Snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay

Snorkeling at Bushrangers Bay in Shell Harbour (2024)

Explore the underwater wonders of Bushrangers Bay in Shell Harbour, a hidden gem for snorkelling enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the vibrant marine life beneath the crystal-clear waters as you discover the beauty of this off-the-beaten-path snorkelling spot. With its diverse aquatic ecosystem and captivating underwater landscapes, Bushrangers Bay offers a unique and thrilling experience for adventurers seeking an alternative to mainstream destinations.

Despite being a certified Rescue scuba diver, I typically experience apprehension regarding snorkelling. I usually rely on floating devices to ease my nerves. However, during my recent trip to Shell Harbour for scuba diving at The Gutter, I challenged myself by extending my stay and trying snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay. Surprisingly, I was quite at ease without the usual floating device and successfully enjoyed the snorkelling experience.

Snorkeling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour
Snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay in Shell Harbour

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What is Snorkelling, and What Gear Do You Need?

Snorkelling involves swimming underwater with a snorkel or breathing equipment. Typically done near the water’s surface, snorkelling positions the snorkel above the water while the mouthpiece and the swimmer’s head face downward below the waterline.

For those who aren’t proficient swimmers, various floating devices such as tubes, noodles, or snorkelling vests are available to provide buoyancy while snorkelling.

Avoid snorkelling during high tide or inclement weather conditions.

The optimal time for snorkelling is during the sunlit hours, usually around mid-afternoon. This timing enhances underwater visibility as the sunlight penetrates the water, offering a clearer view of the aquatic surroundings.

Montague Island - Swimming with Seals


Enhance your underwater vision with a mask, which is vital for an enriching snorkelling experience. The mask plays a pivotal role in exploring the submerged world, making it one of the most essential equipment.

Check for masks on the Amazon website

  • Ensuring a proper fit is crucial to prevent water leakage during ocean excursions.
  • Using a mask defogger also prevents fogging issues, ensuring uninterrupted visibility.
  • Consider the mask mandatory and indispensable equipment for any snorkelling adventure.
Snorkeling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour


The snorkel is an essential apparatus that enables snorkelers to breathe while navigating the waters. It comprises a tube and a mouthpiece, with three main types available:

  • Traditional snorkel.
  • Semi-dry snorkel – Featuring a seal at the top of the tube, this type limits water entry to a certain extent, combining elements of both traditional and dry snorkels.
  • Dry snorkel – Equipped with a specialized valve at the snorkel’s tip, it effectively prevents water intake during swimming.

A snorkel is a requisite piece of equipment for any snorkelling expedition.

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Fins contribute to increased swimming speed and enable snorkelers to kick more effectively and at a higher rate, extending their endurance in the water. Depending on their length, fins fall into two categories:

  • Short blade fins.
  • Long blade fins.

Check for snorkelling fins on the Amazon website

I find wearing fins beneficial during my ocean excursions. However, I have noticed that some friends choose not to use fins.

Snorkeling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour

Wet Suit or a Rash Guard Vest

A wet suit is advisable in colder regions like Australia and New Zealand. However, a rash guard vest alone can suffice during the summer months. Whether choosing an excellent wet suit or a rash guard, these options protect against rashes or skin allergies.

The decision to wear a wet suit or a rash guard vest is entirely at the discretion of the snorkeller.

Check for wetsuits on the Amazon website

Where is Bushrangers Bay?

Nestled within the Bass Point Reserve in Shell Harbour, Bushrangers Bay is a safeguarded aquatic reserve, ensuring a secure environment for snorkelling enthusiasts. Despite its protected status, it’s important to note that this area is unpatrolled. Exercise caution and stay vigilant while snorkelling in Bushrangers Bay.

Were you aware that the geological composition of Bass Point Reserve consists of Gerringong volcanics, which are approximately 250 million years old? The reserve derived its name from George Bass, adding a historical touch to its natural wonders.

Snorkeling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour
Entrance to the bay

How to Get to Bushrangers Bay?

By Road

The most convenient and straightforward way to reach Bushrangers Bay is by car. The drive from Sydney Central Business District (CBD) to Bushrangers Bay spans approximately 115 kilometres, taking around 2 hours.

  • Upon arrival, you will find ample free parking spaces at Bushrangers Bay for your convenience.

By Public Transport

Shell Harbour is easily accessible from Central Train Station in Sydney, with a combination of train and bus travel.

  • Train – Commence your journey by catching a train from Central train station to Wollongong train station, the closest to Shell Harbour. The train ride typically takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • Bus – From Wollongong, take a bus to Shell Harbour, precisely bus number 53. The bus journey typically lasts around 40 minutes.
  • For the most up-to-date information regarding bus routes and timings, refer to the Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW).
  • You can conveniently pay your fare using Credit/Debit or Opal transportation cards when using public transportation in Sydney.

It’s important to note that no public transportation is available from Shell Harbour to the car parking area at Bushrangers Bay. However, the distance is only about 4 kilometres, making it a feasible option to walk to your destination.

Marine Life at Bushrangers Bay

Bushrangers Bay is popular among snorkelers and scuba divers and is renowned for its abundance of grey nurse sharks. The site features a channel from the shore, serving as a resting spot for numerous grey nurse sharks. The seabed showcases a diverse marine ecosystem with various fishes and seaweeds. The depth of the ocean bed ranges from approximately 8 to 10 meters near the channel.

During my initial snorkelling experience, I refrained from venturing too deep into the ocean. It’s crucial to exercise caution while snorkelling to preserve the underwater environment. Ensure that fins do not disturb corals, and avoid touching corals or fishes. It’s a delicate ecosystem that requires our respect and protection.

Snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay
A fish while snorkelling in Bushrangers Bay

Safety for Solo Female Snorkelers

For those new to snorkelling, I strongly recommend going with a buddy. Snorkelling as a beginner can be daunting, and having a companion can provide a sense of security. Moreover, having a buddy ensures snorkelers are well-prepared to handle unexpected situations.

If you’re a solo snorkeler, consider joining meetup groups that organize snorkelling events. It’s a fantastic way to connect with like-minded individuals. I remarkably endorse the Sydney Snorkeling Group, which is known for exploring various spots in Sydney. The members are generally friendly and welcoming, making it an enjoyable experience for solo snorkelers.

Snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay
Something beautiful that I saw while snorkelling in Bushrangers Bay

Closing Notes

Despite not encountering the grey nurse sharks, my experience of snorkelling in Bushrangers Bay was thoroughly enjoyable. The enclosed nature of the area makes it exceptionally safe for snorkelling, contributing to my positive experience. I’m delighted that I extended my stay in Shell Harbour and ventured into snorkelling. This marked my initial effort to overcome my fear of snorkelling, and I look forward to embarking on more snorkelling trips. I aim to grow increasingly comfortable in the water and the vast expanse of the open sea.

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    PIN for later reference – Snorkeling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour

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