Completely surrounded by water and rich in islands and reefs, Australia is a diver’s dream. Australian waters shelter a treasure trove of marine life, with more than 4000 species of fish and the world’s highest diversity of sea grass. Swim with the giant, gentle whale shark on Ningaloo Reef or with sea-lions and dolphins on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Learn to dive on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest living organism. Or snorkel in sheltered and scenic Clovelly in Sydney. Discover kelp-encrusted submarines off the Mornington Peninsula or a maze of underwater caves along Tasmania’s east coast.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
The Great Barrier Reef is a living masterpiece that is so big it can be seen from space. It stretches almost 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coast, from Cape York to Bundaberg. Discover the diving havens of Heron and Lizard Islands. Or stay in the Whitsundays and take a sea-plane to spectacular Heart Reef. Base yourself in Cairns or Port Douglas and visit the reef gardens of Green and Fitzroy Islands. Travel further to Agincourt Reef, on the edge of the continental shelf. Dive through coral canyons filled with turtles, sea stars and crabs at Lady Musgrave Island and Fitzroy Lagoon near Gladstone. Explore the SS Yongala shipwreck from Townsville and the Llewellyn shipwreck from Mackay.
Ningaloo, Western Australia
Join the tropical-coloured party at Ningaloo Marine Park, the world’s largest fringing reef. It’s home to 200 species of hard coral, 50 soft coral and over 500 species of fish. Snorkel or shallow dive with brightly adorned fish in the Bundegi Bombies reef sanctuary. Get up close to sci-fi sponges, gorgonians and sea whips at the entrance to the Exmouth Gulf. Mingle with turtles, manta rays, dolphins, dugongs, batfish, angelfish and clownfish, among others, at Lighthouse Bay. Discover spectacular reef diving and a glamorous underwater crowd at the Murion Islands. Between April and June you can even hang out with the whale shark, the world’s largest fish.
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Dive with sting rays, seahorses, cuttlefish, squid, urchins, rock cod and weedy sea dragons in Port Phillip Heads Marine Park. This magical marine world sits off the Mornington Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Marvel at the abundance of fish, birds and seals in the tiny sanctuary of Popes Eye. Swim with dolphins at Sorrento. Drop from 8 to 18 metres, past the underwater cliffs, ledges and caves of Kelp Beds Reef. Or go even deeper at Port Phillip Heads, which offers wall dives, drop-offs and submerged World War I submarines. Learn to dive at Portsea Pier and discover a dreamcoat diversity of fish on the trail around Rye Pier.
East Coast Dive Trail, Tasmania
Hop between 11 spectacular diving spots along Tasmania’s east coast, from Binalong Bay to the Tasman Peninsula. The clear, turquoise water has visibility between 10 to 40 metres. See big-bellied seahorses and weedy seadragons on a shore dive in Waubs Bay, near Bicheno. Glide past jewelled anemones and schools of butterfly perch in Governor Island Marine Nature Reserve. Swim through the enchanting caves of Isle de Phoque, also home to a large seal colony. Dive the scuttled Troy D near Maria Island or off the boat into the large reefs and caves of Waterfall Bay. Kick through the Fortescue Bay Kelp Forest or around the SS Nord, which in 1915 sank 40 metres deep.
Baird Bay, South Australia
Swim, snorkel or dive with playful sea-lions and bottlenosed dolphins in tranquil Baird Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. This fishing village has become famous for the colony of endangered sea-lions that live in a sheltered lagoon offshore. Watch parents and pups somersault through the clear water, just a whisker away. Stare into their soulful, brown eyes and let them nudge you and invite you to play. Dive in deeper water with pods of fun-loving, but more elusive dolphins. In nearby Port Lincoln, you can swim with cuttlefish and tuna and even cage dive with great white sharks.
Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory
Dive World War II wrecks and a coastal reef teeming with fish in balmy Darwin Harbour. Approximately every second week, the tidal currents let you discover these underwater secrets. Swim through moss-covered hulks of ships, sunk in 1942 air raids, and now home to coral trout, wobbegong sharks, jewfish and barracuda. See gorgonians, soft coral trees, harp corals, vase sponges and ascidians in the shallow reefs lining either side of the harbour. Experience one of Darwin’s famous flamingo sunsets before a night dive in the warm, glass-smooth seas. You’ll spot slate pencil urchins and the occasional octopus in the naturally illuminated water.
Clovelly and Gordons Bay, New South Wales
Meet a rainbow community of fish in the picturesque, rocky channels of Clovelly and neighbouring Gordons Bay. Here, just eight kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, blue groper, bream, snapper, kingfish, eastern blue devifish, giant cuttlefish and flathead crowd the ocean. Go night-diving in sheltered Clovelly Pool or in the bigger waves off Sharks Point, at Clovelly’s northern end. Wind around Gordons Bay on the 500 metre Underwater Nature Trail, past rocky reefs, sandflats and kelp forests. Amongst the usual marine suspects, you’ll find weedfish, seadragons, wobbegongs and Port Jackson sharks, as well as sea stars, slugs and urchins.
Currency: Australian Dollars
Dive Season: All year round
Climate: Desert/Semi-Arid/Temperate (Depending on which part of the country you are in)
Air Temperature: 14°-35°C (57°-95°F)
Water Temperature: 20°-31°C (68°-90°F)
Visibility: 10 – 40 Metres
Skill Level: Beginner – Professional
Main photo: Acropolis, Coral Sea, GBR. Credit: Darren Jew / Tourism and Events Queensland