Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Boat Harbour
The Port Stephens/Nelson Bay area, about two and a half hours north of Sydney has two of the best shore dives in NSW, if not the whole of Australia. These are Halifax Park and Fly Point. One of the problems with these sites is that they are greatly affected by rainwater runoff (but not normally unless you have a huge amount of rain in the week preceeding your planned dives) and they are really only done at high tide. If you up there for a weekend after a period of heavy rain, you can encounter dirty water inside Port Stephens (which is where these two dive sites are located) and you may not want to dive there. Also, as you can only really dive these sites at high tide (not exactly true, see the pages for those dives), your diving is limited to only one dive a day.
The shore diving in the open ocean around Port Stephens is very limited. The Fingal Bay area is generally too shallow and without any substantial reef. Further south there are some good possibilities for shore dives. One site is near Boat Harbour.
Drive out of Nelson Bay and when you leave the 60 kph zone there is a road off to the left. This is signposted Anna Bay (I think) and is called Gan Gan Road. Turn here and travel about 5.5 km along the road till you see Blanch Street on your left. This also has a small sign that says Boat Harbour. Follow this street right to the end and it changes to Noamunga Street. This street loops around to the left. At the first corner, there is a small rough carpark. Park here. This is location is just south of the actual Boat Harbour.
|The dive location|
The photograph at left shows the dive site. There is a gully that leads from the parking area to the water. This is on the far left of the photo. Enter the water on the right side of the gully as this appears to be the best spot. The bay is quite shallow until you get to the middle of the photo where it gets to about five metres. There is a gutter that runs from the bottom centre of the photo up and this is quite interesting to explore. From here round the point and head south-east. This will take you out to the right side of the photo. The depth gradually drops to 15 metres when you will encounter the sand edge. Follow the edge to the north as far as you like and the depth increases to about 17 metres. There are some interesting gullies and walls. The sand is home to dozens of small rays. When you have decided it is time to turn around, head west until you get a bit shallower.
When I dived here at 13 metres there was a prominent gully that was about a metre deeper and it ran back south or south-west. Following this we got deeper to about 15 metres until we returned to near the spot where we first met the sand edge. On the way back to the exit spot, follow the north-western side of the bay. I do not know if you can swim around the large rock in the middle of the bay, but stick to the southern side of the island. There are some interesting overhangs here. Exit at the same place you entered the water.
Fishlife on this dive includes luderick, bream, leahterjackets, eagle rays, rays and all the normal fish. Visibility was good.