Under the sea in Oz summer

This summer, add Australia’s best scuba diving sites to your bucket list. Here are our picks:

COD HOLE, Lizard Island – Queensland

As its name suggests, this north Queensland dive site is known for the friendly potato rockcod who call it home.

Australian Geographic lists Cod Hole in its top 10 dive sites in the country as it attracts not only its namesake but also giant clams, moray eels, whitetip reef sharks, humphead Maori wrasse, red bass and dwarf minke whales.

Also making this a must-visit destination is news that Lizard Island was recently named Best Resort in Australia at the Australian Gourmet Traveller 2012 Travel Awards.

Cod Hole is found on the outer Great Barrier Reef and can be reached via operators on Lizard Island itself (28km from the north Qld coast) or from Cairns and Port Douglas.

FORTESCUE BAY, Tasman Peninsula – Tasmania

Many novice divers will envisage tropical climes when thinking about our top spots to scuba but the cold waters off Tassie offer a unique experience.

Manoeuvre your way through forests of giant kelp stretching about 20 metres long off Tasman Peninsula, in the state’s south-east.

The Tasman Peninsula is about an hour drive from Hobart and the kelp forests can be found in Fortescue Bay.

The forests provide habitat for the big-belly seahorse, weedy seadragon and cuttlefish.

The best time to jump in the cool waters is between November and March.

BALL’S PYRAMID, Lord Howe Island – New South Wales

Divers have a choice of more than 80 sites off World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island and Ball’s Pyramid is said to be the most stunning.

It’s located 20km southeast of the island, and is where five major ocean currents converge, resulting in a combination of temperate, sub-tropical and tropical species.

The world’s southernmost barrier coral reef is within the surrounding marine park and, according to Visit NSW, there are 300 species of algae, 500 species of fish and 120 species of mollusc here.

There are also more than 90 species of coral and 500 species of fish, including schools of amberjack, kingfish and silver drummer.

Ball’s Pyramid is a sea rock stack and attracts the Ballina angelfish, just one of many species endemic to the area.

There is a ProDive operator on Lord Howe Island that runs daily dives between September and June.

SS YONGALA, Great Barrier Reef – Queensland

With 1249 registered shipwrecks in Queensland it’s hard to pick just one but the SS Yongala definitely has a reputation – both good and bad.

It was while diving the wreck on her honeymoon in 2003 that American Tina Watson drowned.

The controversial court case aside, the SS Yongala is considered one of the best dive sites in the world.

Having disappeared during a cyclone in 1911, the ship is now an artificial reef attracting spotted rays, loggerhead turtles, triggerfish, groupers, whitetip reef sharks, octopi, sea horses and venomous sea snakes.

The SS Yongala sits 30m below the surface and is 90km southeast of Townsville. It’s most suitable for advanced divers as currents can be strong.

NINGALOO REEF – Western Australia

We couldn’t put this list together without mentioning WA’s famous Ningaloo Reef, home to the spotted whale shark.

Ningaloo is part of the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Coast area and there are numerous dive sites here, including The Elbow, where you might swim with green turtles, reef sharks, flowery rockcod and manta rays.

If it’s the whale shark you’re keen to see though, be aware they grow up to 18 metres long and visit between March and June.

In summer, however, green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles nest in the area.

Dive trips operate out of Exmouth and Coral Bay.