Scuba diving Australia is not only confined to diving the Great Barrier Reef. This massive and diverse country offers a huge range of diving opportunities around its entire coastline, from encounters with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef to great white sharks diving off Neptune Island. There is also some fascinating macro to be found for those who know where to look.
Here are our top spots for scuba diving Australia:
Great Barrier Reef
It goes without saying that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most popular dive destinations in the world. Unfortunately, the inshore reefs show marked degradation from the millions of visitors and busy resorts that line Queensland's beaches, however, venturing further offshore divers can discover healthy coral gardens and a wide variety of fish life. Just off Townsville, the Yongala Wreck is a fantastic dive, its superstructure smothered in stunning hard and soft corals, and home to many different species of fish.
Compared to the inshore sites of the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea is like diving into a different world. Big animals including whale sharks, tiger sharks, silvertip, grey, and hammerhead sharks, sperm whales and dwarf minke whales, dolphins, and even manta rays can be spotted at remote sites such as Osprey Reef. This is alongside huge schools of barracuda, tuna, rainbow runner, and trevally, giant grouper, various species of ray, turtles, and so much more. The Coral Sea is best explored by liveaboard to reach its most remote and best-preserved dive sites.
On Australia's west coast, Ningaloo Marine Park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts beautiful vibrant corals along healthy reefs. This is one of the best places in Australia to spot whale sharks between April and May each year. Ningaloo Reef also sports some great macro diving, with plenty of unique critters to be discovered. Traveling further south down the Western Australian coast, diving is rich and diverse, with rare and endemic species living undisturbed and protected in the less-visited waters.
South Australia is the birthplace of great white shark cage diving, and the best spot to dive with these awesome fish is Neptune Island off Adelaide. Just north in Fitzgerald Bay, thousands of giant Australian cuttlefish gather to mate between June and July, another extraordinary experience that draws visitors from all over the world. Another great place to dive in South Australia, Flinders Piers and Rapid Bay Jetty are unique shore dives and two of the best sites to find the leafy sea dragon. Diving in South Australia can be cold, but such unique experiences make it more than worth it.
New South Wales
Home to iconic surf beaches like Byron Bay, New South Wales also boasts some epic diving and some of Australia's more unusual marine species. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lord Howe Island offers rare coral and fish species including cuttlefish, sea spiders, wobbegong, and nurse sharks. The famous Fish Rock Cave is located just off Smokey Cape and is a critical habitat for endangered nurse sharks as well as other dark-loving species such as moray eels, lobsters, octopus, and various critters.