7 Australian Dive Locations that aren’t the Great Barrier Reef
1. Ningaloo Reef – Western Australia
Over 260 kilometers of coral reef make up Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef, which is classified as a world heritage site. The coral reef is composed of both hard and soft corals, and it is filled with vibrant marine life. A dolphin or dugong might also be spotted, along with turtles, stingrays, sharks, and eels. And if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of "the big 3" - manta rays, whale sharks, and humpback whales - throughout your trip!
While whale shark season runs from April to July and humpback season runs from July to October, the optimum time to encounter mantas is between mid-May and mid-September (note whale sharks and humpbacks are best seen on specialized day snorkeling trips).
All skill levels can dive the Ningaloo Reef, which ranges in depth from 6 to 35 meters. The water is typically between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius, and visibility can reach 20 meters. However, in bad weather and when there is plankton in the water, visibility is much lower. The greatest way to see Ningaloo Reef is on a liveaboard, and you'll frequently discover that you're the only boat and divers in sight.
2. Port Phillip Bay – Victoria
The spider crab migration in Victoria's Port Phillip Bay is what makes it so well-known; it was formerly a local secret but became well-known thanks to David Attenborough's Blue Planet movie.
For a few weeks in May or June, tens of thousands of spider crabs line the ocean floor at the end of one of the piers (usually Blairgowrie Pier or Rye Pier). Thousands of spider crabs gather in the shallows and come up to the water to provide protection while they shed their old shells. It's a perfect time to go scuba diving to observe the action because this sets off a feeding frenzy among the aquatic life.
Unfortunately, this is also a popular season for fisherman to collect large quantities of crabs, therefore spider crab populations have been declining over time. At approximately 14 meters deep, this dive is suitable for divers of all skill levels, but be aware that the water is frigid at 11 to 15 degrees Celsius.
3. Julian Rocks – New South Wales
A Marine Reserve called Julian Rocks can be found in Byron Bay close to the Queensland border and is renowned for its abundant, varied, and vibrant marine life. Because of its special location where cold and warm currents converge, both tropical and cold-water fish can be found here. There is a decent selection of dive sites for divers of all skill levels in this area, where the water is quite warm around 25 to 26 degrees Celsius (6m to 24m depth).
The best place to watch turtles is at the Nursery, a shallow, safe dive location, while the Cod Hole is an excellent place for experienced divers to see nurse sharks, wobbegongs, and other huge fish in an underwater cave. Additionally, Hugo's Trench is a great dive spot if nudibranchs are more your style. Depending on the day and dive spot, Julian Rocks visibility ranges from 10m to 30m.
4. Ex-HMAS Brisbane – Queensland
A former Royal Australian Navy battleship, the ex-HMAS Brisbane, which served in the Gulf and Vietnam wars, was sunk in 2005 to make way for an artificial reef. Due to the fact that no boats or fishing are permitted within 400 meters of the wreck because it is a conservation park, the area is teeming with marine life. Expect to witness over 300 types of hard and soft coral, as well as octopus, lion fish, trevally, groupers, rays, turtles, and nudibranchs.
Only qualified divers with a minimum of 10 dives may participate in this dive, which is best done as part of a tour. However, if you have a permit, you may dive it independently. The highest depth of the 133m-long wreck is 28m. If you stay to the upper decks, an Open Water certification (plus 10 dives) is all you need; but, to tour the entire ship, you will need an advanced certification.
The amazing thing about this dive site is that advanced divers can swim through the top and lower decks while open water divers are only allowed to explore the top deck. This dive site does not require a wreck certification to penetrate the wreck.
On this spot, visibility ranges from 10 to 25 meters, with winter months having the highest visibility. This is a good easy wreck dive to do, especially if you are new to wreck diving, because the dive itself has very little current. From 18 degrees Celsius in the winter to 27 degrees Celsius in the summer, the water's temperature varies.
Tip: Remember to read the terms and conditions carefully before booking a tour because certain tour operators in this country have maximum weight restrictions of 110 kg per person.
5. Port Lincoln – South Australia
If you want to dive with Great White Sharks, head to Port Lincoln in South Australia! You can only engage in this thrilling pastime in a few few locations throughout the world, including the sole location in Australia. Be aware that getting there will take some time—roughly 3 hours one way—since the dive takes place close to the Neptune Islands.
It is recommended to pass on this one if you frequently get seasick. Don't worry, you don't need to be a qualified diver to take part in the diving because shark cage dives are done at the surface (about 1 m below). If you are not eager to step into the cage, there are a number of observation positions on the boats so you won't miss out on the action.
Different tours lure the sharks in different methods; some use bait while others use music. You won't have any trouble detecting those sharks because the area is so remote, the water is incredibly clear, and visibility can be more than 30 meters. Keep in mind the water can be somewhat frigid (14 to 20 degrees Celsius).
Although there is no specific Great White Shark season, based on historical data, April to June or November to January may be the ideal periods to see these majestic animals.
6. Tasman Peninsula – Tasmania
Due to the frigid temperatures, the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania isn't the first place you would imagine to go diving in Australia (12 degrees Celsius). However, the water's clarity and the encounters you'll have with marine life will make up for it. Dive with the fur seals for one of the most enjoyable diving adventures. These boys will give you a lively dive because they are playful and inquisitive.
Another incredible sight that can only be seen in Southern Australia are the weedy sea dragons. These sea horses-like creatures are reddish-orange in color and 30–40 cm long. They swim quite clumsily through the water. These dives are excellent for divers of all levels, and visibility varies from 12 meters in the summer to 40 meters in the winter.
However, these are advanced and deep dives (up to 40m), requiring you to have good buoyancy control and a deep-dive certification. Other fantastic dives here include the enormous caves and sponge gardens.
7. Darwin Harbor – Northern Territory
As a result of WWII and Cyclone Tracey, Darwin Harbor in the Northern Territory is a wreck diver's paradise with more than 90 wrecks to explore. However, diving here is fairly difficult and requires precise timing. During the second half of the year, you can only dive every other week due to Darwin Harbor's significant (often 8m) tide changes. Because of the tide changes, there is very little visibility and a lot of silt gets stirred up (7m visibility on a good day). As a result, you need to have completed at least 15 dives, have an Advanced certification, and dive with a guide.
The good news is that these wrecks don't get very many divers, so you'll have a very unique diving experience. The water is also always over 30 degrees Celsius, which is lovely and hot. It's possible to view a crocodile at dive spots that are between 12 and 30 meters deep (although they tend to not be near the dive sites and hide in the mangroves).
The only thing left to do is make travel arrangements now that you are aware of some fantastic diving locations in Australia. Additionally, make sure you cross the Great Barrier Reef off your bucket list while you are in Australia. Check out our article on 5 Must See Dive Spots in the Great Barrier Reef for advice on the top dive sites to visit as you plan your vacation.
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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