Terrigal is located to the east of Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast. It is about an hour and a half to two hours drive from Sydney. It is served by a dive shop which also maintains moorings on some of the local sites. The area offers easy and an advanced shore dive, some wrecks, shark caves, and offshore drop-offs. Most of the diving lies to the north in the Terrigal to Lakes Entrance area. Like all of the ocean coast of NSW the area is often exposed to adverse easterly weather.
Wreck of the “Maitland”
The 69 metre long iron paddle steamer Maitland was built at Port Glasgow in Scotland in 1870. In 1898, the Maitland left Sydney in the middle of the infamous Maitland Storm. The waves quickly became mountainous. They tried to run to Broken Bay but water was flooding the holds and engine room and eventually extinguished the boilers. The Maitland drifted onto the reef on the eastern end of what is now named Maitland Bay and broke up. Several lives were lost. Today the main parts of the wreck including the boilers are on the rock platform in the intertidal zone. Apparently there are smaller bits and pieces in the water in the 5m zone.
Wreck of the “Hall Caine”
33° 32′ 49′S 151° 25′ 20″E
The 40 metre long wooden steamer “Hall Caine” was built in 1912 on the Manning River. The ship was used as a collier. In March 1937, the TSS “Hall Caine” was owned by William Holyman and Sons of Launceston, Tasmania. She left Sydney Harbour bound for Lake Macquarie in heavy seas and torrential rain. She had a general cargo for the local settlements including drums of benzene (motor fuel). Off Avoca she started taking on water through her rotten and badly maintained hull. The steamer “Indant” tried to tow her to Broken Bay, but the “Hall Caine” rolled over and sank. Today the TSS “Hall Caine” lies off Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast. There is normally a buoy on the wreck. The huge boiler dominates the wreck. The twin engines and three bladed props are also recognisable. Beware of abandoned fishing nets and ropes. There are conger eels and large flathead in this area.
Lighthouse Reef lies about 1.5 kilometres south of the boat ramp. The site consists of a north-south wall running from roughly north to south. There are crevices, overhangs and boulders. There are gorgonias, sea squirts, sponges and lots of tother delicate invertebrates. Port Jackson sharks, black-banded sea perch, red rock cod, groper, wobbegongs and cuttlefish can be seen around the reef. Schools of roughie and other pelagic fish are also encountered. This is a very good dive.
This shallow reef offers a nice dive, particularly for newer divers and is very popular with boat charters. It has no particular hazards. It is kelp covered rocky reef, offering some small overhangs with small invertebrate life. It also has a good representation of the local temperate fish species.
San Francisco Reef
This site lies offshore of Avoca Beach and is similar to Fifeshire Reef, if not slightly superior in fish and sponge life. Well worth a visit and a good lead up to the deeper diving in the area.
Wreck of the HMAS “Adelaide”
This 138m long frigate was built in USA and was commission by the Royal Australian Navy in November 1980. She took part in the 1990/91 Gulf War, peacekeeping in East Timor and spent 3 years in the Arabian Gulf. She was also the frigate that rescued the solo yachtsmen in the 1996/7 Vendee Globe race. She was decommissioned in January 2008 and gifted to the NSW Government to scuttle off the NSW coast. She was gutted and has now had her mast removed and holes cut into her to make it more diver-friendly. She was sunk in 2011, 1.4kms off Avoca Beach. She is gradually being covered in growth. The site is moored and there is a fee for mooring and diving on the vessel.
Wreck of the “Galava”
S33° 27.38.66″ E151.30.71 WGS84
In 1906, the 141.4 foot (43 metre) long steel collier SS “Galava” was launched at Workington, England, by R. Williamson and Sons. In February 1927, the “Galava” loaded 420 tons of coal at Catherine Hill Bay at left at night, heading south towards Sydney. There was a moderately strong southerly wind. Just as she was passing Terrigal, the hull plates in the bow split and water started pouring into the ship. There was no time to launch the lifeboat or even fire off distress rockets. The ship slipped under the waves, throwing the crew in to the sea. Today the wreck is lying on its side, on a sandy bottom, 5.8 kilometres off The Skillion. There is often a mooring set on the wreck. The wreck lies facing roughly north-east. There is normally excellent fishlife on the wreck including thousands of yellowtail, some jewfish and wobbegongs. Most of the wreck is buried but the outline of the hull can be seen with identifiable elements including the bow and stern decking, broken prop, windlass, winches and boiler.
The headland at Terrigal provides some shelter from the south and the building of breakwaters has provided a sheltered bay where boats are moored. One of the rock walls sits on a reef at the mouth of the bay and this area provides a sheltered area for training and also an easy shore dive. There are large patches of sea grass with lots of small marine life. The reef gets deeper and better as you head out, but it can be a long swim. Nudibranchs, sea horses and quite a few temperate reef species can be seen. The bay is sometimes visited by large schools of pelagic fish. There is easy entry and exit and a dive shop nearby. This is one of the more popular dives in the area and a good spot for building your skills. Visibility can be poor after storms.
Just to the south of the Haven there is a prominent rocky headland called the Skillion. From a car park there you can get access to a large area of flat sea terrace. In any sort of easterly swell the waves crash onto the platform, but in calm seas it offers an entry and exit spot for experienced divers. After going down a series of step-like ledges head north into about 20m. The Skillion Cave is huge and hard to miss. Skillion Cave is a crack that extends back into the reef with a boulder wedged in there to make an archway. This cave is very spectacular, especially when it full of fish like ladder-finned pomfret and yellowtails. The swell has picked a lot of the more delicate life off the nearby walls, but the cave offers some shelter for invertebrates. Outside of the cave there is a boulder slope that also provides some interesting invertebrate life. The huge blue groper are very friendly, pushy even, if they think you might be on to something they can eat. On a shore dive you can actually keep following this wall all the way back towards the shelter of The Haven, but you have to be a low consumer of air. It is one of the best shore dives in NSW, but it can be rough and even current affected. It is a shore dive for experienced parties.
This shallow and relatively easy dive that is a good skill building dive. It is shallow kelp-covered reef with a few cracks and crevices in the deeper sections. It has a good range of temperate marine life and some small invertebrate. You will probably see blue devilfish and cuttlefish.
Two Poles Reef
This reef is an inshore site that is just to the north of Spoon Reef. It is similar to Spoon Reef except that it offers a bit more life. When fish are schooling it is covered in fish. The site is not that far from shore, perhaps 650 metres. There are a series of small boulders, walls, cracks and overhangs. There are a lot of sea squirts, some sponges and lots of small gorgonias. Cuttlefish, wobbegong, ladder-finned pomfrets, one-spot pullers and yellowtail also can be seen at the site.
This reef lies 2kilometres offshore. It offers plenty of good fish life, clear waters and an attractive sponge garden. This is considered one of the best dives along this coast.
This site is even further offshore than Foresters and offers even nicer sponge gardens with sea whips along the wall that lies on the eastern side of the reef. It lies just to the south of Foggy Cave. The area can be current affected and is for experienced divers. A very good dive.
30 to 39 metres
This is the centrepiece of diving in Terrigal and one of the best dives in NSW. A wall runs south north about three kilometres and then turns west to east north of Terrigal. There is a mooring maintained by Terrigal Diving Services. The sea floor is sand dotted with large rocks and boulders. The cave extends back about 15 metres and is about 10 metres wide and 2 metres high for most of its length. Care still needs to be taken to avoid stirring up the finer material. There are some nice small gorgonias and sponges in and around the cave. There are eastern blue devils, leatherjackets, luderick and red morwong on and above the rocks. This would make it a good dive on its own, but the reason why it is so popular is for the grey nurse sharks. They are there most of the year, male and female, of varied sizes. There are usually dozens of them and they cruise around the area apparently without regard to divers. Please don’t touch or harass them as swamping shark caves with divers can potentially discourage them from using the site.
Wreck of the “Commonwealth”
This small wooden steamer of 188 tons (36M long) was built in 1901 at Failford, NSW. She was a regular trader around the NSW coast. She was wrecked on Foggy Reef in August 1916. The hull has rotted away leaving two boilers, two engines, and lots of copper rivets.
Wreck of the “Kiama”
This small coastal collier of 555 tons was built in 1921. In 1951 she was on a voyage to Newcastle with coal when the cargo shifted and she capsized in Toowoon Bay with the loss of six lives. Now she is lying on a sandy bottom, well broken up. There is a large boiler and the engine can be seen lying on its side. The site is a scatter of steel plates and is often covered in schools of fish. This is a site for experienced deep divers.
Norah Head, The Entrance to Fraser Caves
This area offers good diving, but is a bit more distant from Sydney and not all dive shops visit the area. All small boats have to be launched from a very rough boat ramp straight across the beach. The area needs good weather and suits the owner of a good beach boat with a few experienced buddies.
Three Mile Reef
This is a very large reef offering a range of dive sites jewfish, bream, sweep, sharks including bronze whalers and hammerheads are sometimes seen on this offshore site. Rarely there are even marlin and manta rays. This is considered one of the best dives in the area.
This site is renowned for the large numbers of eastern blue devilfish seen here. Black banded sea perch, red rock cod, leatherjackets, sergeant baker, groper and coralfish are also encountered. The site also swarms with school fish including nannygai, snook (seapike) and mullet. This is considered one of the best dives in the area.
This is an easy and shallow dive on a group of rocks resting on the bottom off Tuggerah, just north of the Entrance. It is a good site for beginners or macro photographers.
This reef offers a sea wall studded at the bottom with boulders. Invertebrate life is rich with sea whips, gorgonia and sponges. Fish life is also good with sweep, red morwong, groper and kingfish at times.
This shallow and easy site tends to attract fish from everywhere, especially juveniles, and offers an incredible variety of fish life.
This area is deep and for experienced divers only but it offers an interesting topography will drop-offs crevices and swim-throughs, all packed with schools of roughy.
Corinne’s Canyon – The Seven Apostles.
33° 19′ 36″ S 151° 34′ 04″ E AUS66
This site lies six kilometres to the south of the boat ramp. It offers interesting nooks and crannies, boulders and a wall. These formations are packed with sea squirts, gorgonias and sponges. Fishlife here is not prolific, but there are nice schools of yellowtail, seapike, bream, leatherjackets, blue gropers, one-spot pullers, silver sweep and other species.
This site consists of a kelp covered reef, going down a sloping reef to the bottom. It has lots of swim-throughs crevices and overhangs. There are 4 reef sites in the general area. Some parts of this reef system can be current affected.
The Bull (Bull Rock)
A kilometre from the boat ramp and directly off Norah Head are the Bull Rocks, a large reef that just breaks the surface. On the seaward side there is a wall oriented north-west to south-east.
The rock is a menace to shipping (including unwary small boats) and pieces of unidentified wreckage can be seen under the water from yachts that have come to grief here.
The wall is covered in pelagic fish, gorgonia sea fans, sea squirts and sponges. Off the wall it is a sandy bottom and there are lots of large boulders. Pike, luderick, ladder-finned pomfrets and yellowtail frequently cover the site. Among the boulders there are eastern blue devilfish, cuttlefish and Port Jackson sharks.
Tony’s Wall/ Wreck of the “Speedwell”
This site is just to the seaward of Bull Rock. This area has crevices and swim-throughs but a little less life than some other spots. The wreck of the 140 foot long, 350 ton barque “Speedwell” lies here, very scattered in 8-14m over the rocks where she ran aground in bad weather in 1888. She was built in England in 1856. The ships’ Admiralty pattern anchor can still be found quite easily, wedged under several large rocks. Fish life is more common near the wreck site and they prefer to shelter in a large overhang.
Bob’s Wall lies to the north east of Norah Head light. It is considered to be one of the best sites at Norah Head. A series of steps ends up on sand in deep water. All along the face are 5m high sections of wall packed with invertebrate life and fish. The site has swarms of nannygai and bullseyes and is often visited by pelagic fish.
The Boulders – Norah Head
33° 16′ 27″ S 151° 34′ 56″ E AUS66
To the north-west of The Bull is a dive site called The Boulders. The site consists of a wall running from north-west to south-east. Off the wall there are hundreds of large boulders covered in gorgonia, sea squirts and sponges. Fishlife includes one-spot pullers, luderick, silver sweep, yellowtail, bream, eastern blue devilfish and cuttlefish.
Wreck of the “Paterson”
This 148 ft long wooden paddle steamer was built in NSW in 1920. On 11 June 1951, SS Paterson set sail from Cabbage Tree Bay, sprung a leak and sunk dramatically only 300 metres away from the wharf. Some twisted sections of the hull are still visible of the beach to the left of the Norah Head boat ramp. The boiler is a prominent feature of the site. Moray eels, wobbegong and Ling can be seen. ?She is lying on sand fairly close to the rocky shoreline. More of the wreck is exposed after storms. It is used for night diver training.
Wreck of the “Nerong”
The 219 ton Nerong was one of the many ships on the New South Wales coast that succumbed to strong gales. On 19 September 1917, the 36.6 metre twin screw steamer foundered two kilometres off Norah head on the New South Wales Central Coast. With 12 crew and 2 passengers, the steamer had a mixed cargo of 130 tons including beer and spirits bound from Sydney for the northern rivers hotels. Three lives were lost, the Chief Engineer, the Cook and a male passenger.
The Nerong was completed in Balmain, Sydney in 1903, being built from parts imported from Scotland, and was owned by the North Coast Steam Navigation Company. The steamer’s shallow draft and twin propellers were an ideal combination for negotiating the bars and winding courses of the northern rivers of New South Wales. Even so the Nerong suffered severe hull damage on the Nambucca River bar in April 1917.
The wreck lies in 45 metres of water 3 miles east of Norah Head.
Makes for a good night dive and offers a shallow dive on kelp covered reef
Kingy Chasm Reef
This deeper site offers some excellent invertebrate life and some good fish life. At the bottom of the drop off wall are large boulders all covered with sponges, marine life. Fish life include sweep, red morwong and blue groper. The site gets its name from the occasional schools of kingfish that visit the area.
This shallower inshore reef makes a good night dive and occasionally offers grey nurse sharks. It has lots of overhangs and swim throughs.
This deep reef to the north of Bird Island offers a deep sponge reef on its seaward side, full of gorgonia, sea whips and colourful sponges. The area is also noted for the large numbers of crinoids (sea lilies) all over the reef. The fish life is also very prolific, making it one of the best dives in the area.
A deep reef offering a great sponge garden. It also offers sea whips, basket stars, crinoids, Hydroids and other invertebrates. Fish life is also good. A dive for experienced parties.