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Six Best Places for Scuba Diving in Australia

By Jeremy Foster | Published On July 19, 2020
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Six Best Places for Scuba Diving in Australia

Australia is known to have some of the best scuba diving in the world. Although the Great Barrier Reef is the crowned highlight of the country, there are hundreds of lesser-known diving destinations worth exploring.

From mysterious shipwreck dives to tropical coral gardens, Australia's dive sites are diverse as they are numerous. There's always something fascinating to see underwater while scuba diving in the Land Down Under!

1. The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Coral, fish and divers on the Great Barrier Reef. Craig

The Great Barrier Reef is easily one of the best diving destinations not only in Australia but also in the world. With over 2,900 individual reefs covering 1,400 miles of ocean, it's the largest and healthiest coral reef system on the planet.

From coral-encrusted caverns to colorful jagged pinnacles, the Great Barrier Reef has something for every type of diver. You'll also have the rare opportunity to see minke and humpback whales in addition to a myriad of tropical marine life.

If you want to reach the farther Great Barrier Reef dive sites (which you really should!), I recommended spending a few days on a liveaboard. However, you can still explore the closer reefs with a short, day trip from Cairns.

2. Townsville

Townsville is home to one of the most spectacular shipwreck dives in all of Australia: the SS Yongala. This 350-foot passenger freight sank in 1911 off the coast of Eastern Australia, where it sat for 50 years before being discovered.

Although entering the interior of the ship is forbidden (the remains of the passengers make it an official gravesite), the abundance of marine life surrounding the wreck is worth seeing on its own.

Swim alongside giant groupers, sea snakes, and even chevron barracudas. It's also possible to do a night dive around the SS Yongala, where you'll encounter nocturnal creatures like eagle rays and hawksbill turtles.

3. Ningaloo Reef

Whale Shark Ningaloo Reef

The amazing pattern of the worlds largest fish — the whale shark cruising in crystal clear water. Holtzman

Australia's only fringing reef is situated just off the coast of Exmouth in Western Australia. This dive site has over 260 species of hard corals and an even larger variety of tropical sea life.

Most people come to Ningaloo Reef to swim with whale sharks. The best chance of spotting these gentle creatures is in April and May, when they come to the reef to feed off the plankton in the water. Even if you don't get to see the whale sharks, you can still see turtles, humpback whales, and manta rays.

4. Whitsunday Islands

Whitsundays Sea Turtle

Green sea turtle on the Blue Pearl Bay off Hayman Island, Whitsunday Islands. Komarov

Ideal for both beginner and advanced divers, the Whitsunday Islands have shallow coral reefs that can be explored directly from the shoreline. Due to its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, the waters around the islands are teeming with beautiful corals, massive rock formations, and of course, colorful fish.

Head to the Woodpile on Hook Island for a steep rock wall drop-off, or swim around the picturesque coral gardens in Blue Pearl Bay in the West Hayman Island. However, the most popular dive site is the Pinnacles on North Hook Island. Here, you'll find boulder-sized corals, jagged rock towers, and even manta rays.

5. Port Douglas

Potato Cod at Cod Hole Australia

Giant potato cod. Niesen

Situated on the northern point of Queensland, Australia, Port Douglas is a great jumping-off point for exploring the dive sites of the Agincourt Ribbon Reef. With 45 different dive sites to choose from, Port Douglas has something for scuba divers of all skill levels.

Beginners will enjoy feeding schools of friendly potato cod in Cod Hole, while more experienced divers can embark on a night dive at Challenger Bay or drift dive next to sharks in Dynamite Pass. While diving in Australia, Port Douglas is one of those destinations that you won't want to miss.

6. South West Rocks

Grey Nurse Shark South West Rocks Dive Site

Australian grey nurse shark at South West Rocks, Australia. Traveller

If you're in New South Wales, then make sure to spend a few days diving near the South West Rocks. A great alternative to the Great Barrier Reef, the South West Rocks is home to the most extensive cave dive site in the southern hemisphere.

Make sure to add Fish Rock to your itinerary, as it's considered one of the best dive sites in South Australia. It's common to see loggerhead turtles, Moorish idols, and even the elusive grey nurse sharks. Other popular destinations around the South West Rocks include Green Island, Black Rocks, and Lady Reef.

It's easy to see why Australia is consistently considered by divers to be one of the best dive spots in the world. Between the tropical temperatures, excellent water visibility, and the plethora of marine life, there's an entire paradise of underwater adventure waiting to be discovered.