Best Places to Snorkel and Scuba Dive on the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s premier dive locations, be it for scuba diving or snorkelling. The climate, the temperature of the water, the abundance of reef and fish – it’s a recipe made in diving heaven. Here’s our pick of the best places to check out!
The Gold Coast Seaway
With five core dive sights, the Gold Coast Seaway is a local’s favourite. All of the sites have a water temperature of between 18-27 degrees celsius and while climatic sea conditions alter accessibility throughout the year, there’s always a site to enjoy. There’s also parking 10 metres from the entry point.
The Gold Coast Seaway can be divided into four main areas. Being an estuary entrance, the best time to snorkel or dive is on the top of the high tide when the current is least and the water is clearest. Water clarity will depend on wind direction.
Entered from the shore at the Short Pipe it offers a huge diversity of fish. Close to the wall is ideal for beginners.
Great for observing schools of pelagic fish which pass along the coast. On the outside of this wall is the only area where you’re likely to see whaler sharks.
South West Wall
An ideal introduction to scuba diving it offers a gradual decline to 5 metres. Shallow water finds include seahorses and anemone fish.
Wave Break Island
Gently dips to 11 metres alongside a rocky wall, producing an excellent array of small colourful fish. Good for both introductory dives and snorkeling it is a popular spot with dive and snorkel companies.
Cook Island has plenty of fish life but it’s most famous for its turtles. The locals have even named the turtles that frequent there, so keep an eye out for Crush, Cookie and Picasso.
Just a few hundred metres from the mainland, Cook Island Marine Reserve can be reached by boat from Coolangatta and the ride takes about ten minutes. Once there you’ll find glorious beaches along with an abundance of marine life, including temperate, subtropical and tropical species of fish, rays, eels and octopus.
Palm Beach reef is a fantastic place to snorkel and dive, although it’s not for the faint-hearted. Float over beautiful, colourful coral and reef fish and keep your eye out for stingrays, leopard sharks and the odd bronze whaler. You’ll also find blue wrasse and parrotfish in the plenty.
Palm Beach Reef offers varying depths, perfect for any diver. There are sections as shallow as five metres and other sections that drop to depths of 24 metres, meaning there’s multiple environments to explore.
Right at the southern tip of the Gold Coast, Kirra Reef consists of scattered rocky outcrops covered in kelp fronds. Over 100 metres in length it’s home to soft corals, anemones and a wide variety of fish. Drift from rock to rock, investigate each nook and cranny, and check out the macro life that inhabit the reef. Protected on three sides by land, Kirra Reef is great for diving nearly all year round.
Wreck of the Scottish Prince
After sinking in 1887, the 64 metres long Scottish Prince wreck lies 800 metres from the beach near the Southport Spit. Only the hull remains, but there’s enough wreck to offer you a range of soft corals and sponges, crayfish, shovelnose rays, leopard sharks and wobbegong sharks. Unusual tropical fish such as the leafy scorpionfish can also sometimes be found.
Narrowneck Artificial Reef
100 metres from the shore, directly in front of the lifeguard tower at Narrowneck Beach is an artificial reef made from geotextile containers. Originally designed to protect the beach from erosion and provide a break for local surfers, the artificial reef has proved to be an ideal surface for seagrass, soft corals, ascidians and crinoids. Close to shore you’ll find crayfish, wobbegong sharks, lionfish, nurse sharks and cardinal fish, while further out you’ll find cow tail rays, bull rays and turtles.
Nine Mile Reef
Just off Tweed Heads, Nine Mile Reef sits at about 10 metres deep, dropping to 30 metres. Reef fish are scattered across the shallower parts, and pelagic fish, turtles, stingrays and eagle rays often circle the area. Bear in mind, however, that Nine Mile Reef has a reputation as quite a “sharky” spot. All year long a strong population of wobbegongs call this reef home and they’re joined by leopard sharks in the summer and grey nurse sharks in the winter. Other sharks that drop in from time to time include bronze whalers, bull sharks and even the occasional hammerhead. Great if you love sharks, but it’s not the best dive spot for beginners.
Planning your Gold Coast Diving
Planning a day exploring the water? Do your planning in one of the many cafes located right by these fantastic dives sites. The Strand Coolangatta is conveniently located close to many of the sites we’ve listed and the friendly teams at 4 Pines, Beach Burrito and Griffith St Larder would be only too happy to share their favourite local spots alongside their great coffee.
Already done your planning and want somewhere to dine and mull over all the fish you saw in the water today? Grill’d Healthy Burgers will fill the hole in your tummy without expanding your waistline and Bin 72 offers some of the tastiest tapas around or try the new Pizza and Pasta bar Little Cooly, with the kids make sure you try their huge sundaes.
The Strand Coolangatta and diving on the Gold Coast go hand-in-hand.