iconAustralia’s diving hotspots


Australia’s coast is brimming with renowned dive spots. Here are some of the best ones in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

 

New South Wales

Has a thriving dive industry and it supports the livelihood of many Australian’s and WHM from other countries. Diving conditions are usually moderate, depending on the weather, which can affect temperature and visibility. Several marine parks and reserves protect exotic and aquatic species from pollution brought by commercialism within the habitat.  NSW fascinating collection of marine species include: endemic turtles, sea dragons, sharks, moray eels, sea urchins, and rare black coral gardens. Reefs on this area are either natural or man made, such as a sunken shipwreck.

 

New South Wales is also where you can find one of the best diving sites in the world: The Pinnacles. This is the only place where you get to swim with Grey Nurse sharks in the wild! Other sea creatures that can be spotted here are manta rays, bull rays, kingfish, jewfish, White Pointer sharks, and Bronze whalers.

Sydney‘s diving destinations include: The Gap, Gap Caves, Dee Why, Wedding Cake Island, The Apartments, The Overhang, and Royal Shepherd. All diving destinations guarantee excellent undersea adventures.  Fish Rock Cave, up the NSW coast is a site where tourists can dive with schools of clownfish, shells, and humpback whales.

Meanwhile, adventurers can also visit Jervis Bay, widely known for its quaint houses and villages along the side of the beach. Just located 2 1/2 hours away from Sydney. A wide assortment of southern marine species thrive along its coral reefs and coastlines, making it the southern counterpart of The Great Barrier Reef. Diving in Jervis Bay is possible any time of the year because of its interestingly unique land formation.

Another diving site worth visiting is Julian Rocks Marine Park, just 2.5 kilometres off Byron Bay in New South Wales. Its unique water temperatures support exotic marine life such as leopard sharks, cuttlefish, strange looking water animals, and dolphins.

Queensland

Queensland is absolutely full of amazing dive sites. It is home to the famous Great Barrier Reef, and has fascinating wreck sites such as the S.S Yongala, which lies just south of Townsville. Colour and diversity abounds in Queensland’s tropical dive sites, with a range of areas suitable to all levels of experience.

The world famous Great Barrier Reef (GBR), in Queensland’s north, consists of a staggering 2900 individual coral reefs, covering an area of 348,000 square kilometres. Declared a natural wonder of the world, the GBR is an established national marine park, which protects around 400 different species of hard and soft coral. The GBR houses an extraordinarily diverse variety of species:

  • 1500 types of fish
  • 4000 kinds of mollusc
  • 350 echinoderms and
  • countless species of sponge, crustaceans, and sea grasses.

 

There’s no doubt about it, the GBR offers a huge array of marine delights for divers and snorkellers alike. Accessible from Townsville, Mission Beach, Airlie Beach, Cairns, and Port Douglas, the GBR is the most popular spot to dive and snorkel in Australia.

Queensland’s southern coastline houses fascinating wreck dives and reefs. Southern Queensland’s cooler waters attract lots of marine species, including turtles, rays, wobbegongs, and more. The Tangalooma wrecks, near Moreton Island, are a highlight as is North Stradbroke Island’s Manta Ray Bommie. Wolf Rock is another must see, located 10 kilometres northeast of Double Island Point. Residents include:

  • grey nurse sharks
  • spotted eagle rays
  • turtles
  • Queensland gropers
  • and many more

 

Just off the Mooloolaba Coast, in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the Inner and Outer Gneering Shoals offer great diving. Expect lots of fish, colour, and coral. Surrounded by beautiful coral gardens, Mudjumba Island (Old Woman Island), located two kilometres off the mainland, is another diving highlight, as is the recently sunk former HMAS Brisbane.

Western Australia

Ningaloo Reef lies between the resort towns of Exmouth and Coral Bay, approximately 1200 kilometres north of Perth. Ningaloo Reef houses a huge variety of fish, with over 500 species living in its waters. It also holds over 200 species of coral, 600 species of molluscs, and an abundance of other marine life. Great snorkelling and diving sites are plentiful along the Ningaloo coastline. Some sites can be accessed just metres from the shoreline, which is great news for seasickness sufferers.

Four out of the seven marine turtle species in the world are found in the Ningaloo marine tract area, including:

  • the leatherback
  • green
  • loggerhead
  • and hawksbill turtles.

 

Approximately 1000 Dugongs call Ningaloo’s seagrass ecosystem home and from May to November you will also spot manta rays. Distant cousins to sharks, manta rays can span more than six metres in width, but don’t panic, they are harmless.

Ningaloo is most famous for whale sharks, which visit the reef from April to July each year. The biggest fish, whale sharks congregate at Ningaloo in one of the world’s largest predictable aggregations. Whale sharks are filter feeders with a broad, flattened head, minute teeth, and a pattern of spots and stripes, which act as camouflage. Mature adults can be up to 18 metres long and weigh up to 21 tonnes. Their diet consists of plankton and other ‘smaller than you’ creatures, so you can swim with these gentle giants without worrying about becoming lunch!

Rowley Shoals, off Broome in WA’s north, offers amazing diving with practically untouched coral gardens, giant clams, and an assortment of shellfish. Potato cod, maori wrasse, colourful reef fish, trevally, mackerel, and tuna all call this chain of coral atolls home. There is even a wreck site to explore from a ship thought to have sunk in the 1800s! The best time to visit the shoals is September to December; however they are located 260 kilometres from Broome and it takes around 12 hours to get there via boat, so it’s an adventure best suited to really keen divers.

Southwest WA also has some fantastic diving sites. In fact, Busselton’s famous nearly two kilometre wooden jetty is one of the Top Ten jetty dives in the world. The marine life here is spectacular thanks to the Leeuwin current, which brings in a narrow band of warm water every autumn and winter.

South Australia

South Australia offers divers a unique glimpse into what lies beneath. Think leafy seadragons, sea lions, and giant cuttlefish. You can cage dive with Great White sharks, dive in amazing ancient limestone caves, and with over 700 shipwrecks in South Australia’s waters, there are plenty of wreck sites to explore. Advanced divers would probably get the most out of diving South Australia, as areas such as sinkholes and ponds require you to hold cave diver qualifications and a permit.

Adelaide has good sites for beginner divers, with a few suitable wreck dives. However, advanced wreck divers will be in heaven, with the ‘Adelaide Underwater Heritage Trail’ to explore. The Eyre Peninsula is a top spot for diving, boasting the Nuyts Archipelago, which is a group of 20 islands. The Eyre Peninsula also contains a wreck dive and a few popular jetty dives. From May to August, the Whyalla reef is a breeding ground for giant cuttlefish and there are sea lions aplenty at Baird Bay.

The Fleurieu Reef is found on Fleurieu Peninsula. Created in 2002, the Fleurieu reef contains the wreck of the ex-HMAS Hobart, offering an excellent wreck dive, with many parts of the ship accessible. The leafy or weedy seadragon, unique to South Australia, can also be spotted in this region, with the Rapid Bay jetty a leafy seadragon hang-out.

Kangaroo Island also has a Maritime Heritage Trail, and is another popular place to spot leafy seadragons. Kangaroo Island’s north coast is an ideal spot to see:

  • sea lions
  • bottlenose-dolphins
  • soft corals
  • and sponges.

 

For freshwater sinkholes and cave diving, head to the Limestone Coast. The most popular sinkholes are the Piccaninnie Ponds, Tank Cave, Ewens Pond, the Shaft, and Kilsby’s Sinkhole. Be aware that permits are required for some of the cave dive sites. Yorke Peninsula contains plenty more wreck dives and maritime heritage trails. The Troubridge Shoals are found in the strait between Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. Containing six of the area’s earliest wrecks, the shoals have been responsible for over 33 shipwrecks! Due to the weather conditions, this area contains sites that are only suitable for advanced divers.

Cage diving with Great White sharks has been possible in South Australia since the ‘70s. Adrenaline junkies can embark on this incredible adventure in the waters around the North and South Neptune Islands and the appropriately named ‘Dangerous Reef’, which is off the Southern Eyre Peninsula.

Northern Territory

Darwin has suffered from a rather devastating history. During World War II Darwin was base for Allied action and, as a result, was attacked 64 times. And then on Christmas Eve in 1974, Cyclone Tracy hit, claiming 66 lives and destroying many homes. However, all that history has made for some interesting diving. World War II relics and remnants of Cyclone Tracy lie in Darwin’s waters, providing a fascinating history lesson and artificial reefs, which a variety of marine life now call home.

Some World War II remnants include American supply vessels Meigs and Mauna Loa, sunk in the 1942 bombing, American destroyer U.S.S Peary, evacuation/hospital vessel Zealandia, and small but interesting tank landing barge wrecks. Examples of Cyclone Tracy remnants include fishing trawlers Dieman and Bellbird, as well as a passenger ferry called the Mandorah Queen. Another artificial reef to explore is Vietnamese steel hulled fishing boat ‘Song Saigon’, which sank in 1983, and is now home to a diverse range of marine life.

Don’t forget Darwin’s natural reefs. You’ll find them flourishing with a wide array of marine life close to the city. However, before you embark on a Darwin diving adventure, be aware that tides can cause poor visibility.

 

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