We’re all itching for some underwater adventure, and with international borders still raised there’s no better time to explore your own backyard. The East Coast of Australia is littered with gems and jam packed with some pretty unique wildlife, this is your guide to some of my favourite sites!

Milln Reef on The Great Barrier Reef

This reef has everything. From deep underwater swim throughs lined with 5m (16.4ft) high Gorgonian Fans, to densely packed vibrant coral gardens scattered with marine life, it’s truly one of the best parts on the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you’re day tripping or spending the night there, you’ve got a great chance to see schools of vibrant fish, a number of resident turtles, loads of Reef Sharks, a resident school of 100+ Bumphead Parrot Fish and dense coral gardens.

Cook Island – Tweed Heads

This one’s for all you turtle lovers out there! Cook Island is a turtle sanctuary, and is home to around 200 turtle mating pairs who reside in the shallows around the island year round. At times we had between 20‑30 turtles in our vision!

Julian Rocks – Byron Bay

Migratory Leopard Sharks… need I say more? Julian Rocks is a spectacular site that offers almost year round shark encounters. During the warmer months schools of friendly Leopard Sharks migrate to the site, often accompanied by a Manta Ray or two. As the water cools the Leopards leave, and large numbers of Grey Nurse Sharks take up residence.

The Solitary Islands – Coffs Harbour

You know that awesome feeling you get when you swim through a thick school of fish? Picture that, except instead of fish they’re sharks. Like most of the sites on this list, it’s worth going well out of your way to dive here! From the southern hemispheres largest density of Anemone Fish, to masses of Grey Nurse Sharks and turtles – the Solitary’s is wild.

Seal Rocks ‑ Forster

Now this is probably my personal favourite shore dive. Imagine walking into the water off one of Australia’s most picturesque beaches only to find a number of turtles, fish, Wobbygong Sharks, and most impressively a number of resident Grey Nurse Sharks all in 5m (16.4ft) of water? Shore diving doesn’t get much better!

Kurnell – Sydney

The home of the Weedy Sea Dragon! Kurnell is home to the largest population of Weedy Sea Dragons in NSW. It’s an awesome shore dive with a range of colourful sponges and fish life, and almost guarantees divers with a keen eye an encounter with the infamous Weedy Sea Dragon.

Montague Island – Narooma

Who doesn’t love diving with seals? If you’ve never had the opportunity, diving with seals is like rolling around in a pen full of waterproof puppies. It’s an amazing experience and one that’s loaded with an unprecedented level of wildlife interaction. To the seals, you’re the new puppy at the dog park and everyone wants check you out and have a game.

SS Yongala ‑ Townsville

This site is regularly voted as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. It’s a huge claim, but it certainty lives up to it! This wreck has been underwater for over 110 years and is covered head to toe by thousands of small fish, hordes of Bass and Giant Trevally, more Olive Sea Snakes than you can count, a number of sharks and rays, and probably most impressively a 4m (13 ft) long Queensland Grouper. This is definitely one for the bucket list!

What are you waiting for? Learn more about diving Australia’s east coast with our Diving in New South Wales Dive Guide, locate a PADI dive shop and start planning your future adventure down under!

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Written and images supplied by PADI AmbassaDiver, Tom Park.

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