Ok, so Sydney is not blessed with tropical water temperature, Caribbean-grade clarity or rainbow reefs. BUT! We are actually pretty lucky in Sydney to have some incredible marine life, and beautiful dive sites where you can explore life below the surface without major currents or depth. I’ve picked out a few of my favourite freediving spots in Sydney which are great for beginners to get into the sport. I’ve picked these places in particular because they’re accessible, and they offer some amazing things to check out at shallow depths.
Quick note – I have picked out what I think are the ‘safer’ spots in Sydney. But they are only safe if you are. So, please don’t get in the water if you can’t swim, and never alone. Assess conditions before, or ask someone if you’re worried. These sites are popular enough to apply the general rule of ‘if there is no one diving here, it’s for a good reason’. Happy diving 🙂
Shelly Beach and Cabbage Tree Bay
Cabbage Tree Bay is one of the most popular and best freediving spots in Sydney for good reason. The stretch of water is a ‘no-take’ marine reserve, and so the species that live in the bay are protected from fishing and spearfishing. This means that any freediving, scuba or snorkelling session here is going to be full of life. It also means you can’t take anything…
The diving here is shallow. Most of the ‘interesting stuff’ to see is no deeper than 10 metres, so it’s perfect spot for beginner freedivers. You’ll often find yourself diving with local snorkelers, freedivers and scuba divers who might point out creatures to you. Here are some of the creatures you can usually see:
To get into the water, you have a few options. The easiest way is to walk straight into the water at Shelly beach and pick your site. You can swim left towards the ocean pool (Fairy Bower) for lots of weedy life, swim along the headland on the right for a rockier dive (great for Port Jackson sharks). Or, head straight out and try to find the motorbike sunk in the middle of the bay…
Down in La Perouse, in the north of Botany Bay, you’ll find Bare Island. It’s a small island with a fort built on top of it by the old British colonials. I’ve also hear that there was a scene filmed here for a Mission Impossible movie – can’t say I’ve fact-checked this. It’s a popular place for beginner scuba-divers as well as freedivers, and the great thing is that the island usually protects a side from the swell.
There is tonnes of marine life here at Bare Island. Here are some of the critters you might find:
- Again, a bunch of bright, tropical fish including Pufferfish, Red Indianfish and mosaic Leatherjackets
- Sea dragons, anemones and starfish
- More turtles!
- Port Jackson sharks in the winter months
If you are already into scuba, you’re at an advantage when it comes to finding creatures. You probably already know where to look. If you’re a new freediver with a 20-second breath hold and equalisation problems, you will not be hanging out on the bottom, staring into a hole hoping that a microscopic shrimp emerges form the dark. You don’t have the luxury of ‘bottom-time’, so I’m focusing on the bigger critters on purpose…
There are a couple of entry spots at the island. Easiest thing to do is check out which side of the island looks calmer, and follow the scuba divers in.
Kurnell is the place of Sea Dragons and Spongy Sea Gardens all day.
In case you don’t know what a sea dragon is, here is a photo by the lovely Susan Rajska. So now you know what to look for. It can actually be pretty hard to spot them because they really do look like seaweed when you’re down there.
The sea dragons sometimes sit a little deeper, so shallow divers might not spot any. I don’t think you’ll mind though, because instead you’ll be able to look at colourful sponge and a few other critters like cuttlefish.
If you’re a more experienced diver, there are also a couple of little swim-throughs to try out.
OK, it’s a big call but I’m going there.
I genuinely think that Bondi might be one of the most underrated freediving spots in Sydney. Please don’t kill me, Bondi haters. I will explain why.
Bondi is definitely more popular for learning to surf on giant foamies than learning to freedive. But, if you take yourself off the sand and onto the rock pool area of North Bondi (or South; also pretty good), you’ll be away from the breaking waves and straight into a rocky site filled with all kinds of marine life and structures to check out. The first fish you’ll see will probably by the little stripy Mado, which I prefer to call Tofus (long story but I like saying it). I love to dive through the schools of these little fish; they are absolute chillers.
Here are some other creatures you can find at Bondi:
- Wobbegongs – don’t kick one by accident
- Cuttlefish, squid and eels
- Blue groper
- Port Jackson sharks (winter) and the occasional Grey Nurse sharks
- Little stingrays in the sand, and large Bull Rays
As Bondi becomes a more popular spearfishing spot, I’ve seen bigger creatures turning up recently, such as a large ray and even a seal. They will come in to check you out and see if you have treats for them.
Spearing and Deeper Freediving in Bondi
Quick note – Bondi also seems to THE go-to-spot for beginner spearos to jump in without licenses or knowledge, and annihilate small fish, rays, octopuses, urchins, and whatever else they can get. Please don’t be one of those kooks. Get a license, learn your shit, take only what you’ll actually eat (and then stop buying supermarket fish). If you’re interested in spearing, word yourself up first.
This is a post for beginner freedivers in Sydney, so I’ve tried to make it relevant to the first 10 metres of depth. With that said, I can’t not mention the incredible swim-throughs and structures in Bondi for divers who are comfortable a little deeper. Within a 50m swim from the rocks there are some beautiful swim-throughs and caves at 13-18m. The caves are deep enough that you can’t see them from the surface on a murky day, so it helps to have a bright, calm day with good visibility.
As always, I’m keen to hear other suggestions of your favourite freediving spots in Sydney for beginners. For specific questions about these spots or learning to freedive, please get in contact.
Many, many, many thanks to my friends for sharing photos with me to post in this article: