The Coral Sea is as beautiful as it sounds. Home to the world famous Great Barrier Reef, the water meets Australia on the east coast of Queensland, providing a gorgeous stretch of coastline with incredible views and even better diving locations. There aren’t many places in the world with so many great scuba spots this close together, especially when they happen to be linked by one road – in this case, the Bruce Highway.
With it being so easy to travel between Queensland’s best diving locations by road, we thought we’d compile the ultimate ‘drive and dive’ road trip of some of the lesser-known locations that aren’t part of the main reef. We start our journey by hiring a car in Brisbane.
Brisbane to Bundaberg The first leg of our journey takes roughly five hours, but depending on how many dives you’d like to make, Noosa makes a great place for an overnight stop, or even to start your car journey. This stretch of coastline is further south than the Great Barrier Reef, but divers who ignore the Sunshine Coast do so at risk of missing some of the best sites in Australia. The nearest great dive to Brisbane is Flinders Reef. The main attraction here is the incredible range of wildlife on offer for the budding naturalist. Over 175 species and more than 100 different types of coral make Flinders an underwater zoo. Particular highlights are the native wobbegong sharks, although you’ll have to look hard to spot them thanks to their leathery camouflage. Just a little bit further up the coast you’ll find one of the best dive spots for a history buff. The wreck of the HMAS Brisbane is ranked as one of the top ten dive sites in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. Scuttled in 2005, the 1960s-era destroyer has been reclaimed by marine wildlife. It’s a surreal experience to share the vast vessel with lion fish and groupers, but one you won’t forget in a hurry. Bundaberg to Rockhampton Now we’re getting into Great Barrier Reef territory. The so-called ‘gateway’ to the reef is the pair of islands just off the coast near Gladstone; Heron Island and Lady Elliot Island. Take in one or both of these great diving locations, each with their own unique twist on the scuba experience. Heron Island is a great place to learn the basics of scuba diving, and it also plays home to a 5-star resort if you’re looking to spend a night or two in luxury. There’s a spectacular array of colourful coral to be found in the shallower waters near the beach that makes the area perfect for kids who might not be ready for the more challenging dives. Lady Elliot Island, on the other hand, is known for its wildlife. Located at the southernmost end of the Great Barrier Reef, over 1,000 species of fish can be found in the crystal clear waters, with manta rays and sea turtles being the standout features. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a humpback whale or two! Moving on up the coast leads to the Great Barrier Reef proper, with its own range of incredible dive sites, but if you’re after something a bit different, make sure to contact us about hiring a car and head on down the Sunshine Coast!