Queensland, commonly referred to as the “Sunshine State”, has some of the best diving in Australia. With the Great Barrier Reef stretching along the coast, perennially warm weather and varied dive sites including wrecks, caves and diverse wildlife like mantas, sharks, turtles and whales - this is a scuba diving paradise.
On Australia’s northeast coast lies the “Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef”, otherwise known as Cairns. With year-round warm weather, this tropical paradise has some of the most spectacular Australian diving opportunities. The famous inhabitants, like “Nemo” and chilled out turtles mean that divers of all ages will be delighted!
Diving in Queensland
Queensland is the second largest Australian state and, due to its warm climate, it enjoys a lot of tourism. The most famous reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is found stretching for 2000km along its coastline and this has created a thriving diving industry. Whether you’re taking your first breath underwater or you’re a seasoned pro, the kaleidoscopic reefs, crystalline white beaches, shipwrecks and migrating whales will delight you.
The GBR is the largest living structure in the world. There are over 2,900 individual reef systems and thousands of species of fish, corals, molluscs and other marine life. A combination of reef, seagrass, mangrove, island and deep water habitats make this one of the most diverse faunal regions in the world. Ever popular residents include swooping manta rays, intimidating sharks, relaxed turtles and, of course, Nemo - otherwise known as clownfish.
The options when choosing how to dive are abundant. Dive centres are the most plentiful operation and are excellent for those who wish to undertake diving courses. For those desiring a more luxurious, all-inclusive experience, there are many chic island resorts which will be happy to cater to every castaway need. Liveaboards are exceptionally popular around Queensland as it is the best way to see large areas of the Great Barrier Reef without lengthy daily travel times - and you can enjoy the clear azure waters at length. Cruises last up to one week and leave from most major cities and tourism hubs like the Whitsundays.
One of the highlights of Queensland diving is the wrecks found here. The top site for wreck lovers is the SS Yongala which is commonly voted the best wreck dive in the world. Another highlight is the coral spawning phenomenon that occurs every October and November. Witnessing millions of corals release their egg and sperm bundles into the water in complete synchronisation is unforgettable. Another wildlife event which you can observe when diving in Queensland is the annual Minke and humpback whale migration. Though it is prohibited to dive with these creatures without a license (which some dive centres have), you can sometimes hear their haunting melody as you dive near their breeding grounds.
Best places to dive
Osprey Reef, Coral Sea - Found 110km from the northern GBR, this remote underwater atoll is a wonder. The excellent visibility and plunging walls create a natural theatre at the North Horn. Pelagic fish like schooling dogtooth tuna are common. Dive operators are known to feed the sharks here which creates a feeding frenzy involving reef sharks, pelagic fish and even the occasional hammerhead. Not suitable for novice divers.
Cod Hole, Lizard Island - This site is abundant in enormous potato cod. As they are used to being fed, they are very friendly to humans - leading to once in a lifetime encounters which photographers will love.
SS Yongala, Townsville - This wreck sunk in 1911 and is found 55 miles offshore. The marine life now flocks here with manta rays, eagle rays, giant grouper, bull sharks, turtles, pelagic fish and sea snakes all abundant. Strong currents and a 28m maximum depth mean that this is an advanced site. Due to the passengers which died on board, penetration is forbidden.
Steve’s Bommie, Ribbon Reefs - Found between 3 and 33m, this bommie is teeming with life and you will need more than one dive to see it all. The macro life is great and you can see turtles, reef sharks, trevally, barracuda and even Minke Whales in June and July.
Flinders Reef, Brisbane - Just off Moreton Reef, this reef is home to an extraordinary number of fish, and it’s not even on the GBR. Wobbegong, leopard and whaler sharks can be seen along with turtles, manta rays and whales.
Heron Island, Gladstone - This small island has some fantastic shore dives. Below the surface you will find manta rays, tropical reef fish, blacktip reef sharks and lots of turtles. Jacques Cousteau named Heron Bommie as one of his top 10 dive sites in the world - and you can get there by just walking off the beach.
Lady Elliot Island, Bundaberg - Found at the southern end of the GBR, you can find fantastic visibility, over 1000 species of fish and lots of manta rays. This remote island has limited tourism numbers so enjoy the quiet!
Agincourt Reef - This ribbon reef is packed with superb dive sites including the The Channels, Nursery Bommies and The Gardens. The biomass of fish is spectacular.
Wolf Rock - These 4 big volcanic pinnacles rise up from the 36m floor and attract lots of big fish. Grey nurse sharks, eagle rays, giant trevally, mackerel, barracuda and turtles are all frequent sights. If you’re lucky, in the winter months you may even witness the humpback whale migration.
Ex-HMAS Brisbane, Mooloolaba - This 27m deep artificial reef is ideal for wreck lovers - with holes punched along the edge, penetration is encouraged and great for first time wreck divers. Highlights include Queensland groupers, bull and eagle rays, turtles, octopus and reef sharks.