are the Brown Fur Seal, Australian Fur Seal, New Zealand Fur Seal and the Australian Sea Lion. While they travel far out into the deep waters, they also play close to the shore too. Much like a water-loving puppy dog, they are inquisitive around people when swimming. While it’s great to enjoy seeing them close by, remember they are wild with a pair of sharp teeth!
Brown Fur Seals are often found around Phillip Island and at night, have come right up to the jetty (pier) at San Remo in Victoria. Just out from Narooma in New South Wales, Underwater Safaris offer tours to snorkel with Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals for an unforgettable experience. On Kangaroo Island in South Australia, you can head to Seal Bay where there are tours to see Australian Sea Lions up close, where little pups play.
While walking beaches in Australia, you will come across many clear jellies washed onto the sand! In the northern waters and beaches of Australia will be signs warning about the seasons and safety of “stingers” (jellyfish) in the water. While there are many harmless jellyfish, many are also dangerous or in the least painful to brush up against. The most concerning of all being the Box Jellyfish with very long tentacles and a rapid, deadly sting. The Irukandji Jellyfish is a much smaller and hard to spot jellyfish but a painful sting. These jellyfish stay among tropical waters and seasonally from November to May. Asking the locals is your best bet to know where and when is safe to swim. If you are stung, pour on vinegar to prevent more stings and call an ambulance (000 in Australia).
One jellyfish you don’t apply vinegar to is the Bluebottle Jellyfish (apply hot water instead). They are often carried to subtropical Australian shores by warmer currents and if you see them on beaches, they are likely in the water. Not deadly but a painful sting.
Dolphins are playful, ocean dwellers frequenting Australian shores! Bottlenose Dolphins are most common and you can get up close with them at feeding times in Monkey Mia, Western Australia! In Adelaide, South Australia, you can go on a kayaking tour with Adventure Kayaking SA, to mangroves and shipwrecks while Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins frolic next to you! In Tin Can Bay, Queensland there is also dolphin feeding with the Australian Humpback Dolphin! So wherever you head, there’s a chance to get familiar with these curious and intelligent animals!
In Australia, you will find rays roaming beaches, most commonly, Stingrays, which famously killed conservationist, Steve Irwin. Although he did pass away, the Stingray is not an aggressive creature. Only when threatened from overhead, will they use the barb in their tails to defend themselves. Simply shuffle your feet in sandy, shallow waters and they will happily move on.
Lake Cootharaba, Queensland frequently is visited by Leopard Whiprays, among the mangroves. Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, Queensland also have Broad Cowtail Stingrays in crystal clear waters. For some absolute giants, get over to Port Albert in Victoria to see Short Tail Stingrays at the boat ramp! Hamelin Bay, meanwhile in Western Australia is visited by New Zealand Eagle Rays that come very close to the shallows (ideal in summer). Western Australia is also visited by the giant Manta Ray, with wingspans up to 7 metres – see them year-round at Coral Bay.
Australia has a great many Seahorses too. Some of the most iconic are the Weedy Sea Dragon and the Leafy Sea Dragon but you will need a keen eye to spot either! Weedy Sea Dragons are confined to the south-east corner of the country while the Leafy Sea Dragon calls the south-west home.
South Australia is a great place to head to for both of these beauties. Rapid Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula is a great place to spot a Leafy Sea Dragon. To get up close with a Weedy Sea Dragon, jump on the ferry across to Kangaroo Island and head out for a swim at Smith Bay.
Australia is a country of refuge for whales, where they are protected and treasured. The time to spot whales off the coast here is typically in winter (anywhere from May to September). There are 2 main whales you are likely to be spotting, the Southern Right Whale and the Humpback Whale.
To see these giants, getting on a whale charter will take you pretty close to the action. Tours depart Sydney (you might even see the white whale!), Phillip Island (Victoria), Fowlers Bay and Victor Harbour (South Australia), as well as many more! To see them in the wild, head to popular spots like Exmouth in Western Australia, Eden in New South Wales, and Victor Harbour in South Australia. Especially on coasts with deep water, whales have been spotted very close to the shoreline!
That wraps up our water wonderland! Most people have a couple of these creatures on their travel wish lists to see, so now you know where to go! If you were hoping to spot some turtles – check out our reptiles and amphibians page at; Crickey! Australia’s Reptiles & Amphibians!