WA has an extraordinary maritime history and there are plenty of shipwrecks shallow enough to be enjoyed with nothing more than a mask and snorkel. Read on to discover their unique stories and where to find them.
Omeo Wreck in Coogee
Just 25 metres from the shore of Coogee Beach rests the remains of iron steamship, Omeo. The star attraction of the Coogee Maritime Trail – the first maritime trail in Australia – ran aground in 1905 after multiple close shaves, including the disastrous collision with Swan Spit Lighthouse that saw the building collapse into the ocean. The Omeo played an integral part in Australian history, assisting in laying the Bass Straight and Overland submarine telegraph line which allowed Australia to communicate across the world with Britain.
Peeking out from the shallows only 2 – 4m deep, the sternpost and collapsed sections of the bow are visible from the shore, and snorkelers can explore this piece of Australian history up close, alongside the colourful marine life that have made the Omeo their home. Surrounded by the artificial reefs and underwater art sculptures that make up the Maritime Trail, this is an underwater experience not to be missed.
The Omeo wreck is the perfect place for newbies and kids to get their feet wet. Swimmers can easily reach the site by swimming from the shore to the wreck. The Maritime Trail itself is made up of the snorkelling section, and a land-based trail featuring artefacts such as restored anchors from the wreck. It is recommended that you set aside an hour or two to properly explore the trail from the water before drying off by checking out the artefacts onshore. The trail can be easily accessed via Socrates Parade and begins on the northern side of Coogee Beach with the Omeo shipwreck.
More details on the maritime trail and sites can be found here.
The wreck of The Shark on Rottnest Island
With more than 13 ships wrecked within its waters, Rottnest Island is rich with maritime history. Only 50 metres from the shore, The Shark is Rottnest Island’s most accessible shipwreck and is a great spot to bring the kids for an immersive underwater adventure. With the bay boasting smooth, shallow waters this is an easy swimming site for those still getting comfortable in the water.
Breaking free of her mooring in Fremantle in 1939, the barge ship struck Henrietta Rocks on the east side of the island, before coming to rest on the seabed beneath Lookout Hill where she still lies today.
Swimmers and snorkelers can take a dip and explore the unique marine flora and fauna of Rottnest while experiencing the haunting beauty of this abandoned ship. Be careful to avoid touching the ragged, rusty edges of the wreckage, though, as they might damage you as well as the ship!
Henrietta Rocks is an easy 23-minute drive – or a 10-minute cycle – from the Rottnest Island Ferry Jetty along Parker Point Road, with the wreck just a short swim from the shore.
If you don’t have your own snorkelling gear, Pedal and Flipper has island visitors covered with snorkelling kits available to hire for your trip.
Find your way to The Shark here.
If military history is your jam, look no further than the eerie Uribes wreckage, off the shore of Thomson Bay near Philip Point on Rottnest Island.
Although the Uribes is one of Rottnest’s most recent sunken sea-farers, it is also one of the oldest ships off the island’s coast. Originally built in 1868 as a barque, Uribes eventually became a munitions and vehicle carrier during the Second World War. In 1942, the auxiliary schooner wrecked just metres from the Natural Jetty in Thomson Bay after her engines failed. Wedged between the protective shields of the jetty and the reef, this is one of Perth’s most well-preserved wreckages, with machinery and parts of the hull still in excellent condition.
On calm days, this is another great destination for those looking for an entry-level introduction to snorkelling. However, we must advise checking the weather before setting out for this watery wonder, as strong swells can push swimmers into the boat.
Snorkellers visiting Thomson Bay can find the wreckage 100 metres west of the jetty, and it is easily accessible from the shore. With the clear waters and natural protection, this is a great location to grab a waterproof wind-up camera and snap a selfie with the wildlife, or take some mysterious Instagram shots of the ship.
You can find the Uribes shipwreck here.
Alex T. Brown
One of Perth’s mainland wreckages, the majestic 4-masted schooner Alex T. Brown became beached in 1917 after losing control in strong gales. It is one of only two four-masted schooner shipwrecks in the whole of Australia and is significant as it represents the danger of maritime travel in the early 20th Century.
Memories of Alex T. Brown litter the community of Yanchep, with wood taken from wreckage embedded in local structures like the Yanchep Inn and parts of the historic Lindsay Homestead.
There is always a new discovery to be made at this site, as it is constantly changing with the tides, seasons and weather. In winter, swells can sometimes surface up to 12 metres of her spectacular remains, while summer brings the perfect opportunity to snorkel around the shipwreck. Within the frames of the shipwreck, snorkellers will be able to explore the ship’s original keel, sister and rider keelsons and various other remnants.
The wreck is just 350 metres south of Yanchep’s popular surfing point ‘The Spot’ and is great for first-time snorkellers looking to dip their toes into the magical world of maritime history while keeping close to the beach.
Find Alex T. Brown here.