Getting out on and in the Water

Townsville, located in North Queensland, Australia, is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and offers excellent opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling. Here are some notable locations and experiences for scuba diving and snorkelling in the Townsville region.

Great Barrier Reef:

Townsville is a major access point to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most renowned and diverse marine ecosystems. Day trips, liveaboard dive expeditions, and snorkelling excursions depart from Townsville, providing access to various reef sites.

Magnetic Island:

Just a short ferry ride from Townsville, Magnetic Island offers snorkelling opportunities at locations like Geoffrey Bay, Nelly Bay, and Florence Bay. The island’s fringing reefs boast vibrant coral formations and a variety of marine life. The best time to explore is outside of full and new moon phases or when there is a south-easterly wind blowing, as this affects visibility. Going from June – September, the water temperature is around 25 degrees and the stinger season is finished.

Nelly Bay:

The Nelly Bay Snorkel Trail is purpose-built to provide visitors with a guided underwater experience. It typically features a series of submerged structures, such as a marked trail, underwater signs, and artificial reefs designed to enhance the marine environment. The trail is easily accessible from the shore, making it suitable for snorkelers of various skill levels, including beginners. It’s a popular choice for both locals and tourists interested in exploring the underwater world, and the trail starts just near Base Backpackers.

Geoffery Bay:

The Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail is designed starts around 400m from off the beach near the Arcadia Hotel as a marked underwater trail, providing a guided experience for snorkelers. This trail features submerged structures including the wreck of the German Passenger/Cargo Ship Moltke which was scuttled in 1911 look for coral formations, and vibrant marine life.

Florence Bay:

Florence Bay on Magnetic Island, near Townsville in Queensland, Australia, is known for its stunning coral reefs and clear waters. Home to a variety of hard and soft coral formations, this site offers snorkelers the chance to explore vibrant and diverse underwater eco-systems. The coral reefs contribute to the bay’s reputation as a snorkelling hotspot.

Yongala Wreck:

The dive to the S.S. Yongala is considered one of the best and most challenging in Australia and known as 1 of the 5 best wreck dives in the world. The site is known for its clear waters, strong currents, and the opportunity to explore a historically significant shipwreck. Renowned for its vibrant marine life, The wreck has become an artificial reef, attracting a diverse range of underwater species – expect to see schools of fish, rays, turtles, and various types of coral formations.

The S.S. Yongala sank during a cyclone on March 23, 1911 – killing all 122 people aboard the ship. The wreck remained undiscovered for several decades, until 1958 that the S.S. Yongala was first dived, revealing the well-preserved remnants of the ship on the ocean floor.

The remote location of the S.S. Yongala adds to the intrigue of the dive site. Its isolation (north of Cape Bowling Green) between Ayr and Townsville has contributed to the preservation of the wreck.

Descending by the buoys on the bow or aft sections, the wreck starts approximately 15 meters below the ocean’s surface and extends to a depth of 29 meters, meaning it can be explored by Open Water (on the top side) and by Advanced Open Water at the bottom. Divers exploring the site can witness the ship’s structure, marine life, and the artefacts that have become part of the underwater ecosystem over the years.

The S.S. Yongala is protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act, preserving it as a cultural and historical site. Day and Night Diving trips to the S.S. Yongala are organized by Adrenaline Dive (Townsville) and Yongala Dive (Alva Beach, North of Ayr) or on liveaboard tours out of Townsville with Kalinda Affordable Charters who are ECO Certified. Due to the depth and conditions, divers may need advanced certification to explore the site safely.

Wheeler Reef:

This impressive reef is located a short boat trip from Townsville to the North East, and is part of the Great Barrier Reef. Wheeler Reef (a platform reef, which is perfectly circular) is renowned for its exceptional diving and snorkelling opportunities in crystal-clear waters that are home to vibrant coral formations that have created an underwater paradise. At 13m deep, it is accessible by Open Water Divers and drops down to 25m – territory for Advanced Open Water divers. The reef features a sandy bottom with an array of colourful corals and marine life. This dive site is usually part of a multiday tour incorporating the Yongala Wreck.

The Strand Rockpool:

The Strand is a popular waterfront area in Townsville, and the Rockpool is a large, man-made saltwater swimming facility. Located on the northern end of the Strand, the pool ticks the boxes for the little ones being shallow and stinger-free. While not a natural reef, the Rockpool provides a safe and easily accessible spot for snorkelling, especially for beginners. Cost $FREE.


South of Townsville, the town of Bowen offers the opportunity to explore the reef at places like Horseshoe Bay (a shore dive) where the visibility can get to 7 or 8 metres in ideal conditions. Horseshoe Bay is known for its large variety of colourful Nudibranchs and painted crayfish hidden amongst the hard corals.

Manta Ray Bay, which is park of Hook Island in the Whitsundays. The site has a variety of swim-throughs and goes to the depth of 25m making it available to Advanced Open Water divers. Featuring coral gardens and a variety of marine species (Manta Rays in the winter months), this is a site to not miss.

Palm Islands:

The Palm Islands, including Great Palm Island and Orpheus Island, provide additional options for snorkelling and diving adventures. These islands offer pristine coral reefs and clear waters for underwater exploration.

SS Gothenburg Wreck:

The SS Gothenburg, another historical shipwreck, lies off the coast near Townsville. The 63m long wreck is 131km southeast of Townsville and 27nm east of Cape Upstart and lays on the western edge of ‘Old Reef’. Advanced Divers can fully explore the remains of this wreck where the bottom sits at 30m. This protected wreck which sank in 1875 was a tragic loss of human life, however abundant marine life have made it their home including the stern and double boiler which are home to many species of sharks and fish.

Before engaging in any scuba diving or snorkelling activities, it’s essential to prioritize safety by checking weather conditions, using reputable dive operators, and adhering to guidelines provided by local authorities. Townsville’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef ensures that divers and snorkelers can experience some of the world’s most stunning underwater landscapes and biodiversity.

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