Until our recent trip to Bundaberg, I thought you had to book expensive trips to the outer Great Barrier Reef to go diving in the region. So I was very surprised to find out it offers some of the best shore dives on Australia’s East Coast. We loved Barolin Rocks dive site: it’s a good spot to scuba dive or snorkel near Bundaberg. It surely made it to the top of my list of the best things to do in Bundaberg for nature lovers.
Of course, Barolin Rocks dive site is not comparable to the stunning Lady Elliot Island or Lady Musgrave Island, the two reputed scuba diving destinations nearby that are also among the best scuba diving sites on Australia’s East Coast. But if you consider the time and budget difference, scuba diving Barolin Rocks is a fantastic option for scuba divers in Bundaberg keen to add a few dives to their logbook. It can also be a good opportunity to refresh your skills and gain confidence before you head on an expensive cruise to the outer reef for the day.
We found it a bit hard to find information online to plan our dive at Barolin Rocks. Hopefully, this article about our experience, our photos and the map at the end will help you plan your dive. Please note that I am not familiar with the area and only did four dives there, so if you can chat with a local, it’s always a good idea!
Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.
What to expect when scuba diving Barolin Rocks (or snorkelling!)
You will see a lot of soft and hard corals when scuba diving Barolin Rocks. We dived it on a sunny day and the colours underwater in this shallow site were stunning.
We also spotted an old loggerhead turtle and many different types of fish including schools of pomfrets, an olive sea snake, a stingray and a few beautiful coral trouts.
If you’re lucky, you can see sharks during this dive; we encountered a guitar shark. You may also hear that a resident dugong sometimes comes to say hello to divers at Barolin Rocks dive site. However, dugongs are shy creatures so don’t get your hopes up; meeting them rarely happens.
Barolin Rocks dive site is part of the Great Sandy Marine Park. The Woongarra Coast from Elliot Head to Burkit Heads just after Bargara is protected and a few spots with corals, like Barolin Rocks, Burkitt’s Reef and Hoffman Rocks, are marine national parks. If you’re interested in learning more about the zones and their environmental values, check out the Queensland Government’s website.
Your underwater pics don’t look that good? Check out my tips for beginners to take underwater photos that aren’t blue!
How to dive Barolin Rocks
There are a couple of dive shops in Bundaberg and Bargara. None of them was advertising dates for a guided dive at Barolin Rocks when we went there, but you can call them to enquire about it. They sometimes also do night dives, which was very tempting.
Hire equipment or fill up tanks
We hired equipment from AquaScuba in Bundaberg. They are about 15 minutes drive from Barolin Rocks dive site. They were busy with open water courses when we went there in the morning so it wasn’t ideal to get tips on the dive site, but we saw them at the site there and they were super helpful. Later in the afternoon, we dropped by the shop again to get new tanks to dive another nice shore dive site in Bundaberg, Hoffman’s Rocks, and they took time to show us a map to help us find our way.
It cost us $60 each to hire equipment for the day and an extra $15 for a second tank to dive Hoffman’s Rocks.
Find Barolin Rocks dive site
It’s very easy to find Barolin Rocks dive site in Coral Cove. Your GPS will take you there. Also, there is signage from the road to indicate the dive site.
Free parking is available and they even have educational signs about the area, toilets and showers.
We were told the entire section from Barolin Point to Eliott Heads has corals. So from Barolin Rocks, you can choose to follow the rocks one way or the other. A few paths will take you down to the rocks and then you have to carefully walk to the water. Some rocks are slippery, so be careful.
Our dive plan
There are a few options of entry and exit points at Barolin Rocks dive site.
The elevated path near the car park offers a great viewpoint to observe the conditions and make decisions on the dive plan. We chose the same entry and exit points for all our dives; it’s the easiest when you’re not familiar with a dive site.
Once underwater, navigation wasn’t too hard as you always follow the rocks. It’s always easier to have a marker (a buoy) for the exit point, but we could find our way even without one. We were told to stick to the rocks as that’s where most the corals and fish are and there isn’t much to see elsewhere.
The best time to dive Barolin Rocks
You can check Barolin Rocks dive site tide times on Willy Weather. If you aim for high tide, you will have less distance to cover when walking down on the rocks. It also increases your chances to have better visibility.
We were there a couple of hours before low tide, and we didn’t find it too challenging. Despite the north-east wind, the dive site was calm, well protected by the headland.
Barolin Rocks can also be a good site for a night dive. We were told there are a lot of fish moving around at night, so it was tempting to have a look. But we couldn’t make it work with our schedule, unfortunately.
Our dive plan was to drift north and turn around at 120 bar to fight the tide current on our way back.
We could have done a full drift dive by exiting at a small beach north of Barolin Point, but we still had plenty of air and the tide current wasn’t too bad, so we turned around to enjoy the underwater world a bit longer. Also, we found the coral garden and fish life at the start of the dive better so we were keen to go back.
Responsible travel tip: Take care not to hurt the corals. Make sure there is no drag with your equipment, be careful not to kick it with your fins and if you apply sunscreen before going in the water, choose one that’s reef safe and put it on in advance. I always prefer to wear clothes covering my entire body when snorkelling to be well protected from the sun and not harm marine life.
Have you done scuba diving in Bundaberg at Barolin Rocks? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Barolin Rocks dive site?
The map above is to illustrate our dives but is not precise.
Where to stay near Barolin Rocks
Coral Cove Resort* is probably the most famous accommodation in Coral Cove. You can also rent houses in Coral Cove via Airbnb*. If you want to stay as close as possible to Barolin Rocks dive site, have a look at this house*: you can view the dive site from the patio and the bedroom!