The Bindaree was a 55ft wooden fishing trawler that was swamped in heavy seas and sank in 1982. It is found 30 minutes from Gladstone. Average visibility around the wreck is 15 metres. Despite the hull gradually decomposing she has been a popular fishing and dive spot. The site is well known and is usually marked by fishing dinghies. The site needs to be dived at slack water. The attraction is huge clouds of fish that seem to be drawn to this small wreck from everywhere.
23 32 084 151 16 415 WGS84
This is an easy second dive site used by locals on the way home. This site offers some good patches of corals and the site has some good fish life including cod and coral trout. The site has an average visibility of 10 metres.
Sable Chief Rocks, Facing Island
23:48:800 151:23:500 WGS84
Sable Chief Rocks dry at low water on Facing Island’s ocean side. The site was named after the schooner “Sable Chief” that was shipwrecked on the rocks in 1856. The ship’s anchor can still be found on the site in 5 metres, but there is little else left. There are some soft and hard corals, including black coral trees. The marine life includes coral trout, crayfish, turtles and a wide array of nudibranchs. The site visibility will reach 15 metres in winter when the winds are offshore.
23:29:679 151:25: 440
This scallop trawler caught alight off Curtis Island and sank in 1990. She is rapidly decomposing but the fish life is prolific including grouper, reef fish, sharks, trevally, red jewfish. Visibility is usually around 15 m.
This 50ft timber trawler sank in 2000 and is now resting upright on the bottom. It has attracted plenty of fish including groper, cod, coral trout, cobia, rays, wobbegongs, red jewfish. Sea snakes are also common. The visibility is around 15 m.
This 30ft steel yacht went down in 1982 while under tow after suffering engine trouble. Great marine life. Like all wrecks in the area it has instantly attracted lots of large fish. The area is current affected.
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In January 1896, the 211 foot long iron steamer Glanworth was entering Gladstone harbour and ran ashore near Settlement Point. The ship tilted over and filled with water. The charts were wrong but the correct Sailing Directions had not been consulted.
The wreck is now not very large with the boiler, stern section and propeller being the main identifiable items. She is also home to some fish. Visibility is around 10 metres.
The island lies 70kms off Gladstone. It has been a bird sanctuary, turtle nesting site and research station for a long time. It is also the site for a reef resort.
The island is approximately 300 x 600m and covers 16 hectares with lovely white sand beaches and lots of shade from lush vegetation mainly pisonia and casuarina, with some pandanus groves. The island is in the centre of a much larger submerged reef system.
Air temperatures are 22-35 degrees celcius winter to summer, sea temperatures are 17-23 degrees. The best visibility is often in the summer. There is space for 80 guests but it never seems too crowded. It is a little cooler in the water than a spot like Lady Elliott and the visibility is also lower, 10-20m usually. Visibility is can get to 35m, but usually on the lower end as this is an island on the mid-shelf reef. Tide rise and fall is 4 metres.
There are good nutrient flows around the islands meaning that it has some of best soft corals and filter feeding life in the Capricorn-Bunker Group.
The island was the site of a turtle soup factory, the buildings later becoming the research station in 1950s. In the 1932, the resort opened although it has been modernised several times since. Access is by helicopter or 3 hour ferry ride. Like all resorts on the reef it can be pricey, but the food and service are very good.
There is a dive shop on the island as well as other water-activities for the family. Turtle breeding tours are run from October to March. Prior to mid January it is laying activity on the night time high tide and afterward hatching during the night.
All dives are escorted and the destination picked by the staff based on the weather and the capabilities of the group. However, three days a week they schedule remote trips to Lamont, Sykes and Fitzroy Reefs.
Like all reefs on the GBR, Heron goes through cyclical disturbance. A cyclone in 1979-80 destroyed a lot of the dive sites popular along the southern side of the reef and in Wistari Channel. It took ten years for them to recover, but even then good alternative sites were located and added to the itinerary. If there has been a recent destructive event, don’t be surprised that a well-publicised site is no longer visited.
Just out from the lagoon entrance, there are 6 coral bommies along the edge of the reef covered in branching corals and rising up from a sandy bottom. They are clouded with small resident reef fish as well as schools of batfish, Moorish idols, coral trout, moray eels, sweetlips, reef sharks, trevally, Barracuda, Strawberry Hussars and barramundi. During the late afternoon in winter, they also tend to be visited by manta rays and eagle rays who want to use the cleaning station. Smaller fish are numerous and tame. The site can have strong currents. One of the most photographed dive sites in the country.
This site on the northern side of Heron is more accessible at high water. Crevices , caves and walls and ledges. The overhangs are draped in gorgonia and soft corals. In the crevices are lionfish, crays, morays, angelfish and nudibranchs.
Lies about 150metres NW of the Heron Bommies. The reef is dominated by staghorn corals near the surface and the reef wall drops down on to sand and coral rubble. Along the site there is also a 10m high bommie. Around the bommie there are batfish, white-tipped reef sharks, the usual reef fish. Mantas also visit the several cleaning stations at this dive site. A small cave is filled with soft corals and sponges and nudibranchs.
A sheltered cave in the reef edge about the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The inside of the cave is an easy dive with good smaller fish and invertebrate life. The site offers access to the open ocean with large schools of fish and deeper water, batfish, snapper and groper.
Wistari reef wall
The large Wistari reef offers a variety of diving from shallow coral gardens to deep walls. In the shallows are dominated by hard corals, especially staghorns. Slightly deeper there tends to be small crevices and caves packed with marine life and a few small bommies around 10 metres to 20m. Much of the channel is tide swept wall patrolled by pelagic fish and turtles.
The site lies adjacent to the research station on a gently sloping wall of Wistari Channel. The channel is current affected and can be planned as a drift dive. There are small bommies with groves of staghorn corals in the shallows. There are clouds of small fish, turtles, mantas and reef sharks. Schools of yellow striped sea perch.
Hole in the Wall
A hole in the reef is large enough for two divers to swim through side by side. The area offers a lot of variety of terrain, crevices, ledges, drop-offs, tunnels and channels. The overhangs have plenty of colourful soft corals, sea fans and other smaller invertebrates. In deeper water there are some small bommies patrolled by eels, greasy cod, angels, lionfish and Moorish idols.
This site is 100 metres north of the Blue Pools and consists of a giant mushroom-shaped coral bommie packed with coral trout, butterfly cod, glass fish and cardinal fish. This bommie is a cleaning station visited by large manta rays and turtles. It is a relatively shallow and easy dive.
As the name suggests, this entire dive site is covered in hard and soft corals of all different types. There are many different types of crustaceans hiding in the corals. And perched in the higher branches for those with a keen eye are scorpion fish waiting patiently for their next meal to swim by.
Tenements lies hidden behind a 12m wide coral plateau. Large flat bommies are a great place to look for nudibranchs and as you come to the corner of the plateau at around 18m, shoals of fish gather and feed on the nutrients of the incoming tide. The wall provides a good chance to see grey reef sharks, barracuda and mackerel. Lay back and relax as the current drifts you towards Shark Ledge.
One of the drains for Wistari reef, named so because of the 3 large bommies that are spread down a steep sandy slope. a very good drift dive when the current is running around to the old jetty. Lots of pelagics, nudibranchs, hard corals and if you’re lucky, an olive sea snake coming up to the shallows for a quick breath of air before heading back into the deep water of the channel.
8 to 18 meters
A large gully leads out to beautiful coral wall full of biodiversity. Just past the gully there a few scattered bommies at 18 meters. The wall is best observed from. There are schooling unicorn fish, many spotted sweetlips and milkfish feeding on the surface.
This site consists of a series of shallow canyons cutting into the edge of the reef that are filled with fish, turtles and sharks. Along the ridges between the canyons, you will often see groups of big fin reef squid vertically stacked in the water column, rippling with changing colours as you swim past them. Out deeper there are scattered bommies, each with their own array of fish and other marine life.
Affectionately known as the Turtle Grotto. You can see turtles everywhere. Asleep, swimming, feeding or just being Turtles.
Relatively flat sandy bottom surrounding a series of scattered bommies. The site attracts Green and Loggerhead turtles, Black and White Tip Reef Sharks and cradles a wealth of colorful Nudibranchs..
This coral cay is surrounded by a large closed lagoon and reef system worth a camp (with a permit, limited to 30-60 at a time when available) and a snorkel.
It is covered in pisonia forest and this provides nesting sites for white-capped and black noddies from Nov-March, peaking in December. If you don’t like bird noise, droppings and possible risk of bird ticks don’t go. In Oct –May wedged tailed shearwaters burrow in to the ground and terns nest in the undergrowth. Island is also a turtle breeding site.
Polmaise Bommies, Masthead Island
WGS84 23:34:401 151:41:974
Visibility in the site is a good 20 metres with stunning sea life, overhangs and swim-throughs. The diverse fish life around Polmaise Bommies includes lion fish, cray fish, coral trout and barramundi.
Wreck of the Tambaroora, Masthead Island
The 356 ton twin screw steamer ‘Tambaroora’ was bound from Sydney to Rockhampton. On the 22nd of July 1879, due to careless navigation, the ‘Tambaroora’ ran aground on Polmaise Reef. Several unsuccessful attempts to get the vessel off failed and she broke up. The rudder, two engine pistons, two boilers and propeller are still identifiable. Coils of fencing wire and other parts of the cargo can be seen. 50 m away is another timber wreck. Five other wrecks are also found on the island. The seabed consists predominantly of coral reef debris, algae and plate corals. The marine life includes damsel fish, bream, coral trout, sweet lip, puffer fish, wobbegongs, tawny nurse sharks and bass. The average visibility is about 10 m.
North West Island
In the past this area permits island camping with a permit limited to 150 people at a time. Compressors are also allowed. Drop toilets are provided but nothing else. Diving means long walks over dry reef flat in full gear.
At 91 hectares this is the largest cay on the GBR. It is also the largest breeding colony for shearwaters and white-capped noddys. Nov – March mutton birds and terns nest on the islands
It is covered in pisonia forest. It has had guano mining, a turtle soup factory and introduced pests but has recovered and is now verdant and pristine. The island is an important nesting place for green turtles from October to December. Spectacular gardens of staghorn and soft coral, clams, sea anemones and Blue Link starfish. The island’s southern end has drop offs with deep gutters eroded into the reefs.
Little disturbed by guano miners and other early uses, this small 11 hectare island is home to seabirds and turtles. It is covered in lush vegetation including pisonia forest and cordia trees with prominent orange flowers. Camping for 30 people at a time is sometimes available. Boat access can be tricky and it’s a nice snorkel spot.
North Reef/ S.S. Cooma
The wreck of the S.S. Cooma lies up in the shallows after she hit the reef in 1926. She was a large 3936 ton passenger steamer. Shortly after grounding she was gutted by fire and abandoned. She is now a jumble of metal being slowly covered by coral. The boiler, prop shaft and hull plates are still identifiable. The triple expansion steam engine is exposed at low water.
North Reef/ Manta Channel
On The northern end of the reef near the lighthouse there is a tidal channel often visited by mantas.
This is a 45 minute ride NE of Heron Island, offering a drop off with turtles, big fish, and large gorgonia sea fans.
This is usually offered as a shallower second dive after the walls of Sykes Reef. It is home to morays, delicate coral gardens and plenty of pelagic and small reef fish.