This area is popular with weekend divers and tourists. The areas commonly visited by local divers are artificially split down the middle by the Queensland-NSW border. If you want more information on the local area, see also the Tweed Heads locality in the NSW dive site guide.
The Deep Hole
This area is within the Broadwater and offers sheltered diving in rough weather. It is used as a night diving location. There is an old barge sunk nearby as a dive site. The visibility is good at high tide but the fish life is not as good as outside the Broadwater.
This site lies off Main Beach near the Spit. The reef is low and is dominated by boulders. There are some corals and sea fans. The fish life is very good with sharks, rays and pelagics as well as smaller tropical fish. The area is current-affected. Visibility is good especially at high tide.
Eighty Foot Reef
This reef has a lot of colourful growth and fish on a low reef that is home to a few pinnacles. There are lots of featherstars and nudibranchs. This reef lies 1.5 kms offshore.
Wreck of the Scottish Prince
-27 57.682086 153 26.085492
The Scottish Prince was a 210ft, 894 ton iron sailing barque built in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1878. On 3 February 1887, the sailing vessel was on a voyage from Glasgow to Brisbane. After midnight, a navigation error saw her run aground. Several attempts were made to tow the Scottish Prince off the sand bar. Within a few days she was abandoned, about four hundred metres east of Main Beach on the Gold Coast, just outside the breakers off Seaworld. Now the bow is pointing towards the shore and is broken into three main sections. The bow and stern are both reasonably intact. The sandy bottom is easily mobilised and this scrubs much of the hull clean, but she offers some sponges, corals, pelagic fish, rays, octopus and wobbegong sharks. The wreck is not current-affected and visibility is reasonably good. Divers from the Underwater Research Group of Queensland found the wreck in the late 1950s and it is now a popular tourist dive. Changes to the Gold Coast beaches wrought by the building of obstacles along the beaches have stripped the coast of its sand. More of the wreck has been recently exposed, including its anchor. Avoid damaging the Scottish Prince, by anchoring away from the shipwreck.
Palm Beach Reefs
Palm Beach Reef is located offshore of Palm Beach and extends approximately 1.2 kilometres seawards. The reef is made up of a series of rocky ridges and gullies covered by extensive growths of hard and soft coral, anemones, sea squirts and sponges. Smaller patches of inshore reef are known locally as Bait Reef. Bait Reef is periodically covered by sand. The mobile sand particles reduce the amount of delicate marine life on the rocks, but she has some good fish life including small shark. Being an unprotected inshore reef, it is frequently spearfished.
Palm Beach Artificial Reef
In the 1960s and 1970s Palm Beach was badly damaged by cyclones and short groyne walls were built in the 1980s to help recover the sand. This just disrupted the replenishment of sand elsewhere and now major works are needed to rectify the problem. Work will soon start on the $4.5 million Palm Beach Shoreline Project. This will include dredging and the construction of an artificial reef about 400 metres off Palm Beach over the next four years until 2020. This will attract fish, but as a reef build to slow beach erosion, don’t expect too much hard substrate that might attract more delicate marine life.
Not far from Kirra Beach, is a dive site that literally comes and goes. The area had a scatter of reef beyond the surf zone that offers some coral, fish and even kelp gardens. Morays, porcupine fish and wobbegongs, bait fish, turtles and groupers are common, as well as nudibranchs and flatworms. The interference with sand movement in the 1960s and 70s slowly buried it. The reef disappeared in about 2001 due to sand pumping filling in Kirra Beach. A groin extension at Kirra and major sand pumping works have seen it reappear after a 13 year absence. Around 100m of coral reef has been exposed. This can be done as a shore dive on a calm day, but its well offshore and remember that Kirra is a surf beach. Very calm weather is needed.
Wreck of the “Cambus Wallace”
Stradbroke Island was once a complete island 38½ miles long. Now it is divided into two parts after a huge explosion caused by the wreck of the barque Cambus Wallace. The steel sailing ship Cambus Wallace was built by Russell and Co. at Port Glasgow in 1894. Loaded with general merchandise she was on her maiden voyage to Brisbane under Captain Leggat, While bound for Australia, she struck several severe gales. Almost as soon as repairs had been made, a new storm caused more damage to masts, spars, and sails. She made the Solitary Islands (New South Wales) after 121 days. On 2 September 1894. fierce southerly winds were again encountered. By nightfall there was little or no visibility. Very heavy rain was falling. After several hours the roll of waters increased, and the sound of breakers ashore could be heard. Without further warning, the Cambus Wallace struck the sandy bottom on the outer surf line near Jumpin Pin, on Stradbroke Island. She was immediately in extreme danger. In a few minutes she was broadside on to the foaming waters. Soon she was carried into the second break, bumping heavily in the soft sand and surf that was a “boiling pot of seething foam”. Within half an hour the steel main mast of cracked and broke, the rigging falling towards the bows. All were ran to the poop for safety. The force of the sea was enormous, and the noise indescribable. Morning came with the weather still heavy. Only the port cutter was undamaged but the barque listed so heavily to starboard that this boat couldn’t be launched. As the tide rose, seas broke open the hatches, and cargo was washed overboard towards the beach. One man swam ashore. Some of the crew took refuge in the rigging that remained. The steward went below and was never seen again. At noon the mate was washed overboard, but managed to reach the shore. The carpenter was then washed from the rigging and drowned. The cook jumped from the rigging and met a similar fate. Then as the day closed and darkness was again coming on the wind lulled. The others dived into the water as the barque broke up. They made it to land.
Salvage crews later brought ashore the cargo of explosives from the wreck and set it off in a huge explosion that loosened the dunes. They are credited with (along with several storms) causing the sea to break through and create North and South Stradbroke Island in 1896. Once the entrance was established, the heavy seas and strong tidal currents enlarged the channel from 20 feet to more than a mile and a quarter by 1898. Who really knows what really caused this channel, Jumpin Pin is an extremely dynamic area. A channel in the general area of Jumpinpin may have formed and silted up several times over recent millennia.
Changes to the channel affected local tides. Tidal inundation in the area around the mouth of the Logan River was dramatic. The oyster industry in the area was also affected by what was claimed to be changes in the water density interfering with the ability of the oysters to settle on the seafloor. As for the wreck, it began to slowly silt over. Ben Cropp dived the wreck quite a few times in the late 1960s and 70s. The bell of the Cambus Wallace was recovered by Harvie Ladlow in the 1970’s. Back then it was very substantial wreck with its hull fairly intact and cargo items still strewn about. Sand soon covered the wreck and it hasn’t been seen in the last 20 or 30 years. With all the sand pumping further south the Jumpin Pin area has again changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Commentators now doubt the wreck will ever be uncovered again but the Gold Coast sand moves about and one day she may reappear.
Gold Coast Seaway
5 -15 m
One of the few shore dives in SE Queensland is the Gold-Coast-Seaway. A pipe across the seaway has provided a hard surface for smaller marine life and the surrounding sandy bottom is often patrolled by large fish and rays. She is loved by anglers too, meaning that the easy entry spots are often occupied and you have to share the dive with lots of lost tackle. The dive has to be timed to slack water. Try not to surface in the channel there is boat traffic everywhere.
Local dive shops also use the area inside the Broadwater for sheltered student boat dives. It’s all sand, but the fish life is of some interest. Wave Break Island and the North wall are used. As the bottom is mainly covered in sand and rock, this is not a location for corals. This site also makes for a drift or night dive for the more experienced but watch out for the boat traffic.
Narrowneck Artificial reef
Narrowneck reef, near Surfer’s Paradise, is a $2.5 million coastal management work built in the mid 1990s in order to retain a more permanent supply of sand on the beach to satisfy tourist demand, and to stabilise the coastline. Made of sand bags, it’s neither particularly permanent or hard enough to attract much permanent life apart from some quick growing algae and smaller invertebrates. It does attract fish, and in good weather is regularly visited by divers.
In an area with mobile sand, this low reef only offers patchy growth, but the fish life can be fantastic.
Numerous small trawler wrecks are lie around the Gold Coast creating small but fish attracting dive sites. Dragin II, and the Aquarius are the best known. The wreck of the trawler Aquarian II site on the sand in 14m near Greta’s Reef. She lies upright, almost buried up to the decks in some areas and attracting plenty of small fish. Lying in different depths these sites vary depending on the amount of remains and the visibility in the area. Fisho websites show the GPS marks of lots of unidentified wrecks in the area.
South Stradbroke FAD
-27° 48.003′ S, 153° 54.285′ E
Just south of the marine park, fish attracting devices were planted outside the park boundary to compensate fishermen for loss of fishing grounds. There are four clusters totalling 20 fish attraction devices (FADs). They were trialled in 2010 and have been deployed at the 208ha South Stradbroke site. These devices generally attract fast growing, short-lived pelagic species, such as mahi mahi. Expect fishos to be unhappy about sharing it with divers, and unless there is a change of heart, its currently illegal to dive on it without a permit. Snorkelling is allowed but not spearfishing, its deep though.