Diving in Port Stephens, Australia

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Only 2.5 hours north of Sydney, Port Stephens is a reputed destination for a weekend away. But it’s also an excellent diving destination with some of Australia’s best shore dives and shark dives.

Shore Diving in Port Stephens: A Macro Lovers’ Heaven

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The two most popular shore dives are Fly Point and Pipeline in Nelson Bay. The good news is that they are very easy to access: there are stairs just a few metres away from the car park that take you to the beach at Fly Point or directly into the water at Pipeline.

The bad news is that you can only dive there at high tide because of the strong and dangerous current in the bay. Don’t worry: there are many things to do in Nelson Bay to keep you busy while you wait for the right time for your dive.

We visited Port Stephens during the peak season in the summer holidays. Fly Point was very busy with many snorkelers, but very few divers.

I was still at the surface when our guide had already spotted a beautiful seahorse down there; an exciting start! We quickly made our way to deeper waters, further away from the snorkelers.

Although it wasn’t the most impressive dive for the colours and the visibility, we spent a lovely hour finding exciting creatures, including the fascinating nudibranchs. A few wobbegong sharks were resting at the bottom, but the biggest surprised came from the slugs. Giant slugs. I had no idea that sea slug could get that big.

The sea hares, as they call it, were somewhere between 1m to 1.5m. I know it was supposed to be a dive focused on macro creatures, but I couldn’t stop trying to take photos of these huge slugs with an angle that showed how unbelievably big they actually were!

We tried a second shore dive site by ourselves at night: Pipeline. It’s known to be an easy one to navigate as long as you’re careful with the current and the tide.

Unfortunately, we forgot some diving equipment at the shop so we could only snorkel this time. We saw a curious calamari and a very awake wobbegong shark.

It seemed to be an excellent site for nudibranchs as I could spot a few from the surface, but it was very frustrating not to be able to see them from close as we were snorkelling. So we gave up quickly as it was already late and we had another dive planned for the following day.

If you’re in the area for a while, Halifax, Little Beach and Seahorse Garden are three other famous shore dive sites. As Fly Point and Pipeline, you can only dive there at high tide.

Boat Diving in Port Stephens: A Shark Lovers’ Heaven

As we are based on Australia’s East Coast, we are lucky to be able to dive with the Grey Nurse Sharks often and on different sites. Although we were excited at the opportunity to see them one more time, we never expected it could be very different from all the other experiences we already had.

And we were wrong. The boat took us to Broughton Island, a place famous for its resident colony of Grey Nurse Sharks, for a dive that we’ll never forget.

We were surprised not to see any sharks for our first dive: our guide took us to a site where we mostly looked for macro where we found many beautiful nudibranchs and shrimps.

But the second dive was all about the sharks. I cannot remember if I was more impressed by the number of sharks we saw or the number of fish surrounding them.

They say the visibility is good, but that’s not taking into consideration that schools of fish sometimes form a wall in front of the sharks! It looked stunning from the bottom when we looked up to the surface to see their silhouettes.

And it was very impressive to have these calm giants swimming so close to us as we stayed immobile against the rock.

If you’re a shark lover in Port Stephens around late August and September, make sure you dive near Fingal Head. The Port Jackson sharks come there for their breeding season, and the sharks and their eggs are everywhere.

There are two dive shops in Nelson Bay that can take you to these islands.

When to Dive in Port Stephens

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You can dive all year round in Port Stephens.

Summer (December to January) is the busy period as Australians are all on holidays during the Christmas and New Year break. You’ll need to book accommodation in advance if you plan a trip to Port Stephens at this time of the year.

Easter long weekend is also a busy period for travelling in Australia.

The water temperature is around 23-24°C (73-75°F) from December to April. It drops to about 19°C (66°F) during winter, from July to October. Outside temperatures follow the same trend.

Still, winter is an excellent season to visit Port Stephens as you’ll have the opportunity to watch the humpback whales passing by, and late August and September is the best season to see the Port Jackson sharks.

Autumn (March to June) is the season with the highest risk of rain.

The Author:

Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips on her blog MyFavouriteEscapes and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures.

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