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Diving in 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.

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

Quick facts

When people say they want to dive Australia, what they usually mean is that they want to scuba dive in glorious Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef.

And it's not surprising, since Queensland's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest and healthiest coral reef system. In fact, it's the only living structure on earth that can be seen from outer space.

Made up of nearly 2900 individual reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays, it's the world's largest single structure made of living organisms.

Every day divers from around the world flock to Queensland to visit this stunning reef, either on liveaboards or day trips from one of the local dive resorts.

Divers revere the reef for its biodiversity and the local aboriginal people hold it as a sacred component of their spirituality. It is a truly magical place and best of all, it is the cherry on the top of diving in Queensland.

Head further afield across Queensland - which takes up almost a quarter of Australia - to the Sunshine Coast in the south, where you'll find purpose-sunk wrecks, sandstone formations covered with corals, ledges, caverns and pinnacles to explore.

Above water, Queensland offers kangaroo-filled bush, lush green tropical rainforest, stunning white sand beaches, urban experiences and just about everything in between. It's a truly stunning piece of topography.

But back to diving: you will not be disappointed if you choose to dive in Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef and beyond. It offers world-class underwater experiences.

Recommended training

The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer and PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy courses will help you capture images that show the beauty of the reef. PADI Enriched Air Diveris a good idea because enriched air nitrox is widely available. The PADI Wreck Diver course will prepare you to visit the iconic wrecks of Queensland.

When to go

In tropical Queensland, daytime air temperatures vary from the mid 20°sC/80°sF in winter to the mid 30°sC/90°sF in summer. Diving is superb year round, but different seasons offer different rewards. December through February mean great visibility and warmer water, while June through November pays off with minke and humpback whale spotting and coral spawning. Expect water temperatures around 30° C/85° F during the summer throughout the central and northern Great Barrier Reef. Expect around 24° C/75° F in winter and cooler water off the Sunshine Coast. Tides, current and surge all affect water clarity inside the Great Barrier Reef, but it averages 15-21 metres/50-70 feet and can hit a high of 30 metres/100 feet. Outside the reef, visibility averages a reliable 18-30 metres/60-100 feet and often soars to more than 46 metres/150 feet in the Coral Sea. In other words, you can visit Queensland any time of the year and leave with superb diving memories.

Rain and temperature

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USD 1,357Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,445Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,788Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
23 Reviews
USD 1,519Per trip
6 Reviews
USD 1,575Per trip

Agincourt Reef - located approximately 72 km from Port Douglas, these reefs are considered among some of the world's best dive and snorkel destinations. Due to its proximity to the Continental Shelf, the reefs have excellent visibility, and a great diversity of hard coral species as well as a large variety of marine life. Divers can experience dirft and wall dives, bommie and pinnacle, coral gardens and swim-throughs. From June to September minke whales are often spotted in this area!

Ribbon Reefs, Northern Great Barrier Reef – This area is known for a variety of pristine dive experiences. In late June and July, you have the chance to see dwarf Minke whales. At Cod Hole, you’ll see how the site got its name as giant potato cod surround you. Pixie Pinnacle is a wonderful example of a coral bommie that rises from a depth of 40 metres/130 feet. Also, Challenger Bay is a hotspot for cuttlefish encounters.

Osprey Reef – Only accessible via liveaboards departing from Cairns or Port Douglas, this exposed coral mesa sits in the middle of the Coral Sea far from anything. North Horn is perhaps its most famous dive site for its shark feed. Around the Bend displays colorful soft coral and offers the chance to see manta rays as they pass through this site.

SS Yongala – The Great Barrier Reef’s signature wreck is the SS Yongala, a 109-metre/357-foot luxury passenger ship that went down during a 1911 cyclone. On this wreck everything is supersized – sea snakes the size of your bicep and sea turtles so big they look prehistoric. Every single space on the wreck is covered in colorful life. It’s worth several dives to try and see it all.

The Whitsundays – Comprising 74 idyllic islands, the Whitsundays are perfect for divers looking to complement their diving with multiple activities, such as sailing, island exploring or just lying on top rated beaches. While scuba diving, expect colorful shallow coral gardens and a variety of marine life like passing green sea turtles, patrolling white tip reef sharks and striking Napoleon wrasse.

Heron Island – On the Great Barrier Reef’s southern reaches, this famed resort island is accessible via ferry or helicopter. Scuba dive on a bommie that serves as a manta ray cleaning station and also watch for crowds of jacks, barracuda, eels, sharks, eagle rays and very curious sea snakes. Other dive sites feature sea turtles and nudibranchs.

HMAS Brisbane – Off Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is the great wreck dive of the former HMAS Brisbane, a 133-metre/433-foot guided missile destroyer. This purpose-sunk artificial reef went down in 2005 and sits upright in 15-18 metres/50-60 feet of water. There’s a lot of ship to see and a lot of marine life that now call HMAS Brisbane home.

What to see

Everything from dwarf minke whales, sea turtles, manta rays, sharks, carpet sharks, sea snakes and cuttlefish.

And don't forget bumphead parrotfish, leopard moray eels, potato cod and macro life.

After all, the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland is the world's largest reef system so you can truly expect to see a bit of just about everything.


For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


Surrounded by gorgeous coastland and featuring the world's largest barrier reef system, Queensland is a diver's mecca, but it also offers stunning above-water adventures waiting to be unlocked.

Other attractions

When you're not diving, you'll be spoilt for choice for other attractions across Queensland.

Visit the tropical rainforests of Daintree, Cape Tribulation or Mossman Gorge and marvel at the waterfalls of the Atherton Tablelands.

Stop by one of the many zoos or parks to learn about saltwater crocodiles, koala, wallabies, cassowaries and other indigenous creatures.

And why not raft the Barron River or head deep into the outback for Aboriginal rock art and kangaroos?

Adventure is the name of the game in Queensland.

Getting there

Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Townsville Airports receive international flights. Smaller regional airports service the smaller cities and the reef islands.
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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