The most famous dive area in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef. However, there is so much more and possibly better dive sites along the massive coastline.
Great Barrier Reef
The most famous to dive the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is from the town of Cairns. Many operations offer day trips out to the reefs. While this is a good option to do a try dive or get the open water certification it is not recommendable to experienced divers. The boats get crowded with inexperienced divers and many of the reefs are in bad condition.
For fundiving liveaboards are an option which visit less dived areas including the Ribbon Reefs and the Coral Sea. Alternatively some of the sites at the ribbon reefs, including Cod Hole, can be reached from Lizard Island.
The pristine reefs around Heron Island in the south of the GBR offer some amazing diving including one of Jacques Custeaus top 10 sites – Heron Bommie. The marine life includes mantas, rays, sharks, turtles, dolphins and tropical fish. The reefs in the south of the GBR have not been affected by the recent coral bleaching as much.
The East Coast
One of the main attraction for scuba divers along the East Coast are big pelagics, especially friendly grey nurse sharks and marble rays. Probably the best dive site is the Yongala wreck. The ship sunk in 1911 in a cyclon and is now surrounded by an incredible amount of big fish and other marine life like bull and guitar sharks, rays, mantas, sea snakes, potato cods, Queensland grouper, morays and turtles.
Further down along the coast Julian Rocks in Byron Bay attracts an incredible amount of large animals including wobbegongs, grey nurse sharks, leopard sharks, huge marble rays, mantas and turtles.
Other amazing places along the coast to encounter these animals are Solitary Islands off Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks with a 125 m long cave at a depth of around 25 m filled with grey nurse sharks and Seal Rock (Forster).
The diving around Sydney is incredibly diverse with wreck diving at the famous HMAS Adeliade, playing with seals, grey nurse shark encounters and rare little critters. Jervis Bay just south of Sydney offes as many as 30 dive sites with fur seal diving as well.
From Lord Howe Island off the coast the world’s southernmost coral reefs can be dived with plenty of different dive sites offering. Possibly the best dive site is Balls Pyramid, a cliff sticking out of the ocean surface. Schools of jacks, kingfish and other can be observed in the blue around the rock. If lucky divers might even catch a glimpse of dolphin, marlin or wahoo.
Victoria and Tasmania
Port Phillip Bay amazing wrecks and caverns. Cuttlefish, octopus, rays, sea horses, seals.
Flinders Reef just north of Moreton Island is situated in a marine park. Pinnacles and swim-throughs make this place an unforgettable visit.
Amongst other places the jetty in Portsea is a great place to search for weedy sea dragons. During the right time of the year they might even carry eggs on their tails.
The temperate waters around Tasmania are home to the weedy sea dragons, fur seals and bizarre comb jellies. The landscapes are dominated by giant kelp forests to the depth of 20m, huge rock formations and wrecks. Visibility can get amazing here. Experienced divers have the opportunity visit the largest cave system of Australia here.
In the cold South some macro sites do have special small critters like the piyama octopus. The south of Australia is the only place where weedy sea dragons can be encountered. One of the best sites to find them is Rapid Bay close to Adelaide.
Different jetties and other shore dives around the area offer abundant life with many rare/endemic species and even some wrecks. The water temperature gets up to 18°C in summer.
The leafy sea dragons can also be found around Kangaroo Island. The waters around the island are as well home to the weedy sea dragon, playful fur seals and friendly blue groupers.
The West Coast
The West Coast then offers big stuff again with many types of sharks and even whales during the season. The 260 km long Ningaloo reef off Exmouth is Australias largest fringing coral reef. It is frequented by large pelagics like whale sharks during March and June. At the same time the coral spawning can be observed as well as humpback whales passing by. Other encounters along Australias largest fringing coral reef are green turtles, moray eel, reef shark, flowery rockcod and mantas.
Another famous destination is Rottenest Island close to Perth with caves, caverns and swim-throughs in limestone rock. Depending on the season grey nurse sharks or humpback whales frequent these waters.
The Rowley Shoals Marine Park further north includes three coral atolls with colorful coral and abundant tropical fish in cristal clear water.
The tropical waters in the north of Australia offer a high diversity of reef fish and invertebrates plus some WWII ship and plane wrecks. At Gove Peninsular schooling fish, rays, reef sharks, turtles and even whale sharks might be encountered during the dives.
This island is famous for the migration of 120 Million of red crab to the sea to release their eggs in October/November. Outside of this time only a few visitors make it to the island allowing divers to enjoy pristine coral on steep walls. The visibility is incredible all year with up to 50 m. During the monsoon season with rough seas mantas and whale sharks are drawn in by plankton rich waters.