Pixies Garden, Great Barrier Reef, QLD. © Tourism and Events Queensland
Best places to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef
Queensland is a diver’s paradise with coral, shipwrecks and even underwater sculptures dotted along a beautiful coastline.
By Bonnie Jackson
Whether you're an experienced diver or have never taken an underwater breath, you'll love the aquatic wonderland of Queensland. It's a kaleidoscope of reefs, shoals and coral cays teeming with tropical marine life. The Great Barrier Reef, which extends along Queensland’s coastline for more than 2,000km (1,200mi), is the largest expanse of living coral on the planet. There are so many epic spots to see; here are just a few of the best places to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
Agincourt Reef is located at the Great Barrier Reef’s northern end, near Cairns. This is a great spot even for beginner divers. Here, you can snorkel or dive on the edge of the continental shelf with an abundance of technicoloured fish, sea turtles and even reef sharks. Discover the breathtaking Blue Wonder wall, where the coral garden drops vertically for more than 40m (131ft).
Cairns and Port Douglas are both great places to base yourself to dive Agincourt Reef. Most tours depart from Port Douglas, but it’s possible to arrange pick-up from your Cairns accommodation.
SS Yongala Shipwreck
Located about one hour south of Cairns near Townsville, you will discover the blissful Magnetic Island. This is where you will explore the ancient wreck of the SS Yongala, which sank in 1911 and is Australia's largest and most intact historic wreck. Swim among marine life like manta rays, eagle rays, turtles and sharks that have made this iconic structure their home. Because this wreck is protected by legislation, divers can only visit on day trips with a licensed operator like Yongala Dive.
The Whitsundays are comprised of 74 palm-fringed, mostly uninhabited tropical islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Join diving trips and day cruises from the mainland at Airlie Beach, or choose to stay at an island resort like Hamilton or Hayman Island. The Whitsundays offer something for every diver – flat-topped coral pinnacles, shallow underwater cliffs, boulder-like bommies and more. Plus, divers will also encounter a huge array of marine life like manta rays and batfish.
Museum of Underwater Art
Why wander through a regular museum when you can swim among the artworks at The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA)? Descend into an awe-inspiring underwater world with a visit to MOUA’s Coral Greenhouse sculpture at John Brewer Reef, off the coast of Townsville, which features a 9m (30ft) stainless steel greenhouse structure designed to dissipate the ocean's undercurrents. While it can be viewed with a snorkel, it's best experienced as a dive for a thorough exploration of all its beautiful details. There are many dive tour operators like ProDive Magnetic Island that will take you to explore this phenomenal under-the-sea art exhibit.
Capricorn and Bunker reefs
In the Southern Great Barrier Reef region, take a dive in one of the natural wonders of the world and meet the local nesting turtles, rare birds and passing whales in the Capricorn and Bunker reefs. The water is relatively shallow and is teeming with reef fish, turtles, manta rays, reef sharks and an endless variety of marine invertebrates. Here you can also enjoy floating amongst the magic as you snorkel from the shore without a guide. Nearby, you can swim past big fish and vivid coral canyons near Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave islands, and don't miss the marine turtles that nest and hatch every evening between November and May at Mon Repos Conservation Park.
Located just north of the Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island are the Tangalooma Wrecks, a cluster of ships on the eastern side of Moreton Bay. As you dive down to the ships, you’ll notice that coral is now starting to form in and around the wrecks, providing a haven for over 100 species of fish and sometimes even dolphins, wobbegongs and dugongs. Expect to see loggerhead turtles, colourful reef fish and corals and even the rare grey nurse shark. Off the coast of Mooloolaba, you can swim through large coral formations and caves on Flinders Reef, or see the marine life that has set up home in the scuttled former HMAS Brisbane.
Just metres away from the Gold Coast’s white sandy beaches sits a world-first. Wonder Reef has graced the Gold Coast’s shorelines with nine underwater sculptures, creating the world’s first buoyant reef for both marine life and divers to enjoy. The ever-evolving coral-coated sculptures – which blend science and art – are already home to a myriad of marine life. Dive to the depths to discover this unique ecosystem, or as we like to call it, the ocean’s very own work of art.