Camp Cove is probably the ultimate rough weather snorkelling site. When most sites are washed out, this one is usually still worthwhile because of it being protected inside the heads of Sydney Harbour. Despite being in the harbour, pleasure craft have restricted entry so you have quite a large fun area to play in.
Entry and exit is via either the rocks on the north side of Green Point Reserve (Lang’s Point), or Camp Cove beach. There are stairs connecting the car park area at Laings Point with the beach. Facilities include toilets and parking on Greens Point, with more parking at Cliff Street, as well as toilets and a kiosk. Parking fills up very quickly at Laings Point on weekends, as well as down on Cliff Street so it pays to get there early in the day.
The snorkelling sites are limited to the rocks in front of Laings Point, the rocks in front of wall 4 and the beach frontage, which includes the mooring pylons. There is a small bommie reef running parallel to the beach about 20m off shore, however this is in about 8m of water is only really suitable for divers. Unfortunately, that also means you don’t get a chance to see the resident blue groper. The whole site is listed as a heritage site; so don’t remove anything from the water.
The area from the south corner of the beach, around the rocks to the furthest point of Laings Point is probably the better snorkelling area of this site. Moving around the point into Watsons Bay itself is not really worth it as that area of Watsons Bay is a bit of a dead zone.
About 3-4 m off the beach there is a good kelp bed that is always worth a check, as you get fish and octopi hiding in the fronds, and if you’re really lucky you might spot nudibranch. I’ve also seen pipefish hanging over the sand near here on a regular basis as well.
Moving further out from the beach along the rocks, the rock shelf breaks up into boulders, which you can explore through to your hearts content. Typical Sydney water fish species abound here, primarily blackfish, stripeys, mado, eastern pomfreds, silver dollars, rock cale and trevally. I’ve also seen big crayfish here, as well as a big bait ball of baby catfish. Closer around towards the Point, there are a trio of Old Wives in amongst some overhang crevices. The offshoot off the point that becomes the reef also has some sand and seagrass, which attracts feeding blue-striped goatfish. The snorkel zone here is mostly within about 15 m from shore, and gets to about 4 m before dropping off.
The section on the north side along wall 4 (so named because of the big 4 sign on the rock wall) has similar aquatic life, however the rock wall areas are much larger and the water drops off to depth quite quickly. The snorkel zone probably only extends no more than 10m from shore along the cliff face. Due to the shading from the cliff face there is not quite as much to see, but it’s nice and quiet. If the tide is running the right way, you can also do a drift dive around the point and into Lady Bay Beach, which travels over some shallow rock formations and very interesting sea life. Come out on the beach and walk back on the path across the escarpment connecting the two beaches.
There are several pylons at set points off Camp Cove beach, demarcating a no boat zone along the beach front. Snorkelling out and around he pylons is well worth it for the soft corals, sea squirts, sea tulips and sponges. This is also a favourite hangout for the fan-bellied leatherjackets, as well as cuttlefish and various molluscs.
The beach region tends to have smaller fish about 1 m back from the breaking waves, and ludderick sit about 2-3 m off the shore as well. I’ve also spotted a large swimmer crab along this beach in about 2 m of water as well. Several people have also reported finding cuttlefish and rays resting on the sandy beds.
Probably the highlight of any trip to Camp Cove is spotting the fairy penguins that occasionally visit from their nests over near Manly. I’ve seen them fishing the area a number of times when I visited, and it seems to be something they do early morning. Seeing them swoop past you through a school of fish is sight you don’t forget easily.
It’s a great little site, well worth keeping in reserve for those bad weather days.