You could almost spend a lifetime diving any region of Australia. While most divers head straight for the Great Barrier Reef, the rest of Australia is equally as appealing. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth each offer a wonderful collection of dive experiences. Just beyond the big city energy of Sydney, giant cuttlefish, wobbegongs, and grey nurse sharks headline the sites just off shore of this metropolis, and topping the list is the wreck of the Valiant. Off Melbourne in the south of Australia, dozens of dive sites riddle Port Phillip Bay. The water's colder, but the marine life are equally as diverse and you'll find a bit of everything from wrecks and caverns to technical dives. Brisbane sits smack in the middle of what's known as the Sunshine Coast, and like the rest of Australia has an amazing array of marine life from a stunning variety of nudibranchs to striking leopard sharks, and the marquee dive is the HMAS Brisbane. Off the west coast, Perth launches you into temperate water heaven with Rottnest Island at its hub. Wildly colored soft corals, swim-throughs, and a startling diversity of marine life. North of Perth, the central and northern coast of Western Australia offer adventurous diving including the breathtaking Ningaloo Reef, the closest fringing coral reef in the country. Separated from the Australian continent, Tasmania's cool water offer you kelp forests, sponge gardens and caverns to explore.
When to go:
Marine Life Seasons:
Humpback whales migrate past Australia from June to November. Turtles nest on sandy beaches in December, with hatchlings emerging from January through March.
When to Get the Best Deals:
Best deals are found during the rainy season from November to May.
What to Pack:
Wetsuit or dry suit depending on where you 're diving, sunscreen, insect repellent, water hiking shoes for the rainforest, lightweight clothing and DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 18°C/65°F in winter and 28°C/82°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 10-20°C/50-70°F in winter and 20-30°C/70-85°F in summer.
Australian Dollar; credit cards widely accepted.
Passport and electronic visa are required from most countries. Check with your local immigration service to visa requirements. Electronic Visa's can be acquired on-line for a small fee.
Included in you airfare.
What to Eat:
There are many great restaurants and a wide variety of food choices spread across a country the size of the United States. You'll find many places offer meat pies, some filled with kangaroo meat, as well as sausage rolls to which you can add a side of mashed potatoes or mushy peas. Seafood is popular cooked is many ways influenced by Australia's multicultural population. Vegemite is popular for breakfast on buttered toast.
What to Drink:
The bar scene in this vast swath of Australia is equally as diverse and plentiful as the places to eat. Meeting at the local pub for a cold one with your mates is a national pastime. There are many established grape growing regions that produce internationally recognized wines.
Australia has lifetimes of adventures, from Uluru in the outback, to Kangaroo Island and for oenophiles, some of the best wine producing regions in the world, especially the Barossa Valley and McClaren Vale. Australia gets wild fast, but all the large cities have a strong cosmopolitan air, with lots of sophisticated shopping venues. For culture, head to the outback to see Aboriginal rock art and even spend some time listening to Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. The list is endless.
Customs and Culture:
A national lust for life dominates the Australian mentality. And the Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest on Earth, with lots of artifacts strewn throughout the country.
From film festivals to opera to surf tournaments, you'll find something for everyone. Look into the local city guides to see what's going on when you're traveling.
Electricity and Internet:
Standard electricity is 240 volts, and 50 Hz. Internet is widely available.
Drink the water?
Water is safe to drink.
Amazing Marine Life
As strange in appearance as its name sounds, this dark-golden bottom-dweller is mottled with rings of white spots like small pearl bracelets all over its body.
Weedy Sea Dragons:
This relative to the seahorse looks as though it's sprouting kelp from its back and fins.
This yellowish octopus is covered with rings of startling electric blue.
Definitely not designed for streamlined swimming, this fish resembles a lemon with black polka-dots.
Growing a meter/three feet per day, these long fronds anchor on the seafloor and reach to the surface, with their rubbery green blades creating a forest-like illusion.
Australian Giant Cuttlefish:
Growing up to 9 kilograms/20 pounds in size, this cuttlefish has a large fringed body marked with patterns that resemble the grooves of brain coral.
Port Jackson Shark:
This lean beige shark sports dark markings that make it look as though it's swimming under the shadow of a branch.
Marked with a dark band around its eyes and speckled with brilliant blue spots, these stingrays (or "stingarees," as the Australians style them) prefer to hang out on sandy bottoms.
This enormous baleen whale, growing up to 15 meters/50 feet in length, feeds on small plankton, and migrates annually to breed in warm waters.
Top Dive Spots
North Mole, Perth:
Large rocks and an unidentified wreck (speculated to be the barge Gareenup) at this site shelter schools of bullseyes, old wives, rock lobsters, blue devils, masked stingrays, Port Jackson sharks, box fish, and cuttlefish. Boat traffic makes a dive flag advisable.
Point Peron, Perth:
Located in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, this limestone reef, riddled with caves, is accessible from the beach. Look for dolphins, seals, and crayfish.
Named for the numerous sea turtles found here, this drift dive reef also features king crabs, angelfish, groupers, tarpons, and nurse sharks.
Flinders Reef, Moreton Island, Brisbane:
Brisbane's only true coral reef, this site boasts 112 species of coral and almost 200 species of fish. Dive the reef's walls, gutters, caves, and pinnacles, and watch for turtles, stingrays, and wobbegong sharks.
Fish Rock, off South West Rocks, New South Wales:
Fish Rock cave houses a unique ecosystem, with water always warmer than the surrounding ocean. Nurse sharks rest under the entrance to the cave, which is overhung with pink gorgonian corals. Look for black cod, wobbegong sharks, black rays, giant cuttlefish, turtles, moray eels, and bullseyes.
Giant Kelp Forest, Tasmania:
These enormous rubbery-bladed kelp fronds can grow up to one meter/three feet a day, and swimming through them truly is a forest-like experience. Look for weedy sea dragons, wrasses, banded stingrays, skates, boxfish, octopus, and seahorse.
Bramble Cay, Torres Strait:
At the northern tip of Australia, marked by a lighthouse, this sand cay is a breeding ground for green turtles, with hatchlings emerging from January through May. Rich in green algae, the site also attracts algae-eaters like trumpetfish, wrasse, and unicornfish.
Camp Cove, Sydney:
Accessible from the shore, this site features blue-ringed octopus, cuttlefish, striped dumpling squid, nudibranchs and the occasional lionfish or seahorse.
North and South Head, Sydney:
This location actually encompasses more than a dozen dive sites, including Colours Reef, The Gap, Sponge Gardens, Polly's Point, Waterfall and Quarantine Station. These reefs consist of beautiful walls and giant boulders that play home to some of Sydney's finest diving. Bream, sweep and yellowtail are most common of the schooling fish. The inner area of the heads is particularly good for weedy sea dragons and the rarer red indianfish. Giant stingrays and eagle rays occasionally cruise by.
Portsea Hole, Melbourne:
Formed by the old Yarra River, the Portsea Hole features a vertical wall dropping into a sand bowl at 24 meters/80 feet. Small overhangs in the wall shelter a vast array of invertebrate life and fish, in particular the beautiful Blue Devil fish.
Navy Pier at Exmouth:
Located on the northwest coast of the continent, this dive is on many diver's "top dive sites" list with the pier boasting a surprising variety of species. Look for the groupers at this site.