The 11 Queensland dive sites named some of the best in the world
With 2900kms of reef stretching across 5208kms of coastline, the hardest part of planning a scuba diving holiday is picking where to go in Australia.
Depending on the season, you can dive with whales, sharks, turtles, manta rays, and just about every fish species under the sun. Yeah, we know, life is hard.
Some tough choices were made to narrow this list down to 11, but we believe these sites offer the best diving in the world – all within Queensland’s borders.
SS Yongala, Townsville (AYR)
One of the largest, intact shipwrecks in the world, the SS Yongala dive site is a technicolour of underwater life. And it’s recognised as one of the best dive sites in the world.
This 110m steamer capsized during a storm in 1911. Now it lies in 28 metres of water off the coast of Townsville, and is home to some of Australia’s most impressive marine creatures.
Come face-to-face with manta and eagle rays, bull sharks, turtles, barracudas and a number of large pelagic. Even whale sharks have been reported to pass by during certain times of the year.
Wolf Rock, Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach’s Wolf Rock is an experienced diver’s calling. Big fish territory, strong currents and heart-stopping depths, this Queensland dive site is as wild as it gets.
Made up of five volcanic pinnacles rising up 36-metres in the protected Great Sandy Marine Park, Wolf Rock is home to the local shark community; wobbegongs, leopard sharks, bronze whaler sharks, and even the critically endangered grey nurse sharks.
Osprey Reef, Coral Sea
Remote and raw; diving Osprey Reef feels like you’re at the edge of the world.
Lying 110kms northeast of the northernmost section of the Great Barrier Reef, Osprey Reef rewards the brave with glass-like, 40m+ visibility, and sharks. Lots of them. Schooling hammerheads frequent this remote section of the ocean, as well as dogtooth tuna and other (larger) pelagic species.
Prepare to feel very small indeed.
Cod Hole, Lizard Island
If your reef fantasy is to feed a 150-kilo potato cod in the open ocean, then diving the Cod Hole is for you. Gently cruising through the surrounding coral bommies, the potato cod here are curious, friendly, and arrive hungry.
Found in the remote Ribbons Reef, this section of the Great Barrier Reef is made up of 10 pristine reef chains, making it some the most sought-after dive sites for all levels of dive experience.
Encounters of all sizes are guaranteed out here. A selfie with a fish is down to you.
Steve’s Bommie, Ribbon Reefs
The pinnacle of Queensland dive sites can be found on the northern Ribbon Reefs, far outside the reach of standard day excursions. Starting at 33 metres and almost breaching the surface at 3 metres, Steve’s Bommie is a dream for macro photography and big fish spotting.
Barracudas, reef sharks and schools of big-eye trevally are frequently seen around Steve’s Bommie. And if you come between June and July, you might be lucky enough to share the water with a pod of elusive minke whales.
How to get there: Liveaboards leave Cairns marina every week for 4-7 day expeditions to the Coral Sea.
Agincourt Reef is Queensland’s diving and snorkelling nirvana. It features over 16 individual, completely unique dive sites that support all manner of life. Key dive sites include The Channels, The Gardens and the Nursery Bommie to see marine life worth writing home about.
High visibility, impeccable coral landscapes and the Great 8 are what gives this pristine piece of paradise the edge.
How to get there: Agincourt Reef is in the Outer Barrier Reef, accessible with Quicksilver Cruises day trip. You can choose to dive, snorkel or stay dry on their floating pontoon in the middle of the reef.
Flinders Reef, Brisbane
There’s more to diving Queensland’s east coast than the Great Barrier Reef. Located five kilometres north-west of Moreton Island, just outside Brisbane, Flinders Reef has been a badly-kept secret among local divers for years.
With more species of fish and coral than any single reef on the Great Barrier Reef, this site should be on any serious diver’s itinerary.
Local inhabitants include the usual cast of tropical fish, turtles, wobbegongs and leopard sharks. Mantas and whales are known to make seasonal stops at the reef and whaler sharks can sometimes be seen on the eastern side.
How to get there: Flinders Reef is accessed by boat from Brisbane. Contact your local dive shop for options.
Heron Island, Gladstone
Named one of the ten best dives on the planet (just let that sink in for a second), Heron Bommie is one of very few places on the Great Barrier Reef where you can walk off the beach and be front and centre with blacktip reef sharks, turtles and angel fish.
There are 20 individual dive sites within 15-minutes of the eco award-winning Heron Island. It’s a place to enjoy the ocean on island time, while rubbing shoulders with manta rays, reef sharks and wildly colourful pelagic species.
Heron Island itself is also home to the University of Queensland’s world-class research station and eco-certified accommodation, where island guests can better understand the incredible work being done to help protect the unique species of creatures and coral. As if you needed another excuse to linger.
How to get there: Ferries leave (two-hour trip) from Gladstone several times per day. If you’re time-strapped and don’t mind splurging, a helicopter can take you across in just 30 minutes.
North Stradbroke Island, Brisbane
Another local diving classic, North Stradbroke Island is one of the few places in Queensland where you can find consistently good surf and diving in the same spot.
The flagship sites of Shag Rock and Flat Rock are well known for their large population of leopard sharks and grey nurse sharks. Manta Bommie offers exhilarating manta ray encounters between November and February.
Decompress in the world-class surf at Point Lookout or take a 4WD to explore the island’s uncrowded beaches.
How to get there: A ferry runs between Cleveland (Brisbane) and North Stradbroke Island every 30 minutes. Most dive sites are within an easy 10-minute boat ride from the beach.
Lady Elliot Island, Bundaberg
Two words: manta rays. Big ones.
If you want to swim with these winged beauties, Lady Elliot Island is the Queensland dive site to hit up. Its impressive manta ray population, matched with 30m+ visibility most of the year, makes Lady Elliot’s waters a truly magical spot on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Over 1200 of fish species, including the mantas, call these waters home, so bring a wide-angle lens and plenty of coral-friendly sunscreen for the perfect dive holiday.
HMAS Brisbane, Sunshine Coast
One of the most accessible wreck dives in the world, the HMAS Brisbane is a 133-metre decommissioned missile destroyer laying in 27 metres of ocean just off the Sunshine Coast.
Intentionally sunk in July 2005 to create an artificial reef for its watery residents, this imposing structure has become a haven for its watery citizens and divers alike.
Take in glimpses of imposing bull and eagle rays as they circumnavigate the shipwreck. Swim alongside turtles, schools of yellow-tailed kingfish and curious batfish the size of dinner plates.
Bonus points if you lock eyes with the octopus living in one of the pyrotechnic tubes on the ship’s deck.