Pt Stephens Newcastle Swansea

Catherine Hill Bay
Catherine Hill Bay is located just south of Swansea on the Central Coast. Less than two hours from Sydney, this area is close enough to the city to be done as a day trip. Catherine Hill Bay is a coal mining village. The coal was transported via a series of small railways to a wharf where it was loaded onto ships for the journey to Sydney. The Wallarah Colliery closed down in the 2000s. Divers visit Catherine Hill Bay mostly to dive the Coal Loader, Desotos, the Wallarah wreck and the area to the south of the loader. Access through the old mine company land is now closed. Access to the bay is via the Surf Life Saving Club at Catherine Hill Bay. It’s a bit of a walk across soft sand to get to any dive spot for a shore dive. The mix of tropical and temperate currents means snorkellers can spot everything from clown fish and blue tangs to the occasional grey nurse shark.


The Coal Loader


It’s a long swim across bare sand until you getto the pylons. The pylons of the old jetty offer some colourful life particularly for the beginner or photographer. The jetty often attracts schools of yellowtail. Visibility can be variable. There are plans to improve access and make the area in to a dive park.


Desoto Inlet


Desoto Inlet is located to the south of the point near the coal loader and was the best shore dive on this part of the coast. In millpond conditions you can enter and exit the dive in the inlet. At the head of the inlet, there are some large overhangs.  Further large rocks are found with some kelp and a pebbly sea floor.  The best fish life is found in the shallow inlet. There are some yellowtail, red morwong, rock cod and wobbegongs silver sweep, pike, flathead, Port Jackson sharks and small rays. The access can be awkward due to the gate being locked and it is a long surface swim or walk around the foreshore (1.5km) for a shore dive. Basically, it’s now a boat dive.


Wreck of the “Shamrock”

The steamer “Shamrock” sprang a leak when leaving Catherine Hill Bay and foundered. Her hull was badly damaged and after several attempts to refloat her, she was dismantled in 1903. A few scattered remains can be seen in shallow water close to the northern side of the coal loader, on a calm day. The sand is mostly covering the wreck and after storms the propeller, engine and boiler is visible. The Shamrock was built in 1878 by the Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Company. It was 1427 tons and 78 metres long.


Wreck of the “Wallarah”


The 1300 ton steel collier Wallarah, which was owned by the Wallarah Coal Company, was leaving Catherine Hill Bay with a cargo of coal for Sydney. A heavy sea struck her with full force. She refused to answer the helm and was driven on the reef not far from the pier. The large boiler is still visible. You will see large stingrays, gropers, turtles, Port Jackson sharks & wobbegong sharks.


Lake Macquarie is the largest saltwater lake in Australia and it empties into the sea at Swansea.  This has provided divers with the opportunity for a convenient and relatively easy drift dive. It is in fact quite busy and even supports a dive shop. Every dive here is tidal and has to be coordinated with the tide tables. The drift dive can be done on either an incoming or outgoing tide. The incoming tide gives the best visibility and should be dived about 2 hours after the Sydney high tide. For experienced divers who want a really quick drift dive to the caravan park, one hour after the Sydney tide will produce a greater current speed. Avoid the period after heavy rains as visibility can be poor.


The Bridge


The piles of two bridges can be dived at slack water on the high tide for an easy and short dive. The tide here peaks approximately two and a half hours after Fort Denison (Sydney Harbour) high tides. For each 10cm of tide, add or subtract 10 mins from the entry time:

You’re likely to see a variety of marine life. Luderick and bream are especially common. There are also octopus, black cod, estuary cod, salmon, kingfish, moray eels and even pineapple fish. The fish life is surprisingly diverse and is the highlight of the dive. It’s suitable day or night for a dive. There are old pipes and other bits of junk on the bottom. It’s time to get out when you feel the tide turning. Also avoid surfacing due to the boat traffic. Visibility can be poor especially after rain.


Swansea Drift

An extension of the bridge dive is to drift up the channel. On an incoming 1.4 metre tide it will take about 40 minutes to travel from the bridge to the ramp. The bottom has dunes or hills of sand every 75 metres or so. Schools of luderick, bream and kingfish are seen. Living on the sand are flathead and whiting. On the rocks there may be small tropical species. There is also heaps of junk to pick over.


The Arch, Moon Is


Just offshore of the mouth of the channel Moon Island offers very diving for beginners or advanced divers. Just off the south-eastern side of the island is The Arch, a large and impressive stone archway full of fish. Its safe to enter except in heavy weather. The rocky bottom is noted for interesting swim-throughs. Fish life includes large schools of yellowtail, seapike, jewfish, cuttlefish and eastern blue devilfish. The boulders are home to sea squirts, gorgonias, sponges and ascidians. There are also lots of crinoids.


Yvonne’s Reef


It is an easy dive in good weather with a good mix of marine life and some interesting cracks and crevices. The reef runs along the front of Moon Island.


Blue Groper Reef


This reef lies 2kms south of Moon Island. It offers good invertebrate life and excellent fish life, including lots of friendly blue gropers.


Wreck of the “Bonnie Dundee”

35 metres

33° 06′ 25.6 151° 42′ 10.2″ AUS66

In 1877, this 39 metre long steamer was launched from the Gourlay Brothers in Dundee, Scotland. In March 1879, the SS Bonnie Dundee left Sydney for the Manning River. Off Swansea, the S.S. Barrabool collided with the SS Bonnie Dundee. The Bonnie Dundee filled with water and sank within four minutes, 5.1 kilometres off Caves Beach, just south of Swansea. Four passengers and a cabin boy were drowned, the latter being identified from human remains later found inside a shark. The wreck is in two pieces about 25 apart with the stern the largest section. It is covered in fish including bullseyes and pomfrets. The engines, boilers and rudder can be seen.

Wreck of the “Advance”

48 M

33.10.836 151.42.197 WGS84

This 36 metres long tug was built in Victoria in 1884 and was used as a tug and as a Moreton Bay pilot vessel. In 1908 she left Newcastle to rendezvous with the barque Inverna. The captain made the mistake of cutting across the bows of the barque and the tug was hit and capsized. The sole survivor, the mate held on to wreckage for 12 hours before being washed ashore at Dudley Beach. This small wreck lies on sand about 6km south east of Moon Island. The wreck is hard to explore, not due to the visibility but the clouds of fish that swarm over the wreck. All but about 2 metres of the hull are buried, but her engines and boiler are identifiable. The stern is still intact although a patchwork of holes, Beware of nets sometime draping over the wreck. The bow area was recently flattened by a ship’s anchor as its a popular area for anchoring coal ships.


Newcastle Baths


You need flat seas to dive anywhere in Newcastle itself. The shoreline near Merewether and Newcastle baths provide good, shallow dives, as does the Bogie Hole swimming baths. The site offers a good array of smaller marine life.


Merewether Baths
8 metres

Similar to Newcastle Ocean Baths, calm seas are needed. The shallow reef has numerous small drop-offs, crevices and overhangs with a smaller marine life and fish to encounter.


Wreck of the “Commodore”

35 metres

This 187 ton, 120 ft long, iron paddle steamer was built by J T Ettrickham, South Shields in 1878. She operated for some fifty years as a tug and as a passenger vessel in the Sydney area and between Newcastle and Sydney. Stripped of her fittings and scuttled 3 nm east of Nobbys Head, Newcastle in 1931. She was said to be the last active steam paddle tug working on Australian waters. Only the boiler, engine and paddle wheel shafts and scattered wreckage remain.  Visibility is often poor and she is a wreck for wreck fans rather than being a scenic dive.



Wreck of the “Yarra Yarra”


32 54’ 12.48S 151 48’ 04.63 WGS84

The “Yarra Yarra” was a very early iron paddle steamer built at Dumbarton, Scotland in 1851. She was a 555tons 183 ft long collier. On 15 July 1877, she left Newcastle for Sydney loaded with coal in bad weather. Soon she was forced to head back but the harbour entrance was a series of foaming breakers. She hit near the Cawarra Buoy and was overwhelmed by big seas. Disabled, she drifted away towards the shore. All eighteen crew were lost when she filled with water and sank. The site has an impressive older style engine and enormous boilers. The paddle wheel mechanism, windlass and chain can be identified. She is affected by outflow from the Hunter River and visibility is often poor. She is a great wreck for shipwreck enthusiasts, but not a scenic dive.


Brewsters Wall


This reef offers a wall packed in sponges. The fish life is also very diverse boarfish, coralfish, gurnards and sergeant bakers. Smaller marine life such as a variety of nudibranchs can also be found. A very good dive.


Wreck of the “Davenport”


32° 54.534’ S 151° 47.725’E (WGS84)

The 911 ton, 200 ft long, wooden screw steamer Davenport was built in Coos Bay, USA in 1912. She caught fire on the 4 of October 1943 and was towed to sea near the Oyster Bank where it foundered. She now lies about 90m from the rusted hulk of the barque Adolphe which is visible from the breakwater that was later built over the Oyster Bank. She lies in front of Stockton Surf Club. The wreck is scattered over a wide area, with boilers, winches and propeller recognisable. Visibility can be poor.


Wreck of the “Osprey”


Built in Dundee in 1885, the steam tug Osprey served out her time in Newcastle before being towed out and scuttled 5nm east of Newcastle in 1931 with the Commodore, Irresistible, and Stormcock. She is in a bad spot where coal ships anchor and is likely to suffer intermittent damage from anchor scour. The boilers and the bow were intact in recent times, but she is not often dived.


Wreck of the “Irresistible”


This tug was scuttled 6 miles NE of Newcastle. Her engines, boiler, propellers and the bow are intact in recent times, but she is not often dived.  Wobbegongs and reef fish are common around the wreck.


Sponge City


This shallow spot offers good sponges and some small boulders. There are lots of morwong, leatherjackets, wrasse and wobbegong around the reef. A good dive site especially for beginners.


The Anchors


This rocky reef is home to a large Admiralty pattern anchor, but it is the variety of the fish life that is the best feature of this very good dive site.




This wreck of a large modern cargo vessel is visible from the surface in the surf zone along Stockton Beach. It beached here in 1974 after a huge storm. Only the stern section remains and can be dived in good weather. The large wreck is very surgy but houses some big fish. The energy from the surf is so great that she is likely to disintegrate and disappear beneath the sand before too long. Enjoy it while you can.


Treasure Caves


This is a big bommie sitting about 250m off Nobbys Beach. A large undercut provides a small vase for fish and it makes a good night diving spot. The location can be surrent affected and needs to be dived in good weather.


LVT(a)4 Amphibious Landing Craft

32 metres

On March 8, 1954, the Army was conducting an amphibious exercise. A convoy of 19 amphibious vehicles, including army “ducks” (DUKWs) and tanks with 184 men aboard setting out at night from Wave Trap Beach (Horseshoe Beach) near the now Nobby’s parkland).

The convoy forged north into the open sea with a forecast of good weather. They were heading towards Cemetery Point. At 4am, an unexpected squall blew up and the seas suddenly became monstrous.

The vessels were about 10 nautical miles from Morna Point and about two miles out to sea when waves pounded the flotilla, soaking radio equipment.

Most of the 16-ton tanks had broken down and were being towed by the army “ducks”. They, in turn, were then pulled underwater by the extra weight. Eight of the vehicles, including five amphibious tanks and a landing craft (LVT4) nicknamed the “water buffalo”, simply disappeared. Some 100 soldiers from the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers were pitched into the seas as their vehicles swamped.

Soldiers said he swam for a long time, supporting poor swimmers and encouraging them to get to shore. Sergeant Donald McHattie was awarded the George Medal for rescuing at least nine men and help give artificial respiration to three others. Most were fit and luckily made it to the beach, but three men drowned.

Wreckage from one of eight amphibious vehicles was recovered by fishermen about one nautical mile off the middle of Stockton Beach in April 1974. The tail shaft and two wheels of a lost, six-wheel sunken duck had become entangled in the net of the trawler Liawenee at a depth of about 15 fathoms (27 metres).

Known as LTV(A)4, or Landing Vehicle Tracked (armoured), the amphibious assault vehicle was built between 1941 and 1945. They were nicknamed the “Water Buffalo”.Officially, it is the only one ever found, inspected and recorded. The LVT(A)4 was located facing east on the sea bottom. It is surrounded in fish and often enjoys good visibility.


Uralla Pinnacle


This deep spire is at the northern end of Stockton beach and is rarely dived. It offers sheer drop offs covered in sponges and other invertebrates. As well as the usual reef species, the wall is also visited by schools of large pelagic fish. She is a long haul from Newcastle and good weather is needed.



Nelson’s Bay

Port Stephens is a sheltered embayment site that can offer many good dive sites, including moderately protected shore dives. The main issue is that the best sites are tidal, and sometimes affected by rainwater runoff after very heavy rains. The tide is put to good advantage offering interesting drift dives if properly planned for the high tide. This limits diving to only one dive a day. In calm weather there are lots of very good dive sites on the adjoining coast.


The Pipeline


The Pipeline is on the Western side of Nelson Bay Marina breakwall.  Entry is via concreted steps and a path cleared through the rocks to give divers easy access. This dive is on an old disused sewerage pipe that has provided a holding point for the local marine life. It can really only be done on a slack tide. Visibility is better on a high tide. High tide here is later than at Fly Point and enter the water about 10 to 15 minutes after the high tide at Fort Denison tide times (Sydney Harbour). Colourful sponge life and small invertebrates are the key features. It is common to find decorator crabs , blue ringed octopus and nudibranchs. Fish life is also good with luderick, bream flathead, sea horses and pipefish.  The Pipeline also works as a night dive. 


Sea Horse Gardens


Seahorse Gardens lies between Fly Point and the Marina. This dive should be done on the slack high tide, although you could get in the water 1-2 hours before that. The tide flows are confused as there is an eddy that makes the tide run counter to the opposite to the tide direction elsewhere. The site is home to decorator crabs, basket stars, soft corals, nudibranchs, anemones and cowries. You’ll also find seahorses angler fish and pipefish. Watch out for boat traffic, especially on summer weekends.


Little Beach


Little Beach is at the intersection of Victoria Parade, Beach Road and Dixon Drive. There is a track down to the beach near the wharf. Under the wharf there are schools of luderick and bream. To the north of the wharf there are lots of bits of old wharves, pieces of wharf decking and whole pylons. In this area old jetty debris hides seahorses. Further out there is sand with some sponge life, small gorgonias and sometimes nudibranchs.

From here, head roughly west and you will see some more wharf bits. On you left you will notice that the bottom slopes down and if you follow the flatter bottom you will be heading in the right direction. As you go you will see that the bottom is sand with some spots that have sponges, and other marine life. These have a lot of life on them, including nudibranchs, fish and sometimes sea horses. In 12m there is a wrecked pontoon, an old wrecked houseboat and a-frame structure that is covered in sponges. There is also quite good fish life including bream, yellowtail and blue groper, pineapplefish, Wrasse, Mado, Bream, and Pomfrets. Red Scorpionfish and Red Morwongs and Sawtail Surgeonfish. The current is usually at its strongest at the wreck. This site must be dived at slack water which is about 1 hour after high tide. High slack tide also produces the best visibility.


Shoal Bay


Often used as a safe training the large area of sea grass is worth a photograph and contains rays, octopus, squid, cuttlefish and schools of yellow tail on seagrass beds. It would also make for a good night dive. It is the only site in the bay that is out of the current. Good for a beginners dive, macro photography dive, or kids snorkelling trip.


Fly Point


Fly Point is the most popular shore dive in Nelson Bay and many consider it to be one of NSW’s best shore dives. Hundreds of divers can assemble there on a good weekend. The site is part of the Fly Point/Halifax Park Aquatic Reserve. The dive site is located just off the rocky point to the East of the marina. It’s relatively easy, apart from a strong current, but packed with lots of marine life, especially smaller creatures. There is parking at the site and entry is a walk down a flight of stairs.

This site has grass areas in the shallows with some interesting creatures including small snapper, luderick, bream, mullet and trumpeter. Further out there are ledges that drop to about 14-16m. Here you will find prolific sponge gardens, green turtles, eels, cowrie shells, pineapple fish, blue ringed octopus, wobbegongs, blind sharks, nudibranchs, lobsters, maori cod, angler fish. Overhead there are clouds of yellowtail, bream and snapper. Sometimes tropical fish also move in such as long-finned bannerfish, yellowtail angelfish and other species of butterflyfish.

The currents are very strong. It is best to start the dive about right on high tide at Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. This is actually about 20 minutes before high tide here and enables you to drift with the tide for 20 minutes or so before returning with the tide. It can sometimes go for about 30 minutes. Normally there is little slack time but high slack produces the best visibility. When surfacing, try do so close to the shore as this is a high traffic boating area. Its safer if any beginners are supervised.




Halifax was once considered one of the best shore dives in NSW, but since 2009 it has been progressively sanding up. The local council installing a rock groyne near the boat ramp to the south has been blamed. Various projects have been tried to arrest what may be a natural cyclical factor. At present the smaller reef patches have been buried, but there is still plenty left to see and hundreds of divers appear on a fine day. This site is home to maori cod, blue gropers, pineapple fish, eastern rock lobsters, nudibranchs, wobbegongs, Port Jackson sharks, blind sharks, flathead, rays, moray eels, cuttlefish and many tropical species. You will see large schools of bream and leatherjackets.

The currents are very strong. The best visibility is on the high slack tide. Enter the water at the time given for high tide in Sydney Harbour (Fort Denison) and drift with the tide. You will get about 20 to 30 minutes of drifting with the current before the tide changes. Try to avoid surfacing as this is a high boat traffic area. This is not a dive for beginners.


Boondelbah Is


The island offers a variety of reefs. On the western side there is a nice sponge garden in shallow water which drops over sheer walls on to sand. In the deeper areas the walls are covered in a variety of invertebrates including sea whips and sea fans, Fish life is very good. On the exposed seaward side, it is rarely calm enough to dive and generally deeper. Marine life is sparse in moderate depths and better in the deeper sections of reef. There is a good anchorage and some small caves on the southern side. The area is exposed to strong southerlies.


Broughton Is

About 12 kilometres from the Nelson Bay marina is Broughton Island. It is really made up of a big island (Broughton) as well as Little Broughton Island, Looking Glass Island, North Rock, Inner Rock and some smaller islets. In southerly winds, it could be advisable to stay closer to Port Stephens. In good condition it is about 50 minutes to the island in a larger speedboat.


Looking Glass Island


The most popular dive is The Looking Glass. This is a crack through the island that runs right through the narrow island. The crack is about 5 to 10 metres wide and it runs for about 50 metres. It is partly sheltered and is often safe to dive. There is plenty of room and light. The crack extends above the water for the most part. The fish life is quite good and the visibility also good. Save air for the return journey.


Bubble Cave


This site is located at the southern end of Little Broughton Island. The Bubble Cave extends into the island about 12 metres and is quite a good dive. The entrance is covered in nannygai and there are a few boulders to explore at the entrance. The swell has stripped much of the life from the rocks. The main attraction of the cave is an air pocket at the top about 2 metres high. The cave is exposed to southerly swells and very calm weather is needed.


Big Shark Gutters


On the south-eastern corner of Little Broughton Island is Big Shark Gutters. The attraction here is the grey nurse sharks. There are also some vertical walls and boulders on the sand.


Little Shark Gutters


A little to the north of Big Shark Gutters there are about four or five gutters renowned for grey nurse sharks.


Spider Cave


32° 37′ 25″ S 152° 19′ 28″ E. AUS66

This east facing cave lies at the opening of Esmeralda Cove. There are four or five gutters that radiate off a bowl-shaped depression in the reef. Swim up the northern one and to the entrance to Spider Cave. There are two more entrances. The tunnels are a tight fit for one diver at a time, and can get dark in patches. Not for the claustrophobic. There are normally Port Jackson sharks (in late Winter), wobbegongs and cuttlefish in the cave. Around the cave are mado, blue groper, comb wrasse and weedfish. Suitable weather is needed.


Cod Rock


Cod Rock is a small rock on the southern side of Broughton Island. It is an easy swim to circumnavigate in one dive and there is a small cave on the south-west corner.


North Rock


This rock is on the northern end of Broughton Island and it offers a nice rocky reef on its seaward side. Its kelpy on the top, then sparse, with nice sponges, sea tulips and sea fans in the deeper parts. Fish life is reasonable, but the attraction here is lots of colourful sea spiders in the weed.


Elephant Rock


This rock is on the northern end of Broughton and offers a little shelter from the south, allowing some colourful sponges to grow. Fish life is dominated by blue groper, yellowtail, wrasse and leatherjackets on the kelp-covered reef.


Turtle Cave


This small cave in the back of a large horseshoe shaped depression in the reef is renowned for the large and very old black coral tree near the cave mouth. Hopefully it isn’t broken off by an over enthusiastic diver at some time. It is otherwise a good dive rather than a great dive with some interesting invertebrate life in the deeper areas and some unusual fish species.


Little Island


Little island is a small and barren outcrop used as a seabird roost. Although sparse in marine growth, the islands are renowned for good fish life including schools of pelagic fish. As an exposed site the life on the bottom is patchy and better in the deeper crevices. Off the north east side of the island there are large fields of white anemones.


Government Wharf, Fingal Head


32° 44′ 31.6″S 152° 11′ 38.5″E AUS66

Fingal Head an island that is sometimes connected to the mainland by a sand spit. It once had an old government wharf to service the lighthouse. The wharf piles still lie on the bottom. You will see flathead, nudibranchs, fiddler rays, moray eels, wobbegongs, luderick, bream and ladder-finned pomfret. Novelties like tropical butterflyfish and the odd red indianfish may also be seen. It offers some shelter from southerly swells. From July to August each year the area is covered in Port Jackson sharks which congregate for mating.


Shark Is


This island lies close to deep water and provides walls covered in invertebrate life and clouded with fish. Larger pelagic fish also often visit the area including kingfish.


Wreck of the S.S. “Macleay”

43 metres

32° 42′ 20″ S 152° 14′ 43″ E. AUS66

The 47 metre long SS Macleay was a coastal cargo and passenger vessel built in 1883 by Forrest and Sons at Millwall, London. In October 1911, the SS Macleay departed Newcastle for the Clarence River and Grafton with a cargo of coal. Due to careless navigation the Macleay hit Boondelbah Island. The ship managed to back away from the reef but kept taking on water and rolled completely on her port side and sank to the north of Boondelbah Island. Two of the crew died.

Today the SS Macleay lies out from Little Island facing the south west. The hull is intact from below the waterline exposing all the machinery. The stern is broken off just behind the engine. The bottom is a jumble of rocks giving way to sand. The fish life on the wreck includes cuttlefish, red morwong, wobbegong and blue morwong, although she is better known for her black coral trees. Schools of yellowtail, bream and pike cover the wreck. It can be current affected and suffers from poor visibility at times. The wreck lies in a sand gutter between rocky reef off Little Island.


SS Oakland

27 metres

32° 40′ 45.9″S 152° 14′ 00.2″E AUS66

The 47 metre long SS Oakland was launched in 1890 at the Murray Brothers shipyard in Dumbarton, Scotland. In 1903, the SS Oakland left Newcastle for the Clarence and Richmond Rivers with coal, railway tracks, gravestones and other cargo. The weather was not good and quickly deteriorated causing the cargo to shift in the hold. The ship was listing and slowly sinking bow first. The Oakland rolled over and sank, several of the crew died in the water before rescue arrived.

The Oakland now lies to the north of Cabbage Tree Island, facing the south-west. The wreck is in one piece, covered in sand up to the waterline. The decking is missing, exposing the ship’s machinery, including the engines and a prominent steering quadrant in the stern. The wreck itself is sand blasted and largely devoid of growth but it has attracted heaps of fish. An excellent dive.


Wreck of the “Florence Irving”


This early 242 foot long, 626 ton, iron steamer left Sydney for Brisbane with a general cargo and passengers. Encountering a storm the vessel hugged the land, but ran aground just on the southern side of Port Stephens lighthouse. Wreckage can actually be seen above high water mark. The rest of the wreck is scattered near a rock lying about 10 metres from the shore. The propellers and anchor are the most recognisable bits of this badly scattered wreck. She had originally been built as a paddle steamer some time before 1865 by Charles Lungley, Deptford London. She was later converted into a screw steamer.


Wreck of the “Pappinbarra”


Steel twin screw steamship of 70 horsepower as built at Glasgow. She traded as a cargo vessel until wrecked at Port Stephens.In 1926, this 518 ton steel steamer left Port Macquarie for Sydney. She ran into a strong gale with mountainous seas. The crew abandoned her and she washed inshore on the northern side of Port Stephens lighthouse. Despite salvage efforts she was quickly pulverised by the swell. Now only the boiler and a few small sections of ironwork remain.


Wreck of the “Thordis”


This wreck lies on rocks at the entrance to Port Stephens, on a reef projecting out from Yacaaba Head. This Norwegian steamer went ashore while loaded while trying to rendezvous with a collier to top up her cargo of coal for Manilla. While trying to enter the heads in very heavy seas the ebb tide caught her and threw her up on the shore. She was holed and her holds flooded. Heavy seas broke over her and she fell to pieces within a few days on the shallow and exposed site. She was a large 3700 ton steamer built in Sunderland, England in 1899. She had had an unlucky life and already escaped several near misses. She was later blown up with explosives and most of the machinery was salvaged. She is in a shallow, cloudy, exposed and tidal site. Hence it is rarely, if every, dived. One for experienced wreck tragics only.


Wreck of the “Wauchope”


In 1941 this mall wooden steamer of 120 tons was under tow. About two miles off shore she foundered between Toomaree Head and Port Stephens lighthouse. She now lies partly buried on a sandy bottom. The timbers have rotted away, but a large engine, boiler and winch still mark the site.She was built by David Drake Ltd in 1920.


Boat Harbour

5m –17m

The shore diving in the open ocean around Port Stephens is very limited except for Boat Harbour.  The bay is quite shallow until you get out to a gutter near the point. Follow the edge of the sand to the north. There are some gullies, overhangs and walls. Fish life includes luderick, bream, leatherjackets, and small rays.

Cabbage Tree Island Trawler


32° 41′ 27″ S 152° 13′ 18″ E. AUS66

About two-thirds way along the western side of the island there are the broken remains of a modern fishing trawler. The reef is also interesting with hordes of fish yellowtail, seapike, diamond fish, sweep and one-spot pullers. Tropical species are also encountered in summer. Visibility is clearer at high tide.


Fingal Sponge Gardens

32° 44′ 33″S 152° 12′ 5″E AUS66

The site consists of a large gutter that runs parallel to the shore near the lighthouse. There are some canyons near to this main gutter. The rocky reef is covered in colourful sponges and other invertebrates. Fish life here is also moderately good. It is sometimes dived when the southerly wind is blowing as the site is in the lee of Shark Island.


Tomaree Head


S32 43 05.2 E152 11 15.1 AUS66

Tomaree Head is not normally dived except in southerly winds when it provides some shelter. The headland provides a gutter on the eastern side, as well as a few boulders, swim-throughs and overhangs. The fish life is also very good.