Marine Reserves

The NSW North Coast is known as a top class surfing destination. It also draws many visitors for what happens below the sea's surface, providing some of the best snorkelling and diving in Australia. In the varied marine parks of the NSW North Coast, recreational opportunities abound, from diving, boating, fishing, swimming and connecting with a myriad of underwater sea creatures. Come and explore any number of the coast's unique marine environments.
The Cape Byron Marine Park

The marine park stretches from the Brunswick River to Lennox Head and into the ocean three nautical miles out from the coast and islands. It's a maritime paradise, offering beaches, rocky reefs and islands, coral communities, riverine estuaries, as well as coastal lakes and creeks.

With over 530 species, the Julian Rocks is a renown snorkelling and scuba diving area, with tours offered by a number of different operators. Marine life in the park is abundant, with species including sea turtles, dolphins, rays, starfish, eels and a wide variety of fish, corals and the threatened species of grey nurse sharks. Cape Byron is also a passing point on the spectacular annual humpback whale migration.

The Park is also an area of huge cultural importance, with Cape Byron, the Julian Rocks, the beaches of Broken Head and the Cocked Hat Rocks being of particular cultural significance to the local indigenous custodians of the region.
The Cape Byron Marine Reserve is a spectacular setting, overlooked by the majestic lighthouse and offering so many ways to enjoy the beauty. Swim, surf, whale watch, stand up paddle board or spend a spectacular couple of hours paddling the bay in a kayak.
View the Cape Byron Marine Park at the Marine Parks Authority website.
There are a multitude of accommodation options in and around Byron Bay to suit visitors to the marine park. For a truly authentic Cape Byron experience, you can even stay in the Cape Byron Assistant Lighthouse Keeper's cottages and wake up to spectacular views of the entire reserve.
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Cook Island Aquatic Reserve

Just 600 metres offshore, Cook Island is NSW's most northerly aquatic reserve and is one of just a few such islands in the state. The island itself is a rocky outcrop of 4.6 hectares and the reserve covers 78 hectares. Located just off Fingal Head and 4 km south east of Tweed Heads, the reserve was established to protect the island's reef bio-diversity and habitats. Fishing is prohibited within an exclusion zone. It is allowable (except by set lines) outside the zone, which is marked by 5 buoys. The range of activities in the reserve include swimming, boating, whale watching and there 13 moorings established around the island at popular dive sites. This eliminates the need to anchor and thus protects the fragile inhabitants, such as coral. Snorkelling and diving around the island you might just spot green turtles, stingrays, parrotfish, leopard sharks, wobbegongs and if lucky, the grey nurse shark.

Find out more about the Cook Island Aquatic Reserve from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services.

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Solitary Islands Marine Reserve

The Solitary Island Marine Reserve, just off the Coffs Coast, is widely regarded as one of Australia's top ten dive sites. It's home to 4 different species of turtle, over 90 coral varieties, over 500 different types of fish and a whopping 75km of beautiful coastline to explore. Around this small cluster of islands, two great oceans meet. The warm and temperate waters of the coral sea's East Australian current converge with the colder stream from the southern Tasman Sea... and the result is a spectacular mix of marine species whose usual environments should be thousands of kilometres apart.

There are numerous accommodation choices along the Coffs Coast, as well a multitude of tour operators in the area to get you out into the marine reserve.

More information on the Solitary Islands Marine environment is available from the NSW's Government's Marine Parks Authority.

(Image from Flickr, by Taso Viglas)

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Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park

The Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park is an immense water playground, located just north of Newcastle. From the top part of Stockton beach, incorporating Seal Rocks and right up to Cape Hawke near the seaside holiday town of Forster, this park covers some territory (over 98, 000 hectares). As well as 3 miles out into the ocean, the park also includes the Myall River, the Myall and Smiths lakes and numerous creeks and estuaries. There are beautiful beaches galore, like the spectacular Blueys Beach. It has a vast mangrove and saltmarsh area and also hides numerous historical shipwrecks to be explored.

Watersports enthusiasts will be in paradise. Go scuba diving, snorkelling, whale watching, canoeing, sailing, houseboating, surfing, swimming with dolphins. All this in warm waters, with a beautiful climate and accommodation options galore, from camping to classy BnBs and beachside apartments.

Read more about Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park.