Lower East Coast
The coast is very popular because it is close to Hobart and relatively calm. The diving is quite scenic and the low rocky reefs are home to a variety of reef fish. The best diving areas are all exposed to unfavourable easterly weather. There are a number of offshore locations offering great scenic diving, especially around Maria Is. There is also a seal colony on the Isle De Phoques which is an outstanding dive.
On larger granite formations around Freycinet Peninsula, it is usually the deeper areas that offer the best diving. For this reason the Great Oyster Bay is often uninviting. The deeper sites around Schouten Island and the seaward side of Freycinet provide some excellent diving. Lack of boat access is the main difficulty with Freycinet and Schouten. Schouten Island is an excellent area. The island is half granite, while the remainder is volcanic and sedimentary rock. The Coles Bay area is often tried as an alternative to Bicheno in bad weather. There are a few good shallow dives in the Coles Bay area, but much of Great Oyster Bay is sandy and disappointing. A drive to Coles Bay is still an unforgettable experience as the area is dominated by beautiful granite spires. It is also the usual starting point for charter boat trips to Schouten Island.
At Bicheno, massive granite boulders in deep water provide shelter from the swell and allow an extremely diverse array of small marine life to flourish. The area is also noted for impressive underwater caves and swim-throughs. These formations should excite the wide-angle photographer and divers seeking some different scenic dives. The quality of diving only varies with the depth. On larger granite formations it is usually the deeper dives that offer the best diving. For this reason much of the coastline north of Bicheno is relatively uninviting. The deeper sites around Governor Island provide some excellent diving. The main diving area in Bicheno is on the eastern side of Governor Island which is now a marine reserve. In addition to these deep dives there are also some nice shore dives.
The nearest diving services are at Hobart or Bicheno. The other general service centres are Swansea, Coles Bay, Bicheno, Triabunna and Orford. All these small towns are able to offer basic services and a variety of good accommodation.
Road and Boat Access
The area is serviced by good roads and there are ramps at Orford, Triabunna, Saltworks Rd, Coles Bay, Bicheno and Swansea. The boat ramp at Orford requires the negotiation of a difficult sandbar.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 6 metres Category 1-2
The area I am referring to is the headland on the southern side of Spring Beach. This is a very popular shore dive as it is only an hours drive from Hobart. It is the sort of place that you will want to return to several times. Every time I go there, I seem to encounter some new and strange creature. Spring Beach is nominally a surf beach, but is an easy dive in calm seas. There is a car park nearby and it is only a short walk to a wide sandstone sea terrace. Calm weather allows for safer entry and creates better visibility. The dive should be aborted in rough weather. Like many shore dives it is better further away from the entry site. It is particularly nice right out on the end of the point. The only hazard is the large number of Banded Stingarees that hang around the sandy fringe of the reef. If you watch where you are going these can easily be avoided. The dive use to have a large community of Leatherjackets. Unfortunately, young spear fishermen from the nearby holiday shacks have severely reduced their numbers.
Rating 4.5 stars Depth: 2-4 metres Category 1
This shallow dive is only worthwhile when easterly weather has blown out other sites. The shallow fringing reef of this bay is home to a surprising array of marine life. Move slowly and concentrate on enhancing your knowledge of reef communities. This dive has quite a good variety of reef fish, including varieties like Rosy Wrasse and the colourful and curious Senatorfish.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 2-10 metres Category 1-2
Access to this site is either by boat or by car through private property. The pastoral property of ‘Okehampton’ includes much of the area East of the Triabunna wood chip mill. Access to this area is only with the permission of the owners. Ask at the house near the machinery sheds and they will direct you to a rough track heading south towards Spring Bay. This track is passable for most vehicles, except those with particularly low ground clearances. The track ends at a small beach looking south-east over Mercury Passage. The headland to the south-west is called Flenser’s Point. The sheltered area inside the bay offers an easy snorkel or Scuba dive of a category 1 rating. Many different types of weed grow here and this attracts various species of Leatherjackets and Wrasse. Further around on the cliffs the diving is deeper and more exposed. This is a category 2 dive for scuba divers or experienced snorkellers. Close to the cliffs there is a wide ledge in 3-5 metres which then drops away steeply into deeper water. The more exposed cliffs attract different types of fish life including a number of school fish. There are also some interesting small caves and swim-throughs. In good weather this is still an excellent and relatively easy dive.
Rating 5 stars Depth: 2-4 metres Category 1
This dive could be planned as a scuba dive, but the long walk would hardly make the effort worthwhile. The reef is a pleasant and easy shore dive for snorkellers. The Lands Department has provided picnic tables and this dive would be good for a family outing. From the car park it is approximately 800 metres to the rocks across a sandy beach. The granite-type rocks stretch out about 50-80 metres from the shore and are covered in short kelp. The dive tends to improve the further you are willing to walk away from the beach. This dive must be very popular with other holiday makers and the stocks of crayfish and abalone have suffered. Even so, it is a very pretty dive with plenty of fish life. If you turn around during the dive you will see that you are being followed by schools of Wrasse on the lookout for a meal. In addition there are also plenty of Leatherjackets, Barber Perch, Whiting and occasionally Garfish. The site is about 10 kilometres north of Triabunna at the end of Hermitage Road.
Mayfield – Christmas Island
Rating 6 stars Depth: 2-12 metres Category 2
This very popular area can only be accessed by boat or across the land with the permission of the local landowner. Turn off at the sign marked ‘Mayfield Jetty Road’ and follow the track, closing all gates behind you. The old jetty has fallen apart but the beach nearby is still used to for rough launching of small boats. Alternatively you can make the long walk of about 800 metres along the foreshore. The best entry point is near Christmas Island itself. Snorkellers may wish to confine themselves to the sheltered shallow reefs on the lee side of the island. More adventurous snorkellers will find plenty of interesting life in the shallow bay on the seaward side. This bay is located between Christmas Island and the main. Scuba divers can venture further and travel around to the exposed eastern reefs of Christmas Island itself. On the south-eastern side of the island there is a very nice kelp garden in 6 metres, about 50 metres from the shore. Here I counted at least 12 varieties of weed on the one rock. This area is also popular with Leatherjackets and Wrasse. In places the reef is approximately 200 metres wide. Straight off the sandy beach, in about 8 metres, there are some nice boulders. More can be found along the edge of the reef in about 12 metres. One unusual feature of this area is the number of Velvetfish that are regularly encountered. These colourful and dopey fish can be found lying amongst weed and seem too tired to get out of the way when approached by a diver.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 4-12 metres Category 2
This area is extremely interesting and makes a great scuba dive in calm weather. The point is split by large fissures and caves and these have sheltered a wide range of fish life. The headland is quite jagged offering plenty of safe entry an exit sites along the point. The best area is around the trig marker where there are some large caves. These caves and the surrounding reefs, are home to Boarfish, Banded Morwong, Trumpeter, Sea Sweep, Cowfish and a multitude of other species. Some of the caves will be very difficult to enter in rough seas. One cave nearly cuts the point in two and is about 50 metres long, another smaller cave is covered in interesting marine life. The caves are usually in about 6 metres of water. Out from the caves there are some extensive reefs in 8 metres and they drop away quickly into sand in 12 metres. The site can only be accessed as a shore dive with the permission of the landowner. Due to problems in the past he has been reluctant to grant permission. It may be necessary to launch a boat from the beach at Mayfield in order to reach the site, or from the ramp at Saltworks Road.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 2-6 metres Category 2
This area gets its name from the unusual convict bridge nearby. It is part of a day use coastal reserve and no camping is permitted. The main area consists of two small beaches separated by a rocky headland. The southern-most beach is very pebbly and can be difficult to walk over in full scuba gear. The headland to the south has a large offshore rock and a reef arcs around from this rock to almost enclose the bay. Most will be content to dive in this area. The reef harbours plenty of different fish including the normal Wrasse and Leatherjackets. This would have to be one of the most frequently dived locations on the East Coast. The area is easily accessed by car from Hobart and offers an attractive and easy dive. The area to the south around “The Bulwarks” is particularly pleasant. Beach launches have been made at Spiky Beach but not very successfully. The nearest ramps are at Saltworks Rd or Swansea. The dive site is often a good alternative to Bicheno in moderately bad easterly weather. The dive is much more scenic after calm weather when the visibility tends to improve.
Maria Island Jetty
Rating 5 stars Depth: 2-5 metres Category 1
This jetty offers a safe and relaxing snorkel dive for people of any experience level. The only danger is from boat traffic, but this can easily be avoided by checking ferry times with the ranger. The jetty itself has tended to attract all sorts of life. The piles are covered in anemones, sponge and coralline algae of many colours and types. They also bring in school fish that like to hover around the bottom. In Summer there are large schools of Australian Salmon and at various times Trumpeter, Mackerel, and Long-Finned Pike. At dusk it is also possible to see squid and cuttlefish. The jetty also has a resident population of Banded Morwong and Wrasse. The area underneath the jetty is sheltered from the waves by the large concrete barriers that have been erected on the seaward side. When you have tired of this area there is still a small kelp garden to explore near the point. The kelp grows quite thickly here, especially during colder years. The area around the point can be quite turbulent in a heavy sea. This dive is inside a marine reserve.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 10-20 metres Category 2-3
The Reidle Bay area of eastern Maria provides shelter from the prevailing easterly weather. It is also a fairly shallow and colourful bay offering easy diving. Trigonia Corner boasts a rough camp site and fairly sheltered anchorage for overnight parties. On the opposite side of the bay lies Bunker Bay. Its closeness to the deep dives around Mistaken Cape and Little Raggedy Head make it an obvious place to use up the second tank. The shallows are dominated by Bull Kelp which gives way in about 5 metres to a boulder strewn bottom covered in cray weed, strap weed and large stands of Macrocystis kelp. In deeper water short red and green algae are more common in the understorey. The bottom is generally in the 10-15 metre range. It gets a bit deeper close to the eastern mouth of the bay. Marine life in the area is quite varied. The crevices are home to Bullseyes, Rock Cod, Banded Morwong and a few crayfish. Abalone are relatively common in the rocky cracks. There are plenty of the usual Leatherjackets and Wrasse, but also more unusual varieties like Rosy Wrasse. The deeper rocks are also home to a few Butterfly Perch.This is a fairly straightforward and relaxing dive. it can be very pretty on a nice calm day. The dive itself is not the least bit difficult, but it is a very remote and exposed area and access is difficult. An experienced boat handler and a reliable craft with radio and an auxiliary power plant is a necessity.
Rating 9.5 stars Depth: 20-40 metres Category 3-4
This is one of my favourite dives on the East Coast. A trip to the area is a real adventure in itself. It involves a long boat trip from the good ramps at either Dunalley or Spring Bay. Probably the easiest way to reach the area is from Orford around the north coast of Maria. This allows the opportunity to stop and have a rest half way at Darlington. Here you can look at the ruins and gear up. The site is very exposed to strong easterly weather, so you will need one of those magic super calm days. The cape is the eastern-most point of Maria Island. The best part of the cape is on some large rock spires that appear momentarily on the sounder about 50 metres away from the shore. These bommies reach within 3 metres of the surface and slope way on the seaward side into 40 metres. The visibility is normally excellent, so work out for yourself how spectacular this sight looks from the bottom. Around the tops of the spires the rock is covered in weed. Leatherjackets and Wrasse dart around the fronds. In 10-15 metres the bottom drops away very sharply and the rock faces are patrolled by large schools of Butterfly Perch. At 20 metres colourful sponges and marine invertebrates dominate. At the base of the rock it bristles with large groups of sea whips, basket stars and hydroids. On the southern side of the bommies there is a truly remarkable wall of yellow zoanthids 15 metres high and about the same distance across. It is the most incredible carpet of anemones I have ever seen. Staged decompression can be made around the rock spires, watching the fish life and looking at a few abalone. This remote dive is a real adventure .
Rating 7 stars Depth: 10-30 metres Category 3
On the exposed eastern side of Maria Island, just under the peaks of Mount Bishop and Clerk, there is a prominent exposed bommie. No doubt the local fisherman have named it, but I have not been able to locate the correct name on any maps. The bommie is actually a large rocky outcrop consisting of a number of large rock spires. Large splits between these rocks have become home for schools of fish and the sheltered rock faces are covered in small marine life. The top of the rock is covered in tough Bull Kelp down to about ten metres where it is then dominated by a thick mat of short weed. This area is covered in Leatherjackets and Wrasse. Things improve even further as you begin to reach the 25-30 metres range. On the seaward side of the main spire is a large clump of boulders. They are filled with Butterfly Perch, Banded Morwong and Long-Finned Pike. At the eastern end of the main rocks, a large rock face about 5 metres high is absolutely packed with yellow zoanthids and other life. The outstanding scenic quality of this area will absorb most divers for a whole dive.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 5-12 metres Category 2
Towards the Fossil Cliffs end of Fossil Bay the bottom is moderately deep and drops away quickly from around 8-10 metres, into 15- 20 metres. Further towards the north-eastern end of the bay the area is dominated by large cliffs, fringed by rocky reef. The depth up to the cliffs is in the 5-8 metre range, dropping away into about 12 metres further away from the cliffs. At various parts of the coast, large boulders have fallen from the cliffs and provide shelter for more delicate marine life. There are some very attractive boulders near the north-eastern tip of the island. The area often has good visibility and the seaweed grows luxuriously. The area around the cliffs also attracts a variety of fish. Leatherjackets and Wrasse are common on the kelp beds. The boulders along the shoreline tend to attract school fish including Sea Sweep, Trumpeter and Butterfly Perch. The government proclaimed this area as a Marine Reserve, but local fishermen complained so much that the area is still open to any fishing activity. This means that you can kill every single fish with seine nets, but it’s illegal to take the tiniest piece of seaweed.
Fossil Cliffs Swim-Through
Rating 6.5 stars Depth: 17 metres Category 2
Not far from Cape Boullanger lies the remains of the old Fossil Cliffs Quarry. From the sea it looks simply like another cliff, but closer examination will show the outline of the old cutting and reveal the unnatural limestone rubble along the shoreline. Directly off this old quarry there is a sunken sea terrace stretching out about 75 metres from shore. The terrace is split by many small cracks and one large swim-through, 4 metres by 5 metres in size and about 20 metres in length. The swim-through is packed with Bullseyes and Banded Morwong and is an impressive sight in good visibility. The area around the swim-through is also split by other smaller crevices. There is also a nice weed garden on top of the ledge in 10 metres, which is where most divers finish their tanks. The swim-through can be located by swimming along the sandy fringe of the ledge in 17 metres of water. The sand can be seen from the surface on a clear day, but an echo sounder is usually very handy. The swim-through lies directly out from the middle of the quarry where the largest of the limestone boulders can be seen along the foreshore.
Isle Du Nord
Rating 6 stars Depth: 6-12 metres Category 2
On the north-western side of Maria Island, close to the Darlington jetty, lies the Isle Du Nord. The only noticeable feature is the navigation light on the northern side. Just off the lighthouse there is often a thick bed of Macrocystis Kelp. The rocky bottom is covered in medium-sized boulders and harbours a few small crayfish. The kelp garden has also attracted plenty of fish life. This is a very pretty dive in good visibility when you can look up to the surface and see a ‘forest’ of kelp towering above you. Unfortunately the kelp garden has disappeared lately, probably due to the warmer conditions that we have been enjoying. I expect that the kelp garden will return to its full glory before too long.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 4-6 metres Category 2
This interesting rock is part of an area of shallow reef that is an excellent location for a safe second dive or alternative dive. The large rock offers a little protection from the wind and is a good anchoring spot for small boats. However, the smell is not too good as the rock is a popular roosting spot for a large flock of Cormorants. Boat operators should also be wary of the small reef to the south of the main rock. This reef is sometimes covered at high water. The rock itself looks more like a boulder from underwater. It is actually undercut, creating ledges that are home for some delicate marine life. Large Banded Morwong inhabit the rock as well as the usual Leatherjackets and Wrasse. The ledges are covered in Yellow anemones and plenty of other varieties of small marine life. Away from the rock there are extensive areas of shallow reef and kelp.
Isle De Phoques
Rating 10 stars Depth: 15-25 metres Category 2
This rock was named by French explorers and means ‘island of seals’. The seal colony still survives today and is located on the south-west side of the island in roughly 20 metres of water. This dive can be followed up with a short dive through some nearby caves. These are located near the seal colony on the north-western side. From the surface they appear as two small openings in the rock along the waterline. The northern-most opening marks the start of a large cavern that cuts right through the north-west corner of the island. The cave exits on the eastern side of the island and is well lit by light. Enter only in calm weather, but even then the surge tends to propel you through the opening. The cave widens quickly into an extensive cavern and a torch is handy to expose the colour on the walls. Scary dark shapes looming out of the gloom are invariably seals that will follow you throughout the dive. The island has only a few dozen seals in the 1980s, but now there are hundreds. If this is the second dive, take care not to exceed the maximum depth allowed on your table. The cave is fully underneath the water and no-one who is low on air should attempt the dive. The rest of the island is split by numerous other openings and many of these are unexplored. One of the best dives in Tasmania!
Hepburn (Black) Point
Rating 5 stars Depth: 3 metres Category 2
This is an easy boat dive that lies only a short distance from the ramp at Coles Bay. The dive is on a shallow expanse of rock near the point covered in small to medium-sized boulders. These boulders contain a few crevices that are home to numerous fish . Many of the rocks are covered in attractive sponge growths, colourful starfish and anemones. The site also attracts Boarfish, Leatherjackets, Wrasse and occasionally school fish such as Trumpeter. Thick growths of short weed including juvenile kelp (Macrocystis) and various species of delicate brown seaweed (Cystophora) cover the reef. Naturalists will also find numerous smaller species of green and brown algae in the understorey. In strong south-easterly weather the site would become very uncomfortable and suffer from poor visibility. Much of the time it is relatively sheltered and safe.
Picnic (Rabbit) Island
Rating 5 stars Depth: 3-6 metres Category 2
This area is marked on the Tasmap as Picnic Island, but the locals only recognise it as Rabbit Island. It is a small sandstone island surrounded by a number of low sandstone reefs. It sheltered from strong north-easterly weather and tends to be dived as a bad weather alternative. It is also close to the boat ramp and is very easy and relaxing. The major attraction is the surprisingly large numbers of fish that can be found on the reef. Surprising because of the large number of nets that are set here regularly. These can be a danger to divers. Check and memorise the location of nets buoys and always stay alert for nets on the dive. The shallow reefs come almost to the surface and at the deepest only extend into 6 metres. The reefs are covered in Leatherjackets and short seaweed. The rocks also support sponges, shrimps, Trachinops and a few hydroids. Schools of Trumpeter feed the local net fishermen as well as at least one very large stingray. He is usually found out on the sand robbing dead fish from the nets. These large rays are very impressive and are harmless if treated with caution. This dive is a relaxing alternative dive that is particularly good for beginners. Nets represent the only major risk on the dive and these can be avoided if divers remain alert.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 6-12 metres Category 2-3
Much of the northern half of Freycinet’s western shore is slightly disappointing. The brilliance of its high granite mountains is not matched under the water. This is because of the shallowness of the water along the foreshore. Much of the marine life is blasted off the rocks in the first heavy sea. It is not until the dolerite cliffs of Weatherhead Point that the sea begins to deepen and provide more shelter for marine life. Weatherhead Point would normally be a very easy dive except for the fact that it requires a long boat journey which must cross Promise Bay. This large bay seems to act as a natural funnel for easterly weather and the wind is only blunted by a low sandy isthmus. The main advantage of Weatherhead Point is that it is relatively close to Coles Bay and is a easy and shallow dive in good weather. The dive is on a sloping volcanic reef that hugs the shoreline around the point. This reef bottoms out onto sand in 10-12 metres. It has the usual variety of reef fish including Leatherjackets and Wrasse. The shelter offered by the cliffs allows smaller varieties of brown algae to grow quite luxuriously. The point is frequently dived on the way back from a trip to Schouten Is.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 5-10 metres Category 2-3
This is not a particularly difficult dive, but involves a lengthy boat journey down a coast which is subject to sudden changes in the weather. The dive is on a small and shallow reef named after a fishing vessel that was wrecked somewhere near here. The surrounding scenery is very beautiful with Bryan’s Beach, Schouten Island and large granite mountains forming a backdrop. The reef is often sheltered by the mountains, although it is very exposed to strong south-easterly weather. The reef appears to be granite although it rests on the borderline between adjoining areas of granite and dolerite. The top of the reef is exposed even at high tide. The dive is reasonably attractive, supporting a good variety of seaweed and many reef fish. Schouten Passage is a major route for migrating fish so the site tends to attract school fish like Trumpeter, Australian Salmon and Mackerel. The site makes for a good second dive on the way home from the deeper cliffs around Schouten.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 5-12 metres Category 2-3
The shelter of the cliffs allows a wide variety of delicate seaweeds to grow. They in turn support a large population of reef fish. The sandstone formations are also very interesting. Divers have found a large swim-through in about 10 metres which opens out close to the shore about 40 metres further on. At the time it was full of crayfish. About 100 metres south of this cave there are some nice undercut ledges in 12 metres which contain a variety of marine invertebrates as well as a few crays. These formations were discovered during a very brief dive in the area and no doubt there are plenty of other interesting features to explore. While the diving on this part of the coast is fairly shallow and sheltered it deserves a slightly higher rating due to the remoteness of the area. Newer divers would not have major difficulties as long as they were supervised by experienced divers.
Mt Storey Cliffs
Rating 6 stars Depth: 20-25 metres Category 3
This dive is fairly representative of much of the diving on the southern granite cliffs of Schouten Island. Despite the imposing nature of the cliffs, much of the diving is only of a moderate depth. Close to the cliffs it is usually only 10 metres, but the bottom drops off quickly into about 25 metres. Due to the shallow, exposed nature of the area, much of the delicate weed has been removed by the swell in exposed areas. The main attraction is a series of moderately large granite boulders that can be found in deeper water. They harbour a variety of fish life including some very large Banded Morwong. Crayfish and abalone tend to be fairly rare, either due to over fishing or a lack of food and shelter. This is a pleasant dive in a very beautiful and rugged area. The site is very exposed to southerly weather, but is quite sheltered during fairly strong north-easterly weather.
Rating 7 stars Depth: 15-30 metres Category 3
You look at these stark granite rocks and think…boy this is going to be deep. In actual fact this area, like much of Schouten’s southern coast, is actually only of moderate depth. It actually takes a bit of effort to locate a 30 metre patch, where it is more likely that you will find some nice protected areas with good invertebrate life. Sounding around the rocks it is rare for the bottom to be deeper than 20 metres up to the cliffs. On the northern end the bottom drops off in a series of wide steps. This will allow you to pick your own depth depending on your interests. Because of the exposed nature of the area the 25-30 metre area offers the most shelter for delicate marine life. The area has some nice crevices packed with interesting marine life. The shelves are also jumbled by some very large boulders that tend to attract pelagic school fish and Butterfly Perch. This is quite a pleasant dive suited to divers with moderate dive experience and good boat handling skills. On the other side near a seal haulout, there are a series of ledges in moderate depth for seal watching. Beware, a strong current can flow around these islands.
Rating 10 stars Depth: 30-40 metres Category 3-4 M
I consider this to be one of the best dive sites in Tasmania. I haven’t met anyone who has dived the cape and not raved about it at length. Above the water, the coastal scenery is breathtaking and the underwater scenery is its equal. The rounded granite cape drops away very sharply from a weed covered shallows into over 40 metres. The visibility is usually outstanding. When you hit the bottom, look up at the sheer granite walls towering above you. They are very impressive. The area around the base of the cliff is a jumble of boulders and granite crevices. The place is covered in colourful growths and clouds of Butterfly Perch. The dive time runs away too quickly here and soon you are working back up the slope to decompress. Just as you think you have ascended to the ‘boring’ part of the dive the slope of the reef reveals some interesting crevices. The granite appears to have formed with a strange folding effect, creating many crevices that cut back vertically under the face of the slope. The wide crevices are filled with fish and marine life, while the ‘smaller’ ones soon open out into quite large caverns. These are filled with cave fish and a few crays. It is an amazing sensation to be decompressing in 10 metres while looking at beautiful rock faces. One of the crevices is formed something like a chimney. A narrow slit opening widens out into a 4 metre wide cave lit from above by a large flue-like opening that rises up ten metres to the surface. Fish dance around in the rays of light cast from above…absolutely magic! The area is also likely to be visited occasionally by schools fish and seals. On a good day with calm weather, this dive will blow your socks off.
Black Patch Bay
Rating 6 stars Depth: 20-25 metres Category 3
This bay is an excellent dive with high scenic quality and normally excellent visibility. The main feature of the dive is the fantastic underwater topography. Erosion has caused large boulders to fall from the high cliffs in the area. On the well-lit upper surfaces these boulders are covered in a mat of short algae, underneath by a mat of sponge and marine invertebrates. These boulders are home to Banded Morwong and Butterfly Perch. The caves created by the boulders also harbour small crays and a few large abalone. Divers can swim through these caves and feel dwarfed by the boulders which are up to ten metres high. The whole area is very rich in marine life. This area is only accessible in low swells as boats need to anchor close to the cliffs. The site is very exposed to unfavourable north-easterly weather.
Rating 7 stars Depth: 10-15 metres Category 3
This site is noted for mazes of medium to large granite boulders that can be found along the shoreline. Many of the gaps they create are large enough for divers to swim through. These boulders, some about 5 metres high, are also home to a variety of fish life including a few small crays. The caves under these boulders contain octopus, Bullseyes, Wrasse, Senatorfish, and huge Banded Morwong. The rocks will also hide plenty of large abalone. The seaweed is a thick mixture of crayweed and other varieties of bushy brown algae. The sheltered rock faces also contain a variety of sponges, anemones, delicate soft corals and tunicates. Schouten Passage is also visited by large schools of Mackerel and Salmon. They are encountered frequently at certain times of the year. The high granite cliffs in the area also provide some variety from ‘bottom scratching’. There are a few small sea caves and a vertical rock wall. As the visibility is often excellent in the area the cliffs can be an impressive site. The point is accessed by boat from Coles Bay and is very exposed to unfavourable north-easterly and easterly weather.
Gates Bluff Bay
Rating 6 stars Depth: 5-10 metres Category 2-3
This is an easy shallow dive to finish a second tank after a dive on the cliffs nearby. The area inside the bay is obviously sheltered from the worst of the south-easterly weather. The still water has allowed a thick weed garden to grow and provide a sheltered habitat for many marine invertebrates. In 5 metres the bottom is rocky with numerous crevices for fish and sponge. The reef is home to the usual Wrasse, Leatherjackets, Trachinops and Banded Morwong. Out in deeper water the boulder formations become more patchy, but there are plenty of abalone and even a few crayfish. The bay is flushed by the clean ocean currents that are a feature of this area. The whole effect is one of a very simple if remote dive in spectacular surroundings.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 30-40 metres Category 3-4
At the mouth of Wineglass Bay there is a granite island lying close to the southern shore of Freycinet Peninsula. The fringe of the rock is dominated by Bull Kelp and cray weed. The weedy shelf here is less than 50 metres wide and is fairly sparsely inhabited except for a few reef fish. The bottom then begins to drop away rapidly and the weed gives way to colourful sponge and other invertebrate life. Schools of Butterfly Perch cloud over the site. At the base of the drop-off in 35-40 metres there are a few large boulders and crevices that contain crayfish dens although they are not as numerous as you might imagine for such a remote location. Some of the rock faces are wide enough to support large patches of sea daisies and other delicate marine life. The area is affected by a slight current which is potentially hazardous. This current will also bring in school fish and interesting marine mammals at times. This is a very pleasant deep dive for experienced parties.
Wineglass Bay Whaling Station
Rating 4 stars Depth: 2-4 metres Category 1
The beautiful white sands of Wineglass Bay have had a magnetic attraction for holiday makers for many years. There are few places in Tasmania that have such a beautiful setting and still offer a fair degree of seclusion. On the southern side of Wineglass Bay there is a quiet bay that was a bay whaling station in the early 1800′s. This is a pleasant spot for a snorkel during a bushwalking trip. Access is via a stiff one hour walk over the Hazards, so this dive is recommended for fit parties only. It could be accessed by boat from Bicheno or Coles Bay, but the dive does not really warrant the effort. It is only a happy diversion for the sunbaker and bushwalker. You may wish to start by having a look at the remains of a wrecked fishing boat. This wreck is periodically uncovered by sand movement. The outline of the hull and the anchor and machinery can be clearly seen. The vessel is probably the fishing vessel “Wenona” which was wrecked in February 1981. Next you may wish to try the rocky headland. The further you go around the shore the better the diving. The narrow reef supports a small kelp garden and a few reef fish. Some colourful marine growth can be found if you dive down and part the weed. Due to the shallowness of the site, visibility can be poor after rough weather.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 10 metres Category 2
This is a very nice shore dive in a thick garden of seaweed. The only drawback is that access is very difficult. The access road will test the sturdiest of vehicles and a four wheel drive is preferred. Small and light craft can be carried over the rocks in calm weather, but there is no proper boat access. The reef itself is covered in thick weed and there is a rich variety of fish life to be seen. In good visibility the whole dive can be very relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 2-12 metres Category 2-3
Sleepy Bay is so named because it tends to be sheltered from the easterly swell. This is an easy shore dive although it involves an uncomfortable climb back up a steep hill after the dive. Sleepy Bay itself offers some pretty rocky reef, but is largely dominated by sand. At times there has been a large kelp forest in the middle of the bay, but this has recently disappeared due to warmer sea temperatures. This is a nice sheltered area for more inexperienced snorkellers. There is plenty of shoreline to snorkel over, most of it thick with short seaweed. The reef attracts good reef life such as Wrasse and Leatherjackets. There are also sponges, shells and abalone to be found around the larger reef areas. Sleepy Bay is a relaxing easy dive that is well-protected from unfavourable easterly weather. The scenery above water is also very spectacular and the dive would work well if combined with a family picnic, or some other activity.
Radiating out from the eastern granite point are a series of reefs and bommies stretching into Sleepy Bay. There are a few small crayfish close to the point as well as abalone. Cracks in the reef also harbour clumps of yellow zoanthids, sponges and tube worms. Further out in 10-12 metres there is an interesting row of granite bommies. These harbour lots of fish life including Banded Morwong, Wrasse, Leatherjackets and Bullseyes. One of the bommies is several metres high and is undercut with a large cavern. Another is smaller, but still packed with sponges, zoanthids and fish life. Further east, closer to the entry point, there are a series of long low reefs heading out to sea. Along these reefs small crayfish, abalone, Conger Eels, fish and thick weed can be found.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 8-12 metres Category 3
‘The Boot’ is a large granite rock spire lying close to the shore midway between Bluestone Bay and Friendly Point. Boats can anchor under the lee of the rock in good holding ground. The site is relatively safe in low swells and moderate winds, but is very exposed to unfavourable easterly weather. ‘The Boot’ makes a good second dive after visiting the deeper cliffs to the south. Near the cliffs a narrow rock shelf is found in only 5 metres of water. This ledge is exposed to the effects of the swell and only supports a thick stand of Bull Kelp. This narrow reef then slopes away onto a nice kelp garden in 6-10 metres. The fish life is very good with plenty of Wrasse, Leatherjackets, Banded Morwong and even Boarfish. The area is also visited by schools of Long-Finned Pike, Trumpeter, Salmon and Mackerel. The short weed grows quite luxuriously down to about 10-12 metres, where the bottom starts to flatten out and become sandy in patches. This site is an attractive dive to suit mainly those interested in scenery and marine life. The major problem with the site is its exposed position and its relative remoteness. The closest access points in the area are not suited to heavy craft. A difficult beach launch can be made at Friendly Point or Isaacs Point. Four wheel drive vehicle access to Friendly Point is only available with the permission of the park rangers at Coles Bay. The nearest public boat ramp is at Bicheno or Coles Bay.
Rating 8 stars Depth: 10-18 metres Category 2
South of Governor Island lies Muir’s Rock, a collection of granite boulders lying about 200 metres from the shore just south of Bicheno township. The rock is visible in all weathers. The best diving area is on a large reef running north-east from the main rock. Halfway along this reef a large upwelling is noticeable from the surface. This is the start of the best part of the reef. North-east of this upwelling there are spectacular rock walls covered in all sorts of life. It is possible to swim through many of the crevices, but don’t push your luck in a tight gap. This dive is fairly similar to “The Ballroom”, but more extensive and beautiful. Everyone should be impressed by this dive. The naturalist could spend an entire dive on one boulder, examining the variety of small marine life that can be found in this area. Muir’s Rock is probably the best medium-depth dive in Bicheno.
Rating 7 stars Depth: 8-12 metres Category 2
This is one of Bicheno’s better dives and is a lot easier than some of the deep dives around Governor Island. The rock is visible from the shore and is only a short boat ride from ‘The Gulch’ boat ramp. The Bird Rock area is noted for its large granite boulders. These boulders provide shelter for a wide variety of invertebrate life including many species of nudibranchs. Underneath the rock itself is “The Elbow” a crevice that is full of Butterfly Perch, Banded Morwong, and other fish life. The walls are packed with yellow anemones and colourful sponges. South of “The Elbow” there are more swim-throughs with spectacular gardens of sea whips. To the north “The Ballroom” lies between the rock and a conspicuous patch of kelp. “The Ballroom” is a large lounge room sized cavern about 1 metre high. A variety of jewel anemones adorn the roof while the bottom is carpeted with small sponges. The whole Bird Rock area is very attractive and is one of the the best places to see nudibranchs and sea spiders. Highly recommended for those interested in a great scenic dive in safer depths. A slight current can be experienced at times on the seaward side of the rock.
Rating 9.5 stars Depth: 30 metres Category 3
The Castle is a large formation consisting of two granite boulders which lie close together. The rocks shelter plenty of small marine life. They also attract Boarfish, Butterfly Perch, large Banded Morwong and a few crays. At the base of the rock spires there is a long cave full of Bullseyes and crayfish. Due to the status of the site as a marine reserve you are not permitted to take these crayfish. One of the major attractions of the area is a large 15 metre long swim-through nearby which is packed with anemones and bottom dwelling fish like Rock Cod. At the entrance there is also a large patch of seawhips. Due to the short bottom time it is necessary to do a few dives on the area to appreciate the whole site. An outstanding scenic dive.
- Incipient black urchin barrens form in the MPA but are kept at bay by large crayfish
The Hairy Wall
Rating 8 stars Depth: 30-35 metres Category 3
Nothing can prepare you for the awesome array of sea whips on this dive, hence the name. This dive is a ‘must’ for any underwater photographer visiting Bicheno. The Wall is a long granite drop-off running parallel with Governor Island on the dividing line between the sand and the major diving areas. It is covered in a permanent cloud of Butterfly Perch. There is also a remarkable variety of invertebrate life to examine and photograph. The visibility can be excellent providing great photographic opportunities. The depth unfortunately limits the dive time which seems to go by far too quickly. Unfortunately the depth makes this site unsuitable for beginner divers. Experienced divers still need to monitor their depth carefully as it is easy to descend to 40 metres at the base of the wall.
Rating 8 stars Depth: 30-36 metres Category 3
The Canyon is a rock filled valley between two submerged cliffs, just to the north-east of Governor Island. The area is noted for its sponges which come in a variety of striking colours. Some of the sponges are as tall as the divers. The area is also thick with ascidians, hydroids, sea spiders, sea whips, sea fans and anemones. It has basically the whole range of deep water invertebrates that can be found in Tasmanian waters. This large area is especially suited to the scenic diver, underwater photographer and marine naturalist.
The Golden Bommies
Rating 9 stars Depth: 35-40 metres Category 4
This challenging deeper dive is located on the eastern edge of the main granite formations. It is basically two ten metre high bommies lying on a sandy bottom. The rocks get their name from the thick covering of yellow zoanthids (anemones or sea daisies). This dive has a great variety of invertebrate life and thick stands of sea whips. The fish life is better than on the Rose Garden, with plenty of Boarfish, Banded Morwong and clouds of Butterfly Perch. This dive has been considered one of the best in Tasmania and the short dive time goes by far too quickly.
The Rose Garden
Rating 8 stars Depth: 30-36 metres Category 3
The Rose Garden is a thin strip of reef on the northern end of the main diving area. It stretches for over 100 metres from a small series of rocks called the Hedgehog almost to Easter Rock. Just like the Hairy Wall it bristles with sea whips and other invertebrates. This makes it an excellent location for scenic divers, photographers and marine naturalists. The marine life on the rock will enthrall divers for the very short bottom time.
Rating 6 stars Depth: 4-15 metres Category 1-2
Near the fishing boat moorings in Waub’s Bay there is a large rock lying close to Peggy’s Point. The rock is about 75 metres offshore, north of a row of she-oaks near the Silver Sands Hotel. It is easy to find as it lies on the extreme edge of the reef. A safe entry can be made from the shelter of the breakwater. A dive or snorkel in the shallows during good weather is an easy Category 1 dive.
Scuba divers then turn right and follow the edge of the reef out into 12 metres of water. Keep the weed on your right and you can’t miss the rock. Fish Rock is a large granite spire about 6 metres high. The rock is split almost in two, and this split is a sanctuary for large numbers of fish. Mackerel, trumpeter and other school fish are often found circling the rock while seahorses and seadragons hide in the weed. The rock is covered in short cray weed, while coralline algae and delicate green seaweeds grow underneath. Plenty of invertebrates such as tunicates, sea spiders and hydroids are found on the rock and the reef nearby. After a look around the rock head inshore into 4 metres of water. Extra weight might be needed to stay down in the shallows and explore the numerous rocky reefs. Close to the shore there is a large cavern that is home to big Banded Morwong. Divers can swim through the crevice in low seas. The safest exit is at the breakwater. An excellent and safe shore dive day or night.
The area around the breakwater is fairly shallow and good for a beginners dive or a night dive. The only hazard is from boat traffic and divers are asked to display a dive flag at all times. Entry and exit is relatively easy and the bottom consists mostly of a low reef covered in short kelp. A good representation of Tasmanian reef fish can be seen here, but the area is heavily picked over for crays and abalone. A night dive would offer the prospect of finding cuttlefish, octopus and squid amongst the sleeping reef fish. This shallow area is well suited to a family day out as it is relatively safe and children can be easily supervised from an excellent lookout point on the breakwater.
Rating 5.5 stars Depth: 5-15 metres Category 2
A very pleasant shore dive starting from the end of Murray St, offering a combination of colourful marine growth and extensive beds of seaweeds. Entry is often easier on the northern side of the rock, but this will depend on the conditions on the day. The rock can be very dangerous for entry and exit in high seas. If you follow the rock wall out into about 5 metres you will notice small cracks in the rocks packed with zoanthids. On the seaward end of the rock it becomes a little deeper and the bottom gradually changes. Here there are large boulders and cracks in the rock shelf. This area is packed with various types of seaweed. There is a slim chance that you will find a sized cray here, but the majority are fairly small. You can turn back and exit at the starting point, or in calm seas you may be able to continue south and exit over the rocky shoreline. The whole area is heavily exposed to unfavourable easterly weather.
Rating 5 stars Depth: 10-15 metres Category 2
This island is joined to Redbill Beach by a narrow sandbar. This is completely uncovered at low water and has been a popular way for holiday-makers to reach the island. I do not recommend this form of access as many people have been drowned on the bar trying to cross in unfavourable conditions. The best access to the island is by boat from the ramp at ‘The Gulch’. The north-east side of the island has a large kelp forest. This can be very spectacular in good visibility. This forest disappeared in the late 1980′s, possibly because of the “El Nino” effect, but are expected to return when the sea ‘climate’ changes. This part of the island also has many small boulders and crevices to look around. The crevices are home to a number of large Banded Morwong.