Australia boasts innumerable great dive sites, but many of them are somewhat remote from the country’s biggest cities. So if you find yourself city-bound down under, but still want to include some diving on your visit, what do you do? Try Shelly Beach in Manly, a suburb of Sydney.
Just a short drive north of downtown Sydney, Manly sports a distinctive beach-town vibe, with coffee shops, small cafés, and dive and surf shops on every corner. You’ll definitely see more boarders than board roomers in the streets, and more wetsuits than power suits. Located on a peninsula, it also offers a number of good beaches; one of the most popular is Shelly Beach. Nestled on the peninsula’s northern side, it offers decent depths, interesting sightings and good amenities such as beach cafés and picnic areas. On the downside, the water can get a bit murky and cool, in particular during rainy periods.
Entrance is via classic shore entry, and on warm days you’ll be weaving your way down past sunbathers and kids playing in the sand. Once you reach the water and submerge, you’ll often not find many divers here, as the site tends not to get terribly crowded. Depths are well within open-water diver limits, with most dives not exceeding 30 feet/10 meters.
Among the location’s residents are wobbegong sharks, Port Jackson sharks, and blue-ringed octopus, the latter typically seen in the center of the little cove that is formed by the rocks shielding the beach from the rest of the peninsula. An old motorcycle nearby also features as one of the site’s must-sees. Head along the beach a bit, keeping the shore on your left, and you can come by a small colony of Little Penguins (that’s their official name), the only permanently breeding penguins in New South Wales. If you’re lucky, they’ll come quite close to divers as they hunt for fish in the waters.
Further out in the bay, you’ll have the best chance to see larger marine animals such as sharks, where in particular Port Jackson sharks tend to be abundant, as well as stingrays and various other animals.
If you want to dive Shelly Beach, arrive early and leave early, as there’s only one main road leading from the mainland to the beach, which can get severely congested around sunset when everyone’s leaving.