Dive into WA’s best nature experiences
Imagine the perfect get-away-from-it-all nature experience in Western Australia. We’ll bet that towering gums, red dirt and screeching Rosellas come to mind. While this landscape feels quintessentially Australian, ‘going bush’ is only one of our favourite nature adventures.
We love our underwater wonderland
Australia is a land that’s very happily bound by sea, 85% of the Aussie population live within an hour’s drive from the beach. A love of the ocean and weekends under a beach umbrella are inevitable parts of life in our sunburnt country.
In WA we have the largest coastline of any state. Our coast measures a whopping 13,500 km long and is home to some of the most unique animals, fish and marine plants in the world — they are exceptionally biodiverse. Our marine parks are special and unique places. They deserve the same attention as the parks we love on land. To help you explore the world below the surface and go beyond your local beach, we’ve rounded up a list of our marine parks. All you need to do is pack your swimmers, sunscreen and sense of adventure.
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Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park
Meet one of the hidden gems of the South West, the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park. This bush-fringed estuary is fed by the Deep River, the Frankland River, and the Indian Ocean. An open estuary, it’s a biodiverse haven for fish, birds and other marine life. Visit the marine park and you’ll discover families splashing away on Coalmine Beach, people fishing for dinner, and brightly coloured sailboats dotting the inlet.
We recommend: Join our Spring Into Parks feature event, the Deep River Wilderness Eco Cruise. You’ll see Walpole-Nornalup National Park and giant Karri trees from a whole new perspective.
Ngari Capes Marine Park
Take a dip at any one of the spectacular beaches in the Ngari Capes Marine Park you might spot dolphins, humpback whales, southern right whales, fish and sea birds. Luckily for us, the warm Leeuwin Current from the north and the cold Capes Current from the south have created the perfect habitat for flowing seagrass beds and colourful coral bommies.
We recommend: Strapping on your snorkel and discovering the creatures and plants that call the Busselton Jetty home.
Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
Shoalwater Island Marine Park may feel a world away. Yet, it’s only a short drive from the heart of Perth. Discover a chain of rocky limestone islands a safe kayaking distance from shore, each one fringed with beautiful azure bays. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy Little Penguins on Penguin Island and lazy seals baking on the crescent-shaped beaches of Seal Island.
We recommend: Hopping between Penguin Island, Cape Peron and back again. There’s great snorkeling to be found just beyond your beach towels at both destinations.
Swan Estuary Marine Park
Incoming! You might know the Swan Estuary Marine Park as the dazzling blue backdrop to Swan Canning River Park But the marine park has a more important purpose. Every year internationally protected birds rest here on their annual migration. Theses feathered friends come from all over the globe including Asia, Mongolia and Siberia.
We recommend: Our Spring Into Parks activity, River Journeys, will teach you about Whadjuk Noongar cultural significance of some of your favourite places.
Marmion Marine Park
Did you know there is a diver’s haven just north of Perth city? Spend a day in the Marmion Marine Park and you’ll discover limestone reefs, caves and crystal-clear lagoons. There’s no shortage of marine life with seabirds, dolphins, sea lions, rays and more.
We recommend: Hopping on a whale watching tour from Hillary’s Boat Harbour. Because you don’t need to drive down south to catch a pod in action.
Jurien Bay Marine Park
Like most marine parks in WA, Jurien Bay Marine Park is known for its beauty. But, unlike the others, it’s home to some special and rare locals, Australian sea lions. It’s believed there are less than 12,000 Australian sea lions left on our southern coastline. Jurien Bay Marine Park is one of the best spots to see these cute creatures.
We recommend: Boating out to Essex Rocks with a registered guide. You’ll go swimming with the colony of sea lions that live here. You’ll see them duck, dive and frolic in the turquoise sea — as you do the same.
Shark Bay Marine Park
Shark Bay Marine Park forms part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. And, it’s absolutely worthy of its coveted status. There are rugged sea cliffs, tranquil lagoons and crescent-shaped bays where red dirt meets bright blue water. You can swim, sail, paddle, snorkel or windsurf your heart out.
We recommend: Viewing nature’s finest aquarium in style from aboard the deck of a yacht or boat. There’s plenty of local tour operators who will take you to see dolphins, sharks, turtles, stingrays and dugongs (if you’re lucky).
Ningaloo Marine Park
This is one marine park that needs no introduction. Ningaloo Marine Park is famous the world over for its reef system. The Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef in Australia and is World-Heritage Listed. Holiday here and you’ll discover 300 km of a reef that’s home to 200 species of tropical coral and 500 species of fish. Many great snorkeling sites are accessible from the beach making it easy to have underwater encounters.
We recommend: You know what we’re going to say, swimming with whale sharks. These gentle giants are the largest fish in the sea and spectacular to see in the wild.
Rowley Shoals Marine Park
While getting to Rowley Shoals Marine Park is no mean feat it could be most beautiful marine park in Western Australia. To get there, you have to take a boat about 260 kilometres out to sea from Broome — seriously. Here you’ll discover three giant coral atolls that rise from the edge of Australia’s continental shelf. Today the shoals rank among the most remote and pristine marine areas in the world.
We recommend: Exploring the world below the surface. You’ll find untouched coral gardens, amazing marine life and clear lagoons.
Lalang-Garram / Camden Sound Marine Park
If you like whales, you’ll love Lalang-garram (Camden Sound Marine Park). This marine park is a nursery for migrating humpback whales. Thousands of whales stop here during their annual migration to breed and nurse their young. It is the second largest marine park in Western Australia behind Shark Bay, covering more than 7,000 square kilometres.
We recommend: Taking a boat tour and going wildlife spotting. Along the way, you’ll see a remarkable tidal change and watch as the massive Montgomery Reef emerges from the sea.
Yawuru Nagulagun / Roebuck Bay Marine Park
Take a step back in time at Yawuru Nagulagun (Roebuck Bay Marine Park). This spectacular marine park is teeming with sea life and packed with interesting adventures. You can boat, fish, go kayaking, spot dolphins, find whales, and see dinosaur footprints.
We recommend: Staying for a world-famous sunset. At certain times of the year, the ‘staircase to the moon’ is visible over Roebuck Bay. This is caused by moonlight reflected from the ocean bed at extremely low tides.
Lalang-garram / Horizontal Falls Marine Park
In the turquoise water of Talbot Bay, the fast-moving tidal current squeezes through two narrow gorges of the McLarty Range. The water rushes through the gaps at an astonishing rate, producing waterfalls turned on their side. The world-renowned Horizontal Falls (Garaanngaddim) has been referred to by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the great wonders of the natural world”.
We recommend: Taking a scenic flight, helicopter or seaplane at Lalang-Garram. You’ll take to the sky and see one of nature’s greatest spectacles in all its glory.
How to be a great marine parks visitor
Whenever you visit a marine park in WA, you need to be mindful of the sea life, plants and coral that call each special spot home.
Here are some ways you can protect our Marine Parks.
- Look, don’t touch – The corals, plants, and animals that live below the ocean’s surface are delicate creatures – even if they don’t look like it sometimes. Don’t touch anything if you can help it, just float by peacefully and enjoy the view.
- Leave no trace – Remember to take every single piece of rubbish with you and put it in a secure bin. Leave our marine parks as you found them, perfectly pristine.
- Check the fishing rules – There are many wonderful fishing spots in our marine parks. Just make sure you check with the local ranger or visitors centre. They’ll tell you what’s allowed and what isn’t.
- Stay safe – Nature can be unpredictable. Make sure you always tell someone where you are going and never get out of your depth on an adventure.
- Become a member – The WA Parks Foundation Members help us to conserve and protect Western Australia’s national parks and reserves, join here.
No matter where you are in Western Australia, there are marine park adventures to be found. Check out our Spring into Parks event calendar to see what’s happening near you. Or, sign up to the WA Parks Foundation newsletter and we’ll keep you in the loop.