Scuba diving Australia is amazing. If you’re travelling on the East Coast, you’ll have opportunities to enjoy some of the world’s best scuba diving sites. Here’s the ultimate list of the best diving sites in Australia (Queensland & New South Wales) with quick notes on why they made it to the list.

If you’re after the map of the best diving sites in Australia (for the East Coast), scroll down to the end of the article.

Grey nurse shark with thousands of yellow fish around them at Broughton Island near Port Stephens
Grey nurse sharks at Broughton Island

I have dived most of these scuba diving sites (in bold in the list), sometimes multiple times, and loved it. I’d be happy to scuba dive again on any of these sites.

The best scuba diving sites on Australia’s East Coast: Cairns / Brisbane / Sydney

The order is from North to South in reference to the map below – and not by order of preference. Luckily, scuba diving Australia provides a great variety of diving sites. Hence, these sites are very different from each other so it’s hardly impossible to classify them by order of preference. It all depends if you prefer coral reefs, sharks, manta rays, seals, seahorses or macro photography.

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.

Australia’s best scuba diving sites on the Great Barrier Reef

Angelfish swimming on top of the SS Yongala wreck with a sea snake and hundreds of fish in the background
SS Yongala
Corals with many blue fish and orange fish swimming on top at Heron Island.
Heron Island

1. Osprey Reef: Amphitheatre shark frenzy, rare Osprey Nautilus, pelagics.

2. Cod Hole: Meet friendly giant potato cods (up to 100kg).

3. Cairns/Outer Great Barrier Reef: The world’s largest coral reef system.

4. SS Yongala: A wreck dive on the Great Barrier Reef with amazing marine life. I recommend leaving from Ayr.

5. Heron Island: One of Cousteau’s top 10 dives on the Great Barrier Reef.

6. Lady Elliott: Manta rays and turtles in pristine waters on the Great Barrier Reef. If you can only do a day trip, check out Lady Musgrave Island.

Australia’s best scuba diving sites in South East Queensland

Scuba diver taking a photo of a shark with many fish around it at Wolf Rock (Rainbow Beach)
Wolf Rock
Photo of two ray manta swimming with remoras under them at Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island)
Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island)

7. Wolf Rock: Manta rays, grey nurse sharks, giant Queensland grouper and other big species around pinnacles, near Rainbow Beach.

8. HMAS Brisbane: Easy open wreck fun to explore even for beginners.

9. Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island): Manta rays and leopard sharks in summer, grey nurse sharks in winter and turtles all year round

If you cannot make it to the Great Barrier Reef and would like to see some corals, add Flinders Reef in Moreton Bay (accessible from Brisbane) to your list.

Australia’s best scuba diving sites in Northern New South Wales

Close up photo of a grey nurse shark at Julian Rocks in Byron Bay
Julian Rocks (Byron Bay)

10. Julian Rocks: Grey nurse sharks in winter, leopard sharks in summer and turtles all year round, near Byron Bay.

11. Pimpernel Rock: A fantastic dive site when the conditions are right, you’ll have to be lucky. But the plan B, a dive in the Solitary Islands, is good too.

12. Fish Rock Cave: One of the longest caves you can dive with a basic open water certification, near South West Rocks. Grey nurse sharks wait for you at the exit. Hammerhead sharks are sometimes spotted.

13. Lord Howe Island: An unspoiled island with rivers of fish

Traveling from Brisbane to Sydney? You’ll be interested in this road trip itinerary that stops at some of the best dive sites on the coast!

Australia’s best scuba diving sites in New South Wales Central Coast

Close up photo of a seahorse during a shore dive in Port Stephens (Fly Point)
Port Stephens
Sharks swimming above the photographer with thousands of fish around them on Broughton Island near Port Stephens
Broughton Island

14. Fly Point: A paradise for macro-photographers with many nudibranchs and sometimes seahorses, plus the opportunity to also see giant slugs (sea hare), Port Jackson Sharks and even dolphins for the luckiest. It’s one of the famous shore dives in Nelson Bay.

15. Broughton Island: Plenty of grey nurse sharks hidden within schools of smaller fish, not far from Nelson Bay and Port Stephens.

Scuba diving Australia: the best scuba diving sites in Sydney and further south

16. The Steps: A shore dive with 99% chance of seeing weedy sea dragons – we saw one after three minutes! Weedy sea dragons can only be found in Australia southern waters, so it is rather special.

17. Jervis Bay: Seals and Port Jackson sharks in winter, and you can also spot weedy sea dragons there.

18. Montague Island: We saw seals underwater, and cute little penguins on the island.

Have you dived any of these Australian sites? Is there one I should add to my list? I’d love to hear feedback from fellow divers. Please share your experience in the comments below!

Where are the best scuba diving sites in Australia (East Coast)?

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Scuba diving Australia's East Coast: six small images of dive sites near Brisbane, Sydney and Cairns (coral, wreck, sharks, manta ray, turtle, seahorse, clown fish, seal...)
Scuba diving Australia East Coast: map with 17 sites

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  1. Jaclynn

    I’ve dived in a lot of places mostly in SEasia, but Aussie is definitely somewhere I want to get to someday, bookmarking this 🙂

    1. Eloise

      Hi, Jaclynn. You must have seen amazing this diving in SE Asia. Still, I’m sure Australia won’t disappoint! 😀

  2. Amy Alton

    Ah this is great! We are leaving gold coast in April working our way north with our new dive gear .Can’t wait to check some of these out!

    1. Eloise

      Hi, Amy! You can check some out while you’re on the Gold Coast: Byron Bay, the HMAS Brisbane and Stradbroke Island aren’t far away! And if you like turtles… maybe you could add Cook Island to the list 😉

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