14 of the best shipwreck dives in Queensland
Home to some of the best shipwreck dives in the world, Queensland’s waters are an adventure lover’s paradise. From the magical Great Barrier Reef to the turquoise waters of Moreton Island, over 1000 ships are wrecked off the coast off of Queensland, their mysteries just waiting to be discovered.
Take a deep breath, go below the surface and step back in time as you explore some unique monuments to Queensland’s vibrant past.
Here are 14 of the best shipwreck dives in Queensland.
Considered one of the world’s top dive sites, the SS Yongala shipwreck is situated 12 nautical miles off Alva Beach near Ayr, 90 minutes south of Townsville. Named for an Aboriginal word originally pronounced ‘Yonggluh’ meaning ‘broad water’, this ship sank in 1911, but it was more than half a century before she was discovered. Now she’s one of Australia’s largest and most intact historic shipwrecks.
The wreck has become an artificial reef and is now home to hundreds of species of marine life. You’ll find giant groupers, rays and schools of trevally and cobia here, as well as gentle sea snakes and turtles.
Explore the wreck with the team at Yongala Dive, where you’ll learn about the history of the ship and come face to face with marine life. Yongala Dive even offer divers the option to complete their PADI dive training on the wreck – a truly unique experience on one of the best shipwreck dives in Queensland.
If you’re keen to keep exploring the coastline of Seventeen Seventy, experienced divers can’t get enough of the Barcoola wreckage, sitting in 41 metres of water not far from the Cetacea.
As well as the groupers, cod, kingfish, rays, and giant cobia, you might come nose to nose with a bull shark or bronze whaler.
Queensland’s newest wreck dive site is the SS Tobruk. The stately ship was decommissioned in 2015 after 34 years of service and sunk in 2018 to create a world class dive site in the Great Sandy Marine Park, between Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.
Ideal for open water, beginner and more advanced divers, the shallow end of the wreck is just 10.9 metres below the surface, while more advanced divers can explore the rest of the wreck (she’s 127 metres in length), which lies up to 30 metres below. If you’re feeling adventurous, certified divers can swim inside the wreck itself for up to 100 metres – goosebumps are guaranteed. Outside the ship, plenty of marine life now call Tobruk home, and you might even catch a glimpse of a turtle or migrating humpback whale.
The dive site is protected by nearby Fraser Island, and the waters are warm all year round. A permit is required to dive the site.
Off the Southern Great Barrier Reef coastline of picturesque Seventeen Seventy you’ll find the remnants of the Cetacea, a 13-metre trawler which sank in 1992.
This lady of the ocean sits 32 metres underwater on a sandy bottom, attracting a variety of marine life such as rays, grouper, tuna and trevally.
Just a 15 minute walk up the beach from Tangalooma Island Resort, you’ll be greeted by the red rusted hulls of the 15 Tangalooma Wrecks jutting out of the crystal clear turquoise waters of Moreton Island. This stirring sight is one of the best known shipwreck diving spots in Queensland, thanks to its proximity to the beach (the wrecks are within swimming distance) and the natural beauty of the island.
The ships were deliberately sunk between 1963 and 1984 to create a break wall for small boats, and now provide the perfect spot for divers and snorkellers. The wrecks are home to coral formations and sealife, with hundreds of species of fish and wobbegongs, dolphins and dugongs making an appearance.
Another treasure of the warm water off of Keswick Island is The Singapore, a 87 metre streamer which sunk in the late 1800s after striking Singapore rock, just offshore. Surprisingly, considering its huge size, this ship was only recently discovered.
Located just off beautiful Singapore Bay, the wreck is in a designated Marine Park Green Zone, meaning the sealife is protected, and abundant. Explore this largely untouched marine haven for yourself, and come face to face with pelagic fish, sharks and rays and stunning coral formations.
Ex-HMAS Brisbane in the Ex-HMAS Brisbane Conservation Park is a world-class wreck dive site. Despite its name, the Ex-HMAS Brisbane is not situated off the Queensland capital, but on the Sunshine Coast between Maroochydore and Mooloolaba, 28 metres below the ocean’s surface.
A former Royal Australian Navy warship, which operated between 1967 and 2001, Ex-HMAS Brisbane was sunk in 2005 and the conservation park created around the wreck now provides the ideal artificial reef for divers with a huge array of sea life to discover.
To enter the conservation park and dive or snorkel the wreck you must either visit with a dive tour or have a dive permit. Scubaworld and Sunreef are both licensed tour operators based out of Mooloolaba who offer tours of the Ex-HMAS Brisbane.
The RMS Quetta is one of Queensland’s best shipwreck dives, but one of the least visited.
Considered one of Australia’s greatest marine tragedies, 133 people died when the RMS Quetta sank in 1899 after striking a coral mount near the Adolphus Channel in the Torres Strait Islands.
Today the wreck is a sensational dive, with plenty of cabins and nooks to explore and huge schools of fish calling the wreck home. Cruise through huge schools of Sweetlip, Barracuda and Cod and even spot a turtle, stingray or shark.
Like the sound of a Great Barrier Reef holiday? Venture up to Hamilton Island in tropical North Queensland and you’ll be treated to the Lady Bowen Dive Site. This elegant old 66 metre schooner was built in Glasgow in 1864 and arrived in Australia four months later, but met her fate when she crashed into Kennedy Shoal near Dunk Island in 1894.
Today, the Lady Bowen sits off the coast of Mission Beach and is a reef herself, home to coral formations and colourful marine life. Inside her hull you’ll find giant groupers, sea snakes, sharks, rays, lionfish and turtles.
The depth and size of this Queensland shipwreck make it perfect for intermediate to advanced divers.
Still a diving beginner? Get your PADI dive certification while you’re there.
The remains of the boilers greet you as you approach this historic Queensland dive site, with twisted metal guarding lost secrets of the past.
Located off Moreton Island, the St Paul wreck is one of the most interesting, and the most challenging dives in Queensland.
This wreck has a tragic history. In 1914, the French ship mysteriously hit Smith’s Rock while sailing in good conditions claiming the lives of 18 people.
Today, exploring the sunken structures offers a challenging dive ideal for the adventurous. The wreck sits in an exposed area of sea at the maximum depth limit for recreational ‘no decompression diving’, so it’s not possible to fully appreciate the wreck in just one dive. Divers who do take the plunge will be treated to remnants of the ship’s past, such as encrusted deck winches and anchors, and plenty of marine life.
For divers looking for a more intact site to explore, head to Lady Elliot Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Just offshore here, you can dive the wreck of the Severance, a fully intact two-masted sailing boat which sunk in 1998. So new is this wreck, remnants of the sails can still be seen.
The Severance is the only wreck you can dive on the fringing reef of Lady Elliot Island, and you’re likely to encounter plenty of sea life, including many species of fish, stingrays and reef sharks – even a moray eel has been spotted here.
Once you’ve fallen in love with this unique dive spot, why not learn more about helping the reef and preserving this natural marvel? Lady Elliot Island is a world leading ecotourism destination. The island offsets 100% of its carbon emissions from flights to and from the island.
Experienced divers will want to venture to the wreck of the Llewellyn , east of Makay on the Great Barrier Reef, approximately halfway between St Bees Island and Bailey Islet, for a 35 metre dive.
Last seen leaving Rockhampton in 1919, this coastal steamer mysteriously disappeared, and the wreck was only discovered in 1997. The ship is now a historical treasure for divers to explore, but due to its historical significance you do need a permit to dive the site.
This 50 metre steamship sank in 1945, and the remains of the iron hull, engine blocks, propeller shaft, flywheel and deck machinery can still be seen. It’s now a popular spot for snorkelling and scuba diving, and home to Brown Sweetlip, Honeycomb Grouper and turtles.
The barge itself makes for a unique dive experience. Explore the huge hold, a massive crane boom, the two level bridge structure, cabins and the engine room, and prepare to be blown away by the variety of marine life. Thousands of fish, sea snakes, turtles, wobbegongs, octopus and more call the ship home.
Sitting upright in 26 metres of water, the MV Karma is an accessible dive for open water and advanced divers.