Scuba diving guide Sydney | Best diving centers, liveaboards, dive sites and recommendations

The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in Sydney

Sydney lies along the southeastern coast of Australia and is charming local and international tourists with its sight of white sand beaches and blue harbor waters. Also known as the “Harbour City”, it’s known for the popular tourist spots like the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, Port Jackson Bay and Bondi Beach.

But aside from these spots, Sydney has a hidden underwater paradise waiting to be explored. It is one of the few cities in the world that has dozens of marine diving sanctuaries that are just a stone’s throw away from the harbor. Whether you’re just a starter or an advanced diver, get ready to be amazed by an encounter of various underwater creatures and colorful coral reefs that Sydney is proud of.

Recommendations for Sydney diving

If you want to explore the best of Sydney’s dive sites, a 2-3 day tour is recommended. To experience the best conditions to dive in Sydney, it is recommended to visit Sydney from June to September. It is the time when westerly winds bring the perfect diving conditions like the flattest seas and the best water visibility. At the same time giant cuttlefish, as well as the Port Jackson sharks, lurk around the dive areas during these months to mate. Higher water temperatures can be experienced in the months January and February.  

Liveaboard Sydney

The only available Sydney liveaboard is the fabulous Coral Discoverer. This liveaboard is highly recommended to explore the coast of Sydney.

Liveaboard The Coral Discoverer - Exploring the Sydney coast
Liveaboard The Coral Discoverer

Diving Center Sydney

If you are going for a one-day diving tour, we recommend to dive with PRO DIVE Sydney. It’s a 5-star PADI Dive Center with great facilities, reasonable prices and the highest rating.

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Pro Dive Sydney

N.A.
AUD 175 (2 shore dives)
AUD 960 (4 boat dives)
19
PADI
AUD 599
Light refreshments onboard
Air fills, gear servicing, gear rental

Expedition Dive

AUD 195
AUD 295 (2 shore dives)
N.A.
PADI
AUD 545
N.A.
Gear rental

Dive Centre Bondi

N.A.
AUD 175 (2 shore dives)
N.A.
PADI
AUD 595
N.A.
Gear rental

Abyss Scuba Diving

Free
AUD 120 (2 boat dives)
N.A.
PADI
AUD 499
N.A.
Gear rental

The best diving centers in Sydney

Below, we have outlined our selection of the best diving centers in Sydney, NSW.

Diving center 1: Pro Dive Sydney (Coogee/Manly)

Pro Dive Sydney has two diving centers in Sydney: Pro Dive Coogee and Pro Dive Manly. Pro Dive is a SSI diving center has offers various services such as gear servicing, gear hire, scuba diving courses, scuba diving trips and air fills. Pro Dive’s diving centers are located close to all of Sydney's best scuba dive sites. They also have a dive shop where you can buy or hire Tusa, Mares, and Aqualung scuba diving gear.

Pro Dive offers boat dives as well as shore dives during midweek and weekend trips in 2 different dive sites for as many as 19 divers and weekly trips for technical divers. Onboard their award-winning dive boat ‘’Sea Life V’’. There is also the possibility to dive with Nitrox.

Scuba diving courses

Pro Dive offers Open Water weekday and weekend courses. To avail of these, you must be at least 15 years old. No prior experience with scuba diving is required, but you'll need adequate swimming skills and be in good physical health.

They also offer the Advanced course and professional scuba diving courses.

Prices: The Open Water scuba diving course costs approximately AUD 599, including gear.

Scuba diving tours

A Sydney double boat dive costs AUD 139.00 inclusive of scuba gear hire, light refreshments, a dive guide and 2 dives at different sites. If you want to dive right off the shore of Sydney, Pro Dive also offers a guided Double Shore Dive with free tank and weight hire for AUD 85.00 (AUD 175 including gear).

If you want to discover more Sydney dive spots, you can choose the Boat Dive and Nitrox Packages that have 4, 8, or 12 double boat dives.

Diving center 2: Expedition Dive

Expedition Dive is a PADI diving center and is located in Sydney, NSW. Expedition Dive offers beginners scuba diving courses (PADI Open Water), but also Advanced and professional diving courses. In addition, they offer shore and boat dives to various dives sites – including Old Man’s Hat and Bare Island.

Scuba diving courses

Not a certified diver yet? You can get your PADI Open Water certification with Expedition Dive for only AUD 545.

You can also book other courses such as the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (AUD 595), Specialty Diving Courses (AUD 395- 495), PADI Rescue Diver Course (AUD 395) and professional courses.

Scuba diving tours

You can book shore and boat dives with Expedition Dive. A single Shore Dive at AUD 150 (excluding gear). A boat trip starts at AUD 275 (excluding gear) and AUD 375 including gear.

Diving center 3: Dive Centre Bondi

Dive Centre Bondi is just minutes away from the ever-popular Bondi Beach in the heart of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. This dive center offers a comfortable learning environment, a modernized gas filling system (including air, Nitrox, and Trimix), and a full range of top quality rental equipment. Dive Centre Bondi, being Sydney's largest and most active PADI dive shop, stocks a full range of quality diving gear and snorkeling equipment from top brands like Scubapro, Aqua Lung, Halcyon, Cressi, Suunto, and Shearwater to meet your diving needs.

Scuba diving courses

Dive Centre Bondi is a 5 star PADI Instructor Development Centre that offers a complete range of PADI and including PADI Discover Scuba Diving, Padi Open Water, Advanced Diver, Rescue Diver and Divemaster

Prices: A PADI Open Water course costs AUD 595 including gear.

Scuba diving tours

Dive Centre Bondi offers guided Shore Dives, night Dives as well as boat dives. Two guided shore dives only cost AUD 75 without gear and AUD 100 with full gear. Meanwhile, a night shore dive with a guide costs $75 (excluding gear). If you want to explore the farther Sydney dive spots, then a guided double boat dive can be booked for for only $150 (excluding gear).

Diving center 4: Abyss Scuba Diving

Abyss Scuba Diving is a 5-star PADI dive center and is one of the most visited dive shop in Sydney by divers from all over the world. It offers a full range of PADI scuba diving courses, plus plenty of choices for shore dives and boat dives to see all Sydney dive spots. Located in the suburb of Ramsgate, about 16 kilometers of Sydney CBD, Abyss is the closest dive center to Botany Bay and other dive sites like the Bare Island, Cape Solander and The Leap.

Scuba diving courses

Abyss Scuba Diving offers the PADI Open Water course, a two-day dive course with premium dive equipment, e-learning and four ocean dives for just AUD 499. With this dive center, you can also get certified for PADI Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and or one of the professional courses.  

Scuba diving tours

A double boat dive to any of the Sydney dive spots costs only AUD 120 with a guide and snacks. If you feel like having your private divemaster during the trip, Abyss can provide you for just AUD 149. Divemaster-guided shore dives with Abyss Scuba Diving are free.  Just bring your equipment every Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday and get to discover the best Sydney shore dives like the Oak Park, Ship Rock, and Leap to Steps. You can also hire the gear and air fills with Abyss.

The best liveaboards in Sydney

Liveaboard 1: Coral Discoverer

Coral Discoverer was built in 2005 but was fully refurbished in 2016. This newly remodeled vessel is designed to be able to navigate with a dashing speed of 10-12 knots through narrow passages and shallow waters setting the benchmark in cruising Australia with a small ship. This is made possible by Coral Discoverer’s modern navigation technology that stabilizes comfortable open sea cruising.

This huge vessel is equipped with diverse expedition vessels such as two Zodiacs, four double kayaks, one single kayak, a boat with a glass-bottom and Xplorer tender using a water-activity platform for easier water entry. Aboard the Coral Discoverer, modern Australian ambiance will enhance your relaxation and stylish comfort at its finest. Contemporary furnishings, glamorous decks and the latest state of the art facilities blend perfectly with their wonderful cabins of five types.

The thirty-six spacious cabins sized 161 and 215 square feet are all air-conditioned, furnished with a modern flair, original artworks and have a private en suite bathroom.

Coral Discoverer will take you from the best Sydney dive spots up until the rugged Tasmanian coast.

Prices and availability: The price of this liveaboard trip starts at AUD 593 / day (USD 432).

The Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom can be booked for a Sydney cruise with the Coral Discoverer
The Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom, the Coral Discoverer

The best dive sites in Sydney

Dive site 1: Bare Island

Featured as the virus factory in the movie Mission Impossible II, Balicasag Island in La Perouse is arguably the most favorite dive site in Sydney. It has an average depth of 19 meters, with water temperature that ranges from 17°C during winter to 23°C during the summer. The visibility ranges between 5-15 meters, depending on the weather conditions. Dives at Bare Island are flexible as it offers two sides of the island as a starting point.

The island’s shallow but more visible east side suits novice divers while the rocky reef wall of the western side offers attractive sponge gardens. The reef is heading from north to south where you can see some small overhangs. Both the western and eastern sides of the island cater a diverse marine life with the likes of anglerfish, firefish, pygmy pipefish, weedy seadragons, red Indian fish, sea horses, nudibranchs, flathead,  horn sharks, wobbegong sharks and a population of Port Jackson sharks. In warmer months, turtles and grey nurse sharks can also be spotted.

Bare Island, Sydney, New South Wales
Bare Island, Sydney, New South Wales

The Port Jackson Shark near Bare Island, Sydney
The Port Jackson Shark near Bare Island, Sydney (Credit: Taso Viglas)

Dive site 2: Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach is a haven for both an early morning and night dive. As a perfect dive site for beginners, it offers a vast array of aquatic life where you could encounter over 200 species of fish and rays. With an average depth of 2 to 6 meters, one can easily dig the water from the beach.

Shelly Beach offers two separate diving sites where divers get to explore large boulders, abundant sandy bottoms and a massive pack of kelp.

Following the east shoreline, watch for weedy seadragons playing in the grass. Any time of the year friendly blue groupers, which is the marine representation of New South Wales, will always keep you company. Be astonished by the vast proportion of diverse marine life such as cuttlefish, weedy sea dragons, port Jackson sharks, wobbegongs and small dusky whale sharks. Once in a while, dolphins, bronze whalers and even eagle rays pay a visit to the dive site.

Shelly Beach - Sydney, New South Wales
Shelly Beach, Sydney

Dive site 3: Long Reef Apartments

This dive site is hailed as the best Sydney recreational boat dive. It is located more than a nautical mile off of Long Reef beach and has an average depth of 11-21 meters. This spectacular Sydney dive site is ideal for either cave diving or marine diving and is suitable for intermediate and advanced divers. The dive site is a portion of a shear rock shelf that is popular for its stacked massive boulders which resemble an apartment building.

Beside the boulders is a spectacular 200-meter deep wall covered with hard and soft vibrant colored corals, which is abundant in cracks, fissures, and interconnecting caves where you can swim through. The Apartments Sydney dive site is a mating site to a congregation of around 20 grey nurse sharks. Other resident marine life that can be spotted are thousands of Southern Pomfrets, pelagic Kingfish, the ever-friendly, and colorful Giant Cuttlefish, red morwong, silver sweep, yellowtail, big black Bull Rays, Wobbegong and Port Jackson sharks.

Dive site 4: Old Man’s Hat

Old Mans Hat is an enchanting rocky reef dive site suited for divers of all levels. It has a maximum depth of 24 meters and gets deeper as you head towards the ocean. The reef consists of both small and large boulders with a few low walls. The most spectacular attribute of the rocky bottom is the very colorful sponge gardens where you can find sea squirts, ascidians and gorgonians.

Heading east, walls, overhangs, small canyons and a few swim-through openings are present. This magnificent section of the reef is home to ladder-finned pomfrets, sea pike and even Port Jackson sharks. Fishes like bream, sweep, luderick, yellowtail, black reef and six-spined leather jackets are also visible. If it is your lucky day, red Indian fish might be spotted.

Dive spot 5: HMAS Adelaide (wreck dive)

HMAS Adelaide is a 138-meter long Escorte Frigate of the Australian Navy. It is an artificial reef, sunken in April of 2011.

You can explore interesting parts of the HMAS Adelaide such as the bridge, operations room and the helicopter hanger. The wreck is found 32 meters underwater lying on a sandy bottom but the majority of the interesting wreck parts are located above 20 meters. It is an all year long dive site suitable to all levels of divers.

Aside from being a perfect spot for underwater photography, this artificial reef is also swarmed by varied marine life like the angelfish, barracuda, batfish, frogfish, boxfish, goatfish, lionfish, moray eel, nudibranch, parrotfish, sea snake, whitetip shark, Nurse Shark and even Wobbegong Sharks.

Note: The HMAS Adelaide is located in front of Terrigal, which is about 1.5h driving by car from Sydney. When arrived in Terrigal, you can reach the HMAS Adelaide by boat in a couple of minutes.

How to get to Sydney

Option 1: By airplane to Sydney airport

Sydney Airport popularly known as Kingsford Smith is the busiest Australian airport and has been one of the longest operated airports in the world. It is the main hub for Australia’s largest airline Qantas Airways and a secondary hub for other airlines like Virgin Australia and Jetstar.

Both domestic and international flights from any point in the world to Kingsford Smith Airport need to catch the T8 Airport and South line which primarily stops at city circle stations. Flight prices can be checked here.

Option 2: By bus

If you’re going to Sydney from any town or city in Australia, a good alternative is to travel by bus, especially if you have a lot of time in your hand. This will not only help you save some cash but also allows you to discover other places in Australia. Whether you’re coming from Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne or Cairns: you can book a bus ride to Sydney at greyhound.com

Accommodations in Sydney

Apartment Bondi Heaven ($$$)

One of the most booked hotels in Sydney, Apartment Bondi Heaven offers a terrace and scenic view of the blue waters of Bondi Beach. The 60 m² apartment features 1 fully air-conditioned bedroom with a satellite flat-screen TV, wardrobe closets, parquet floors and a kitchen furnished with a dishwasher, electric kettle, and a microwave. In the bathroom, free toiletries, towels, hairdryer and toilet paper is provided.

The surroundings in the place are suitable for people who love fishing, snorkeling and diving.

Prices: Starting from AUD 575 for 2 nights.

Cremorne Point Manor ($$$)

Highly rated by travelers, Cremorne Point Manor offers budget accommodations in Sydney. Popular among guests is its comfortable economy double room with air conditioning, refrigerator, tea/coffee maker and flatscreen TV. Guests have free WiFi access available in all areas of the manor, including the shared kitchen and dining area. This accommodation also offers several rooms with waterfront views.

Situated in Sydney’s lower North Shore, Cremorne Point Manor is just 23 minutes away from Sydney Airport.

Prices: Starting from AUD 135 (economy single room) or AUD 153 (economy double room).

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney ($$$)

Located in Sydney Central Business District, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney boasts an overlooking view of Sydney's historic Rocks area and a panoramic view over the iconic Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay. This hotel offers various facilities such as a fitness center, restaurant and a swimming pool.

Prices: Starting from AUD 310.

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