Australia is often hailed as a scuba diving haven, with some of the best dive sites in the world. Its oceans are home to some of the most ecologically diverse marine life on Earth, making Australian diving a unique experience that you’d be mad to miss out on. From impressive underwater experiences like swimming with whales to marvelling at the beauty of multi-coloured worlds made of sponge and coral, Australia has some of the most amazing diving you are likely to experience.
Whether you’re a beginner who has never ventured beneath the ocean’s surface or a seasoned diver who has explored reefs all over the world, diving Down Under will simply amaze you. We’ve rounded up some of the best diving spots that Australia has to offer, so you can see what all the hype is about no matter where in the country you’re visiting.
Not just one of the best dive spots in Australia, Lizard Island often turns up on lists of the best dive locations in the world. It’s the perfect place to explore the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, especially since the waters are relatively untouched here so you’re likely to see a wealth of marine life. Cod Hole is a popular spot for beginners and more experienced divers alike. The fish are used to being fed by dive instructors, so expect to see schools of huge potato cod rushing towards you. You’re pretty likely to see a big range of underwater life, from manta rays and white tip reef sharks to giant clams and all kinds of coral. It’s good for diving here all year round, but the best weather is usually between August and January.
Often viewed as the best diving spot in the world, the wreck of SS Yongala is pretty high on the bucket list for many divers. The ship sank during a cyclone in 1911 and is now one of the largest intact shipwrecks, home to a huge range of stunning marine life. There’s a huge variety and there are so many outsized fish it can be a bit of a surreal experience. Expect to see manta and eagle rays, bull sharks, turtles, barracudas, gropers, and snakes, all of which seem to be quite unconcerned by divers. Yongala requires you to be quite an experienced diver, as the surface currents can be pretty strong, but it is an amazing experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Ningaloo Reef is absolutely beautiful, but it’s the chance to see the largest fish in the world that really makes this a stand-out dive location. The reef itself is 160 miles of stunning coral stretched along the Northwest Cape, boasting 250 species of coral and over 500 species of wildlife. You can expect to see humpback whales at the right time of year, as well as manta rays, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, and all kinds of fish. Plus, enormous 18m-long whale sharks that visit the reef between March and June to feed on plankton. You can get really close to the huge, impressive fish for a really special diving experience.
SS Nord Shipwreck
SS Nord is a huge 88m long cargo steamer that sank in 1915 after hitting a pinnacle near Hippolyte rock. The Tasman Peninsula doesn’t have a lot of shipwrecks that still resemble a ship, but SS Nord makes up for this by being one of Australia’s best. It sits 42m deep, so it’s only really available to experienced divers, but it’s well worth a trip for the more seasoned ocean explorers. Not only is it covered in beautiful marine growth such as rainbow-coloured corals and sponges, but it has attracted a wide variety of fascinating fish. You can also see a number of artefacts from the ship, such as the brass fittings and even Chinese crockery. The site is quite prone to currents, so be sure to check ahead, but it makes for a great underwater adventure.
The best of the Great Barrier Reef’s diving experiences can be found in the Ribbon Reefs, which sit outside the reach of the popular day excursions. Reefs such as Steve’s Bommie and Agincourt Reef offer spectacular diving, whether you’re into detailed underwater photography or big fish spotting. The visibility is really high and the reefs are easily accessible, making them good for experts and beginners alike. You can expect to see everything from anemone fish, pipefish, flatworms, hard and soft corals to barracudas, reef sharks, and even a pod of minke whales. The diving is pretty good here all year round, but if you’re looking for a specific experience like seeing whales, it’s best to check when they’re likely to be around.
Heron Island is one of the few places on the reef where you can walk straight out from the beach to great diving. There are more than 16 sites that can be reached from the island in about 15 minutes, and Heron Bommie has been named in the top 10 in the world. As well as being convenient, the diving is amazing and you can expect to see blacktip reef sharks, turtles, manta rays, and all kinds of fish.
Fish Rock Cave
The only true ocean cave in Australia, Fish Rock Cave is a regular feature on must-do dive lists. It is a crucial habitat for grey nurse sharks and the 125m cave is home to a whole host of other endangered species as well. Visibility in the cave is better than the surrounding ocean and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with hundreds of fish that call the cave home. If you visit between April and November, you might even see migrating Humpback whales in the waters nearby.
Kangaroo Island is an attractive dive site for anyone who wants a unique diving experience they can’t get anywhere else in the world. It is home to the largest population of leafy sea dragons on earth, a beautiful creature that looks like a seahorse crossed with a leafy branch. They are rarely kept successfully in captivity and they only live in Australia’s southern waters, so seeing them in their natural habitat by Kangaroo Island is a special experience. Notoriously shy and well camouflaged, you’re best to employ the help of a local guide if you want to be sure of seeing one.
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