The sparkling sapphire blue coastline of Tasmania's North West offers some distinctive, easily accessible dive sites suitable for both scuba diving and snorkelling. The shoreline alternates from rocky and rugged to white sandy beaches. Rocky Cape and Boat Harbour have the best scenic variety on the north-west coast with fringing quartzite reefs and deep, offshore bommies. The invertebrate life in this area is considered some of the best in Tasmania.
The small offshore islands between Penguin and Ulverstone are also worth checking out. If you equip yourself with a boat and sounder, some of the best diving is on hidden outcrops off the coastline of Devonport and Port Sorell. Marine species common to the region include parrot fish, leatherjacket, puffer fish, sea sweep, sea stars, morwong and members of the ray family, just to name a few.
A few points to remember:
- Tasmania's North West waters are cool, averaging 18-20°C in summer and 12-14°C in winter. Bring or hire gear that will provide you with the right protection so you can enjoy your underwater experience.
- As few waterways are sheltered, most dive sites are best explored in calm conditions. Southerly weather blows off shore and creates good conditions, whilst westerly and easterly winds are less favourable. The most suitable conditions for each dive site varies significantly so be sure to check the weather conditions and monitor updates before you dive.
Rocky Cape National Park
Rocky Cape can be dived into two sides and is accessible via the western (Mary Anne Cove) and eastern (Burgess Cove) boat ramps. The best side to dive is governed by the weather conditions on the day.
Please note that your vehicle will require a National Parks Pass to dive at Rocky Cape National Park. See the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service website for more information www.parks.tas.gov.au.
Hot Spot: Western Boat Ramp (Mary-Anne Cove)
This spot is great for snorkelling as it's not too deep. "The Boomer' a small rocky dome in Mary-Anne Cove is great for snorkelling in calm conditions. Wrasse, magpie perch and leatherjackets are relatively common. Pebbly Beach, a small cove west of "The Boomer' is a sheltered cove suitable for day or night dives. Various species of nudibranchs, cup sponges, zoanthids and basket stars can be spotted whilst the deeper areas host fish species such as butterfly perch, large boarfish, luderick as well as usual Bass Strait reef fish. Currents do run through the waters but are usually manageable and the water is calmest about 1.5 hours after the turn of the tide.
Maximum Depth: 6 metres
Difficulty Factor: High tide and low tide 1/10
Excitement Factor: 4/10
Hot Spot: Eastern Boat Ramp (Burgess Cove)
Sheltered from the westerly weather this is an excellent scuba diving spot. Just follow the contour of the reef to the left as you swim out from the boat ramp. Popeye's Rock, visible from the point only at low tide, can be found at high tide by following the reef out from shore. The rock is alive with boarfish, barber perch, leatherjackets, red mullet, zebrafish, pipehorses, senatorfish and globefish. Bullseyes and other small fish swim between the crevices whilst cuttlefish and cowfish are occasionally seen between the weed. Often you can see large stingrays and skates, even the odd weedy-seadragon has been spotted in the area.
Maximum Depth: 12 metres
Difficulty Factor: High tide and low tide 3/10
Excitement Factor: 8/10
Sisters Beach Area
There are lots of snorkelling and dive spots in the Sisters Beach area. For the top spots turn right at the end of Honeysuckle Avenue onto the dirt road. Access the shore anywhere along this road but the most exciting sites are out from the pebbly beach at the end of the road. Caves and swim-throughs, known collectively as Glory Hole, are found around the rocks at the end of the headland. Here, unusual marine life such as large stingrays can be sighted in the deeper areas. Noticeable currents flow through the area and it is recommended that divers stay on the sheltered side and hug the bottom. There are plenty of dive sites to explore and boat dives can allow you to access impressive sites further offshore such as Elephant Shark Rock.
Maximum Depth: 15 metres
Difficulty Factor: High tide 3/10, low tide 7/10
Excitement Factor: 7/10
Please note that Sisters Beach coastline is in Rocky Cape National Park and your vehicle will require a National Parks Pass. Passes are available for sale at the Sisters Beach General Store. See the Tasmania Parks andWildlife Service website for more information www.parks.tas.gov.au.
Boat Harbour Beach
Boat Harbour Beach is a popular location for snorkelling and diving due to convenient access and ease of entry to the water. Visitor amenities including toilets and change-rooms, food and refreshments and accommodation are also close by.
Hot Spot: Western Bay
Those that brave the more difficult entry to this bay are rewarded with a great little dive site. The area is alive with fish and often large schools of pelagic fish such as Pike. About 50 metres off shore a rapid drop-off reveals an impressive maze of sand-filled gutters and crevices, rock-walls and bommies. Invertebrate life in this area includes lace bryzoa, cup corals, nudibranchs and tunicates whilst the rock faces are home to large schools of barber perch, trumpeter, sea sweep, zebrafish and long-finned pike. You can expect to see the usual reef fish such as magpie perch, rock cod and wrasse.
Please note that this area can be dangerous in rough weather and is exposed to a slight current. Some underwater navigation and dive planning is required and divers should monitor their air and avoid straying too far from shore.
Maximum Depth: 18 metres
Difficulty Factor: 7/10
Excitement Factor: 8/10
The small reefs along the Wynyard coastline are home to a wide variety of macro life such as the elusive nudibranch. Crayfish (Rock Lobster) can be spotted all year round, while the giant cuttlefish are mainly seen in autumn. One nautical mile offshore from East Wynyard there is a large offshore reef that runs east-west for several kilometres and is noted for its excellent fish and invertebrate life. The Scuba Centre in Wynyard regularly visits the larger outcrops and rock walls such as the Golden Canyon, Steps Reef and the Sanctuary, a large bommie that nearly reaches the surface. Accessible by boat only.
Please note fishing restrictions apply to catching crayfish in Tasmania. Fishing restrictions and information on obtaining a license are available through the Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) at http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/WebPages/ALIR-4YG496?open.
The Three Sisters is a group of small islands located just off the coast between Penguin and Ulverstone. The Sisters provide good snorkelling and scuba diving and are accessible by boat or from shore. To access by shore follow the Penguin Road scenic drive between Ulverstone and Penguin, the Three Sisters are signposted.
Hot Spot: The Third Sister
The Third Sister, the furthest of the Three Sisters from shore, is suitable for snorkelling or diving. The eastern side offers easy diving with a maximum depth of 12 metres. This side is sheltered from easterly winds and the most appropriate side for snorkelling. The northern side has a maximum depth of 17 metres and currents can be mild to strong at times. This side offers great diving for the more experienced diver. Follow the underwater reef extension, known as The Fourth Sister, for an impressive congregation of marine life. This reef, about 300 metres long and 70 metres wide, is often navigated by bastard trumpeter, sea sweep and long-finned pike. Schools of barber perch and trachinops as well as leatherjackets and wrasse are established residents.
Maximum Depth: 17 metres
Difficulty Factor: Eastern side 3/10, western side 6/10
Excitement Factor: 7/10
Devonport and Port Sorell Area
Shore dives can be enjoyed but due to the shallow bottom and volcanic geology in this area equip yourself with a boat and sounder and head offshore to the hidden outcrops for the best diving.
Hot Spot: Horseshoe Reef
Horseshoe Reef, incorporating Wrights Island and Egg Island, is located just off the coast from the Devonport Airport. The reef is fairly shallow with a maximum depth of 12 metres so keep to the deeper areas of the reef for the best diving. Sounders will help you to locate sites away from the reef of about 15 - 18 metres depth where large boulders hide sponges, ascidians, nudibranchs and bryzoa. Schools of wrasse, magpie perch, barber perch, whiting, banded morwong and trachinops are common sightings. Suitable for snorkelling in calm or clear conditions. Accessible by boat only.
Maximum Depth: 18 metres
Difficulty Factor: 3/10
Excitement Factor: 4/10
Hot Spot: Badger Head
Badger Head is a distinctive headland within Narawntapu National Park. Its cliffs fall into the sea and provide great protection from easterly weather. A shallow bay on the eastern side of the headland offers some great snorkelling and diving in clear conditions. Rays and skates are common in this area as are sea stars, silver trevally and small abalone.
On the north western side of the headland highlights include kelp beds, large rock formations and small caves. In the right conditions this is one of the better dives along the coast and is a popular location for scuba training dives. Accessible by boat only.
Max Depth: 17 metres
Difficulty Factor: 4/10
Excitement Factor: 6/10
Dive Operators and Gear Hire
141 William Street, Devonport. Tas. 7310
Tel: (03) 6424 4314
Fax: (03) 6423 2553
Mob: 0418 534 990
62 Old Bass Highway, Wynyard. Tas. 7325
Tel: (03) 6442 2247
Mob: 0409 814 176
For up to date weather forecasts call:
Tasmania State, Cities and Districts Forecast Service Tel: 1900 955 364
Tasmania Boating Weather Service Tel: 1900 969 940
Tasmania Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings Tel: 1300 659 216 or visit www.bom.gov.au/weather/tas
Telephone Weather Services Call Charges:
1900 numbers: 77 cents per minute incl. GST;1300 numbers: Low call cost - around 27.5 cents per minute incl. GST, more from international, satellite, mobile or public phones.