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