By: Tatum Stafford
Luckily for diving enthusiasts, Western Australia’s coastline is filled with coral gardens, schools of fish and untouched reefs that are begging to be explored.
Whether you’re eager to interact with playful marine animals or explore fascinating historical shipwrecks, WA’s underwater playground has plenty on offer for beginner, intermediate or expert divers.
Once you’re ready to grab your gear, here are eight of our favourite dive sites in WA.
1. Busselton Jetty
Filled with plentiful and diverse marine life, eerie, 150-year-old wooden pylons and beautiful coral growth, a dive at Busselton’s famous jetty is a great way for first-time divers to familiarise themselves with life underwater. The jetty’s artificial reef is often dubbed one of Australia’s best, and is filled with colourful tropical and sub-tropical sponges, fish and invertebrates to explore and interact with.
The water depth is a maximum of nine metres, and on your dive you’ll spot fascinating species including eaglerays, fiddler rays, blennies, decorator crabs, black-headed pullers, leatherjackets and small schools of herring. There are also fields of seagrass and coral clusters around the pylons to explore. Once you’ve finished your dive, pay a visit to the jetty’s Underwater Observatory to view the reef from various levels of the observation chamber.
Access and touring info: The best spot for diving along the jetty is at its last 300 metres. At 1.8-kilometres long, it’s quite a far walk to the end with heavy dive gear – but for a small donation, you can hop on the jetty train to the very end. The jetty’s Dive Shed has plenty of dive gear if you don’t have your own, and also operates hour-long dive tours on most days of the week.
2. Rowley Shoals Marine Park, off Broome
The Rowley Shoals Marine Park’s dive season is relatively short, but mighty. Best explored from September to December each year, this thriving park off the coast of Broome offers an array of dive sites that accommodate beginners to experts.
One of the park’s most popular reefs is Clerke Reef. The Aquarium dive site within one of the reef’s shallow lagoons offers an easy diving opportunity in warm, calm waters. To spot marine life, head for the outer sections of the reef. You’re likely to encounter plenty of fish, an abundance of coral, some spectacularly giant clams and a few grey reef sharks. Experts will marvel at ‘the Rollercoaster’, a drift current that pushes divers through the Clerke Reef channel for a unique, adrenaline-inducing dive adventure.
Another notable reef within the park is Mermaid Reef, characterised for its gorgeous corals and exciting drift dives. Large and impressive sailfish and humpback whales are known to visit the outer sections of the reef – and for divers, Odyssey Alley is a fantastic spot to reef dive. For a challenge, head for Northern Wall, one of the world’s best dives that features a steep 80-metre drop.
Access and touring info: To reach the marine park, hop on a diving liveaboard, bring your own boat or join a dedicated dive tour. If bringing your own boat, you’ll need to book your public mooring in advance.
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3. HMAS Swan Wreck, near Dunsborough
Located near the Dunsborough coastline, the wreck of the HMAS Swan is one of WA’s most diver-friendly wrecks to explore. The ship was purposely sunk as a recreational diving site and artificial reef in 1997, and has a series of holes cut into its hull so divers can access swim-throughs to view its interior. Once you dive in, you’ll be able to explore the galley, control room, laundry, bridge and the communications tower, or ‘crow’s nest’.
Within the ship’s interior you’re also likely to spot a variety of marine life, including schools of pike, blue devilfish, leatherjackets and banded sweeps. Outside of the wreck, flathead, globefish, batfish and nudibranchs are often spotted.
Access and charter info: There are charters available to the wreck, or there are two public moorings available for recreational use. The wreck is owned and managed by the Geographe Bay Artificial Reef Society, and you’ll need a permit to dive it. The best diving months at the wreck are from November to May, and prior diving experience is recommended before attempting it.
4. Ningaloo Reef, off Exmouth
Stretching for over 260 kilometres, the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef is one of the most remarkable diving sites in the State. Home to an abundance of marine life, including dolphins, turtles, humpback whales, manta rays, fish and majestic whale sharks, one of the best ways to experience this impressive reef is on a deep-sea dive.
Alongside the above animals, the reef is filled with over 260 different species of hard corals, plenty of reef sharks, sea snakes, crayfish and moray eels. Popular dive sites along the reef include Blizzard Ridge, Dibley and Labyrinth – but depending on your preferred tour operator, you may find yourself submerged at a variety of points along the expansive reef.
Access and touring info: There are plenty of dive tour companies to choose from year-round in Exmouth, but if you’re eager to do a whale shark dive, aim to visit between March and June for the best chance at spotting them.
5. Opera House (Shark Cave), Rottnest Island
Located a few kilometres from Rottnest’s West End, the Opera House (or as it’s more affectionately named, the ‘Shark Cave’) is one of Rotto’s best dive sites. During the day, grey nurse sharks use the cave as a resting place before they head out to hunt at night, so the cave is one of the best spots on the island to see these creatures up close.
The sharks at this cave are very shy, so if you stay still and don’t approach them quickly, you won’t scare them off. The cave is also home to other marine species, including nudibranchs and other reef fish.
Access and touring info: Perth-based dive company Diving Frontiers offer a charter tour to the cave. Prior diving experience is recommended, as there is an occasional current that runs through the area.
6. Abrolhos Islands and Batavia shipwreck, off Geraldton
Comprised of 122 island clusters, the pristine Abrolhos Islands form one of WA’s most unique marine environments. There are plenty of beautiful corals and fish species to explore throughout the island’s reefs – but one of the area’s most impressive dive sites is the Batavia shipwreck. The fascinating Dutch ship Batavia was wrecked on Morning Reef in 1629. Today, the outline of the ship’s hull (still fully equipped with cannons and anchors) is visible on a dive.
Alongside the Batavia, there are plenty of island reefs that are teeming with marine wildlife to explore. As the islands sit in the path of the Leeuwin Current which carries warm tropical water, the islands support a mix of tropical and temperate marine life, including baldchin gropers, Western Australian dhufish, pink snapper, yellowtail kingfish and coral trout. In terms of bigger animals, keep an eye out for turtles, manta rays, seals, sharks and whales during migration season.
Access and charter info: Departing from Geraldton, there are a range of diving charters and tour operators to choose from to explore the islands and the Batavia.
7. Boyinaboat Reef, Hillarys
Situated 75 metres from the sea wall of Hillarys Boat Harbour, this limestone reef is six metres deep and a popular spot for local diving enthusiasts. With plenty of ledges, swim-throughs, caves and overhangs to navigate, the reef is a great place to learn specific diving and snorkelling techniques.
There’s an abundance of fish species within the reef, including scalyfins, leatherjackets, pikes, morwongs, rabbitfish, old wives and moonlighters. Surrounding the reef there is also plenty of sea grass to explore. If you’re eager to learn more about the area’s thriving flora and fauna, have a read of the ten underwater plaques dotted around the dive site that offer interesting facts and information about the reef.
Access: To enter the water, you’ll need to pass over a rocky slope section – so take extra caution and tread carefully.
8. Navy Pier, Exmouth
Considered one of the world’s best pier diving sites, Navy Pier near Bundegi Reef is packed with underwater coral and marine life to marvel at. The 300-metre-long pier is a short drive from Exmouth - and as it’s still an active Navy Pier for passing ships, it is only able to be dived through a licensed company.
Reaching a maximum depth of 15 metres, the pier’s pylons are home to an array of angelfish, butterflyfish, colourful soft coral, grey nurse sharks in winter and giant Queensland gropers.
Access and touring info: Tour company Dive Ningaloo currently hold the only license for scuba diving tours here. Pier dives are completely dependent on tidal movements as currents around the area are very strong, so dive times vary from day to day.
Eager to tick a Ningaloo Reef dive off your bucket list?
RAC members save 10% on Ningaloo Reef Dive Tours departing Exmouth with Experience Oz WA.
Last updated: December 2020