Nelson Bay is home to some of the best shore scuba diving in all of Australia with the Halifax Park Aquatic Reserve containing some of of the best sponge gardens on the east coast of Australia. The local diveshop is Let's Go Adventures and there are 5 main divesites in the Nelson Bay area:
Park | Fly Point | The
Pipeline | Little Beach | Seahorse Gardens
Maps | Divestores
HOW TO FIND IT
Travel through the roundabout past the Information centre in the main part of town, continue along this road with the bay on your left. After about 1-1.5 kms, the road takes a 90 degree turn right, keep going till you come to a left turn just past the ovals but before the RSL club. Turn left here and follow this down to another beach and a boatramp. This is Little Beach. Just before the road turns right towards the Halifax Caravan Park, there is a turn to the left into the parking areas, turn left and then proceed to the right and through the carpark, a road heads up the hill, before this, turn left towards the bay and follow the dirt/sand track around to the right along the shore. There is a parking area here, the sand can be soft at times, so be careful not to bog the car. It's also a good idea to try to park near one of the few remaining grass areas.
DIVE SITE DESCRIPTION
WARNING! This dive must be done on a SLACK tide as the currents here are VERY STRONG! It is always recommended to dive here on the high slack tide as it produces the best visibility. It can also be dived on the low slack tide but the visibility is generally very poor. Another safety point, if you need to head for the surface for some reason, please make sure you swim in close to the shore as boats frequently cruise above this divesite. If you surface from deep water there is a very good chance you could become struck by a boat. If you must surface try and head into shore before hand!
Halifax is a great dive site and offers plenty for all levels of divers. It is also a site that produces an excellent night dive. The entry point is at the end of dirt carpark through a little channel that has been cleared of rocks by local divers. It is recommended that you use this channel to enter and exit the site as it can get a little difficult if there is any swell slopping into the site. Once you have entered the water it is recommended that you snorkel out about 10 metres and descend into about 5-8 metres of water. If you swim due north you will come across a little pyramid of rocks - this was created by divers and is used as a reference point. It is also a popular spot for Open Water courses to conduct their skill sessions.
If you swim north from the pyramid you will come to a wall that slopes from 8 metres down to about 15 metres. This wall is an excellent spot to find nudibranchs as it contains extensive sponge growth. Harlequin ghost pipefish have also been spotted residing in the cracks of this wall. The wall has a narrow gutter that slopes down through the middle of it and this is a great spot to swim down until you hit the bottom at about 15 metres. Masses of sponges and soft southern corals are everywhere here. There is prolific fishlife, morays in olive and the mosaic varieties, numb rays at night, nudibranchs, schools of bullseyes and just so much more!
Continue to swim north and for about 30 metres you will swim across a more barren area (there is still plenty of stuff to see here) until you come across some large bomies and big sponge gardens. Here the slope drops down a wall from about 18 metres to about 26 metres - there is excellent diving around here. Eastern rock lobsters, blue wrasse, white spotted moray eels, wobbegong sharks, numb rays, eagle rays have all been found down here. You need to keep an eye on your dive computer because its not to hard to head into deco if you spend to long looking around at the 25 metre mark. Also, the best fish life is also found down at the bottom with schools of bream, stripeys, bullseyes and drummer being very common.
If you have followed the above mention dive profile head
back directly south up the slope until you hit the wall that goes from 15- 8
metres. If you have some air left it is always a good idea to explore around
here before you head up to the pyramid area to commence your safety stop. A
safety stop is generally recommended at Halifax as it is more than likely that
you would have descended past 18metres. Halifax is also a very good location
for a night dive - but remember that you must dive it on the high slack tide.
HOW TO FIND IT
From the Information Centre in Nelsons Bay, drive further along the road for approx 1-1.5 kms and the road will take a 90 degree right turn away from the beach. Just as this turn starts, a road continues to follow the beach to the left, take this road, and as it climbs the hill it turns to the right, park anywhere here. As you have to dive on the slack high tide you will generally find that are other divers in the carpark gearing up, particularly on weekends. And during the Christmas and Easter holidays, turn up early to get a carpark! There is a well defined access path to a set of concrete steps at the waters edge, this is the usual starting point
DIVE SITE DESCRIPTION
WARNING! This dive must be done on a SLACK tide as the currents here are VERY STRONG! It is always recommended to dive here on the high slack tide as it produces the best visibility. It can also be dived on the low slack tide but the visibility is generally very poor. Fly Point is considered a very easy and safe dive site, hence it is a very popular training ground for Open Water courses and many dive shops come up from Sydney to teach here. It can get very crowded at times with dive courses, especially over summer and the Easter break.
After entering the water and snorkeling out to where the water starts to deepen (around 4-5 metres), descend and head to your left (north-west) and a few minutes later (about 30 metres) you will come across the first of 2 ledges that run in parallel with the shore. You can follow these ledges to the left for quite some time and if you look carefully you may find the school of pineapple fish that are known to frequent this area. The school of pineapple fish can be found near the ledge where the plaque and garden gnomes are located! There is good sponge life right along this area. After following these ledges for some time, you can head out into the deeper water where the larger sponge gardens are. Out in the deeper water (17-22 metres) there are prolific sponge gardens, and I mean prolific. Every part of the substrate is covered in sponges and the colours are amazing. There is a very large old deck winch that can be found out in this area in about 20 metres.
Another way you can dive Fly Ppoint is to continue following the ledges to the left until you are quite away back around the point and you will come across larger ledges covered in kelp. You can either keep going this way and exit your dive on the small beach and walk up the hill (about 100 metres) to the carpark, or turn around and head back the way you came and exit back at the stairs. If you do head back the same way, don't rush over the kelp and weed beds in 4-5mtrs of water, there are plenty of things to see, nudibranchs in plenty of varieties, large flathead and if you look hard enough you can even find sea horses.
Another way to dive Fly Point is instead of heading left (west) to the ledges, enter the water and follow the sand ridge around to the right. This is an excellent spot to find macro life and on one dive we found over 10 tiger pipe fish. There is a very large old tractor tyre in about 10 metres and you can normally find a wobbegong or two inside.
Fly Point is also an excellent night dive, at night the
place just comes alive with critters that you didn't even know were present
during your day time visits. I actually prefer conducting night dives at this
site after a day dive as at night more nudibranchs can be found and the rose
bubble shells can be found emerging from the sand.
The Pipeline (see map)
HOW TO FIND IT
Turn left at the Information Centre roundabout, and follow this road past the marina all the way to the end to where the fish co-op is. There is parking here, but it can get packed if you choose the wrong weekend to dive here. Once geared up, walk towards the fish co-op and you will see a cement path that follows the shoreline. You have 2 choices I guess, enter where the breakwall meets the shore and swim from there, or follow the shore along further. I always walk along the shore!
If you have chosen to follow the shore, the cement path
ends at a largish cement slab, but the path continues as a dirt track. This
one winds through the trees and roots etc on the shore, you actually have to
step over 3 logs on the way, and then there is a slight step down to the waters
edge. Hop in here and then swim west (left) for about 10 metres and you will
hit the pipeline.
DIVE SITE DESCRIPTION
The pipeline is, in my own humble opinion, the best macro dive in NSW. I do not know of any other dive site where you can find so many weird and unusual critters. The pipeline is tide effected so it always best to dive it on the slack high tide. Visibility is not always the greatest here as its further up in the port, on average you would be looking at about 5 metres. The best visibility I have had at the pipeline would be about 10 metres, the worst easily being less than a metre!
The easiest way to dive this site is to follow the pipeline out to sea in a northerly direction. If you ever lose the pipeline, it's always easy to find your way back to shore or the break wall if you swim on a bearing of 330 degrees. Actually, a bearing of 330 degrees will get you back to shore on all the dives sites in Nelson Bay!
Along the pipeline you'll find small concrete blocks and lumps of ballast. Each area has its own little ecosystem that is prolific with sponges and soft corals. It is very common to find decorator crabs along the pipeline, other critters you will find are morays eels, eastern rock lobsters, tropical fish during the summer period, many different (and rare) nudibranch species, cuttlefish, blue ring octopus, seahorses, sea pens, pipefish and on and on! There are so many different species to find at the pipeline, it will keep you busy for hours after the dive studying your marine books trying to identify all the critters you saw.
The pipeline is approximately 250 metres long and it is easily possible to swim all the way out to the end and back on a single dive. This would take approximately an hour however there isn't all that much time to stop and look at things. At the end of the pipeline the depth is about 18 metres and at the end about 10 metres north east is a small ledge that is similar to Fly Point. You can often find pineapple fish, wobbegongs and rock lobsters along this ledge.
My favourite way to dive the pipeline is swim out about 100 metres and then turn to the right (east) when the pipe is buried in the sand. To the east there is a prolific sponge garden full of giant cauliflower sponges. These sponges are home to decorator crabs, sea horses, pipe fish and nudibranchs. Then slowly make your way back to shore keeping the pipeline on your right as you explore the extensive sponges that are found between the pipeline and the shore. At about 5-8 metres is where I find a lot of the nudibranch species, and sea pens can be found emerging from the sand.
The pipeline is the kind of dive that you can spend an
hour or more crawling along the bottom looking for new critters - it is a macro
photographer's dream! I always dive here with my 1:3 and 1:2 lenses and can
easily shoot a roll of 36. It is also an excellent night dive - one of the best
night dive locations that I have come across.
HOW TO FIND IT
Travel through the roundabout past the Information Centre in the main part of town, continue along this road with the bay on your left. After about 1-1.5 kms, the road takes a 90 degree turn right, keep going till you come to a left turn just past the ovals but before the RSL club. Turn left here and follow this down to another beach and a boatramp. This is Little Beach.
DIVE SITE DESCRIPTION
Site description is under development
Images from Little Beach: Image 1 | Image 2 | Image 3
Let's Go Adventures
D'Albora Marina Teramby Road
Phone: (02) 4981 4331
Owners: Adam & Emma
Feet First Dive
17/34 Stockton St, Nelson Bay 2315
Phone: (02) 4984 2092
Owners: Matt and Shane
Dive Skate and Ski (Newcastle)
124 Hannell Street - Wickham
Phone: 4969 7844
Owner: Peter Freeman