Five of the best places to go scuba diving in Victoria

Travelling Well | Cathy Anderson | Posted on 04 November 2019

Grab your wetsuit and fins and scuba dive Victoria’s intriguing underwater world.

Victoria may not boast tropical coral reefs, Nemos aplenty or bathtub temperatures but its underwater cred is just as vibrant as many tropical diving hotspots. 

Here are five of the best sites around the state to explore what lies beneath, from shallow, entry-level dives to advanced spots that require experience and perhaps specialist qualifications.


Slides: Aerial view of Blairgowrie; snorkelling Port Phillip.


Five of Victoria’s scuba-diving hotspots

1. Blairgowrie Pier 

The Mornington Peninsula offers some of the best experiences for entry-level divers — and for those who want to hone their macro photography skills. 

Blairgowrie Pier, at the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron 100km from Melbourne offers easy shore or ladder entry to a treasure trove of marine life with protected condions and a maximum depth of about 6m. Here you can see lovely sponges encasing the pylons, leatherjackets, octopus, squid and various types of nudibranchs — soft, colourful sea slugs.

But the highlight here is the annual migration of thousands of giant spider crabs from May to June. As the water cools, the crabs congregate in a safety-in-numbers attempt to moult their hard shells (so they can grow bigger) without being eaten by predators. Seeing hundreds of shells stacked up to 1m high is creepy, but very cool!

If jetties are your jam, just down the road is Portsea Pier where you can poke around to find the beautiful yet elusive weedy sea dragon. (These gorgeous creatures also like to hang around under Flinders Pier on the other side of the Peninsula.)  

As an added attraction you can pop out and have a post-dive pub lunch at Portsea Hotel overlooking the bay, or take a stroll along ‘Millionaire’s Walk’ to check out how some of the richest people in Australia live. 

While you’re there, explore the beauty of the Mornington Peninsula hinterland staying at RACV Cape Schanck Resort. Members receive 25 per cent of accommodation. 

2. The Arches Marine Sanctuary, Port Campbell

There’s a reason they call the stretch between Cape Otway and Port Fairy the Shipwreck Coast. Its changeable weather conditions and unrelenting pounding swell from the Southern Ocean have sunk an estimated 700 vessels. One of those is the 800m clipper the Loch Ard, which struck Mutton Bird Island and sank in 1878, near what is now called Loch Ard Gorge, named in honour of the two lone survivors of who swam ashore there. More than 140 years later, on a calm day you can dive the historic wreck within eyesight of the 12 Apostles just out of Port Campbell. 

Nearby, the Arches Marine Sanctuary offers a wonderful labrynthian experience – weather permitting. The landscape above the water is renowned for sky-scraping limestone structures and underneath is just as impressive. At 19m to 25m divers can swim up, over, in and around the limestone canyons, swim-throughs and twisting archways that the park was named after. This protected 45 hectare marine park is subject to the thundering conditions and cold waters of the Southern Ocean, so should always be treated with respect and never dived in squally weather.

3. HMAS Canberra

Outside Port Phillip Heads reaching southwest toward Torquay lies the Victorian Ships’ Graveyard. Along this bumpy stretch, tugboats, a coastal freighter, a paddle steamer and WWI submarines sleep in the depths in varying levels of decay. Boat operators from Queenscliff and Sorrento run charters to these wrecks.

One of the most recent, and impressive, is the Ex-HMAS Canberra, sunk in 2009 as Victoria’s first artificial reef. Sitting at 28m in the waters off Ocean Grove, this 138m ex Navy frigate is managed by Parks Victoria. Tour operators must pay a permit fee to access it, and it is illegal to take anything from the site.  

What’s seriously cool about this wreck is its size and access — open water drivers with a recommended 50 dives under their belt can check out the superstructure including bridge, guard rails and the helicopter parking bay at the stern. It’s also possible to penetrate the wreck and see the galley, mess decks and operations room but only if you have completed specialist wreck diving training.

Getting out of Port Phillip Heads can be a rough ride, so choose your weather conditions wisely. Rough waters also mean there can be surges around the wreck, so be sure to dive with an experienced buddy.

Scuba diving is thirsty work. Rest and recharge with 25 per cent off stays at RACV’s award-winning Torquay Resort.

4. Phillip Island

It’s not all about the penguins on Phillip Island. Undoubtedly, one of the most rewarding dives here is the Pinnacles, just off Cape Woolamai. An inspiring granite structure on land, it continues underwater, offering divers a spectacular three-tiered rock ledge from 8m to 40m with caves, deep ravines and glorious overhangs. Crayfish adore this locale, which also lures pelagic species (by that I mean ‘big fish’) including tuna, yellowtail kingfish, trevally and Port Jackson sharks.

This is a boat dive, and is very reliant on good conditions. Recommended for intermediate to advanced divers as the currents can also be strong. 

Phillip Island is generally susceptible to changeable and rough sea conditions, which often close beaches to swimmers, so divers should take great care. Consult local dive operators before setting off or, better yet, join a short dive or boat dive expedition with a qualified divemaster on board.

Cape Conran

Cape Conran - a little off the beaten track.


5. Cape Conran and Beware Reef

For those looking for dive sites a little further afield Cape Conran and Beware Reef Marine Park are a little off the beaten track.

Located 90km east of Lakes Entrance, Cape Conran is the launching point for Beware Reef, a haven for crayfish, Port Jackson and wobbegone sharks, and playful Australian fur seals. The reef drops to 30m at the sea floor and on one side is a large kelp garden.

The marine park covers 220 hectares, and comprises a 1.5km square around the reef, the exposed section of which sits about 2 metres underwater at low tide. This is a boat dive and, because it is in a very exposed area, should be dived only in calm conditions. There are several shipwrecks to explore here too, including the Ridge Park (sunk in 1878), the Albert San (1915) and the SS Auckland, as well as a steamship in 1871. 

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