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Diving in Australia

There is truly no place like Australia. From the northern tip of the world famous Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s east coast, all the way around to pristine dive conditions off Western Australia, the diving choices are immense.

Diving in Australia

Quick facts

First things first, Australia is huge! Comprised of six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) and two major mainland territories (The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory), each state offers it's own unique diving adventures!

From colorful coral reefs in northern, tropical waters to giant kelp forests in the south, Australia offers it all. Most non-Australian divers readily associate diving Down Under with the Great Barrier Reef. And as they rightly should! This amazing ecosystem is the world's largest natural feature, visible from space and home to over 2000 unique bird, marine mammal and fish species.

Yet while the Great Barrier Reef is wondrous on its own, there’s a whole lot more to see. Adelaide is famous for its multitude of shipwrecks, South West Rocks is famous for its shark action and Exmouth is famous for Ningaloo reef, where whale shark and manta ray sightings are common. The wreck of the Yongala out of Townsville is a very worthy side trip and will awe shipwreck enthusiasts.

While you can dive much of Australia on a day trip, the country’s remote dive sites lend themselves to liveaboard diving. In addition, Australia is a fantastic place to get your Open Water certification or any other advanced training. There are dive sites suitable for all levels from beginner to advanced and even technical divers.

Keep in mind that diving in Australia is strictly regulated. Expect precise dive record keeping protocols and a firm adherence to safety rules. Overall, Australia is a truly magnificent place, not to be missed by any diver.

Recommended training

Nearly every PADI Specialty Diver course, except ice diving, will help you enjoy diving in Australia. The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course is a must to capture the beauty of the place. PADI Enriched Air Diver is a good idea because enriched air nitrox is widely available. Australia is also a technical diving destination, so look into PADI TecRec courses, including the PADI Rebreather Diver course, if interested.

When to go

Diving is great year round in most states. Australia has temperate weather for most of the year, but the northern states experience warm weather all the time while the southern states have cool winters. Cyclone season, which affects the northern states, runs from November to April.

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Where to dive

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  • Cairns

    The Great Barrier Reef is world renowned for it’s iconic dive sites, colourful marine life and sheer size - it's 2,300km in length!

  • The Great Barrier Reef

    Diving the Great Barrier Reef allows you to explore beautiful Queensland and the world’s largest single structure comprised of living organisms. A truly magical place.

  • New South Wales

    New South Wales has so much to offer with great dives at Byron Bay, pristine reefs at Lord Howe Island, beautiful caves, plenty of nurse sharks and playtime with fur seals.

  • Queensland

    Queensland is the gateway to the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, a must-dive in any divers’ lifetime.

  • South Australia

    South Australia's bio diverse temperate waters offer amazing shore diving opportunities under the many jetties in and around Adelaide, as well as stunning wreck dives throughout the state.

  • Victoria

    Home to lively Melbourne, Victoria is one of the most spectacular scuba diving spots in Australia. Islands lie just offshore, boasting waters that are teeming with marine life.

  • Western Australia

    Vast Western Australia has shorelines galore, beckoning scuba divers to explore these unique land and seascapes. Don’t let this lesser travelled region of Australia pass you by.

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North Stradbroke Island, Brisbane - The premier dive sites here, Shag Rock and Flat Rock, are home to healthy numbers of leopard and grey nurse sharks. At Flat Rock, watch for wobbegongs and turtles in the gullies. Shag Rock, with a maximum depth of 15 metres/45 feet, is popular with newly certified divers who enjoy the gullies and a swim through. Manta Ray Bommie has great viz and is visited, as the name implies, by manta rays in summer. It’s also home to leopard sharks and other abundant aquatic life.

HMAS Brisbane, Sunshine Coast - Lying in just less than 30 metres/100 feet of clear currentless water, the 133-metre/436-foot HMS Brisbane became an artificial reef for divers in 2005. Many divers consider it among the best dives in Australia. The ship was well prepared and has many entry and exit points cut in the hull. Eagle rays, turtles, kingfish and groupers prowl the wreck.

Bare Island, Sydney - This popular dive site was featured as the virus factory in Mission Impossible II. The eastern side of the island tends to have better visibility and shallower depths which make it suitable for new divers. The western side has abundant aquatic life, notably beautiful sponge gardens and a rocky reef wall with overhangs and depths to 18 metres/60 feet. Keep an eye out for Port Jackson sharks.

HMAS Adelaide, NSW – Purposely scuttled off Terrigal on NSW's central coast in April 2011, the HMAS Adelaide has diver access holes strategically placed to allow easy exploration of key areas. The wreck is developing a nice marine community that includes giant cuttlefish, grouper, kingfish, blennies, octopus, banner fish and bat fish.

Shelly Beach, NSW - The only west-facing beach on the entire east coast of Australia, this popular shore dive has nice white sand and boulders forming a natural reef for marine life. Cruising along shallower than 14 metres/45 feet, you may see a few wobbegongs and Port Jackson sharks along with huge grouper and lots of other fish.

HMAS Canberra, Victoria – This naval ship was prepared and purpose-sunk as a dive site in 2009. Sitting on the bottom at 28 metres/92 feet, the HMAS Canberra’s mast reaches up to within 5 metres/15 feet of the surface. This wreck is now a Marine Reserve and hosts a healthy variety of marine species.

Lonsdale Wall, Victoria – This long wall can be explored on many different dives. You descend along a sheer wall with small ledges and big overhangs that often create swim-throughs. Look for fish hiding under the ledges, including the western blue devil fish, and soft corals and sponges clinging to the wall.

Rapid Bay Jetty, South Australia - Relatively close to Adelaide and with easy entry and exit, this is South Australia's most popular jetty shore dive. You can see huge schools of fish in between the pylons and this jetty offers the best chances of spotting leafy sea dragons and even the occasional weedy sea dragon! Playful sunrays penetrating the old jetty above create an amazing playground for underwater photographers.

Edithburgh Jetty, South Australia – This shallow dive site hosts a remarkable diversity of marine life. The jetty structure is covered with sponges and soft corals and provides a playground for all sorts of macro life. Everything from tassled anglerfish to pyjama squid and from tiny seahorses to a playful resident seal can be found under this jetty, as well as a small colony of leafy sea dragons!

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia – This reef lies off the remote northern coastline of Western Australia, stretching nearly 260 kilometres/150 miles from north to south - making it the longest fringing reef in the world. It supports more than 220 coral species and more than 500 fish species. However, it’s the big animals – whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays and dugongs – that really add excitement to the area.

Rottnest Island, Western Australia – There are numerous dive sites around this limestone island, each offering something a little different. Indian Ocean currents have helped shaped deep crevices, caverns and huge swim-throughs off Rottnest, which create mazes at some sites. The fish around the island are diverse and soft coral are just sensational.

Cathedral Cave, Tasmania – This is the most visited cavern in Waterfall Bay because its three large openings make entering easy and allow light to filter in, just like a big cathedral. The cavern is around 30 metres/100 feet long and approximately 21 metres/70 feet deep. Colorful sponges and invertebrates cover the walls.

Governors Island Marine Reserve, Tasmania – The reserve contains more than 15 dives sites. You can dive on huge underwater mounds and peer into enormous caverns with soft corals growing on the walls. There are lots of fish and the odd pod of southern right whales and dolphins.

USAT Meigs, Northern Territory – The USAT Meigs is a 131-metre/430-foot long US transport ship that sank during the first Japanese air raid in Darwin, Australia during World War II. Sitting in18 metres/60 feet of water, this wreck is a popular dive. Look for a variety fish, including pygmy barracudas, golden snapper and large estuarine cod.

Julian Rocks, New South Wales – Warm and cold water currents meet here resulting in a spectacular mix of tropical and cold water fish creating one of the most abundant fish dives in the world. You'll could see Leopard Sharks, Manta Rays, Dolphins, Blue Whales, a variety of stingrays, large schools of pelagics and turtles, as well as nudibranchs and a lot of smaller marine creatures. Julian Rocks is also a breeding ground for the Grey Nurse Shark (or Sand Tiger Shark) and as a result hundreds visit during winter months.

SS Yongala, Queensland – The SS Yongala, located near Ayr, Townsville, is often cited as being one of the best wreck dives in Australia – if not, in the world. The wreck is an impressive 109 meter/357 foot, luxury passenger ship that sank in 1911 and wasn’t discovered until 1958. Expect to encounter an array of marine life including some of the most iconic Great Barrier Reef species such as sea snakes, turtles and passing sharks. 

What to see

Like Australia above the water, expect the big and bold underwater too. The range of creatures and fish life is stunning. Whales can be spotted at several locations with May to October offering the best opportunity. Wobbegongs, grey reef, nurse and white tip sharks all make their home here. Whale sharks cruise into Exmouth from April until July, and manta rays can be seen from June to November. New South Wales is the only home of the weedy sea dragon. Also, expect to see turtles, an array of silvery hunters and reef patrollers as well as a host of critters and fish life, too.


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Australia has many great reasons to visit, all of which might capture your imagination for years to come. Considered by some to be the world’s largest island, Australia is packed full of delights. It offers a range of environments, including rainforests, mountain ranges, dry central deserts and, of course, some truly stunning beaches and underwater sights. The majority of Australia’s inhabitants live within 30 miles (50km) of the coast. Australia is an easy, laid back nation with a penchant for the outdoor lifestyle. Its cosmopolitan cities offer great food and entertainment with Sydney being the top of the pile. Sydney’s distinctive opera house and Harbour Bridge are icons themselves. The city is weaved around its harbour and enveloped by iconic beaches such as Bondi Beach. In addition, Australia is home to some unique wildlife, like the cute koala bear, the wombat, the odd looking duck-billed platypus and, of course, the kangaroo. There are national parks and wildlife reserves to explore and many wine regions to visit. Other natural sites include the Twelve Apostles and the sacred sandstone monolith of Uluru. Plus, Australia’s aboriginal and early colonial settlement history offer great fodder for history buffs.

Other attractions

The list of things to do in Australia is nearly endless. Visit the outback to get a feel for Aboriginal culture, which is one of the oldest on Earth. Cruise through wine country. Hang out at one of the famous surfing beaches. Tour a crocodile farm or explore a rainforest. Australia could provide a lifetime of adventure both above and below the sea.

Getting there

Australia’s busiest and best-connected airport is in Sydney. Consider connecting or flying directly to Cairns, the Gold Coast or Brisbane for the east coast destinations. Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth also receive international flights.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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