Many scuba divers who live in Brisbane, myself included, would catch a plane to go diving on beautiful reefs. But only a few of them think of making an effort to go scuba diving Flinders Reef, the best coral reef you can reach as a scuba diving day trip from Brisbane. It’s insane how we can overlook treasures that are close to home.
Flinders Reef was ranked the second best dive site in Australia by Australian Geographic in 2012. I know their list is controversial, and I am the first to criticise it as it does not even mention one of my favourite dive sites ever, the SS Yongala. Still, the fact that Flinders Reef made it to their list show it competes at the highest level.
Check out this list of the best scuba diving sites on Australia’s East Coast!
Indeed, there are excellent reasons why diving Flinders Reef should be on your Brisbane diving bucket list.
Find out what to expect when diving Flinders Reef and why it can be a better choice than a trip to the Great Barrier Reef itself if you live in Brisbane.
Why you should consider diving Flinders Reef:
1. Flinders Reef has more than 175 fish species
It is one of these dive sites where you can feel overwhelmed by the number of fish, and you don’t know where to look! Fishing is not allowed on Flinders Reef, and it has become a sanctuary for marine life. Schools of fish cross each other on top of beautiful corals. Diving Flinders Reef is magical.
2. You see turtles when diving Flinders Reef
One of the most popular dive sites at Flinders Reef is the Turtle Cleaning Station in the coral garden. In a beautiful shallow coral garden, you are almost guaranteed to spot turtles there, waiting for small fish to remove the parasite on their shells.
3. Flinders Reef is the best subtropical reef on Australia’s east coast
Flinders Reef is known to have the highest number of coral species of any subtropical reef system along Australia’s east coast. The reef at Flinders is different from the Great Barrier Reef, and coral lovers will find it as beautiful as some spots up there. The diversity of coral formations is terrific with staghorn, brain and plate corals as well as soft corals, gorgonians and sponges.
Plus, despite their proximity to a large metropolitan area (Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast), corals at Flinders Reef are in excellent conditions with stunning colours and fascinating shapes. Flinders Reef is one of the 76 “hope spots” in the world. It is protected within the Moreton Bay Marine Park and monitored by the Reef Check conservation program.
Responsible travel tip: Increasing human presence put pressure on coral reefs with increased polluted waterways and overfishing for example. There are simple things that you can do as an individual to lower your negative impacts on the ocean. For example, a lifestyle refusing single-use plastic, reducing your use of plastic packaging and choosing more carefully your seafood will minimise stress on the sea. The first step is as easy as refusing plastic straws, carrying your reusable coffee cup and shopping bag and using shampoo bars!
4. Flinders Reef is a day trip from Brisbane
It is incredible to have access to a pristine dive site with never-ending coral formations and uncountable numbers of fish as a day trip from a city. No need to fly far away for an incredible dive on a coral reef! It’s a long day, but it’s worth it. And it’s perfect for those who feel guilty because of their carbon footprint when they fly!
If you miss the opportunity to join a Flinders Reef diving trip and cannot wait to dive on a reef to see turtles, check out Cook Island, another dive site accessible for a day trip from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. I don’t find it as impressive as Flinders Reef, but we still always have an excellent day underwater.
5. You can hear and see humpback whales from Flinders Reef
During the winter season (from June to September), humpback whales migrate on the east coast of Australia. It’s a pleasure to spot them from the boat during the surface interval. And you may also hear them while you’re underwater. It’s unique to share the water with the giant of the sea and really makes the dive special.
As we were swimming back to the boat after one of our dives, we were incredibly lucky to see one swimming just below us. An encounter I will never forget as it had been a dream for many years.
6. You can dive Flinders Reef all year round
You will find the warmest water (26°C) during summer, especially at the start of the year from January to March. However, that’s also the wet season in Queensland with storms that can cause a few diving trips to get cancelled. So April to November is the best season to dive Flinders Reef.
In July and August, the water temperature can drop to 19°C. It was at 21°C when we dived there in June and July. But with the sun shining, it didn’t take too long to warm up. Make sure you bring warm equipment for the boat trip and the surface interval to be comfortable. A waterproof and windproof jacket and a beanie make a huge difference. And nothing will taste better than a hot soup.
Responsible travel tip: You will likely use sunscreen when you go snorkelling or diving on Flinders Reef. Make sure you choose one that does not harm marine life: corals are sensitive to sunscreen.
7. There are many diving sites to choose from and accessible for beginners
There are many sites at Flinders Reef, and some of the most popular ones like the Turtle Cleaning Station are shallow and without special difficulties.
8. Diving Flinders Reef is a better choice than the Great Barrier Reef
At least from an economic and environmental point of view.
If you live in Brisbane, you will have a significantly lower carbon footprint by diving Flinders Reef than any other reef of that size in the world. You will also save a lot of money on flights and accommodation. But Flinders Reef is nowhere as big as the Great Barrier Reef. And we saw a lot of more diverse marine life on the Great Barrier Reef.
Where is Flinders Reef?
Flinders Reef is an offshore dive site in Moreton Bay, at the northern tip of Moreton Island. It is less than 70km away from the heart of Brisbane City, as the crow flies. Boats going to Flinders Reef leave from Brisbane, Mooloolaba or Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island).
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