Diving in Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay – Australia

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ray seen while diving in melbourne
A Southern Fiddler Ray. Photo courtesy of Qing

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Today we are diving in Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait – Australia

WHY ARE WE DIVING IN MELBOURNE?

The best part of diving in Melbourne would be its variety. Melbourne has everything from historic wreck dives, temperate water reefs, to easy pier dives.

There is a variety of species that are endemic to southern Australia such as weedy sea dragons, blue groupers, giant cuttlefish, blue ring octopus, Port Jackson sharks etc.

Nudibranchs around here are found in less variety but tend to be bigger in size compared to the tropics (based on limited personal experience).

Most pier dives tend to have residential smooth rays. Fur seals visiting divers are quite common on open water dives. Great whites less so, but are around. 

Due to its feature on Blue Planet 2, the annual spider crab migration is now quite well known.

Melbourne Spider Crabs. Photo courtesy of Qing

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

Either stay in Melbourne city and make the 1.5-hour drive down to the Mornington Peninsula. Or stay down on the peninsula itself.

While dive sites are scattered all around Port Phillip Bay and just beyond the heads, most dive operators launch from the Mornington Peninsula. Some do offer pickups from Queenscliff.  

Getting there by car is the best option. While there are public transport options, these are not recommended

bass strait diving in melbourne
Photo courtesy of Qing

WHICH DIVE SITES ARE MUST-SEE?

Blairegowrie Pier (max 7m) – An easy dive, great for night dives and macro life. A popular spot to see spider crab migrations. Blairegowrie Pier is an active boat pier, so divers need to be aware of No Go Zones. But despite the restrictions, you can have quite a long dive. 

Flinder’s Pier (max 6m) – Easy dive, one of the best spots to see Weedy Sea Dragons. 

J4 Submarine (max 28m) – A WW1 submarine. Usually an easy dive, but can be susceptible to surge. Only accessible by boat as it is outside Port Phillip Heads. One of 7 J-class submarines wrecks, scattered within and outside of the bay. 

Castle Rock (max 20m) – An easy dive, a large bommie showcasing a temperate reef.

Ex-HMAS Canberra (max 32m) – An ex frigate sunk in 2009 as a dive wreck in mind. Has multiple penetration points and was left as intact as possible.

Lonsdale Wall system –

A wall system just within the heads of Port Phillip Bay, about 1km long and has a variety of dive sites scattered along it. Depending on the particular points, depths can go beyond 45m. Most sites can only be done on slack water or as a drift dive. 

While experience is recommended to enjoy more of the wall there are easier sites such as Lonsdale Wall Shallow (max 18m). 

Be aware when speaking to locals, Lonsdale Wall can refer to the entire wall system or a specific site (max 38m) on the wall.

Photo courtesy of Qing

TELL ME MORE

Beyond the pier dives, there are many other shore dives available around. This is spread all around Port Phillip Bay. From the Mornington Peninsula, some Western Port shore dives are also accessible.

The majority of dive sites are off a boat, a 20-30min boat ride would be expected.

DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?

7mm wetsuits are recommended. 5mm is doable in the summer or if you’re good with the cold.

Drysuits are not unreasonable, but unless you already own one, it can cost a bit.

Due to the temperature, hoods and gloves are highly recommended. 

Fins WITH booties will be more comfortable. This is easier and needed for rocky shore entry and exits.

Torches are recommended as many dive sites here have small nooks and crannies you might want to check out.

shark-diving in melbourne
Photo courtesy of Qing

WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?

Open Water is fine for the pier dives, and a few of the easy sites. But AOW is recommended to enjoy a larger variety of dive sites.

Conditions around here can vary quite drastically depending on the day and weather, so the more experienced you are, the more sites would be accessible.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?

Melbourne’s weather can be temperamental (we can get 4 seasons in a day!), so diving conditions are very dependent on the conditions during and before the day of the dive. 

The water temperature here tends to sit around 13 to 15° Celcius but can rise to a balmy 23°C degrees in summer. (After a heatwave…. and only really in the bay!)

Summer tends to be most comfortable as surface intervals in the sun will easily warm everyone back up. But visibility can be best during the wintertime (June to August) and can get up to 15 meters. Average visibility is probably around 5-10m.

Currents and drifts are dependent on individual sites. 

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

Around $65 AUD prior to gear hire.
(Disclaimer: I do not dive with a commercial operator, so I’m not too sure on this part)

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?

If staying in and around Melbourne city, all varieties of accommodation are available.

The majority of the Mornington Peninsula are popular summer vacation locations, so accommodations tend to be beach houses/apartments for hire with some options for boutique hotels and motels.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?

I live here!

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I definitely do enjoy diving in Melbourne, the varying conditions mean dives on the same sites can be quite different from dive to dive.

Melbourne might not be the idyllic place for try-dives, but definitely a place to check out once you are into diving due to its variety in life. 

WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?

If staying in Melbourne City there is plenty to do, the city can sell itself. 

Most towns along the peninsula have their own selection of local pubs and cafes.

Mornington Peninsula has as much variety in its walks as its diving. Arthurs Seat Circuit walk, Bushrangers Bay Walking Track, Point Nepean National Park Trails, Red hill Trail etc.

Most walks will have plenty of lookout points, Red Hill has a few wineries.

Almost all the towns are connected by the beach.

Qing started diving with a Try dive in Fiji, then OW in Malaysia, Advanced course in the Seychelles, a week in Koh Tao, liveaboard through Similans and Surin Islands and many dives around Australia. He dives mainly around Melbourne and eastern Victoria, across southern New South Wales and with a short adventure in southern Queensland. Qing’s background is in Chemistry, and he hopes to one day go into marine sciences.