Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island is a self-governing external territory under Australian control 1600 km NE of Sydney.

Norfolk Island is primarily dived because it’s an exotic location to add to your dive book, and because of the fish. The bad coral reefs on Norfolk are believed to be 97% pristine and they pulse with fish life, sometimes so many they obscure any photograph. The fish life is very thick on many sites and includes catfish, butterflyfish, wrasse, parrotfish, anemonefish, sweep, groper, morwong, rock cod, moray eels, lionfish, emperors, damsels, cardinalfish, rock cod and goat fish. Stingrays and turtles also drop by. Pelagic fish in the more exposed sites include kingfish and trevally. Sharks are rare except for the occasional Galapagos shark. Much of this fish life is typical of the NSW sub-tropical coast but the fish are big and friendly.

The rock walls offer very beautiful and undamaged plate corals, soft corals, sponges and ascidians. Invertebrates moving around and along the bottom include sea stars, brittle stars, nudibranchs and cowries.

Visibility is usually more than 20m. The water temperature is around 18c in winter and up to 25c in summer. This is a sub-tropical area, and although it’s rainy in winter and often breezy, a 5mm suit works year round.

The sea can be very rough especially in winter, testified by the fact that no small boats are moored at Norfolk, they are craned from the jetty into the water.

The price to get there is about $900 per person from Sydney, and you can also fly from Brisbane. It takes about two and a half hours to get there from Sydney.

There is a range of accommodation from budget to up market. Now it is largely catering for the family and elderly travellers that usually visit the island. The currency is the Australian dollar but the island has its own laws and customs. A few of the islanders are descendants of the Pitcairn Islander Bounty mutineers who were transferred to Norfolk Island when Pitcairn became overpopulated. Prior to that, it was a convict penal colony.

A worthwhile dive spot in the past, regrettably the sole dive operator on the island recently closed, making trips very difficult to organise. There is no easy or cheap way to sea freight gear to Norfolk Island. The best way to try the diving is to go on a family holiday, and then go to the jetty and try to befriend a local and organise a trip ‘off the books’, with locally owned tanks and weights. It’s a small community and everyone knows everyone, so things can easily be arranged if there is the will. Commercial fishing charters currently don’t take divers, which is assumedly an insurance issue. You may be restricted to local sites, but Nepean Island and Philip Island to the south of the Norfolk mainland offer some shelter and are popular with more capable boats.


Cascade Pier

This shore dive is from Cascade pier on the northern side of the island, one of two piers on Norfolk. Few shore dives have up to 40m viz and heaps of coral and fish.


Kings Chair

A shallow site renowned for dense coral.


Little Organ

A site with a huge arch and several small caves and swim throughs. Huge schools of drummer congregate around the entrance to the main arch. Boarfish and banded shrimp can also be seen.


Black Bank


This boulder reef on the north coast is stacked with rocks creating interesting caves and swims throughs.


Cooks Arch


One of many good sites in Duncombe Bay, this area offers rock walls festooned with life.


Turtle Arch

Similar to Cooks Arch and a little to the East.


Longnose Reef


This site is on the western side and offers a shallow reef inshore and a nice dropoff on the seaward side when the weather is favourable.


Johnnystone Rock


This rocky pinnacle lies off the airport and offers a spectacular spire patrolled by heaps of fish.


Slaughter Bay

This area is the main shore diving spot on the south side as a fringing reef protects it from most of the swell. It is a relaxing night dive, or snorkel spot in fair weather. The outer reef often pounds even in flat sea and the colonial supply vessel “Sirius” is wrecked here. Although almost nothing remains of her, she is one of Australia’s most historic wrecks. Don’t go there unless the weather is exceptional, and don’t expect much as most of it that remains has washed over the reef and is buried. You cannot touch any artefacts.


Reid’s Folly


This site near Nepean Island offers some shelter and isn’t too far from the main settlement at Kingston. It has an unusual topography, a hole in the top of the rock leads down to an archway. Like most Norfolk sites it is covered in hard corals and teems with fish life.


Clayton’s Shipwreck


This site on the south side of Nepean Island offers no actual wreck but the rugged reef offers a lot of structure that is the next best thing.

Phillip Island


If the weather suits a trip to Nepean Island, the South Rock site offers the big deep drop-offs, noted for pelagic fish and deep invertebrate gardens. The site also boasts black coral trees. On the northern side Hard Belly Stone and White Rock are also popular dive sites.