South side Sydney
Sydney Offshore Artificial Reef
33 50.797′S, 151 17.988′E WGS84
The artificial reef is not designed as a SCUBA diving site but for recreation fishermen. Due to “safety concerns”, NSW DPI does not recommend SCUBA diving on the reef. A Fisheries official said the department had “concerns about scuba divers using the (Sydney) reef, which is not recommended in our user guidelines on our website. There are also safety concerns given the structure has a complex design”. It’s understood Fisheries will be contacting all dive operators to advise them against accessing artificial reefs. Fisheries will also be working with relevant authorities to establish management plans preventing divers from accessing angler-funded artificial reefs. What nonsense. The Sydney offshore artificial reef was deployed in October 2011 and is located east of ‘The Gap’ (South Head; entrance to Port Jackson). The reef is constructed from steel with dimensions – 12 m (W) x 15 m (L) x 12 m (H). There isn’t much too it at the moment but it will become progressively colonised by marine life.
South Head Reefs
From South Head to Macquarie Lighthouse the cliffs of the South Head offer a few sites of interest. The shore is fringed by flat areas of shallow sea terrace which give way to a jumble of boulders that have eroded from the cliffs. The shallows offer a variety of fish life with the deeper areas supporting often large gardens of sponges and other invertebrates. Being so close to an urbanised harbour one of the main issues is with poor visibility when the South flowing tides and currents bring dirty water from the harbour over the sites. The area is also very exposed from all but westerly winds, which are most common in late winter. Better shelter can be found right under the cliffs just inside the heads, but this area is also slightly dirtier. A pile of unknown old wreckage has been found on this side in approximately 20 m, one of the many vessels lost while entering this busy waterway.
33° 50′ 14″ S 151° 17′ 12″ E. AUS66
Royal Shepherd was built in 1853 by Blackwood and Gordon of Paisley, Scotland. Originally owned by the Launceston and Melbourne Steam Navigation Co., the Royal Shepherd was 331 tons. On July 1890, the Royal Shepherd left Sydney for Bulli to load coal while towing the schooner Countess of Erroll which was bound for Wollongong. At 11.15 pm the SS Hesketh collided with the Royal Shepherd and bumped the Countess of Erroll. The Royal Shepherd sank within 10 minutes, the skipper of the Countess of Erroll cutting his schooner free. Hesketh rescued all the crew of the Royal Shepherd
Located off South Head it is a relative easy site to access. All that remains is the engine block, driveshaft, prop and boiler. The Royal Shepherd’s oscillating engine is probably the most important engine relic in NSW. This type was popular because it was easy to start and stop. It also took up little inboard room. During operation, the cylinders rocked to take up the motion, hence its other name, the “vibrating engine“. There is sporadic fish life around the wreck and it is home to some Moray eels. The Royal Shepherd is sometimes subject to dirty water. An incoming tide is best. It is moderately protected from southerly winds.
Wreck of the “Dunbar”
In 1857, this sailing ship was bound for Sydney loaded with migrants. On a windy night, the captain perhaps mistook the Gap for the entrance to the harbour and ran her aground. In the heavy sea panic broke out as the ship rapidly broke up. Over 150 passengers and crew drowned. There was only one survivor. The wreck was a popular dive in the 1950s despite being in the path of raw sewerage from Sydney’s main outfall. That sewer outfall has now moved, but little remains of the wreck. Ballast blocks can be seen, anchors and an assortment of metal are all that remain. The site is an historic wreck and cannot be interfered with.
33° 50′ 44.0″S 151° 17′ 08.6″E AUS66
The Gap is Sydney’s most notorious suicide location but more positively, a great dive site. The reef runs north-west to south-east with low walls and boulders to explore. The rocks are covered in sponges, sea squirts and small gorgonia sea fans. Fish life includes drummer, luderick, blackfish, one-spot pullers, leatherjackets, kingfish and bream.
22 – 30 metres
33° 51′ 05.4″S 151° 17′ 34.8″E AUS66
The reef is just off the Macquarie Lighthouse and about 150 metres long. The reef consists of spectacular walls covered in sponges, soft corals, sea squirts, ascidians and gorgonias. The fish life is variable but includes pike, silver sweep, bream, leatherjackets, yellowtail, silver sweep, pike, mado and one-spot pullers. Due to the depth, it is only for
33° 53′ 20″ S 151° 17′ 14″ E AUS66
The dive is on the cliffs about 500 to 600 metres north of Ben Buckler Point. This offers a spectacular wall with nudibranchs and other small marine life. Silver sweep, yellowtail, blue groper sergeant bakers and sea dragons can be seen, but the area’s fish life is relatively poor.
Ben Buckler Reef
The diving at either end of Bondi Beach is excellent. However, the best dive site is at Ben Buckler Point at North Bondi. In very calm seas an excellent entry point is found right out to the south of the rock platform. The bottom is composed of large boulders and overhangs. Divers will be rewarded with an intricate maze of rock formations, yielding some of the more impressive caves to be found around Sydney (Split and Cathedral). It offers moray eels, cuttlefish, eastern blue devils, eastern rock blackfish snakeskin wrasse, blue groper, senator wrasse, maori wrasse, crimson-lined wrasse, pink-lined wrasse, stingaree, garfish, wirrah, half-banded seaperch, yellowtail kingfish, blue-striped cardinalfish, silver trevally, bream, yellowtail, snapper, luderick, silver sweep, old wife, rock cale, red morwong, one-spot puller and white ear. Common on the sand adjacent to the rocks are serpent and eels sea dragons. An excellent dive from beach or boat. If the sea is up, forget it.
Flat Rock, South Bondi
25 to 30 metres
The best entry and exit point is to the right of the stairs from Wilga Street. The seabed at first is composed of large rocks interspersed with sand patches. There are overhanging rocks with moray eels, cuttlefish, snakeskin wrasse, yellow-finned pomfret, crimson-banded wrasse and blue gropers. Further along the reef the rocky bottom offers vertical walls with two small caves full of bullseyes and wobbegong. Other fish life includes stingarees, crayfish, leatherjackets, red morwong, senator wrasse and maori wrasse.
33° 54′ 58″S 151° 16′ 17″E (AUS66)
Shark Point is located on the north side of Clovelly Bay and entry consists of an often wave swept sea terrace. Calm seas are required. The local council has also prohibited scuba diving in Clovelly Bay between 10 am and 4 pm from October to Anzac Day, due to excessive numbers of divers “interfering” with other water users. No joke, they will prosecute you. Madness.
The easiest way to dive Shark Point now is by boat. The bottom is covered by cunjovoi sea squirts near the shore, but this soon gives way to huge rounded boulders and small drop-offs. Sponges, sea fans and ascidians grow on the rocks. You will also see bullseyes, blue devilfish, roughies, wobbegongs, cuttlefish, sea dragons and pipehorses in deeper areas. Visibility is generally good.
Clovelly Pool is the most protected of all of Sydney’s ocean beaches. It is closed to divers at times, to stop dive shops monopolising the pool’s concrete surrounds and the pool itself. Parking is also difficult. On the sand around the pool there are rays, numbfish whiting, Port Jackson sharks, sole, wobbegongs and cuttlefish. Around the reef you will often see large schools of trevally, yellowtail, bream, pike, blue groper and morwong. You can even dive in the very shallow pool for a nice night dive.
Thompsons Bay/Gordons Bay
Access is via the southern end of the Clovelly Beach car park and offers easy day and night diving when conditions are calm. Entry is directly from the carpark, just follow the path down into the water. A dive trail takes you around some shallow reef, with interesting small marine life. It would suit the beginner or macro-photographer. There are a few fish from time to time, groper, moray eel, mado, old wife, whiting, maori wrasse, bullseye, red morwong, leatherjacket, sergeant baker, silver sweep, white ear goatfish, rainbow wrasse, crimson banded wrasse, senator wrasse and eastern foxfish. This dive usually has moderate to good visibility. A nature trail, defined by a chain, can be followed around the site although the chain can disappear under the sand at some points.The trail is approximately 600ms and the dive itself will take on average 30-40 minutes. Features include a small wall imaginatively named “The Wall” and is considered the most interesting part of the dive. Gordons Bay is protected by a reef called the ‘Bommie”. You will find Sydney’s usual suspects on this dive, blue groper, sting rays, wrasse , nudibranchs ,goat fish and Port Jackson in winter.
Wedding Cake Is
33° 55′ 42″S 151° 16′ 00″E AUS66
Wedding Cake Island is located about 400 metres off the southern headland of Coogee Beach Because of the distance from a boat ramp, you need relatively calm seas to be able to get to the dive site. The bottom here is a lot of small boulders covered in sponges, ascidians and soft and hard corals. Fish life includes bream, old wife, luderick, blue groper, combfish, black reef leatherjacket, one-spot pullers and bullseyes.
This site consists of a series of walls that run almost east-west to the north of Mahon Pool site. The walls are covered in growth and offer sea dragons, eastern blue devilfish, cuttlefish, firefish, kingfish and leatherjackets. It is a very good dive site, rarely visited and only really accessible with a private boat. It is a long run to a safe ramp.
Mahon Pool at the northern end of Maroubra Beach has one of the best shore dives in Sydney. This can only be done by experienced divers and only in exceptionally calm seas, usually in the winter when westerlies are blowing. The swell hammers the site even in good weather. It offers a spectacular underwater topography of rock steps, walls and gutters, great sponge gardens and plenty of fish, sea dragons, rays, luderick, groper, mado, Maori wrasse, crimson-banded wrasse, sergeant baker, yellowtail, white ear, red morwong, girdled parma, old wife, snapper, Sydney cardinal fish, bream, bullseye, roughy, silver sweep, rock cale, eastern rock blackfish, striped seapike and one-spot puller. Due to the dangerous exit point and the distance to swim, this is definitely for experienced divers. Exits are difficult except at low tide. It can be done as a boat dive.
This site is diveable in all but the biggest southerly and south-easterly winds when swells are low. In any sea the entry can be dangerous. Access to this site is a long hike from the South Maroubra Surf Club carpark. Along the sandline you will see lots of boulders and kelp. The real attraction at South Maroubra is the fish life, dozen of species being seen on every dive, wobbegongs, Port Jackson sharks, serpent eels, sea dragons, red firefish, yellowtail, yellowtail kingfish, snapper, bream, old wife, blue groper, moon wrasse, comb fish, senator wrasse, eastern rock blackfish, moray eel, cuttlefish and dusky flatheads. There are two wrecks in this area. The Tekapo was wrecked in May 1899 close to the southern headland. On 16 January 1939 the TSS Belbowrie went up on the shore. Now there is a lot of wreckage to be found along the shore, although very
little is identifiable.
33° 57′ 29″S 151° 15′ 51″E (AUS66)
Magic Point, the far point of South Maroubra, offers a dive on one of the few remaining grey nurse shark aggregations in Sydney. It is very popular with charter boats and dozens of divers can be on the site at any time. A wall runs east/west here and the mostly female sharks live around a cave on the wall. The depth of the cave is about 15 metres. Apart from the sharks, there are cuttlefish, sea dragons, rays and huge schools of yellowtail.
33° 57′ 46″ S 151° 15′ 52″ E. AUS66
This area offers a few tunnels and caves on a rocky reef teeming with fish. The reef edge is composed of large rocks, providing giving way to sand. The sponge life here is excellent. The fishlife is a highlight with red morwong, yellowtail, seapike, one-spot pullers, bream, snapper and wobbegongs In Spring Port Jackson sharks can carpet the bottom.
Rifle Range Reef
33° 58′ 02″ S 151° 15′ 51″ E AUS66
The Long Bay Rifle Range is located in Malabar in the area from Long Bay to Maroubra Beach. The boat diving site consists of two walls. The first drops from 10 metres to 15 metres. The second drops from a top of 20 metres to 25 metres. The site is teeming with seapike, yellowtail, one-spot pullers, cuttlefish, eastern blue devilfish and sea dragons.
S33° 57′ 59.3″ E151° 15′ 55.8″ AUS66
On the outer northern headland of Long Bay there are a number of walls, all roughly running north-south. There are very large boulders on the wall area, with sea dragons hanging around the kelp. There are also a lot of fishlife, ladder-finned pomfrets, eastern blue devilfish, cuttlefish, yellowtail, seapike and one-pot pullers.
33° 58′ 07.6″S 151° 15′ 57.0″E AUS66
At the south-eastern corner of the rifle range is Yellow Rock, a very dangerous rock fishing location and also a dive spot. The bottom is rocky interspersed with kelp patches and sand. The bottom is also dotted with rubbish, parts of cars dumped from the top of the cliff. There are swim-throughs and caves full of fish, seapike, yellowtail, eastern rock blackfish, luderick, Port Jackson sharks, wobbegongs, rays, eastern blue devilfish, sea dragons, leatherjackets and one-spot pullers. The wall is covered in sea squirts and some small gorgonia sea fans.
Just below the clubhouse of Randwick Golf Club an old swimming enclosure marks a shore diving location. Out from here a patchy bottom gives way to some large rocks with schools of bullseyes and eastern rock blackfish. The sand edge offers flathead, stingaree, sea dragons and numbfish. Port Jackson sharks, bream, snapper, yellowtail, whiting and leatherjackets are also encountered. Makes for a good night dive or photography dive.
33° 58′ 44″S 151° 15′ 29″ E AUS66
This exposed reef is a good boat dive offering swim-throughs, caves and tunnels. Fishlife is quite good with schools of yellowtail, ladder-finned pomfrets, nannygais and pike. Cuttlefish and moray eels can be seen around the reef. Pieces of the Malabar wreck can be found in 8M.
Wreck of the MV “Malabar”
33° 58′ 13″ S 151° 15′ 43″ E. AUS66
She was built in 1925 by Barclay, Curle and Company, Scotland, a 350 foot long diesel passenger ship for the Java to Singapore run. In 1931 she left Melbourne for Singapore. The weather became hazy off the NSW coast and then a dense fog blanketed the coast. Due to careless navigation she ran up on Cape Banks. Storms followed and progressively smashed the wreck into tiny pieces. Even the massive engines have been broken up, with crankcases and gears strewn across the bottom. She is also mingled with pieces of the “Goolgwai”. The boat ramp at Fishermans Road, Malabar is the start of a long walk to the entry point at the southern most rock just around the point. Calm weather is needed. Blackfish and bream patrol the wreck.
Wreck of the SS “Goolgwai”
The 125.7 feet long wooden ship “Almeria” was built in Kingston, Canada in 1918 as a “Castle” class auxiliary minesweeper. Later she was used as a fishing trawler in the U.K. In 1928, the small vessel was sold to Red Funnel Fisheries Ltd of Sydney and renamed. On 13 September 1939, she was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and reused as a minesweeper. With hostilities over she again returned to fishing. In 1955, the Goolgwai was returning to Sydney Harbour after fishing the Far South Coast. She had 400 boxes of fish aboard. Thick fog was encountered and she ran aground on North Point, Malabar, in a heavy swell. The Captain ordered the engines full astern but the prop was fouled on the rocks. She is north-west of the main wreckage of the MV Malabar and her debris is mingled with the other wreck site.
A path on the left side of the chapel and across the golf course leads to a safe entry. From there head out towards the entrance of the bay and into the open ocean. There are swim-throughs and small gullies with yellowtail, luderick, eastern blackfish, pike and sweep. Further north it deepens with Port Jackson and wobbegong sharks lazing in the gutters.
M & K Reef, St Michael’s Golf Club
33° 59′ 12.9″S 151° 15′ 24.3E (WGS84)
The wall runs roughly north-south and offers some small cracks and overhangs. A large but low swim-through is created by a huge rock. There are lots of sponges, gorgonias and sea squirts all along the wall. Off the wall the bottom is composed of rocks, with lots of kelp. The site also offers good numbers of leatherjackets, cuttlefish, yellowtail, silver sweep and seapike. There are also eastern blue devilfish in the caves and sea dragons amongst the kelp.
A very old cemetery near St Michael’s Golf Club marks a series of offshore reef walls. Black reef leatherjackets, bream, yellowtail, silver sweep, one spot pullers and sea pike are common species. It is also possible to see blue morwong, fiddler rays, yellowtail kingfish, eastern blue devilfish and sea dragons. A slight current can affect the site.
Wreck of the “Kelloe”,
48 to 51 metres
33° 59′ 11″S 151° 15′ 55″E AUS66
The 50 metre long iron steamship Kelloe was built by J. Laing in Sunderland, UK in 1866 as a collier. In 1891 the Kelloe was purchased by the Wallarah Coal Co in Sydney. In 1902, the Kelloe left the South Bulli jetty, bound for Sydney with coal. Off Botany Bay she collided with the wooden steamer Dunmore. Within 15 minutes, the Kelloe had sunk. Today the wreck of the Kelloe lies about 1.25 kilometres off Little Bay, upright on a sandy bottom with the bow facing north. The hull is opened out, sitting up a metre or two on the eastern side. The machinery and boiler are all visible. She is considered one of the best deeper wrecks in Sydney.
33° 59′ 44″ S 151° 15′ 08″ E AUS66
This boat diving site on smaller reef walls lies near the Sydney Pistol Club. It also offers a tunnel and plenty of crevices and overhangs. The fishlife on this dive can be excellent.
33° 59″ 47.1″S 151° 15″ 14.4E WGS84
An offshore reef wall runs north-south 700 metres north of Cape Banks. The reef also overs cracks, overhangs and boulders covered in sponges, sea tulips and small sea fans. Cuttlefish, one-spot pullers, sea dragons, bream, luderick, yellowtail, silver sweep and leatherjackets can be seen. A slight current affects this site.