Australia is one of the world’s best snorkeling and scuba diving destinations, known for sights such as the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, and Christmas Island. The country should be at the top of any true diving enthusiasts’ must-do list of places to visit. Here are some great places to go snorkeling and scuba diving in Australia:
- Port Douglas
Port Douglas, north of Cairns, Queensland, offers great diving sites such as Split-Bommie, with fan corals and schools of fusiliers; Barracuda Pass, offering coral gardens and giant clams; and the swim-through coral spires of the Cathedrals. Snorkelers can glide over the coral and reef marine life of Agincourt Reef.
- Lizard Island
This is where the Great Barrier Reef starts. Snorkel over 150-year-old giant clams, as well as beautiful underwater coral, in the Clam Garden, off this resort island northeast of Cairns, Queensland. Nearby is the famous Cod Hole, where divers can hand-feed giant potato cod.
- Coral Sea
In this sea in north Queensland, you can watch sharks feeding at Predator’s Playground; 1,000m (3,280-ft.) drop-offs in the Abyss; reefs covering hundreds of square miles; and tropical species not found on the Great Barrier Reef. This is not a day-trip destination; many dive operators run multiday trips on live-aboard vessels. Visibility is excellent — up to 100m (328 ft.).
- Yongala wreck
Sunk by a cyclone in 1911, the 120m (394-ft.) SS Yongala lies in the Coral Sea off Townsville, Queensland. Schools of trevally, kingfish, barracuda, and batfish surround the wreckage; giant grouper live under the bow, lionfish hide under the stern, turtles feed on the hull, and hard and soft corals make their home inside it. Live-aboard trips run from Townsville and Cairns.
- The Whitsunday Islands
These 74 picturesque islands in Queensland offer countless dive sites both among the islands and on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, a 90 minute boat ride away. Bait Reef on the Outer Reef is popular for its drop-offs. Snorkelers can explore the Outer Reef and the rarely visited fringing reefs surrounding the islands.
- Heron Island
Take your pick from 22 dive sites here: the Coral Cascades, with football trout and anemones; the Blue Pools, enjoyed by octopus, turtles, and sharks; Heron Bommie, with its rays, eels, and Spanish dancers; and more. Fantastic diving.
- Lady Elliot Island
Coral lagoons, perfect for snorkeling, line this coral cay island off the town of Bundaberg, Queensland. Boats take you further out to snorkel above manta rays, plate coral, and big fish. You can dive through the blowhole, 16m (52 ft.) down, and see gorgonian fans, soft and hard corals, sharks, barracudas, and reef fish.
- Rottnest Island
Lying 19km (12 miles) off Perth, Western Australia, this former prison island offers excellent snorkeling and over 100 dive sites. Wrecks, limestone overhangs, and diverse marine life will keep entertain divers. There are no cars here, so snorkelers should hire a bike and snorkel gear, buy a visitor-centre map of snorkel trails, and head off to find their own private sea garden. The sunken grotto of Fishhook Bay is great for marine life.
- Ningaloo Reef
Australia’s second great coral reef stretches 260km (161 miles) along the Northwest Cape halfway up Western Australia. Coral starts right on shore, not 90 minutes out to sea as at the Great Barrier Reef. You can snorkel or dive with manta rays, and dive to see sharks, angelfish, turtles, eels, grouper and potato cod. You can even snorkel with whale sharks up to 18m (59 ft.) long from March to June.