Inside Port Stephens
Port Stephens is a inlet of 132 square kilometres. Geologically it is a drowned valley formed by the Karuah and Myall Rivers.
Port Stephens' sheltered water offers many great shore dives as well as a few good boat dives. All dives in Port Stephens are affected by tidal currents with most best dived at or close to high tide.
As with other Port Stephens boat dives we meet at Soldiers Point Ramp.
Tony's Secret Spot
Way off the beaten dive track where no-one would expect there to be a great dive site lies Tony's Secret Spot. Discovered with Tony drifting and Graham following in the boat this spot is a macrophotographers' paradise! It lies on a rocky slope from 4-9 metres deep and can only be dived on high tide slack water during rain-less periods for better visibility.
Only a short boat ride from the Soldiers Point ramp this site can only be dived by boat but offers an easy dive site with lots of nudibranchs, crabs, octopus and seahorses to be found while exploring the marine growth. The fact that the site doesn't have great visibility most of the time means that colourful marine growth can thrive in the current without the usual kelp and other seaweed growth.
At 97 metres long and 2135 tons the Psyche is by far the biggest wreck in the area. Originally launched in 1898 as the HMS Psyche and was stationed in the West Indies until transferred to the Royal Navy's Australian Squadron, with the Royal Australian Navy taking over in 1913 becoming HMAS Psyche. During WWI was involved in action against German Samoa, escorting troop ships to the Middle East and later patrols off the coast of Burma. Decommissioned in 1918 Psyche was used as a timber lighter before sinking in a storm in 1940.
The Psyche now lies on its port side in 14 metres in Salamander Bay. It still is a massive wreck rising to just 8 metres below the surface. Small holes were blown in the deck by RAN clearance divers during a training exercise during the Korean War but this hasn't affected the structure of the wreck. Being deep in side Port Stephens the wreck in highly affected by silt. Only divers with excellent buoyancy control can hope to enjoy the growth covered wreck. Best dived during middle of the day high tides after periods of low rainfall. Are you good enough?
Coal Seam Drift
This is a boat escorted drift dive on the incoming tide. The dive commences at Red Patch Reef a pretty reef off Dutchmans Bay. The reef rises to just 4 metres below the surface but drops away through areas of cauliflower soft-coral to the coal seam. This small drop-off flows the ancient path of the Karuah River through the area before sea levels rose after the last ice age. The wall features a coal seam between layers of chalky shale. The coal being softer has been excavated and tunnelled by a multitude of marine animals to form shelter along its length.
The dive's maximum depth is 17 metres and the drift travels along passed Bagnalls Beach most of the way to Corlette. A great first dive when rough seas prevent diving in the seas outside Port Stephens before a second dive on the tide elsewhere.
Halifax Park (Shore)
Halifax Park is the eastern part of the Fly Point-Halifax Park Marine Sanctuary declared in 1983. The site lies on Nelson Head and features a fairly steep slope dropping from the beach to sand in 28 metres. The site was threatened by sand movement within Port Stephens but seems to be recovering with many areas of rocky reef re-emerging and marine growth again taking over leading to the site's returning popularity.
The friendly local blue wrasse is always keen to welcome divers; large silver drummer, snapper and kingfish are also regulars visitors but exploring the areas of rocky reef such as at Twin Bommies offers rewards to the macro-enthusiast with many species of nudibranchs being sighted.
Little Beach (Shore)
Fly Point (Shore)
Little Beach lies between Halifax and
Fly Point. We normally dive the
western edge of the beach near the
disabled access jetty.
The dive starts with a sandy seagrass
flat that drops to around 9 metres on
sand. As you go towards Fly Pt the
depth increases to around 15 metres.
Divers need to be aware that Little Beach develops an eddy current which at the beach is in the opposite direction to the incoming or out going tide. Features of the dive include the remains of a houseboat (large steel pontoon), numbrays, fishlife, tube anemones and lots of macrolife.
Undoubtedly one of Australia's great shore dives; Fly Point has been a marine Sanctuary since 1983. A nudibranch photographer's paradise; hundreds of different varieties have been sighted here. The site is vast and drops to rarely dived spots of 35 metres and over with many different areas to dive and places to explore. The diversity of habitats includes seagrass, kelp, walls and overhangs and vast rocky plains of soft coral and sponge growth which flourishes in the tidal currents.
The main ledge in 12 metres is always popular with divers with wobbegongs, red rock cod and lobsters often sighted. A visit to Rufous (the moray) at the Log in 15 metres is also a must for many. At GNC we also like doing a second dive drifting from Nelson Bay Beach on the outgoing tide back around the point to the stairs. Fly is great for a night dives; the place changes when the day-shift goes to sleep and the dog-watch critters come out. Sometimes it's just great to head out in a different direction a explore.
A very civilised dive site with concrete stairs with handrail and tarred car park.
The Pipeline (Shore)
The Pipeline refers to Nelson Bay's old sewage pipe that runs out just west of the Fishermen's Coop. Steps can be used to access the water and a short swim west finds the disused pipe. Concrete blacks on either side of the pipe are the main feature each with varying growth depending on depth. The pipe runs out several hundred metres; about 20 metres swim beyond its end is a small overhang in 18 metres with pineapplefish.
The Pipeline itself is not the only dive here: others are east along the Marina Wall with lots of fishlife; searching the clumps of corals and sponges straight out from the steps in up to 9-12 metres for seahorses, pipefish, bluelined octopus, anglerfish and other less common species or swimming west of the pipe towards Dutchmans Bay exploring the sponge gardens there. This area can also be accessed by a short swim from Dutchmans Bay