For a long weekend getaway, you really don’t want to be travelling more than 2-3 hours. So from Sydney, Nelson Bay is right in the right spot if diving is on your list of activities. If you hit a good run with traffic (which we did), it’s about 2 1/2 hours north of Sydney – and has the bonus of being slightly warmer than heading south.
There’s a number of different dive spots around Nelson Bay, but the most famous ones, such as around Broughton Island, are between 30 minutes to an hour and a bit boat ride from the marina*. We dived with Let’s Go Adventures whose website is pretty good and includes dive site descriptions, so check it out!
Being quite offshore, you don’t really want to go when there’s a swell rolling in. Not only because it makes the the boat ride rough, but also as the best dives sites are closed due to being close to rocks. One in particular that we’ve heard is great is Looking Glass, which runs between a break in an island, so if there’s any kind of swell you risk being squashed against the rocks. Can’t argue with that.
The ones we did get to were Broughton Island’s North Rock and Shark Gutters, and Cabbage Tree Island.
Our first dive at North Rock seemed not to be going to be too interesting (though there were a surprising amount of Port Jackson sharks which we didn’t expect) until – Mola Mola!! In the dreary churned up water, on an overcast day, overhead suddenly a sun fish went gliding by. What the?? Apparently, not a normal thing to happen given the reactions of the dive guides with us. We spent the rest of the dive just moseying about, and didn’t stay in that long, as CHILLY! NSW water is still pretty cold in October.
As the vis was a bit rubbish, we then headed in to Cabbage Tree Island, and dived where apparently there is a wreck. Which we didn’t see. Navigation’s not our strong point it would seem. Although, we couldn’t have been 5 metres from it and not noticed as the water was not great.
But the next day promised to be better – the sky was clear, the sun shining, and the boat only half full.
So we stopped in to have a look at Looking Glass, but unfortunately the swell was still a bit big for jumping in between rocks.
But no bother, off we headed round to the back side as the day before. The first dive was a bit hard work, noticeably so when we only stayed in for 41 minutes. We were compensated back on surface though when a humpback whale and her calf were busy doing their best fin slaps of towards Myall Lakes. ‘Hello, hello, can you see me?’ they were saying, I’m sure.
The second dive though was far more rewarding – heaps and heaps of Grey Nurse sharks wandering around the aptly-named Shark Gutters. So we just sat and watched. The big ones were up to 2.5 metres, so it was pretty ace to share the gutter with them.
* Nelson Bay’s marina is surprisingly developed, with a good bar right on the waterfront, and plenty of eateries though they are a bit touristy (says a tourist). And it’s just a short walk to the town itself, which has a few good cafes – our particular favourite was the cafe at http://www.thehomeinterior.com.au/ which along with having great food (who knew something as simple as banana on toast could be so delicious!) had lovely surrounds and smiley cafe staff.
We also ventured to the Golf Club for Saturday night dinner – hilarious. So nostalgic for anyone who was brought up with family dinners at the RSL / Workingmen’s Club.