One of the many things to do in Nelson Bay made us come back for three years in a row: scuba diving. What’s so special that we always make a detour for scuba diving in Nelson Bay when driving from Sydney to Brisbane?

scuba diving gear on the shore at halifax bay, nelson bay
Hallifax Bay (Nelson Bay)

It’s not for the water temperature!

Even in the middle of summer, the water was cold for us used to the Brisbane climate. We had 16°, 18° maximum at the end of December. They say it gets warmer in February or March – so you could be luckier than us.

With the right equipment (sharkskin*, hoodie and sometimes even socks*), I don’t mind the cold. When the water gets warmer, it attracts species we see when diving near Brisbane – so I’ve learnt to like colder water.

There are many shore dive sites in Nelson Bay

We love shore dives for a few reasons:

  • It’s cheaper
  • It’s more eco-friendly
  • We can stay for longer in the water
  • It doesn’t take the full day
  • We don’t rely on someone to take us there
  • Night dives are easier to organise

The only limitation is that the best shore dive sites in Nelson Bay must be visited at high tide to avoid the strong and dangerous current.

There are four reputed spots for scuba diving in Nelson Bay from the shore.

I’ve only dived a few times so I highly recommend that you talk to the dive shop (we always go to Feet First Dive, they’re lovely!) and study the maps and tide times. If you aren’t confident diving on your own, or if you want a local with sharp eyes to show you the best or the site, Feet First Dive can organise a guide for you. Check out their website to see all the scuba diving sites near Nelson Bay.

How to choose which site to scuba dive in Nelson Bay?

I found Pipeline was the easiest shore dive in Nelson Bay. It’s shallow and the navigation is easy – which is perfect for a night dive. It’s fantastic for macro photography. We especially loved the decorated crabs there.

Your underwater pics don’t look that good? Check out my easy tips for beginners to take better underwater photos that aren’t blue!

Fly Point is my favourite place for scuba diving in Nelson Bay. It’s easy to access and the diversity of underwater critters is unbelievable. From sharks (Port Jackson, wobbegongs) to sea horses, from small nudibranchs to giant sea hares (bigger than I could ever imagine), it’s full of surprises in the coral garden!

Halifax Bay hosts the two trickiest shore dive sites in Nelson Bay that I’d recommend only for experienced divers. Navigation isn’t easy as you’ll cross sandy patches between the bommies. You’ll have to be more careful with the strong current than on other dive sites in Nelson Bay as Halifax is the closest to the ocean. Also, the boat traffic in the channel makes it too dangerous to surface if an issue occurs; you’ll have to swim back close to the shore before surfacing. Plus, it’s for advanced certified divers only as you’ll likely go deeper than 18m. We didn’t have the best conditions when we dived there, but many locals rated it as their favourite so we will surely give it another chance.

I haven’t dived Little Beach yet. It’s known as a seahorse garden so we’ll put it on the list for next time.

Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? I recommend avoiding bad surprises if an incident happens. If you don’t have insurance, you may be interested in reading more about DAN and WorldNomads*.

Nelson Bay is a paradise for macro photography.

If you love macro critters, you can only love scuba diving in Nelson Bay.

Every year, they organise a Sea Slug Census and the variety of species found in the bay is incredible. In December 2018, they recorded 76 species in one weekend!

It’s also a famous place to see seahorses – if you’re good enough to spot them despite their camouflage skills!

Nelson Bay scuba diving - Pipeline - yellow nudibranch
Nudibranch at Pipeline, Nelson Bay

Nelson Bay is also amazing for scuba diving with sharks.

Port Jackson sharks, wobbegongs, Grey Nurse sharks… You can see them all when diving Nelson Bay.

If you love sharks, don’t miss a boat trip to Broughton Island. We’re used to diving with Grey Nurse Sharks during our weekends near Brisbane (Stradbroke Island, Moreton Island, Byron Bay and even South West Rocks and Rainbow Beach). Still, we were impressed by our dive at Broughton Island!

We have never visited Nelson Bay during the Port Jackson mating season (winter and spring), but we heard they cover the floor around Fingal Island (also named Shark Island) at that time. It’s would be surely less busy than when we usually go in summer!

There are many things to do in Nelson Bay when you’re not diving.

port stephens mount tomaree 03
View from Mount Tomaree

Even when you’re out of the water, you’ll find stunning places to explore in Port Stephens. The hikes aren’t very long but the views are breathtaking.

If you visit in winter, it’s a fantastic spot to see humpback whales. And dolphins inhabit the bay all year round.

Have you dived in Nelson Bay? Share your experience in the comments below!

Map of Nelson Bay dive sites

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