Home sweet home! When you have diving right on your doorstep it is very easy to get complacent. Likewise when you are lucky enough to get to travel to tropical locations on a regular basis, you sometimes forget to appreciate what is right in front of you.
Sydney diving is very different to anywhere I have dived before. The water temp ranges from 14 degrees in the winter to 24 at the end of summer. There is no reef as such so you don’t get the corals that you do further north, but diving in Sydney is an adventure. It’s not a case of just swimming in a fish tank as one does on holidays, you need to go, seek, explore and find the critters you want to see. This fact makes Sydney diving very rewarding, and also means that you spend a lot of your dive sticking your head in holes and face in the weeds in an attempt to find what you’re looking for!
If you are up for the challenge, prepared to don a thick wetsuit, the extra led and fight the sometimes strong surge you will be compensated with sharks (Wobbegong, Port Jackson, Grey Nurse), weedy sea dragons, giant cuttlefish, octopus and on a good day turtles and dolphins. You may even be lucky enough to encounter a curious migrating whale at the right time of year! Though I’ve never been that lucky. The visibility and marine life are far better in the winter when the water temp drops, most certainly a case of not being able to have your cake and eat it too.
Sydney is unique in that there is very rarely a day even in the worst of conditions that all diving will be cancelled. We have the protection of the harbour if the swell is too big to leave the heads, or in flat conditions we have dive sites across endless kilometres to choose from.
All the dive sites can be fantastic on their day, but my favourite (along with most Sydney siders) is Magic Point, home to a dozen resident Gray Nurse sharks who just love to be photographed!
For those who prefer to rent a tank , grab a buddy and head out for a shore dive I would suggest heading north of the bridge to Manly’s Shelly Beach.
Magic Point is just south of the suburb of Maroubra and is best accessed by boat (leaving from Rose Bay or Manly), though is also possible as a shore dive if you willing to take on the 1km walk in with all your gear – no thanks!
The shark cave is absolutely the draw here – located in about 16m of water, it’s a pretty simple drop down to visit the Grey Nurses. If you’re lucky, all the sharks will be meandering about in front of their cave, and you can just rest on the sea floor and gawk at them. There’s often a mix of full grown (2.5 – 3m) and juveniles, so you can see the family at play!
This is the only beach on the east coast of Australian to face west (fun fact!). Along with a sizable resident blue grouper and the odd Weedy sea dragon, wobbegong and Port Jackson shark in the winter months you can see Dusky Whalers when they come into breed. Very cool.
The Gap is, as it suggests, at the entrance to Sydney Harbour from the ocean. It’s a fairly protected spot, so is a pretty sure bet in most weather. As with much of Sydney diving, the environment is big boulders and load of seaweed. So, effort looking in to rock crevices and weedy forest is required! Keep and eye out for friendly cuttlefish – so cute!
There are a number of sites around the northern entrance to the Harbour, and common ones include:
- Old Man’s Hat: features a swimthrough
- Blocks: Good for spotting Wobbegong sharks
Pro Dive in the eastern suburb of Coogee not only have the best ever weekend snorkel seller and tank filler (me!), but they also run both SSI and PADI courses from open water to instructor. As well as this they are the only dive shop in Sydney with their own boat. This means that they can offer boat diving 6 times a week and guided shore diving Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. They also have a sister store in Manly, north of the harbour that offers the same services.