This site is located just inside the south head of Botany Bay, and is actually quite a nice relaxing place to visit. This review is based on our visit in February 2010.
Access is from the Visitor’s Centre in the Park, which backs straight onto the eastern end of Silver Beach. There is what looks like a couple of old boat ramp access points, which give good access to the water. The area has bbqs, toilet blocks, water and showers, which make it great for a day’s trip. It does cost $7 to park, but that is actually park entrance for the whole day. The ticket machines are at the entrance. It’s a big grassy bank from the car park down to the beach and rocks edge.
The site is a regular access point for people going spear fishing, so scope out where people are in the water before you start. There is also a bit of boat traffic as this is the bay entrance was well, so it pays to stay within about 20-25 m off shore.
The area is quite sandy, with some interesting plant life, and rock shelves. The depth varied, getting to about 4 or 5 m at the 25m point from shore. Mostly it’s around 1-2 m, so you get reasonable visibility, and the water temp was absolutely perfect for all day swimming in summer, and the water surface is usually very smooth.
Compared to Clovelly, it feels barren for fish, but you can see some interesting stuff none the less. There are some large bream and trevally schooling in places, as well as blue-striped goatfish of medium size trawling the sands. Over some of the sandy stretches, you can find sandy coloured flathead, and a couple of very large shovel-nosed catfish about 70-80 cm long, as well as some palm-sized smooth toadfish.
The rocks were covered in some sort of weed in places, which reveals some large white nudibranchs, and a couple of the biggest sea hares I have ever seen, around 30-40 cm long. There were other treats like the small fry of various fish species and some large crabs.
Opposite the entry point is a beacon pylon, which is worth investigating, but you have to avoid the fishing lines in the water. The pylon is covered with various types of mollusc, as well as some interesting sponge life. You also get some great fish life swimming around the pylon.
West of the pylon, I’ve encountered small floating jellyfish, no more than fist sized. I wasn’t stung as we swam through them, and they put on a great light show with pulsing bioluminescence strips up their sides. I’d never seen that before during the day, and it was enough to distract me from worrying about getting stung.
Overall it’s a great site to snorkel, but it’s showing a lot of sand settling around the area. The people at the Visitors Centre think it a result of the runway extension bouncing the current back towards the beach, and I read other reports that it’s due to the dredging work being done in the Bay, or coming from the construction of the desalination plant on the north side of the bay. The facilities are great, and make it easy getting into the water. There only problem is the old fishing line and hooks lying around the bottom in places, so you have to be careful where you put hands and feet in a few places.
We snorkelled the site when the tide was coming in, and found the swim back to the entry point against the current was a bit of hard work. If you plan on exploring this site, check tide times and plan to come back with the tide current to conserve energy. Basically, a tide coming into the bay creates a current heading west into the bay. If you drop into the water much closer towards the heads, you can get an easy drift snorkel into the Bay.
So it’s an enjoyable site for finning around looking for stuff in quiet surrounds. It’s not high profile or feature packed like Clovelly, but enjoyable none the less, and some proper planning and timing will get you a great drift snorkelling experience.