In Travel

Underwater Victoria: The State’s Secret Snorkel And Dive Sites

Sure, Queensland has the Great Barrier Reef, but Victoria’s underwater world is not to be underestimated. Here you’ll find weedy sea dragons, sponge gardens, and giant forests to kelp in a variety of bays and protected marine areas.

According to Parks Victoria, up to 90 per cent of the species found in the state’s southern waters aren’t found anywhere else in the world, including the Barrier Reef.

Wanting to explore it? Here are five incredible – not to mention easily accessible – Victoria dive and snorkel sites to add to your list:

Merri Marine Sanctuary

victoria dive

Image: Parks Victoria

If you’ve never seen a weedy sea dragon up close, you’d likely think they were a mythical creature. But rest assured, they do actually exist. And one of the best places to get up close with them is along the Western Coast of Victoria in the Merri Marine Sanctuary in Warrnambool.

The abundance of large kelp forests and sponges make for an excellent dive location and the perfect home for these unusual looking animals.

You’re also likely to spot giant cuttlefish, draughtboard sharks, parrotfish, schools of zebra fish and southern rock lobsters. Above ground at nearby Pickering Point within the sanctuary, keep your eyes peeled for colonies of little penguins.

Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary

victoria dive

Image: Parks Victoria

Don’t let the name of this site put you off visiting.

East Gippsland’s Beware Reef offers so much to see in such a small area that it’s definitely worth the five-hour travel time from the Melbourne CBD. The waters are a little warmer here so the diverse array of marine life is drawn in from the Bass Strait.

Located on Cape Conran in East Gippsland, the 70-metre-long reef is made up of a series of granite pinnacles rising up roughly 30 metres from the floor making a cosy home for an abundance of sea life including Maori Octopus.

For the most experienced divers, there are two shipwrecks to explore. The location is also a hotspot for local fur seals to sun themselves.

ex-HMAS Canberra Recreation Reserve

victoria dive

Image: Parks Victoria

If exploring shipwrecks is your thing, a drive into Portsea on the tip of the Mornington Peninsula is well worth it.

Former Australian Navy vessel, the ex-HMAS Canberra was deliberately scuttled here to create an incredible artificial diving reef 28 metres below the surface. Diving the wreck if for qualified divers only, and the marine life is abundant with kelp forests and colourful invertebrates.

Divers can swim through flight decks, bridge, engine rooms, galley and the accommodation quarters. The ex-HMAS Canberra is offshore from Ocean Grove and accessible via licensed tour operators from Queenscliff Harbour or Portsea.

Alternatively, if you have your own boat, moor in and buy a two-hour dive permit for $30 per vessel.

Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park

victoria dive

Image: Parks Victoria

Undoubtedly, Wilsons Promontory is a favourite spot for the outdoorsy types.

Known affectionately as ‘The Prom,’ the area has a rich history of Aboriginal occupation with archaeological records dating back at least 6500 years. The area is still of spiritual significance and from a wilderness and wildlife perspective, it has it all. Here you’ll find boutique accommodation including glamping, as well as hiking trails and beaches.

For beginner divers and snorkelers, there’s some spectacular granite boulders at Little Oberon Bay where large schools of fish, turtles and colourful invertebrates can be found among the floating kelp. Above water, little penguins, fur seals, wombats and birdlife lounge about.

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park

victoria dive

Image: Parks Victoria

This National Park region is made up of six different locations – Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye and Portsea Hole – which create Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.

Here you’ll find one of the most spectacular sheltered and exposed waters dive destinations in the world.

Popes Eye, in particular, is a fantastic sheltered experience perfect for beginner divers while Portsea Hole and the Point Lonsdale Wall offer spectacular diving for the more experienced. Nearby Chinaman’s Hat is a high-traffic area for fur seals keen to soak up the sunshine on the rocks as well as for pods of dolphins regularly swimming through.

Licensed Tour Operators offer tours from both sides of the bay. Swan Bay and Point Lonsdale are accessible by either shore or boat, whereas Portsea Hole, Point Nepean, Pope’s Eye and Mud Islands are only accessible by boat. Queenscliff, Swan Bay and Portsea all have launching points.

Our tip? Do a bit of research on the local areas and make a long weekend of it.

(Lead images: Pexels / Richard Segal & Pixabay)

Published 09 May, 2019