Diving the Great Barrier Reef is at the top of most diver’s bucket lists, and for good reason – it is one of the best dive locations in the world! But if you are searching for some other great diving sites in Australia, then check out these 7 worthy, (but less well-known) diving spots!
1. Ningaloo Reef – Western Australia
Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is a world heritage-listed coral reef site spanning over 260km. The reef is made up of hard and soft corals and is teeming with colorful sea life. Expect to see turtles, stingrays, sharks, eels, and maybe even a dolphin or dugong. And if you time your visit right, you may be lucky enough to spot “the big 3” – mantas, whale sharks and humpback whales! Mantas are most easily spotted between mid-May to mid-September, while Whale shark season is from April to July and Humpback season is from July to October (note whale sharks and humpbacks are best seen on specialized day snorkeling trips). Diving Ningaloo Reef is suitable for all skill levels and depths range from 6-35m. The water is generally around 22-26 degrees Celsius water and visibility can be up to 20m, but is much lower in poor weather and when plankton is in the water. Ningaloo Reef is best visited on a liveaboard, and you will often find you are the only divers and boat in sight!
2. Port Phillip Bay – Victoria
Port Phillip Bay in Victoria is most famous for its spider crab migration, which used to be a local secret until it was made famous by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet film.
Tens of thousands of spider crabs line the ocean floor at the end of one of the piers (typically Blairgowrie Pier or Rye Pier) for a couple of weeks around May/June. The spider crabs come up to the shallows and congregate in thousands to offer protection in numbers while they shed their old shells. This causes quite a stir in marine life and creates a feeding frenzy, so it is a great time to scuba dive and see the action. Unfortunately, this is also prime time for fishermen who do mass catching of crabs, so the numbers of spider crabs have been decreasing over the years. This is a dive for all abilities at approx. 14m deep, but be aware the water is a chilly 11 to 15 degrees Celsius.
3. Julian Rocks – New South Wales
Julian Rocks can be found in Byron Bay right near the Queensland border and is a Marine Reserve known for its diverse, plentiful and colorful marine life. It is unique in that it is where cold and warm currents meet, meaning you will find both tropical and cold-water fish here! The water here is relatively warm at 25 to 26 degrees Celsius and there is a good range of dive sites for all levels of ability (6m to 24m depth). The Nursery is a good shallow and protected dive site for new divers and is the best spot to see turtles, while the Cod Hole is great for experienced divers to see nurse sharks, wobbegongs and other large fish in an underwater cave. And if nudibranchs are more your style, then check out Hugo’s Trench dive site. Julian Rocks visibility ranges from 10m to 30m depending on the day and dive site.
4. Ex-HMAS Brisbane – Queensland
The ex-HMAS Brisbane is a former Royal Australian Navy warship used in the Vietnam and Gulf wars, that was sunk in 2005 to create an artificial reef. It is a conservation park, meaning that no fishing or boats are allowed within 400m of the wreck, so this site is full of marine life! Expect to see octopus, lion fish, trevally, groupers, rays, turtles and nudibranchs, as well as over 300 species of hard and soft coral. This dive is for certified divers only (who have a minimum of 10 dives) and is best done on a tour or you can dive it yourself as long as you have a permit. The wreck is 133m long and the maximum depth is 28m. To explore the whole ship you will need to have an advanced certification, but if you stick to the upper decks, an Open Water certification (plus 10 dives) is sufficient. The great thing about this dive site is that you don’t need a wreck certification to penetrate the wreck, advanced divers can swim through the top and lower decks, while Open water divers are restricted to the top deck. Visibility on this site is between 10-25m with the best visibility occurring within the winter months. The dive itself has minimal current, so this is a good easy wreck dive to do, especially if you are new to wreck diving. Water temperature ranges from 18 degrees Celsius in the winter to 27 degrees Celsius in the summer.
Tip: When booking a tour, be wary of the terms and conditions as some tour operators here impose maximum weight limits of 110kgs per person.
5. Port Lincoln – South Australia
Port Lincoln in South Australia is the place to go if you are game enough to dive with the Great White Sharks! It is one of the few places in the world and the only place in Australia where you can do this thrilling activity. Be warned it is quite a journey to get there (approx. 3 hours each way), as the dive is actually done near the Neptune Islands. If you are prone to seasickness then it is best to give this one a miss. As for the diving itself, don’t worry you don’t need to be a certified diver to participate, as shark cage dives are done at the surface (about 1 m below).
Different tours attract the sharks in different ways, some use bait while others use music, and if you are not keen to get into the cage, there are a variety of viewing platforms on the boats so you won’t miss out on the fun. Because the location is so remote, the water is crystal clear and visibility can be more than 30m so you won’t have any problems spotting those sharks. Note water can be on the chilly side (14 to 20 degrees Celsius). There is no specific Great white shark season, but based on previous data, April to June or November to January may be the best times to spot these magnificent creatures.
6. Tasman Peninsula – Tasmania
The Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania isn’t the first place you would think of to go diving in Australia, due to the chilly temperatures (12 degrees Celsius). But the clearness of the water, and the marine interactions you will have, make up for it! One of the most fun experiences you will have diving is with the fur seals. These guys are curious and very playful so you will have one energetic dive. The weedy sea dragons are another magical sight to see, and can only be spotted in Southern Australia. Red-orange in color and 30-40cm long these are similar to sea horses and swim very awkwardly through the water. These dives are great for all abilities and visibility ranges from 12m in summer months to 40m in winter months. There are some other great dives here, like the giant caves and sponge gardens but these are advanced and deep dives (up to 40m) requiring you to have good buoyancy control and a deep-dive certification.
7. Darwin Harbor – Northern Territory
Darwin Harbor in the Northern Territory is a paradise for those who like wreck diving as there are more than 90 wrecks to explore as the result of WWII and Cyclone Tracey. Diving here though is quite tricky and needs to be timed well. Tides in Darwin Harbor change drastically (usually by 8m) so you can only dive every second week during the second half of the year. Due to the tide changes the visibility is very low and stirs up a lot of silt (7m visibility on a good day). For this reason, you must dive with a guide, have an Advanced certification and have been on at least 15 dives. The good thing is not many people dive these wrecks, so you will definitely have a unique diving experience. Also, the water temperature is nice and steamy at over 30 degrees Celsius year-round. Dive sites range from 12m to 30m and you may even get to see a crocodile (although they tend to not be near the dive sites and hide in the mangroves).
Now that you know about some of the great dive spots in Australia, all that’s left to do is book your trip. And while you are in Australia be sure to check the Great Barrier Reef off your bucket list. If you are looking for some tips on the best dive sites to visit, check out our article on 5 Must see Dive Sites at the Great Barrier Reef to help plan your trip!
About the Author
Amanda and her husband Dean have been certified divers since 2009. Amanda has her advanced open water and Dean is a dive master. They have travelled the world and dived many sites in Australia, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Amanda and Dean have a travel blog called Scatabout which details the fun and unique experiences they have had on their world travels. You can find them doing something adventurous like scuba diving, hiking or something strange like running down the side of a building.
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