Northern NSW Dive Sites

Click one of the following links to jump to that location and find out more about dive sites in that area:

Byron Bay

Coffs Harbour

Forster

Hawk's Nest

Laurieton

Seal Rocks

South West Rocks

Tweed Heads

 

Byron Bay

Cod Hole - Byron Bay - New South Wales

Cod hole is a lovely dive site that the local dive team can take you to by boat.  It’s an open water site, which means it’s slightly more complex than simple dive sites.  Its max depth, at 22 metres, is good, and there’s lots of low growth and other interesting things on the bottom of the ‘hole’.  Julian rocks are a gorgeous backdrop for diving – the whole area is teeming with wildlife and little nooks and crannies to explore, after passing through the arch that is ‘Cod Hole’.  Gutters and gullies of sand stand beyond it, for exploration, but the area directly in front and around the arch is a pretty and often interesting place to continue to explore.

With a visibility of 15 metres and average depth of 17 metres, the local dive shop can take you out via boat and give you a wonderful tour of the area.

As the name suggests, there are cod here, along with nursing shark, turtles, blue groupers and more.    The obvious marine plant life also inhabits the floor of this area, and scattered all over the arch itself is a low level growth – it doesn’t interfere with enjoying the swim and dive itself – it won’t stop you from swimming through the area.

Hugo's Trench – Byron Bay - New South Wales

Hugo’s trench is an open water site, accessible, by boat.  There are several boat charters who can take you there, but you may need to book in advance.  Byron’s bay has lots of groups and boat charters that will take you out to it, and the other places you may like to go.
The average depth of this open water dive is 10 metres, with a max visibility of 20 metres, so you can see and plan where and what you’d like to dive in.  The max depth is around 16 metres, so it’s not an immensely challenging dive for anyone that’s beyond their basic proficiencies.

Day or night, there’s always something that you’ll be able to see or do – I dived during the day and encountered octopi, sharks and some dwarf lionfish.  The ever present Blue groupers and even some seahorses at one edge of the trench.  I was told that much of the same is found during the evening – so if you’re more interested in night dives, it’s easy to get the same results.

The trench itself is quite interesting, and there are lots of little areas to explore without much extra work – if you’re interested in marine life, it may not be the best dive in the area, but it still has plenty to offer.

Julian Rocks – Byron Bay – New South Wales

Hire a charter boat to reach this site, it’s a very quick journey but much easier and safer than swimming/snorkelling over.  This is a marine reserve, so be aware of the regulations about visiting – and be careful while you’re there.  Legend has it that the island was formed when a jealous husband threw a spear at his wife’s canoe – and that the rocks are all that remains of the two ends of the canoe itself. 

Julian Rocks are a great place to explore – as the name suggests there are lots of rocks and other areas to explore, especially below the water.  The average visibility is about 20 metres, while the max depth is around15-17 metres.  Average depth is 10 metres or so, which makes it a comfortable site to dive and snorkel around. A rich area, filled with sea life and plants, there’s plenty to look at while snorkelling or diving.  You can see nudibranches, grey nurse sharks, leopard sharks, lion fish rays and turtles without much effort.  During most of the year, there are also Humpbacked Whales swimming between the rocks and the shore – though during mating season they are gently encouraged to leave.  Though I didn’t see this, I did see a couple of Humpbacked Whales in a small group.

Spot X - Byron Bay - New South Wales

This is an absolutely breath-taking area.  We were there on a day that didn’t really seem all that great, muggy, overcast, raining at points, but had looked nice when we left, so the operator took us out.  On the way he commented that he wouldn’t have done so if he’d thought the weather would turn so quickly.  The rocky pinnacles were just breath-taking.  Sheer pinnacles with little to no cover – though, near the base, I saw some black coral fronds. 

The most amazing thing about the area wasn’t the pinnacles though, it was the sharks!  There were dozens of them, feeding off the innumerable shoals of fish that swam throughout the area.  It was absolutely breath-taking and incredible to see – we moved through shoals of fish as if they were water, and they parted and scattered to let us through, without panicking. 

The average depth here was about 21 metres, and the average visibility was ok, at 15 or so metres.  Not much vegetation, like we said, but that was more than made up for by the numerous schools of fish battering around the area and between the pinnacles.  You may find that you need to visit several times to get a good feel for the area, and in my opinion it’s worth it.


Coffs Harbour

Black Rock – Coffs Harbour South Solitary Island – New South Wales

Black Rock is part of the Marine Park in Coffs Harbour – it’s about five minutes by boat from the western edge of Solitary Island.  This open water dive site has an average visibility of around 10 metres, and a max depth of 25 metres – the average depth is around ten metres less than that.  Your boat captain can tell you about the best places to dive. 

There are gutters and grottos galore down there – turtles and pelagic fish, along with nudibranchs, coral, and more.  We discovered after being down there for a little while that there was a definitive need for more light – so we went back and got flashlights – and then explored the grottos again and had a look in lots of cracks and more and saw so much more, including some flatworms, which I’d never seen before.

Most of the time it’s fairly calm, but at other times there are lots of currents in the area too though, which caught us unaware several times.  Nothing troubling, just surprising in most cases.  It is a macro camera area for sure – in good conditions, there’s an amazing array of life to see down there, and so much to explore that you’ll want to spend lots of time down there – we’ve been four times, and haven’t seen everything yet!

Diggers Beach – Coffs Harbour - New South Wales

Digger’s Beach, near Byron Bay is a shore accessed dive, with an open water classification.  It’s a fairly shallow dive, at 5 metres, with a visibility of six meters.   Max depth and average depth at various points are the same, which means there’s nothing unpredictable around it – and there are other similar dives in the same area, meaning you can spend time exploring the overall area and take this in as part of it.   This makes it a great place to practice open water diving, and make sure your skills and talents are exactly where you’d like them to be.  There’s no point in staying in your comfort zone and this is a great first dive after getting your beginner status.  Be aware however that there’s a current going out to sea, and if you’re not careful, you could get pulled out under its 2-4 knot current.

Digger’s Beach is a surfer’s paradise too – for that reason, there’s very little wildlife or marine life but there are lots of weeds and other plant life to enjoy.  Overall it’s a great dive to get away from being a beginner and shore up your skills, but you have to pay attention to the currents.


Forster

Latitude Reef – Forster – New South Wales

One of the more fun open water dives I’ve been on, this is an amazingly contrary little area, accessible by boat, and with an average depth of 15 metres.  This is a long reef that seems to run from the shore to beyond where I swam it.  There’s lots of sandy areas on either side of the reefs, there’s a variety of sea life down there, and lots of little nooks, crannies and areas where you can find anything hiding.  The area I explored also had small lip, or ledge, which was really cool to look underneath. Visibility was ok when I dived – I saw lots of nudibranchs, starfish, sea horses and more. 

We returned at night and it was like a different world.  It seemed the visibility was slightly higher, and the wildlife out and about above the reef was like constellations of stars – a gorgeous variety of fish, that seemed to dance and swim in gorgeous patterns, with a hushed breath-taking awe that I have never found on any other night dive.  Exploring too, in the dark, was a great end to the evening – there was so much to see and do and I would highly recommend it to anyone as an amazing place to experience.

The Pinnacles – Forster - New South Wales

All I have to say is Grey NURSE SHARKS!  I’ve been on dozens of dives in the area, and was really keen to see some nurse sharks – and up until I went to the Pinnacles I’d been severely disappointed.  I’ve had dive shops and people advising open dives promise me that there was always a chance of seeing them – but what no one told me was it was a slim chance.

So when I went to ask about this dive with the local dive shop and asked about the sharks, he told me definitely and I didn’t believe him.  This was my second to last day and I wanted to see them, but I just didn’t want to get my hopes up.  But we went out on this dive, by boat, and attached ourselves to what I later found out was a permanent mooring buoy, attached, I think to a boulder.  The dive leader told us to brace ourselves, the area was teeming with sharks, and I still didn’t believe him – so when I got into the water, I was pleasantly surprised – delighted to see about a dozen sharks, swimming around the boulder below us placidly.

The overall depth of this dive is just shy of 40 metres, and it’s an open water dive, but if you can do it, I’d say go for it! Visibility was upwards of 20 metres, and if you’re not a fan of sharks, there’s still quite a lot to see here.  I was delighted, as I said, and got my shots of sharks after all.

Snapper Rock – Forster – New South Wales

I did this as my first open water dive – and I really can honestly say that I would recommend it to anyone whether you’ve just become qualified or you’re looking to have an explore of somewhere a little different.  I went down to a max depth of around 15 metres, which I thought was really quite good, and the visibility was ok, at 7.5 metres or so.

The first thing I noticed was that there was no vegetation, or sponges, just lots of bare expanses of rock.  The second thing I noticed was the amount of fish – not just fish, but BIG fish.  I’m talking some of the biggest of each of the species that I had ever seen.  It was an amazing, and eerie sight all at once.  King Warsse’s, yellow tails, and a huge grouper whose breed I didn’t recognise came swimming up to us while we were there, and were very curious.  One or two even swam up to my open hand and nudged us, as if waiting for food.

There were a lot of crevices and other little places to explore, again, mostly devoid of vegetation but there were plenty of fish.  We’ve been told there are grey nurse sharks in the region, but we didn’t get to see them – maybe we were there at the wrong time of day, or the wrong time of year.  I would definitely go back though – overall a very interesting dive.

Snowflake - Forster - New South Wales

This is a site only accessible by boat – it’s some 11kms off shore, and John Dugan (of Action Divers) is the expert on the region.   It’s open water rated site, with an average depth of 24 metres.  This is also its maximum depth, but there’s little to report by the way of visibility – at 8 metres, it’s not exactly great.

This is an amazing little site with lots of gutters and zigzag drops that go on for the length and breadth of the site.  It’s not exactly multilevel though, so don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s lots to explore above you once you reach the bottom.  The bottom is almost a square area, a dip in that drops down into a hole, rather than just going in a canyon.

That said, there’s a lot to see here – it’s been reported as a photographers paradise and if you’ve got the kit, you won’t be disappointed.  There’s so much to see down here – nudibranchs, octopi, sponges, grass weeds and kelp.  The bottom is nice and rocky too, giving a nice contrast to find things against.  All in all, this is a great little dive, with some interesting things to look at, on the way down, and at the bottom.


Hawk's Nest

Broughton Island - Hawks Nest - New South Wales

This site is an open water dive that lies about 1km off Myal Lakes National Park – the dive site itself is an amazing area – bubble caves, and swim through, shark gutters, currents (bommies), Moray Eels, and manta rays,  reefs full of vegetation and rocks…in fact it has just about everything you can ask for in a dive site.  I was astounded at everything I could access down there, and have returned nine more times since my first dives there.  It’s important to emphasize that there is just too much to do down there, so if you’re only there for one dive, you need to plan carefully – your boat captain can tell you about all of the best, and less interesting areas to visit – and you can choose accordingly.  It’s difficult to create an itinerary without having a look though, so if the water is clear enough, you should take some time to snorkel and look around the site – you may find that you have one area that looks preferable over the others.

One of the areas is called Looking Glass, and is an incredible dive.  Port Jackson’s mix with Wobbygongs, dolphins, shrimp and crayfish.  There’s nudibranchs and starfish, sponge gardens and lots more.  While we were there I got to see everything I’d hoped for, against a backdrop of amazing scenery.

The max depth on this dive site is 30 metres, while the average visibility is an amazing 20 metres – so you can see the bottom from the boat on calm, clear days.  The most amazing thing is that it lets you plan your dive from the surface – there’s just so much to do down there that you’ll be hard pressed to choose what to do on just one dive – so definitely plan to return as often as you can.


Laurieton

Cod Ground – Laurieton - New South Wales

An advanced dive site, this open water dive is about five miles off the bar, which makes it only accessible by boat.  Visibility is good, at an average of 15 metres, and the cod ground itself has a pinnacle that comes up to 22 metres– one side drops 28 metres, while the other drops in excess of 32 metres.   These drops make for great exploration points, without pulling you away from the main area, meaning you can explore and swim without travelling far.

At its maximum depth of 33 metres, this site is gorgeous for anyone that’s more confident as a diver, or wants to work towards gaining a greater proficiency in advanced diving.  An average depth of 25 metres makes this area amazing for mid to deep diving, and allows the diver to spend some time enjoying and exploring the area.

There’s an abundance of marine life at Cod Ground too – year round there are some grey nursing sharks, who move gracefully and peacefully through the water. Coupled with enormous schools of jewfish – some swimming so close you can reach out and touch them before they dart away again.  Jewfish grow from 20-80 pounds and include fish like the goliath grouper – but are gorgeous shades, colours and varieties. 

Alongside the Jewfish, there are also schools of blue groupers, and Kingfish, who swim majestically around the pinnacle.


Seal Rocks

Sugarloaf Bay - Seal Rocks - News South Wales

Accessed via the shore, this site is easy to find – there’s a passage to swim down, and out by the edge of the beach – just keep swimming out to sea, and look for a bommie with kelp, that marks where you should stop swimming out, and from there, you can head right, and find a sand bar – that’s one edge of the dive site – explore around there.

We were told that there might be a lot of red weed in the water, which makes the visibility terrible, but we seemed to have picked a great day to go cause the water was good – lots of visibility and things to see.  We saw some sea grass, sponge, tulips and kelp, along with anemone and other plant life.  WE saw lots of great stuff around the area – lots of macro stuff that would be ideal for the photographer in those of us that like that.

There wasn’t many fish when we visited, but I saw lots of nudibranchs – which really surprised me – what surprised me even more was the few fish that I did see were incredibly friendly and placid – they didn’t scatter when approached and we got nice and close and got a good look at them – they were some very cute blue groupers.


South West Rocks

The Aquarium - South West Rocks - New South Wales  

I’m an underwater photographer, and the Aquarium was one of those places I was seriously curious about this place.  I was told it was a photographer’s paradise, and the person that said it was SO right.

The local dive team took me here, with a small group – so there wasn’t really a lot of noise or bustle, which was perfect in the water because no fish got scared off, and I got some stunning shots.

The visibility here is stunning, up to 20 or more metres, and it’s not massively deep at around 14 metres , which made it great for setting up shots.  I saw everything here from the ubiquitous blue groupers, to several dozen types of other fish, some sea horses and more exotic forms of life that I just didn’t recognise.  I also saw angel fish, some really cute blue groupers who came right up to my camera without a care, and I saw the most amazing site – a turtle just sitting on the bottom watching stuff swim by.  He stayed there till I’d shot a half dozen or so shots worth, without batting an eyelid, before lazily pushing off and swimming away.  I’ve got some stunning photos to identify them with though, so that’s ok.   I also saw some sharks, quite a bit off in the distance I think, which gave me quite a bit of interest in visiting again.  The name for this place is right though exactly right – it’s quite honestly like swimming around someone’s aquarium.

All in all a great open water dive, and would love to come back again.

Fish Rock Cave - South West Rocks - New South Wales

Fish Rock is an unremarkable island, with a treasure trove beneath.  Fish Rock Cave is a treasure that divers worldwide flock to enjoy, so it’s best to use local knowledge and choose a team that’s been before to take you as it’s only accessible by boat.  With an average visibility of 20 metres, an advanced rating and the deepest point being the entrance to the cave system itself, this is a stunning place to take pictures and view wildlife, from the myriad of bullseyes, coral fan, black cod, and even the occasional grey nursing shark. The beginning of the dive into the cave itself starts at 24 metres, where you’ll see a myriad of marine life and flora that will take your breath away.  Swimming through, be sure to keep an eye out for lace coral, sea cucumbers, and cowry shells before a lazy climb up the vertical chimneys where, depending on the time of year, you may even spot some highly colourful giant cuttlefish, who lay eggs in the chimneys.  Other times of the year, you’ll see anemone, clownfish, the occasional turtle – it really is a fish spotter’s paradise and one of the most stunning dives in the area.

One of the most amazing aspects of the dive is the bubble cave, before the light zone – where you can stop for a breath, a chat, perhaps discuss if there’s anything you’d like to go back to see and then continue exploring.  The caves are really gorgeous, with amazing blue waters all around, and are one of the most worthwhile dives you’ll ever go on.

Green Island – South West Rocks - New South Wales

I’ve been reliably informed by the Fish Rock Dive Centre, who took me out, that this is one of the favourite dives in the area.  There’s something for everyone – with an average visibility of 20 metres, this boat accessed dive is gorgeous.  With rocky overhangs and ledges, lots of marine life, including a variety of breathtaking tropical fish, large turtles, and what appear to be resident loggerheads, eagle rays, nurse sharks, box fish, benitos, jewies, and more, there’s so much to see and do here that you’ll want to return, again and again and again.

An average depth of 16 metres, and a maximum depth of slightly more than that, the water is crystal clear and perfectly visible all the way down, so whether you snorkel, then dive, or just dive straight in, you’ll see plenty and get to play in the water for a long time.  Amazing sights fill this area, and it’s a beautiful arena for photography, or nature buffs, and there’s lots to explore, whether you’re on your first open water dive, or your thousandth.  There are no serious places to get snagged, or caught, so exploration is easy and safe.

The Wall - Fish Rock, South West Rocks - New South Wales

This deep rated dive is accessible by boat, usually via the local operator, Fish Rock Dive Centre.  It’s basically a 40 metre wall, which has an average visibility of 20 metres.  The dive guide told us the average depth here was 30 metres, but really, I wasn’t paying enough attention to comment on that – there’s just so much to see and do!

Because it’s a deep rated dive, this isn’t a dive designed for new or beginner divers – so be aware of this before you go.  But if you’re rated to go on this sort of dive you really won’t be disappointed. 

There’s a lot of growth and nooks and crannies to examine and explore, and a vast amount of wildlife such as the Queensland grouper and the ever present blue grouper, along with lots of other bits and pieces of wildlife that you would normally see.  Watch out as well for larger wildlife swimming around further out to sea – I saw a shape looming out there that could have been a nursing shark, though didn’t actually see any (close enough to identify) while I was there.

It’s a great site for photography too – the water is clear and the area is mostly well lit.  We went back there once on a night dive and were pleasantly surprised to find the area was just as gorgeous and held an amazingly peaceful and serene quality in the moonlight.

Tweed Heads

Tweed Heads Rivers - Tweed Heads - New South Wales

You reach this dive site by heading for the air rescue site – park nearby and walk down the stone steps, and you’re at the dive site itself. 

An average depth of about 20 metres, there’s about a 10 metre visibility at high tide, but it can be lower depending on what’s in the water, and what is stirred up on its way through to reach the sea.  As this is the final bend in the river this is quite a rapid open dive, there’s a current at most times of the year, and when the river is moving fast, you need to be aware that this is the very last bend before heading out to sea.  There’s an overabundance of wildlife here – cray, prawns, shrimps, catfish and bream etc.  Visibility at 9 metres is as close to high tide as you can manage – slack tide is also a great point to dive, as there are lots to do.  You may even spot turtles and dolphins here, but I never have.  Overall this is a highly recommended dive if you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary without needing to hunt all over for somewhere that’s barely been explored.