Scuba Diving in Australia – The Best Dive Sites!

Scuba diving trips in Australia, are a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people. If you are planning to scuba dive in Australia join us, let us show you where the best dive sites are found. What can you expect to see at those dive sites and feel free to use our safe diving and helpful guide on how to choose the best dive site location for your budget and dive level experience.

You will also learn what marine animals you may encounter and where to find the brightest and most colorful reefs and echo systems!

Ok, let's get into it! Let's go diving in Australia!

Schooling reef fish

Ribbon Reefs Full of life.

Giant Potato Cod and Diver at the Cod Hole.

Giant Potato Cod, Cod Hole

Gorgonian Sea Fan

Gorgonian Sea Fan

Spotted Sweetlip Fish.

Spotted Sweetlip Fish.

Soft Coral Osprey Reef

Soft Coral Osprey Reef

Sea Turtle on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sea Turtles


There are many places to scuba dive in Australia but the top highlights can be broken into 4 main regions to simplify. Please note if you dig deeper there are even more places to dive like inland lakes, underground aquifers and more. But for the purposes of highlighting the best places for scuba diving please see the 4 regions below:

  1. The Great Barrier Reef - located on the North East Coast of Queensland.
  2. The Central Coast - of Maloolabah, Byron Bay, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, and Sydney.
  3. The Great Ocean Road, in and around Melbourne.
  4. Western Australia - Ningaloo Reef

At the top of the list and the most famous place for scuba diving in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef. As the largest reef system on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef has drawn scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world for decades.

The Great Barrier Reef offers spectacular scuba diving on deep coral walls teeming with life to giant coral bays and shallow coral gardens. You will find deep bommies, swim through caverns, caves and a large array of marine animals. Not to mention over 600 species of soft and hard corals.

Scuba Divers can expect to find many species of marine life, including sea turtles, giant clams, white tip and black tip reefs sharks, grey whaler reef sharks, giant mauri wrasse, schooling barracuda, queenfish, giant trevally, cuttlefish, moray eels, flame file shells, octopus, lionfish, glassfish, wobbegong reef sharks, parrotfish and sometimes whale sharks and manta rays. (Manta Rays tend to be found on Southern Part of The Great Barrier Reef around places like Lady Elliot Island).

The water temperatures are warm, ranging from around 22 to 29 degrees Celsius, and this offers all year round scuba diving. For an in-depth guide check out our month by month guide for diving the Great Barrier Reef.

As the largest reef system on planet Earth, the Great Barrier Reef stretches more than 2800klm. It is made up of hundreds of smaller reefs offering amazing bio-diversity and marine life.

The three main ways to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef are listed below:

1-Day boat diving

Day boats depart from either Cairns or from Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. There are also options for day boat diving from Alva Beach (SS Yongala Ship Wreck), Misson Beach, Townsville, Orpheus Island, Heron Island, Frankland Islands, Lizard Island, Hamilton Island and Lady Musgrave Island. But we have decided to suggest diving from Cairns and Airlie Beach for ease of access to the International airport at Cairns and the domestic Airport at Hamilton Island (Whitsundays).

2-Multi-day liveaboard dive boats

Overnight liveaboard dive boats depart from both Cairns and the Whitsundays. Although Cairns has a larger selection of liveaboard dive boats on offer due to the close proximity of the outer barrier reef systems, the ribbon reefs, and the coral sea. The Whitsundays tend to be great for visiting the Islands and white sandy beaches, but not the best visibility for scuba diving. If it is great diving you are after then you should look at a liveaboard dive boat from Cairns.

3-Coral Sea liveaboard dive expeditions

Extended Coral Sea liveaboard dive boats only depart from Cairns. Typically they dive the Northern outer barrier reef systems known as the ribbon reefs. Departing Cairns on Thursdays and returning to Cairns on Mondays, Coral Sea liveaboards also visit a large underwater sea-mount/volcano known as Osprey Reef. Osprey Reef is located 100 miles East of Australia in the Coral Sea. Coral Sea liveaboard expeditions are regarded as the best scuba diving in Australia!

What are the highlights?

The highlights of diving in Australia are absolutely diving the Great Barrier Reef. The southern parts of Australia do offer some unique diving experiences like cave diving with Grey Nurse sharks at South West Rocks and Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. But diving on the Great Barrier Reef is regarded as the real gem of diving in Australia.

Where are the best dive sites found?

The best dive sites are found on the Great Barrier Reef teaming with life, superb coral and large schools of fish. Here is a list of the top 10 dives sites on the Great Barrier Reef.

  1. Osprey Reef Shark Dive at the North Horn Dive Site.
  2. Holmes Reef located East of Cairns in the Coral Sea.
  3. Steve's Bommie, Ribbon Reef Number 10.
  4. The Cod Hole, Northern Ribbon Reefs Lizard Island.
  5. Yongalla Ship Wreck (Alva Beach).
  6. Three Sisters, Milln Reef Cairns.
  7. Lighthouse Bommie (Dwarf Minke Whale Encounters)
  8. Pixie Pinnacle Dive Site Ribbon Reef 9.
  9. Whale Bommie Milln Reef.
  10. Barracuda Bommie, Agincourt Reef 2, Port Douglas.

What can you expect to see diving in Australia?

If we talk about the best place to scuba dive in Australia, nearly all signs point to the Great Barrier Reef. Diving on the Great Barrier Reef you can expect to see a large array of marine species teaming with life. Expect to find tiny nudibranchs, seahorses, and shrimps to large grey whaler reef sharks, giant mauri wrasse reef fish, schooling giant trevally, queenfish and sea turtles of all species. The Great Barrier Reef is made up of hundreds of different species of soft and hard corals. Giant Gorgonian red sea fans, Sea Whips, Sponges, Anenome's, Bolder Corals, Brain Corals and much more.

 

Conclusion:

If you are planning to Scuba Dive in Australia then you should seriously look at scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. With easy access by day boat or liveaboard from Cairns or the Whitsundays, diving the Great Barrier Reef should be a must do on your next visit to Australia.

If you have questions or need help choosing a liveaboard or day boat dive trip to the reef, call our friendly staff at PH: + 61 7 40411638 or send us an email reservations@cairnsdiveadventures.com. Our dive crazy staff will point you in the best place to scuba dive in Australia.

 

Lady enjoying the water-slide at Moore Reef.

Sunlover Cruises

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Outer Reef Pontoon at Moore Reef, with lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat and semi-sub tours, underwater observatory and more.
Tusa at the Reef

Tusa Dive T6

Tusa Dive provide quality Great Barrier Reef snorkel / dive day tours on one of Cairns' newest reef day boats, T6. Up to 5 hours on the reef, visiting 2 locations. Great service - all meals included.
Silverswift At The Reef

Silverswift Dive & Snorkel

Only Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour to visit 3 different reef sites in one day! Part of the Quicksilver Cruises fleet. Comfortable, high speed catamaran. Up to 5 hours at the reef.
Evolution Dive Boat Cairns

Down Under Dive: Evolution

Well priced Great Barrier Reef day tour, including BBQ lunch. 5 hours on the reef at 2 reef sites. Free guided snorkeling tours, introductory and certified diving are available at extra cost. Brand new boat.
ReefQuest

Deep Sea Divers Den: Reef Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included.
Reef Magic Outer Reef Scuba Diving

Reef Magic Cruises

Up to 5 hours at the reef. Outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon with fabulous coral gardens. Meet Wally! Lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat, semi-sub, underwater observatory and more.
Great Adventures Green Island & Reef Package

Great Adventures: Green Island & Great Barrier Reef

This is the only Cairns day tour to combine time on Green Island with a visit to a Great Barrier Reef pontoon. Best of both worlds. Suitable for snorkellers and divers.
The Passions of Paradise boat Cairns Australia

Passions Of Paradise

Australian Tourism Award Winner. Daily dive / snorkel trips to Michaelmas Cay & Paradise Reef on 25m sailing catamaran. Free scuba demonstration & guided snorkel tour. Hot / cold buffet lunch.
Fully inclusive Great Barrier Reef day tours with Reef Experience

Reef Experience

Cairns' only fully inclusive day tour, including: city transfers, trip to Great Barrier Reef, 6 hours on reef, 2 reef locations, meals, free scuba dive, marine biologist presentation & equipment.
Cairns Dive Centre Day Boat - MV Reef Kist

M.V. Reef Kist – Cairns Dive Centre (Island Diver)

Great value one of Cairns cheapest day boats to the Great Barrier Reef. Full day snorkeling visiting 2 x Reef Locations. Includes lunch and all snorkel gear.
Ocean Freedom the quickest Great Barrier Reef day tour dive in Cairns

Ocean Freedom Cruise

Locally owned & operated. 5 star service. Up to 6 hours snorkel / dive time at 2 Great Barrier Reef locations. Best reef tour lunch in town. Friendly crew, glass bottom boat tour & much more.
Great Adventures

Great Adventures: Outer Reef

Leaves later than most (10am) and provides up to 3 hours at their outer reef pontoon. Enjoy the sun deck, underwater observatory, semi-submersible and many optional extras.

Silversonic Dive & Snorkel

Silversonic provides daily reef tours departing from Port Douglas and visiting the ribbon reefs at Agincourt Reef. 5 hours at reef and up to 3 dives.

Ocean Spirit Cruises Cairns

Ocean Spirit Cruises provide a luxury sailing catamaran to Michaelmas Cay. This trip is suited to swimmers, snorkelers and families. Often Sea Turtles are seen from the beach. All meals included.

Seastar Cruises

Seastar provides daily dive and snorkel tours to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Up to 5 hours at the reef and 2 guided snorkel tours included.

Poseidon Snorkel and Dive

Poseidon provides daily tours from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, visiting three (3) separate reef sites. Suitable for scuba divers and snorkelers. Great passenger to crew ratio.
Quicksilver Cruises Boat from Port Douglas

Quicksilver Outer Great Barrier Reef Cruises

The Ultimate Great Barrier Reef Cruise - Quicksilver Cruises provides the only Port Douglas Great Barrier Reef pontoon tour, departing Marina Mirage daily. Can snorkel and dive, Semi-Submarines & Underwater Observatory.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Reef Boat

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Cruises

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offers a great value for money option that spends 5 hours at a beautiful reef location. Free guided snorkel tour, glass bottom boat tour and marine presentation.

Deep Sea Divers Den: Sea Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included.

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Cairns Reef Information

Click the links below to find out more.

Do You Need Help Choosing?

Do you need help choosing a trip?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.

Special

FREE UNDERWATER CAMERA HIRE*

Cairns Underwater Camera Hire Service

Spend over $550.00 AUD on your Great Barrier Reef tour with us and receive the latest Digital Underwater Camera Hire. Take amazing High-Resolution images and 1080 HD Video.

Not available for any tours to the Islands as fine white sand damages the seals on the cameras and makes them leak!

You need to come into our shop located on the Cairns Esplanade the day before departure to pick up the camera before 5:30 pm. You also need to supply your own SD Camera Card and drop the camera off back at our shop before 6:00pm.