Scuba diving guide Townsville & Yongala wreck | Best dive centers, liveaboards and dive sites

The marina of Townsville, Queensland, by night

Townsville is a city in Queensland, Australia, and is surrounded by World Heritage-listed national parks and beautiful landscapes. The city is also a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the ‘’Wet Tropics’’.

The countless number of dive locations, which can be visited alll-year-round makes Townsville popular destination. Each diving sites offer a unique experience of magnificent water wonderland and underwater museum boasting its rich biodiversity and abundant marine life. Especially the dive site SS Yongala wreck is a famous dive spot.

This article offers a complete and informative guide in exploring the underwater world of Townsville listing the best diving centers, liveaboards and dive sites.

Recommendations for diving the SS Yongala and Townsville

If you plan to visit Townsville, we recommend to visit Townsville in the summer season (November to February) as the weather conditions will be at the best.

Best liveaboard SS Yongala and Townsville

We recommend to book the Spoilsport liveaboard to experience the dive site SS Yongala and the other dive sites around Townsville. The Spoilsport is a 30 meter long vessel and can house up to 28 guests. This boat has great dive facilities such as a dive deck, camera stations and Nitrox. The Spoilsport will also visit other Great Barrier Reef dive sites.

Price: The price for the trip with the Spoilsport starts at AUD 385 a day.

The Spoilsport liveaboard on the waters of Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef
The Spoilsport liveaboard

Diving center Townsville

For scuba diving courses and scuba diving day trips to dive sites near Townsville and the SS Yongala wreck, we highly recommend to book with Remote Area Dive. This diving center is highly ranked by divers and offers scuba diving courses and trips for a reasonable price. Note that they offer SDI (‘’Scuba Diving International’’) scuba diving courses (no PADI/SSI).

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Price for a dive
Price for a day trip
Price for a multiple day trip
Maximum number of guests
Scuba diving gear included
Nitrox available
Diving organization
Scuba diving beginners course
Price for the scuba diving beginners course
Advanced scuba diving courses available
Professional scuba diving courses available
Catering
Wifi available
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Remote Area Dive

N.A.
AUD 235 (2 dives)
AUD 619
12
Other
AUD 750
Included
Gear rental, dive Shop

Adrenalin Dive

N.A.
Starts at AUD 299
Starts at AUD 735
40
PADI
AUD 360 (excl. Trips)
Included
Dive boats

Pro Dive Magnetic Island

N.A.
AUD 295 (2 dives)
N.A.
SSI
AUD 349
Not included
Dive boat

Pleasure Divers Magnetic Island

AUD 100 (1 dive)
AUD 225 (2 dives)
N.A.
SSI
AUD 350
Included
Gear Rental

The best diving centers in Townsville (and Magnetic Island)

Below, we have outlined our top 4 diving centers for the Townsville and SS Yongala area. Note that from the below list, two diving centers are located on the mainland (Townsville) and two divers centers are located on Magnetic Island.

Diving center 1: Remote Area Dive (Townsville)

This diving center is a 5 star Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Technical Diving International (TDI) diving center located right in the South of Townsville Queensland and is highly rated by divers.

Remote Area Dive offers various courses from SDI Open Water to instructor courses. The SDI Open Water course is offered for AUD 750. For those among us who are involved in tech diving, they also offer tech diving courses such as the Sidemount diver course or Gas Blender.

They also offer snorkel and scuba diving day trips and a weekend safari. On the day tour, you will visit the Pelorus and Orpheus Islands reefs (Great Barrier Reef). At the moment of writing, they do not offer the SS Yongala wreck tour.

Besides offering scuba diving courses and tours, they also have a dive shop where you can buy and hire diving gear. Remote area dive owns two boats, and even operates an air fill station. They also offer Nitrox and other gases.

Diving center 2: Adrenalin Dive (Townsville)

Adrenalin Dive is a 5 star PADI diving center and is located in Townsville, Queensland.

They offer PADI scuba diving courses (beginner/Open Water to Divemaster), day tours to the Great Barrier Reef and the S.S. Yongala wreck, and multiple day tours. The PADI Open Water course is offered for just AUD 360. However, please note that this price does not include the day trips which must be done in order to get certified (as you have to dive in the open water).

For their tours, they use the Adrenalin and Endorphin for the day tours and the Sea Esta vessel for the liveaboard trips. These (day trip) vessels are fast and are specially used for diving trips.

Good to know that all the services offered are Eco certified and that Adrenalin Dive has received the Green Travel Leader status from the ECO Tourism Australia. If you are looking for a Eco friendly tour operator or trip, you should definitely check this place out.

Diving center 3: Pro Dive Magnetic Island

Pro Dive Magnetic Island is a SSI diving center, located on Magnetic Island and offers scuba diving courses and day trips.

Pro Dive Magnetic Island offers all kind of scuba diving courses, from the SSI Open Water to professional courses (including the instructor course). They use a fully equipped classroom and a 25 meters swimming pool for their courses. For their tours, they use a 9 meters custom designed boat. The price for the SSI Open Water course is only AUD 349 and includes the scuba equipment, the pool sessions, open water dives and the certification.

Pro Dive Magnetic Island offers two different tours: The Great Barrier Reef tour and the S.S. Yongala wreck tour. Both scuba diving tours are offered for AUD 295, including equipment.

Diving center 4: Pleasure Divers Magnetic Island

Pleasure Divers Magnetic Island is SSI diving center and is located on the east side of Magnetic Island.

Pleasure Divers Magnetic offers both beginners and professional diving courses (including the SSI instructor course). The SSI Open Water course is offered for only AUD 350, including scuba equipment. For the courses, they use a custom built dive pool.

Compared to the other tour operators, Pleasure Divers Magnetic Island offers shore dives. A perfect option if you only would like to make 1 or 2 Magnetic Island dives. They also offer night diving and a boat tour to explore Magnetic Island.

Best liveaboards in Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef

The best way to experience the S.S. Yongala wreck and the Great Barrier Reef is by a liveaboard from Townsville. With a liveaboard, you will enjoy the comfort of a luxury boat and you will dive (or snorkel) on the best dive sites which are not reachable by day trips.

Liveaboard 1: The Spoilsport

The Spoilsport is a 30 meters long vessel and can house up to 28 guests at a maximum. The Spoilsport is custom-built to explore the Coral sea/Great Barrier Reef, including the famous wreck S.S. Yongala.

There are four different cabins available: the budget cabin, club cabin, standard cabin and the premium cabin. Please note that the budget cabin does not have an ensuite bathroom. The differences between the other cabins are mainly the layout of the room, the view or a double bed.

The Spoilsport has great diving facailities such as a dive deck, nitrox, entry/exit platforms and a camera station. Other facilities include a lounge/saloon, sun deck and a bar.

Note: the Spoilsport offers different routes. If you would like to dive the SS Yongala, you should choose the route ‘’Yongala Wreck & Coral Sea Expedition (Townsville to Cairns)’’.

Price: a trip to the SS Yongala and the Great Barrier Reef starts at AUD 385 a day.

The standard cabin on the liveaboard ''the Spoilsport''
The standard cabin on the Spoilsport liveaboard

The best dive sites in Townsville

Below, we have outlined the best dive sites in Townsville for you which should not be missed!

Dive site 1: SS Yongala

This dive site is recognized as one of the best wreck dive sites in Australia and is also considered one of the best wreck sites in the world.

The lowest point of the wreck lies at 15 meters and the deepest part lies at 29-30 meters. The SS Yongala can be reached by boat (a liveaboard or day trip from Townsville) within a few hours.

Manta rays, eagle rays, bull sharks, turtles, barracudas, and several large pelagic are the familiar creatures that passed through the site's waters. There are also reports that whale sharks visit the place during certain times of the year.

In the middle of the wreck, the engine room is located. If you are comfortable with entering the wreck, you can enjoy the view of the engine room. Other things that can be seen are toilets, the aft - and forward mast, the funnel opening and the ‘’Yongala’’ name on the front. We recommend to check with the tour operator whether it is allowed to go inside the wreck.

In addition, we recommend to dive the SS Yongala wreck only if you are an experienced (wreck) diver as the diving conditions and the wreck itself can be tricky.

The S.S. Yongala - A vessel of the Adelaide Steamship Co.
The S.S. Yongala (Credit: City of PAE Libraries)
The S.S. Yongala - sank in 1911 near Townsville and can be explored by scuba diving
The wreck S.S. Yongala (Credit: Geoffrey Rhodes)

Dive site 2: Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is an 52 km2 island which is located 8 kilometers from Townsville. The island is surrounded wrecks and stunning reefs so there are multiple must-see dive sites.

Dive sites which should be on your bucket reef when diving Magnetic Island are Florence Bay, Arthur Bay, Geoffrey Bay – including the Molte shipwreck, and Alma bay. The Molte Shipwreck, originally a German three-masted vessel built in Germany, sank in 1911 in Geoffrey bay. The wreck is home to many fish species and corals. The wreck can easily be reached (it is located approximately 100-120 meters from shore) on a depth of 8-9 meters.

The other bays/dive sites also have an average depth of 10 meters and are home to colorful fishes and sharks (Epaulette and Wobbegong). You can also find bombies, corals and swim-throughs.

As the average depth of these reefs are quite shallow, you can also explore the reefs by snorkeling.

Dive site 3: The (central) Great Barrier Reef from Townsville

You can also explore the Great Barrier Reef from Townsville. Most divers are exploring the Great Barrier Reef via Cairns, but the Great Barrier Reef can also be explored from Townsville.

One of the dive sites which can be visited by a trip is the Wheeler Reef. This dive site has underwater canyons and caves full of marine life. The depth of this dive sites starts at 2 meters and goes down to 18 meters. This dive site is suitable for all levels of divers and can also be explored by snorkeling. You can see large schools of Pelagic fish and explore the canyons and caves.

Other dive sites which can be visited are Lodestone Reef, John Brewer Reef and Keeper Reef. The Lodestone Reef are home to butterfly fishes, anemones and anemone fishes, octopus and nudibranchs. If you are lucky, you can also spot sharks, turtles and barracudas. The maximum depth of this dive site is 25-26 meters.

The advantage of visit the Great Barrier Reef from Townsville is that there are less tourists which visit the Great Barrier Reef compared to Cairns. This means that, in general, the condition of the reefs are better.

Dive Site 4: The Palm Islands

The Palm Islands are located 57 kilometers northwest from Townsville. The islands offers dozens of stunning dive sites. The best dive sites can be found around the Pelorus and Orpheus islands.

  • Pelorus Island is an untouched and pristine place only located 800 m north of Orpheus offering spectacular fringing reefs that make a great snorkel and diving experience.
  • The local dive sites in Orpheus are home to thousands of fish species and approximately 400 varieties of hard and soft corals.

Note that not every tour operator offers scuba diving at the Palm Islands. If you have the chance to experience these beautiful islands, we highly recommend to pay a visit to the dive sites.

How to get to Townsville

Below, we have outlined the most convenient ways to get to Townsville.

Option 1: By Airplane

Many domestic and international airlines have flight services from and to Townsville Airport, linking to Australia's other major cities. It is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the famous Magnetic Island. Moreover, this place is also a doorway for many national parks. You can book flights to Townsville Queensland with airlines like Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetgo fly via Skyscanner.

Option 2: By Train

Visitors from Brisbane or Cairns can take a train and enjoy a long journey which will take 6 hours from Cairns and 18 hours from Brisbane. Spirit of Queensland rail service has a regular trip to Townsville.

Option 3: By car

Visitors whore planning to drive to Townsville recommended taking Bruce Highway, which is approximately 1350 km north of Brisbane 350 km south of Cairns.

Accommodations in Townsville

In order to make your (diving) trip the best experience, a good accommodation is key. Below, we have listed our top three accommodations in Townsville.

Accommodation 1: Boutique Apartments Beach Location ($$$)

Boutique Apartments Beach Location has one of the best locations in Townsville. A ten-minute drive from the airport will allow you to reach the place; a 2-minute walk from the apartment will allow you to access the beach, BBQ areas, Olympic-sized swimming pool, fitness center, water-park, and a variety of additional attractions.

The air condition and free Wi-Fi are available in all apartments. Fifty cafes, restaurants, and entertainment venues are only 10 minutes’ walk from the apartment.

Price: Starts at AUD 220/night. The latest reviews, prices and availability can be checked here.

Accommodation 2: Motel on Mitchell ($)

Motel on Mitchell offers accommodation with air condition, free Wi-Fi as well as free parking for guests and a swimming pool. This accommodation is 5 km away from the airport and only 1.9 km away from the Magnetic Island Ferry.

Price: Starts at AUD 83 per night. The latest reviews, prices and availability can be checked here.

Accommodation 3: Gorgeous Home ($$)

Gorgeous Home is a perfect accommodation if you are looking for privacy and a central location. Within 1.2 km of Reef HQ, this accommodation features free Wi-Fi, a terrace and a garden. Other facilities in this 160 m2 house are a kitchen, a nice view of Townsville and three bedrooms (up to 6 people).

Price: Starts at AUD 199 per night. The latest reviews, prices and availability can be checked here.

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