Cold water diving isn’t for everyone…which is one of the best things about cold water diving! In cold water environments, you can encounter bucket list animals, great visibility, and far fewer divers. Here are 10 of our favorite cold water dive destinations for those who want to experience spectacular diving and fewer crowds in chilly climes.

Magellanic Penguin in Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina

1. Península Valdés, Argentina

Along the shores of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Península Valdés, you can find penguins, southern right whales and orcas. In fact, the orca population is somewhat famous for their unique method of hunting sea lion pups (they practically beach themselves). Learn more about scuba diving in Argentina.

2. South Australia

The diving in South Australia proves cold water can have just as many interesting creatures as warm water. Just off the shores of Adelaide, you’ll find cuttlefish, colorful nudibranchs, Wobbegong sharks and leafy sea dragons (a bucket-list critter found exclusively in southern Australia). While crowds flock to the Great Barrier Reef in the north, cold water divers can enjoy intimate encounters with cuttlefish, seals and sea lions.

british columbia canada

3. British Columbia, Canada

Southwestern Canada is home to shipwrecks, sheltered coves, and even a mermaid. Stay in cosmopolitan Vancouver, picturesque Victoria, or escape to the wilds of the Sunshine Coast. BC offers great diving for scuba divers of any experience level. Ask a local PADI Dive Center about where to find an iconic Giant Pacific Octopus or dive with friendly sea lions.

An orca swims past the camera underwate rin New Zealand

4. New Zealand

It’s hard to say which parts of New Zealand are the most amazing: the sub-tropical North Island, dramatic Milford Sound, picturesque Dunedin, or the exquisite diving near the Poor Knights Islands. Topside and underwater, the land of the long white cloud is simply stunning. Search for sea dragons, swim through massive schools of trevally, and (if you’re lucky) encounter an orca.

Scuba diver approaching a giant sardine bait ball in South Africa's Sardine Run

5. South Africa

Bring an appetite for adventure when you visit South Africa. This country offers cage diving with great white sharks, the world-famous sardine run, and, oh yeah, the chance to dive in two different oceans. Learn more about the diverse scuba diving options in South Africa.

the seashore in western Scotland

6. Orkney, Scotland

For wreck diving enthusiasts, Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland is considered one of the best wreck diving destinations on Earth.

The seven remaining wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet, scuttled by their crews in Scapa Flow in 1919, attract divers from across the globe every year.

These huge wartime wrecks aren’t the only underwater attraction in Orkney. There are numerous other wrecks to explore, and an array of diverse marine life on offer.

a basking shark in the UK

7. England and Wales

The waters surrounding the United Kingdom have something to offer divers of all interests and experience levels. Temperate Pembrokeshire in Wales is home to jellyfish, sunfish, dolphins and the occasional shark.

If sharks are your (every)thing, head straight to Cornwall for the chance to dive with basking sharks. The world’s second-largest shark is lesser known, but equally impressive.

a snowy scene from Antarctica

8. Antarctica

It’s no secret that the Antarctic waters are among the coldest on the planet, even during the summer months. The cold waters, however, do not deter cold water enthusiasts from diving into the icy depths. Some of the highlights of diving here include stunning topside scenery, glaciers, and icebergs combined with voyages of a lifetime that celebrate diving with marine megafauna and underwater photography.

Polar Bear Spitsbergen Hope Spot - Photo By Kip Evans

9. The Arctic

Much has been written about the incredible diving in the Antarctic, but the Arctic is spectacular in its own right, and it’s slightly easier to visit. Brave the “ice cream headache” upon entering the water, and you’ll be rewarded with astonishing underwater ice formations and 40 m/130 ft+ visibility in addition to humpbacks, belugas, fin whales and dolphins. Some visitors may be lucky enough to encounter a bowhead whale or an orca.

cold water diving destinations

10. Norway

Norway offers diverse dive sites and a variety of underwater experiences. The country is also home to some unique marine life, from dazzling nudibranchs through to orcas in northern Norway.

In addition to Norway’s famous kelp forests, did you know that Norway also has coral reefs? The fjord off Trondheim has coral reefs at accessible depths (although a Deep Diver or Technical certification is required). The coral reef is located at a depth of 39 meters (128 feet) on Tauterryggen in the Trondheim Fjord, and is the shallowest reef of its kind in Norway.

For incredible wreck diving, try a dive on the world class Frankenwald wreck (122 metres/400 feet long) in Gulen, Norway.

Cold Water Diving & Exposure Protection

Many of the destinations above can be explored while wearing a 7-8mm or double-layer wetsuit. Some divers, however, may enjoy greater warmth and comfort in a dry suit. Visit a PADI Dive Center or check out PADI eLearning for the PADI Dry Suit Diver Specialty course prior to travel.

Find your next (or first) cold water diving destination on PADI Travel!

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