Nelson Bay, New South Wales
Type of dive: Reef
Access: Boat (45 minutes)
Minimum qualification: Open Water
Depth: 15-35 metres (50-115’)
Visibility: 10-25 metres (30-80’)
Water temperature: 18°C (65°F) – 23°C (74°F)
Best time to visit: November – May
Snorkelling: Not at Looking Glass but fantastic elsewhere!
Broughton Island, a small 114 hectare low-lying granite island surrounded by beautiful Pacific waters, is one of New South Wales central coasts most popular diving destinations.
Whale watching is another of the area’s major drawcards when majestic humpback whales pass by on their annual winter migration from May to November.
Picturesque Nelson Bay, located near Port Stephens, just under three hours north of Sydney by road, is not only the gateway to some of the best diving in New South Wales, but just a stone’s throw from the Hunter Valley, famous for its wine.
Broughton Island lies north east of Nelson Bay in the Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park. The park was established in 2005 to offer protection to the woodlands, lakes, estuaries and off-shore islands that make up this unique area.
Until the 1960s Broughton Island was inhabited by fisherman known as ‘Broughton Islanders’ who fished for lobsters, snapper, flathead and leatherjackets. It is now a great camping destination for tourists, who camp amongst the island’s many thousand seabirds.
The diverse underwater terrain of the island consists of large boulders, walls, caverns and chasms, providing ideal dive sites in almost any weather.
Looking Glass, one of the island’s most popular dive sites, is a natural narrow channel running through the island. On each side of the channel are sheer walls and the bottom is sand with large granite boulders. It can be quite surgy when the ocean swell is running.
The channel is often teeming with huge schools of bait fish which make a spectacular sight.
Curious grey nurse sharks will often join divers, and on the sandy bottom there are wobbegongs and Port Jacksons. Other fish life is quite prolific and divers often encounter graceful eastern blue devil fish.
The canyon walls and overhangs are covered with invertebrates, including colourful sponges, and many delicate nudibranchs will catch a keen eye.
An added bonus is when dolphins accompany the dive boat on the journey to the island.
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Other great dives to do while you are there:
Halifax Park, Fly Point, North Rock, SS Oakland and Bubble Cave.