Liveaboard Scuba Dive Destinations Australia

When it comes to diversity in scuba dive sites, there is no other location that can match Australia.

When it comes to Liveaboard arrangements no place can beat the Liveaboard Scuba Dive Destinations within Australia.

Divers of all skill levels and all specialties will find dive sites that are perfect for them.

With the Great Barrier Reef, the worlds longest reef structure on one Australian coast and the Ningaloo reef, the worlds largest fringing reef on the opposite coast, divers have the greatest variety of sites anywhere just waiting for them.

Many of the best scuba dive sites are hours away from civilization and often the best, in many cases the only, way to experience these sites are by a Liveaboard diving vessel.

While you can find scuba diving day tours and scuba diving Liveaboards around the entire coastline of Australia, a few destinations are the most popular.

Since the Great Barrier Reef covers thousands of kilometers we will consider some of the locations as separate Liveaboard scuba dive destinations.


Cairns And Port Douglas

The northern portion of Queensland provides a diverse environment for tourist.

Between the Tablelands, the mountains and the Great Barrier Reef there is something for everyone.

Cairns and, to a lesser extent, the nearby Port Douglas are the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

This portion of the reef is considered by many the best portion for scuba diving and other water based activities.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has developed a Plan of Management for the Cairns management area that is to ensure that the balance between the health of the reef and the recreational users is maintained in a manner that both can be substantiated.

Cairns ranks Number One for Liveaboard scuba dive Destinations within Australia.

Cairns is perhaps the home of the largest and most diversified year round Liveaboard fleet in the world.

Many of the innovations in the Liveaboard industry started here and continues today.

You can find Liveaboards from overnight trips to week long and a few special expeditions lasting longer.

Liveaboards from simple sailing boats to purpose built luxury yacht style vessels.

Some of the Liveaboard scuba dive destinations and locations that Liveaboards from Cairns include in their itineraries are:

The Outer Reefs,

While the entire length of the Great Barrier reef has outer reefs the ones off the coast of Cairns are the best known and most visited.

Reef Day operators using high speed boats will also visit some of the outer reefs but to truly enjoy them that an overnight stay is required.

The reefs offer excellent diving with sites that include wall dives, drift dives, shallow lagoon and coral gardens.

The outer barrier reef is visited on overnight and short visits by Liveaboards such as the MV Reef Encounter.

Some Liveaboards such as the Spirit of Freedom includes a few dives at an outer reef before heading to another section.

Agincourt reefs is a series of thin reefs in the Port Douglas Off Shore sector.
One of the less visited sections in the Cairns area.

The reefs are in excellent health and as narrow barrier reefs provide a broad range of marine life.

The pelagic species cover a wide range and Dwarf Minke Whales often spend part of their migratory season in the lagoon behind the Agincourt reefs.

It is mostly visited by Liveaboards from Cairns .

As a Liveaboard Dive Destination you will generally find some of the best budget Liveaboards coming here from Cairns.

Some of theĀ  Liveaboards from Cairns that uses the Agincourt as a dive destination may also visit the lower ribbon reefs.
The Ribbon Reefs are a 55 mile long string of ten narrow barrier reefs (some experts give them their own classification) and assorted bommies starting north of the Agincourt Reefs to the area around Lizard Island National Park.

Not only are The Ribbon Reefs tone of the most widely known Liveaboard Dive Destinations within Australia, it is the home of dive sites known the world over.

The dive sites of Steve’s Bommie and Cod hole are world famous. Steve’s Bommie has been called the best site in the world for amateur underwater photographers.

The Cod hole has been famous for over 30 years as the place to see the man size Potato Cod.

Some of the Liveaboard dive operators sailing from Cairns will combine some of the lower reef area with the Agincourt reef on a sailing.

Mike Ball’s Spoilsport sailing from Cairns is the only major Liveaboard that dives the entire Ribbon Reef section without diving the outer or Agincourt reefs. This gives the diver more time on these reefs.

The Whitsundays

James Cook was the first European to sail in the area, on Whitsunday 1770 he entered what is now known as the Whitsundays Passage.

The Whitsundays islands themselves number around 70 and are volcanic in origin. Many more coral cays are also found in the area.

The area is considered the best sailing destination in the southern hemisphere.

The diving and the Liveaboard dive destinations are different here that elsewhere within Australia.

While the outer reef locations such as Hardy reef provides excellent diving for most divers coming to the Whitsundays it is the sailing, beaches and fringing reefs that are the attractions.

Most of the Liveaboards are small, intimate sailboats.

Only a few of the islands have any development on them and visitor often have a bay or cove to themselves.

A diver may start his dive from the boat and enjoy the coral gardens and marine life on the fringing reef and end his dive on a pure white beach, where the boats crew has set up lunch and brought a swap tank.

Deeper dives are also available with many islands providing shelter to bommies and isolated patch reefs.


We can include this as a sort of Honorable Mention.

While the diving in the area is good the Liveaboard industry is not as well developed.

The area is also subject to rougher seas than most places on the Great Barrier Reef.

One of the websites for a Liveaboard operator even states that if you have time for only one Liveaboard experience in your visit to Australia, go to Cairns.

A Liveaboard is however the best means to explore the best shipwreck in Australian waters and one of the top ten in the world.

The SS Yongala disappeared in March 1911 and was not found for around 50 years.

She is well preserved and a complete reef as well as a shipwreck.

Mike Ball’s Spoilsport will be making a few special tips to the area.

Western Australia’s Coral Coast

Western Australia’s Coral Coast centers around the town of Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef.

Ningaloo Reef is a World Heritage Site located in north west coastal region of Western Australia.

Ningaloo named from the Australian Aboriginal Wajarri language meaning “promontory, “deepwater” or “high land jutting into the sea.

A Fringing reef differs from a barrier reef in that it is close to land. A barrier reef is located on a continental shelf hence very deep water on one side while the fringing reefs seldom are. Exmouth and Coral Bay are the two major population centers along the Ningaloo reef.

Shire of Exmouth the largest of the two has a population of about 2,500 people.

Being 1267 km from Perth the Ningaloo reef is not overrun by tourist however tourism including diving is a major industry here.

The Ningaloo reef is the home of the largest migratory group of whale sharks in the world.

The smaller volumes gives a Liveaboard industry that is very customer orientated and focus on small groups.

While there are other notable locations these will be the major centers that most divers will look at for the Liveaboard dive Destinations within Australia.