Skip to content
Find a Park > Fleurieu Peninsula

Encounter Marine Park

  • Picnic Areas
  • Public Transport
  • Swimming
  • Scuba / Snorkelling
  • Dogs on Lead
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Bird Watching
  • Boating

About

Just a short drive from Adelaide you are treated with spectacular snorkelling and diving locations, whale watching areas and great fishing spots.

Stretching from Fleurieu Peninsula to the north-eastern coast of Kangaroo Island and the Coorong, the park provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the diverse marine life including leafy sea dragons, Australian sea lions, dolphins and southern right whales.

Fishing is very popular within the park and can be undertaken on jetties and most beaches, but is prohibited in sanctuary zones.

Sanctuary zones are the core conservation areas, created in key locations such as Port Noarlunga Reef and Pelican Lagoon. Sanctuary zones protect all animals and plants from harm, helping visitors to ‘sea life naturally’.

Watch the videos to see what Encounter Marine Park has to offer.

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact details

Natural Resource Centre - Adelaide
Phone: (+61 8) 8204 1910
Email: marineparks@sa.gov.au

When to visit

The waters of the Encounter marine park can be glassy and calm one day and foamy surf the next. There are strong tides and currents that flow along most of the coastline.  Generally the Gulf waters and northern facing coastline is calmer than the southern surf beaches.  Weather and tide reports are great place to start planning a visit, see the Bureau of meteorology Marine page for forecasts and observations.

Getting there

Encounter Marine Park stretches for many kilometers of coast and has multiple access points, try these popular locations: 

  • Port Noarlunga 
  • Aldinga
  • Rapid Bay
  • Cape Jervis
  • Victor Harbor
  • Port Elliot
  • Bashams Beach 
  • Antechamber Bay (Kangaroo Island)
  • Penneshaw (Kangaroo Island)
  • American River (Kangaroo Island)
  • Kingscote (Kangaroo Island)

You can also visit the marine park via Deep Creek Conservation Park, Newland Head Conservation Park and Coorong National Park.

Underwater species

Diving surveys in the Encounter Marine Park have recorded hundreds of species of fish, invertebrate animals and plants and shorebirds. Check out some of these species in a snorkeller's guide to plants and animals.

If you want more technical information please refer to our baseline reports on Enviro Data SA.

Sanctuary zones

There are 11 sanctuary zones in Encounter Marine Park, each one unique and designed to protect important habitats, marine species, breeding grounds or important refuge areas. These are important conservation areas where fishing and all other extractive activities are not allowed.

Port Noarlunga Reef Sanctuary Zone

This rich reef, protected since 1971, is one of South Australia’s most popular scuba diving and snorkelling locations. A significant barrier reef system made of limestone, it has abundant invertebrate animal and fish life including large schools of reef fish, spotted wobbegongs, blue groper, blue devil fish and dolphins. Leafy sea dragons have also been recorded here. It also boasts an underwater diving trail! The jetty is also popular for fishing (the end of the jetty is within the sanctuary zone and fishing is not allowed).

Onkaparinga Wetland Sanctuary Zone

This zone includes part of an important samphire wetland estuary that helps protect fish nurseries and bird feeding and resting habitats. Activities include walking, kayaking and bird watching.

Aldinga Reef Sanctuary Zone

A huge intertidal reef platform, exposed at low tide, provides an important feeding area for shorebirds and reveals beautiful rock-pools, providing for marine education.  Protected since 1971, Aldinga Reef includes one of the best scuba diving sites near Adelaide – the spectacular ‘Drop-Off’ at Snapper Point. 

Carrickalinga Cliffs Sanctuary Zone

Spectacular cliffs frame this sanctuary zone which supports some of the highest diversity of reef fish species recorded anywhere in South Australia. Some of the extensive seagrass meadows of Yankalilla Bay are also conserved within this sanctuary zone. Kayaking, boating, snorkelling and scuba diving are popular activities.

Rapid Head Sanctuary Zone

The cliffs of Rapid Head are simply spectacular. White-bellied sea eagles and other birds of prey have been sighted here. Below the cliffs, the rocky coastline is home to a small colony of Australian sea lions and long-nosed fur seals. Under the water the rocky coast forms beautiful reef habitats supporting resident reef fish such as blue devils, harlequin fish and blue groper.  Further to sea the reefs link with seagrasses and sandy plains, conserving a wide variety of habitats.  Scientists consider this area to be of high conservation importance, a critical ecological ‘stepping stone’ linking species of the lower gulf with those of the open southern ocean coastline.  The former warship HMAS Hobart was purposely scuttled to provide one of Australia’s best shipwreck dives and lies within the northern part of the sanctuary zone in 30m of water. Nearby, the Rapid Bay Jetty is world renowned for diving with the iconic leafy sea dragon, South Australia’s marine emblem.

Encounter Bay Sanctuary Zone

This zone protects part of the nationally significant Encounter Bay whale aggregation area at Bashams Beach. Southern right whales visit this coastline for annual mating and birthing activities between May and September each year, making it a great location to view whales from the shore-based viewing platform. Offshore, the sanctuary zone conserves large areas of deep water reef habitats.

Coorong Beach North Sanctuary Zone

This zone conserves marine habitat of the northern Coorong marine ecosystems and is culturally valuable to the Ngarrindjeri people.

Bay of Shoals Sanctuary Zone

This zone conserves a regionally significant sheltered embayment on Kangaroo Island, harbouring extensive seagrass meadows that support the larval, juvenile and adult stages of a number of commercially and recreationally important fish species, such as King George whiting. The intertidal flats are an important feeding ground for migratory shorebirds. The bay also provides feeding and breeding habitat for a resident pair of endangered osprey.

Pelican Lagoon Sanctuary Zone

Pelican Lagoon on Kangaroo Island is a regionally unique coastal marine lagoon and is considered a hotspot for marine biodiversity because of its diverse and productive range of habitats. There are sponge gardens, sandy tidal channels and seagrass meadows that provide nursery areas for fish species, such as King George whiting, southern garfish and Western Australian salmon. Protected since 1914, Pelican Lagoon is thought to be the oldest marine protected area in South Australia, and is a popular area for bird watching and kayaking.

Sponge Gardens Sanctuary Zone

This zone is located off the north-eastern coast of Kangaroo Island, in an area where the cliffs (over 50 m high) drop steeply into deep water. Along the base of the cliffs are fringing reefs which are home to a huge diversity of fish and invertebrates. In some areas, the reef extends further offshore and forms the only known shallow water example of a deep water marine invertebrate community in South Australia. Beyond that is a section of one of the two known deep water trenches in South Australia. Strong tidal currents flowing through Backstairs Passage have scoured out this trench, and in this deep water huge sea sponges grow (up to 1 m in diameter). This area is regarded as a place of national (and potentially global) importance.

The Pages Sanctuary Zone

The North and South Pages Islands are the only offshore islands within the Encounter Marine Park and are an important example of an offshore, exposed, rocky reef ecosystem. The islands are home to the largest breeding colony of the threatened Australian sea lion in the world, supporting approximately one quarter of the world population. This sanctuary zone protects the area around the North Pages Island, while the islands themselves are protected by The Pages Conservation Park.

More information

Dogs allowed (on lead)

Dogs are welcome in marine parks but please check with the relevant local council as by-laws may vary.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs are permitted in most public places and are therefore welcome in South Australia’s parks and reserves. Assistance dogs must be appropriately restrained on a lead and remain under your effective control at all times while in a park or reserve.

As per the dogs in parks and reserves policy, if the dog is not an accredited assistance dog, they must be trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate that disability and meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for a dog in a public place. However, refusal may be given if the person with the disability is unable to produce evidence the dog is an assistance dog with the appropriate training.

Before taking your assistance dog into a park that does not normally allow dogs, it is highly recommended that you contact us so we can provide you with the latest information on any potential hazards within specific parks that may affect your dog. Please contact the park via the contact details provided under the contact tab or call the information line on (+61 8) 8204 1910.

Facilities

Along the shoreline boundary of the marine park there are numerous, council and privately owned, facilities that might be useful to marine users especially jetties, boat ramps and carparks. 

Jetties

  • Port Noarlunga
  • Normanville
  • Second Valley
  • Rapid Bay
  • Cape Jervis
  • The Bluff
  • Granite Island (Encounter Bay)
  • Kingscote (Kangaroo Island)
  • American River (Kangaroo Island)
  • Penneshaw (Kangaroo Island)

Drive on beaches

  • Moana
  • Aldinga
  • Sellicks
  • Goolwa

Boat ramps

Useful information

Traditional owners

Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations.  At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.

In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.

Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia. 

See and do

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

Camping and accommodation

Boating

Fishing

Fishing is very popular within the park. Fishing access has been maintained at key fishing destinations such the Murray Mouth, Waitpinga Beach, Antechamber Bay and Wirrina.

You are allowed to fish within marine parks but not in the sanctuary zones. Sanctuary zones are no-take areas to protect important marine habitats, significant species and fish breeding grounds. Encounter Marine Park has eleven sanctuary zones so be sure to be familiar with fishing restrictions and zones before heading out.

Get started at these spots 

  • Beach fishing for salmon at Waitpinga Beach
  • Jetty fishing for squid at Second Valley
  • Boat fishing for snapper in Backstairs Passage

Important information 

Snorkelling and diving

Encounter Marine Park holds some of South Australia’s best snorkelling and dive sites. Diving is a popular marine sport, but like any activity involving the outdoors and wild places, it’s important to be prepared. You should always consult a local dive shop or someone with recent experience in the area before attempting any dive.

Popular spots to get you started

Port Noarlunga Reef

This popular snorkelling and dive spot has easy access to the reef from the jetty stairs.

Star of Greece Shipwreck (Port Willunga)

Located in shallow waters close to shore this shipwreck is perfect for snorkelling.

Aldinga Reef 

Recognised as one of Australia’s best dive sites, keep your eyes peeled for cuttlefish, perch and blue devil fish.

Second Valley

This picturesque bay has easy access and an abundance of marine life including sea urchins, leather jackets and salmon trout. 

Rapid Bay

Home to the iconic leafy sea dragon and one of Adelaide's most popular dive sites. The best diving is under the old jetty, just west of the new jetty. 

Ex-HMAS Hobart Shipwreck

This naval wreck was specifically prepared and sunk as a dive site. You will need to submit a permit to dive here.

Kayaking and paddle boarding

What better way to explore South Australia’s coast than by kayak or stand-up paddleboard?

Paddle along the Onkaparinga River, float over Port Noarlunga reef with glass-bottom kayaks or explore the rugged coastline and sea caves of Rapid Bay.   

Blogs and websites for inspiration

Whale watching

Encounter Marine Park offers some of the best whale watching locations in South Australia. From mid-May to September, southern right whales migrate from their Antarctic feeding grounds to mate and give birth along the coast of southern Australia.

Basham’s Beach is popular with female whales and their calves. With such close proximity to the shore, it is fast becoming the best spot to see whales in Encounter Bay. 

Further information:

Tours

Take a tour in the marine park with an accredited tour operator.

Surfing

Encounter Marine Park offers a number of surfing beaches, suiting beginners to experienced surfers.

Good spots for beginners are Moana and Sellicks Beach, or further south at Middleton or Goolwa Beach. For those more experienced, catch some Southern Ocean swells at Waitpinga and Parsons Beach.

Granite Island Recreation Park

Home to little penguins, Granite Island Recreation Park is characterised by huge granite boulders tinged with orange lichen. Join a guided penguin tour, try your luck at whale watching or stroll along the sculpture encounter trail where you can experience art and nature as one.

Beach driving and 4WDriving

Four-wheel drive to the mouth of the Murray River. Access the beach from Goolwa and explore the majestic coast where Encounter Marine Park and the Coorong National Park overlap. This 10 kilometer stretch is recommended for experienced four-wheel drivers.

If you don’t have a 4WD, Sellicks Beach and Silver Sands can be accessed by most cars. Silver Sands beach is open to vehicles from 5.30am to midnight.

These coastlines provide important habitat for shorebirds.  Watch out for birds and their chicks when beach driving, avoid driving along the high water line in spring and summer when the Hooded Plovers are nesting. 

Standard road rules apply when driving on beaches, including the laws for speed limits, drink driving, vehicle registration, drivers licenses and seat belts.

Be careful if driving on the beach, and only do so at low tide. Remember tides are unpredictable and can turn quickly. You may only drive on the beach between the high and low water mark. There is no vehicle access to the sand dunes.

Beach combing and shorebirds

Along the coastline, there are some beautiful spots to view birdlife, marine plants and animals including Aldinga Reef and Port Noarlunga Reef. Please do not disturb animals on the shore such as in rockpools, best to leave your bucket at home. 

Remember it is illegal to remove any bottom-dwelling organisms from any intertidal rocky reef in South Australia. This area is measured from the high water mark to a water depth of 2 meters. Learn more about protecting intertidal reefs

Hear about common mistaken marine identities from Adelady 

Useful links and resources

Volunteering

Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.

Safety

Water safety

The ocean is an unpredictable environment, when undertaking water activities you are doing so at your own risk.

Strong currents and rips can make swimming and surfing dangerous in some areas throughout Encounter Marine Park.

Be aware that so-called 'freak' or irregular waves can wash over rocks and reefs with no warning and with enough force to sweep people into the sea.  Weather, wind and wave conditions can change quickly.  Always check the weather before heading out. Check the Bureau of Meteorology marine page for forecasts and observations.

Snorkelling and diving

Here are some basic but important safety tips when snorkelling or diving: 

  • Always swim with a friend.
  • Make sure your equipment is good and that you are familiar with it.
  • Take care of yourself, hydrated, use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and don't push yourself beyond your comfort or skill zones.
  • Be aware of the ocean, currents and weather conditions.
  • Don't touch marine life.
  • Explore the ocean at your own risk.

Kayaking

Here are some basic but important safety tips for kayaking: 

  • Always paddle with a friend and tell someone else your paddle plan.
  • Make sure your equipment is good and that you are familiar with it.
  • Take care of yourself, hydrated, use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and don't push yourself beyond your comfort or skill zones.
  • Be aware of the ocean, currents, wind and weather conditions.
  • Don't touch marine life.
  • Explore the ocean at your own risk.
  • Follow the boating rules of the area you're in.
  • Wear a personal floatation device (life jacket).

4WDriving

Take extreme care when driving in the park – be aware of soft, shifting sands, blowouts and drop-offs.

Driving on the ocean beach is only permitted between the high and low water mark.

When driving on the beach, it is best to do so at low tide. High tides and storms can cause sections of the beach to become treacherous. Check the tide times for your forward and return journey.

When driving on sand, deflate your tyres as appropriate for your vehicle. Take care when lowering tyre pressure as there is a risk you could roll a tyre off a rim. Also, remember that lower tyre pressure can mean a change in how the vehicle handles. Don’t forget to reinflate your tyres to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure before leaving the park.

Please consider other drivers by not obstructing the flow of traffic.

Marine mammals

Maintaining the legal distance from marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and seals is important, both for our safety and that of the animals.

The animals may be seriously injured if they are struck by a vessel or frightened young may become separated from their mothers. Even if there is no contact, coming too close can disrupt feeding, breeding, and migratory behaviors.

Regular water users should make themselves familiar with all the rules for interacting with marine mammals by viewing the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals – Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010.

In the Water

  • Within the Encounter Bay Restricted Area: All vessels  – no closer than 300m to a whale.
  • Whale calves: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m.
  • Distressed, stranded or entangled whales: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m.
  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils, and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): never closer than 300m.
    • Other vessels (for example, cabin cruisers, yachts, ‘tinnies’, inflatables, kayaks, windsurfers and kite surfers) outside of Encounter Bay Restricted Area: no closer than 100m
    • Other vessels within 300m of a whale: no anchoring; maximum speed 4 knots; maximum time 60 minutes.
  • Swimmers (including surfers and boogie boarders): no closer than 30m.

On land

  • No closer than 30m (or 50m if the whale is distressed, stranded or entangled).

In the air

  • Planes and remotely piloted aircraft (drones) must be at least 300m from any whale or other marine mammals (additional Civil Aviation Safety Authority restrictions apply).
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters must be at least 500m from any whale or other marine mammals.

Maps

There are a number of resources to help you find where the marine parks are and to locate the zones in each park, whether you’re on land or out in your boat.  Used in combination these products, devices and Apps provide you with approximate real-time location display in accordance with your communication network or GPS capabilities.

It is recommended any geo-referenced pdf maps or GPS files and the appropriate apps are downloaded and installed prior to leaving home due to lack of network connectivity in remote areas.

SA Recreational Fishing Guide app

The SA Recreational Fishing Guide app provides your location in the waters or on beaches in relation to the zones, and keep a look out for signage at nearby boat ramps.

Online interactive map

Explore the marine parks and their zones with our interactive map.

Regional marine parks and zones maps

Encounter Marine Park Sanctuary Zones

'SA Marine Parks Sanctuary Zone Maps' guide.

Marine park management plan maps with zones and coordinates

Downloadable detailed pdf maps of Encounter Marine Park showing legal zone coordinates. It is important to read the pdf map capability statement and disclaimer before using these maps.

Encounter Marine Park

You can print maps or use your smartphone or tablet to view them using the free Avenza App.

Please be aware that the landward boundaries of Marine Parks are defined as the median high water (unless otherwise specified).  Mapped shoreline is representative only.

Marine park zones GPS coordinates 

You can download GPS files for all marine park zones in a number of formats.  It is important to read the GPS data capability statement and disclaimer before using these maps. 

Find out how to use the GPS coordinates files.

 

 

 

Fees

Entry fees

Come and enjoy this park for free. 

Permits

To help manage marine parks, there are some restrictions on what activities can be undertaken within the parks. 

Marine parks permits may be issued to allow an activity that would otherwise be prohibited by the Marine Parks (Zoning) Regulations. The following activities in sanctuary zones will be given favorable consideration for permits:

  • scientific research
  • competitions and organised sport events
  • tourism operations
  • commercial photography and film making
  • installation of  moorings

More information and applying for a permit.

PDF Park Brochure