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5 places to swim with wild dolphins

Australia's magnificent oceans offer one of the world's ultimate wildlife encounters: swimming with wild dolphins. 

By Sheriden Rhodes

These five guided encounters, from Australia's west coast to the serene waters of Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay, allow you to swim with curious dolphins in their natural environment.

Meet some of Australia's friendliest locals

Swim in sync with dolphins

Regarded as Australia's dolphin capital, Port Stephens (a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Sydney) is home to a remarkable dolphin encounter. Most swim-with-dolphin experiences involve floating in the ocean and waiting in a stationary position until the dolphins approach you, but with Dolphin Swim Australia swimmers are pulled slowly alongside the dolphins. Participants are attached to a harness and clipped to a tow rope between the twin bows of a catamaran. As the dolphins move playfully through the water, you effectively swim in time with them. 

Play in Melbourne's bay

Melbourne is home to a vast harbour, Port Phillip Bay. About 80 frolicking bottlenose dolphins live here, and two local tour operators, Polperro Dolphin Swim and Moonraker Dolphin Swims, offer a wonderful snorkelling experience just a 1.5 hour drive from Melbourne's city centre. Simply hop into the water and dolphins and Australian fur seals will swim around and beneath you, often in circles. Afterwards you'll tuck into homemade scones, a classic Australian treat that is perfect with tea. 

Frolic with dolphins near Adelaide

This wild dolphin encounter operates in the waters off Adelaide's favourite beachside town, Glenelg, just 20 minutes from the city centre. Hop on board Temptation in your supplied wetsuit, snorkel and mask, hang on to a flotation line, and wait for common and bottlenose dolphins to gather around to play, swimming around and beneath you. Thousands of dolphins call the Gulf St Vincent home, so dolphin sightings are virtually guaranteed.

Wild encounters and wine

Two hours south of Perth, in the Bunbury Geographe region of Western Australia (just 1.5 hours north of the premium wine region of Margaret River), you can swim with wild dolphins under the watchful eye of a marine biologist and volunteers from the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Venture into the open waters of Koombana Bay, where the curious bottlenose dolphins usually choose to approach swimmers. As in all other locations, encounters rely on dolphins approaching swimmers of their own accord.

Meet the locals near Perth

Swim with dolphins on this remarkable tour of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, less than an hour’s drive south of Perth. The knowledgeable crew from Rockingham Wild Encounters has, over the years, befriended hundreds of local dolphins that call the area's sheltered bays and islands home. You may see mothers nursing calves, discover how dolphins use stingrays to catch their dinner or simply watch the boys showing off for the ladies.