The ultimate road trip for divers
Australians, particularly Queenslanders, are fortunate to have the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep. We can quite literally drive up the Bruce Highway and stop at a variety of easily-accessible dive sites offering outstanding scuba and snorkelling experiences.
Here’s an easy drive 'n' dive road trip you can take from Brisbane, to enjoy some of these underwater wonderlands.
The straight drive from Brisbane to Gladstone takes about six hours. But this journey can take a few days, depending on how many dives you'd like to fit in. Make sure to plan an overnight stop at Noosa. This stretch of coastline is further south than the Great Barrier Reef, but there are plenty of great dive spots on the Sunshine Coast.
The nearest great dive to Brisbane is Flinders Reef. It has been praised by divers and snorkellers alike for its pristine conditions and stunning visibility year-round. There is an abundance of Green Sea Turtles inhabiting the entire reef system and the highest number of coral species of any sub-tropical reef system along Australia's east coast.
Swim-throughs and caves are scattered throughout this reef with something new to discover each time. Alden's Cave, The Turtle Cleaning Station, Gotham City and The Pinnacles all surround this site. Be prepared to spot Black and White Tip Reef sharks, Tawny and Grey Nurse sharks, Wobbegongs and the occasional Leopard Shark. There is also a huge range of fish including, Parrot, Bat, Surgeon, Trevally, Wrasse and Sweet lip. Keep an eye out for rays of all types as well.
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 10 dive sites in Australia. Scuttled in 2005, the 1960s-era destroyer has been reclaimed by marine wildlife. It's a surreal experience to share the vessel with lionfish, groupers and many more species.
Head north from the Sunshine Coast towards the 'gateway' to the reef. This 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 is also home to a five-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 is known for its wildlife. Located at the southernmost end of the Great Barrier Reef, more than 1000 species of fish can be found in the crystal clear waters, with manta rays and sea turtles being the standout features. At the right time of year, you might even catch a glimpse of humpback whales.
If you have plenty of time, you can continue to drive up the coast and reach the Great Barrier Reef proper. It has an enormous range of incredible dive sites, accommodation and water activities.