The best dive sites in Australia to see marine life

Seal swims towards man in snorkel mask and oxygen tank underwater.

Diving with seals at Montague Island, near Narooma in New South Wales, is bucket-list material

Credit: Sebastian Goldhorn.

Heading underwater provides an extraordinary thrill. Scuba diving – and snorkelling – allows you to embark on a surreal journey where you enter a world bursting with incredible interactions and amazing colours.

Whether you’re being wowed by marine life or marvelling at colourful coral, each dive warrants endless superlatives: captivating, enthralling, exciting, fascinating…

Fortunately, Australia’s extensive coastline allows for ample underwater exploration, and the many BIG4 parks lined along the coast means we can easily put you at the heart of the action. Grab your wetsuit and flippers – it’s time to explore the best dive sites in Australia.

QUEENSLAND

The Great Barrier Reef

Where is it? Stretching for 2600km from Bundaberg up to Cooktown.

In a nutshell: Think diving, think the Great Barrier Reef. This World Heritage wonder is the best-known playground for those who want to dive or snorkel. The attraction incorporates more than 900 islands, has roughly 3000 individual reefs, and is home to a gob-smacking assortment of marine life and coral. This includes turtles, sharks, stingrays, dugongs, and a massive 1500 fish species.

BIG4 parks nearby: With a multitude of locations to base yourself, our Great Barrier Reef touring route is the ideal starting point.

Blue and orange striped fish swim through colourful pink and green coral reef with starfish underwater.

There are more colours than a rainbow to admire when diving the Great Barrier Reef.

NEW SOUTH WALES

Solitary Islands Marine Park

Where is it? Stretching for 75km from Coffs Harbour up to Plover Island, near Brooms Head.

In a nutshell: Covering more than 70,000ha, this massive park has a profusion of marine life to view. Highlights include 550-plus fish species, four types of turtles, giant cuttlefish, grey nurse sharks, and loads of coral. Manta Arch is among the leading dive sites, and diving tours operate from the Coffs Harbour area as well as Wooli.

BIG4 parks nearby: BIG4 Solitary Islands Resort at Wooli or at Coffs Harbour.

School of small silver and red fish swim into underwater crevice.

Solitary Islands Marine Park has a massive 550-plus fish species to see. 

Credit: Destination NSW/Coffs Coast Marketing.

Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park

Where is it? Covering 98,000ha and stretching from Stockton Beach, Port Stephens up to Forster.

In a nutshell: Witness a staggering assortment of creatures in New South Wales’ largest marine park, including loggerhead turtles, grey nurse sharks, and White’s seahorse. Also keep close watch for the hard-to-spot Red Indian fish and the spectacular-looking donut nudibranch (yes, this a real thing). The Pinnacle, near Forster, is among the leading dive spots while Fly Point Park, between Nelson Bay and Little Beach, is a popular option for snorkelling. Diving tours depart from Port Stephens and Forster.

BIG4 parks nearby: Port Stephens or Forster-Tuncurry.

Male and female with diving equipment play above the water on the coast with sand and green mountains on sunny day.

Snorkelling at Fly Point Park is sure to reward. 

Credit: Grenville Turner/Destination NSW.

Batemans Marine Park

Where is it? Encompassing 85,000ha and connecting Wallaga Lake, near Tilba Tilba up to Murramarang Beach, near Batemans Bay.

In a nutshell: Like all New South Wales marine parks, this spellbinding area is packed with fascinating underwater creatures, including turtles and grey nurse sharks. Diving and snorkelling enthusiasts have plenty of options but the biggest drawcard is a tour to Montague Island, only 9km off Narooma’s coast, to view abundant playful fur seals. The Tollgate Islands, close to Batemans Bay, is another prized area owing to its many interesting dive sites.

BIG4 parks nearby: Batemans Bay, Bermagui, Broulee, Narooma, or Moruya Heads.

Two people in dive suits swim next to a fur seal above rocks in the ocean.

Diving with Australian fur seals at Montague Island is an enchanting experience. 

Credit: Tony Brown/Destination NSW.

Cape Byron Marine Park

Where is it? Incorporating 22,000ha from Lennox Head up to Brunswick Heads.

In a nutshell: Despite being considerably smaller than other marine parks in the state, Cape Byron’s wealth of underwater life makes it alluring. Julian Rocks Marine Reserve, just minutes from Byron Bay, is the prime diving and snorkelling spot, attracting plenty of fascinating creatures. These include leopard and grey nurse sharks, manta rays, three species of turtle, and much more.

A white manta ray swims through blue water.

Manta rays make for an incredible sight when diving.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Ningaloo Reef

Where is it? Ningaloo Marine Park (within the wider Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area) extends 300km from Red Bluff, near Carnarvon up to Bundegi Reef, near Exmouth.

In a nutshell: Ningaloo Reef has just as much appeal to divers and snorkellers as the Great Barrier Reef. It provides divers with the simplest of access and is home to an exceptional array of marine life that includes mantra rays and turtles. Diving tours from Exmouth and Coral Bay allow for unforgettable and intimate encounters; Exmouth Navy Pier is among the premier dive sites with its vast collection of fish species. And the rare chance to swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef is an essential activity (March-August).

BIG4 parks nearby: RAC Exmouth Cape Holiday Park

Man and women in swimsuits, snorkels and flippers swim through shallow blue water in front of a sandy beach with bushes.

The beautiful waters of Turquoise Bay, on the fringes of Ningaloo Reef, are prime for snorkelling

Credit: ©Tourism Western Australia

Seal Cove

Where is it? 12km southeast of Albany

In a nutshell: Spotted within King George Sound, this delightful area is highly regarded by divers for its resident New Zealand fur seals and Australian sea lions. These interactive animals provide endless thrills and, combined with other underwater creatures and coral, ensure Seal Cove is hugely rewarding for divers. Tours operate from Albany.

BIG4 parks nearby: BIG4 Emu Beach Holiday Park or BIG4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park in Albany.

Blonde woman in snorkel and oxygen tank plays with sea lion in the ocean.

Swimming with sea lions is sure to captivate, as these creatures are as interested in you as you are in them.

VICTORIA

Bunurong Marine Park

Where is it? 6km southwest of Inverloch

In a nutshell: This park offers excellent opportunities for both divers and snorkellers to spy a vast assortment of marine life, including the distinctive-looking Port Jackson shark as well as upwards of 85 fish species. There are plenty of great dive spots that are easily accessible from land. Flat Rocks is ideal for diving – and snorkelling – while Eagles Nest and Cape Paterson are other key areas.

BIG4 parks nearby: BIG4 Inverloch Holiday Park.


Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park

Where is it? Between Bellarine and Mornington Peninsula in Port Phillip Bay.

In a nutshell: Consisting of six individual marine areas at the southern end of Port Phillip Bay, this marine park affords the chance to view a seemingly endless array of marine life that includes weedy sea dragons, squid, seahorses, and stingrays. The six areas – Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye, and Portsea Hole – each offers its own appeal, with both diving and snorkelling catered for. Easy access and tours are enjoyed from Geelong and Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas.

BIG4 parks nearby: Melbourne, Geelong, Mornington Peninsula, or Bellarine Peninsula.

Man in snorkel and diving suit reaches out to sea horse on the ocean floor.

There is plenty to see within Port Phillips Head Marine National Park.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Encounter Marine Park

Where is it? Extending from the base of the Fleurieu Peninsula across to Kangaroo Island and the Coorong.

In a nutshell: South Australia has 19 marine parks and this ranks among the best for divers with several notable areas. Rapid Bay Jetty is highly regarded for its population of elusive leafy sea dragons; Aldinga Reef is among Australia’s oldest marine reserves and teems with fish species; and Port Noarlunga is the perfect spot for snorkelling.

BIG4 parks nearby: Port Elliot Holiday Park or BIG4 Port Willunga Tourist Park.

Leafy yellow sea dragon swims near seaweed at bottom of ocean.

Elusive leafy sea dragons can be spotted at Rapid Bay Jetty in South Australia. 

Credit: SATC/Alex Wyschnja.

Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park

Where is it? In the waters between the Flinders Ranges and Eyre Peninsula.

In a nutshell: Without doubt, the biggest attraction here is the rare chance to swim with giant cuttlefish. Between May and August each year, these interesting creatures congregate between False Bay and Fitzgerald Bay, near Whyalla. They fascinate divers and snorkellers with their colour-changing antics, which are part of a mating ritual.

BIG4 parks nearby: Port Augusta BIG4 Holiday Park.

Large cuttlefish swims through green coral and seaweed at bottom of ocean

Swimming with cuttlefish in Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park is sure to delight. 

Credit: SATC.

TASMANIA

Governors Island Marine Reserve

Where is it? Just off the coast of Bicheno.

In a nutshell: Regarded as one of Australia’s best dive sites, Governors Island gifts an incredible assortment of sights. Vibrant sponge gardens, caves, boulders, and deep fissures will have the eyes darting in all directions. Keep watch for large rock lobsters and a wide variety of fish species.

BIG4 parks nearby: BIG4 Bicheno Cabin Park.


Tinderbox Marine Reserve

Where is it? 45min south of Hobart.

In a nutshell: Swipe right for this marine reserve, because Tinderbox is jam-packed with appeal for divers. The wide variety of marine life found within these waters includes remarkable-looking spiny pipehorse, Tasmanian numbfish, big-bellied seahorse, and octopus. The reserve’s proximity to the Tasmanian capital is a bonus, too.

BIG4 parks nearby: Discovery Holiday Parks – Hobart or Hobart Airport Tourist Park.

Swimming girl in yellow snorkel pops head above clear blue water on sunny day.

The beauty of snorkelling is that it suits all ages.

With so many incredible diving and snorkelling spots in Australia, there’s every possibility that we’ve overlooked your favourite. If so, please share your best Australian dive spot in in the comments section below. Or tell us what you love about these dive sites.

 

Isn’t it time you were dazzled by an underwater experience? Book your coastal adventure with BIG4 today.

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