Best for: SS Yongala – rated as one of the best wreck dives in the world
Offshore of Townsville, the natural reefs and the artificial reef of the SS Yongala wreck provide some of the best, yet accessible, big fish diving on the Great Barrier Reef (the ‘Reef’). The amount of marine life at these sites will amaze you.
If you prefer to snorkel or go for a more relaxed shore dive, there is plenty to see in the shallow bays around Magnetic Island.
Quite rightly rated one of the best wreck dives in the World, within a single dive on the Yongala you’ll likely to be able to tick off six of the Great Eight – all except whales and clams. The wreck, sunk in 1911, is an isolated artificial reef that really attracts ‘the big stuff’, including large schools of fish, turtles, mantra rays, clownfish and inquisitive sea snakes that follow you searching for food stirred up by your fin kicks. Divers are also likely to see Maori wrasse, reef sharks aplenty, giant trevally and your highlight of the dive will be meeting the huge resident Queensland Groper usually located at the bow.
Dive boats are available on a daily basis from Townsville, Magnetic Island and the Palm Islands offering double-dives on the SS Yongala – not to be missed if you are in the area.
Lodestone Reef is the outer reef closest to Magnetic Island and Townsville – and hence the most easily dived from these locations.
As with all the outer reefs, Lodestone has a variety of dive sites, some offering more protection than others, and the site is usually selected on the day by the locally experienced dive boat operator. Lodestone’s diverse terrain ranges from coral bommies scattered across a sandy bottom to deep gullies with colourful walls running through the reef, where large schools of fish shelter from surge and currents.
Visibility is invariably good and with depths ranging from 1m to 20m, there are sites for snorkellers and divers – beginner to advanced. It’s a place where you’ll find half of the Great Eight – Maori wrasse, Clownfish, Turtles and Reef Sharks – in a single dive. Add in the parrotfish, angelfish and stingrays and it’s one of those sites you will want to dive over and over again.
Other great dive sites in this area are around the nearby Wheeler and Davies Reefs.
Most of the sandy bays on the eastern side of Magnetic Island have coral reefs extending from about 3m down to 12m. As the water is generally clearest on the eastern side of the island, these make perfect snorkelling and shore dive sites. There are even a couple of shallow wrecks – always guaranteed to attract a variety of fish from sergeant majors to batfish.
The most popular are:
- Arthur Bay with plenty of swim throughs and caverns, large bommies, great coral cover and the Platypus wreck whose huge steam boilers are still intact.
- Florence Bay with swim throughs, bommies, caves and lots of coral cover – look out for blue spot lagoon rays, epaulette sharks and tropical rock lobsters.
- Alma Bay with dive sites called ‘The Coral Gardens’ and ‘The Canyons’ – not too hard to guess what they hold in store.
- Right inside Geoffrey Bay at just 8m is the shipwreck of the German barque Moltke – best visited on a high tide in calm conditions.
You can dive and snorkel around Pelorus Island on a weekend safari trip that includes a night camping on Pelorus Island.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE CAYS AND REEFS IN TOWNSVILLE NORTH QUEENSLAND.