Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Normanville, SA
The town of Normanville in South Australia is located approximately 75 kilometres south of Adelaide. It is an easy drive of just over an hour to this town, gateway to diving HMAS Hobart.
This is a very small town, one pub, a couple of caravan parks and a small town centre. It is located right on the beach, the Gulf of St Vincent, with a nice beach and other attractions like golf courses and wineries. It appears to be a retirement town, as there are a lot of seniors there. When I was in the pub on the Friday I visited, my friend commented that we (two mid-40 males) were among the youngest in the pub. he was right.
Anyway, the following is a list of the facilities, especially in relation to diving the Hobart.
I flew from Sydney to Adelaide on a Friday afternoon. My friend and I both used Qantas frequent flyer points and had no problem booking the flights of our choice. Both Qantas and Virgin Blue have some really cheap flights at the moment, not sure what restrictions there may be on days and times of flights.
I hired a car from Acacia Car Rentals. They are not located at the airport and so, their prices are a lot lower. They also do not use new cars, so the price is very economical. For $148 we got an auto air-conditioned Ford Meteor. This was relatively comfortable and held all our baggage in the boot. When you land at Adelaide, all you do is phone the company and they collect you at the airport and take you to their shop front at 91 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton. This is about half way between the Airport and the City, both 3.5 kilometres away. They will also return you when you bring back the vehicle. It is just over one hour's drive to Normanville. The cars have a limit of 100 kilometres from of Adelaide, but this enables you to not only go all the way to Rapid Bay, you can travel to Cape Jarvis, the point opposite Kangaroo Island. Contact Acacia by phone, 08 8443 3313, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their web site www.acaciacarrentals.com.au.
This is not a complete listing of accommodation in the town. There are two caravan parks, the hotel and a lot of houses to rent. There may also be some motels. I stayed at the Normanville Beach Caravan Park which is located between the town centre and the beach. It is centrally located and within 10 minutes walking to the pub and restaurants. There are cabins and a bunkhouse to choose from (as well as camping). I used the bunkhouse which is not actually a bunkhouse but about a dozen rooms with two double bunks in each room. This is right next to the amenity block (walkway is under cover) and a kitchen/dining area. Not too bad, roomy but could do with a little comforts (like a chair or table). As I was coming from Sydney, we needed sheets and towels and these were provided by the caravan park. The pricing was good, about $20 per person a night. The other caravan park is further out of town and would make a longer walk to the pub etc.
The pub is right in the centre of the town and has, as far as I can tell, some motel like rooms and may have pub-style rooms as well. Looks comfortable. There is other accommodation as well.
The pub has a great restaurant, very well priced and with a good selection and at a very good price. We ate there twice, first time a very good $25 three course meal with a glass of wine or beer. They also do bar meals.
There is also the Min Palace, a Chinese/Thai Restaurant just off the main road, very good and wll priced, $22 for many dishes. It is BYO but also sold beer and wine. The wine was reasonably priced and there was a good range.
On the beach there is a cafe that is open for dinner only on Friday and Saturday nights. It has great views and fabulous outlooks and is BYO (I think it may also sell at least beer). However, the range of meals is somewhat limited. The food is very good, but a little pricier than the pub, $22 for a main.
There are two local wineries. They both only have only a couple of wines each and the restaurants, pub and bottle shop sell them. I tried the Allusion Sauvignon Blanc, excellent at $15 in the pub restaurant and a couple of others, all good.
The pub is the only night-time entertainment. It has very good atmosphere and on Friday and Saturday nights it gets very busy. Even on Monday nights it gets busy. The locals are friendly, welcoming divers as bringing business to the town. Normanville appears to be a retirement town, so the age of people coming to the pub is not the young set that may be found in other locations. One night my friend commented that we (two mid-40 year old males) were about the youngest in the pub! He was right.
DIVING THE HOBART
There is information about HMAS Hobart on my site and for information about the dives, see my Hobart dives page. One thing to note, not told to you by dive operators is that the dives are very dependent on the tides. The wreck site has not been chosen very well as there is a very strong (and I mean strong) current that runs across the wreck. The high tides get to well over 2 metres. If you are planning to visit the area from interstate, try to pick a weekend (assuming that is when you are visiting) that has the following characteristics:
- High tide about 10 am
- A low high tide and then:
- A high low tide
If this is not possible, pick a time as close as possible to 10 am (this is for convenience only) or a low tide about 10 am, a high low tide and a low high tide. The currents can easily get to speeds stronger than you can swim at times. However, when I visited, even though it was a bad time in terms of tides, we did not have any trouble on our first dive and only had some inconvenience at the very end of the second dive when doing our safety stop. Once on the wreck you can get out of any current by going inside or getting out of the current on the down current side.
There are six operators licensed to take divers to the Hobart (I believe that there are now far less).
There are two dive operators in the town. However, do not limit your choice to them as there are operators from Adelaide that dive the Hobart. I chose to user Divers Delight from St Peters in Adelaide and this was a good choice. On the first day we dived a huge wind and sea came up and all other operators went home after the first dive. None of them dived the next day (when the conditions were quite good - they obviously all cancelled their dives). Divers Delight has a 6 metre Marlin Broadbill (a newer version of my own boat) while all the others have much larger boats. However, there are a lot of advantages in this. For example, if there are only a few of you, then the boat is more likely to go out while larger boats might deem it uneconomical. In addition, it means that there are not too many divers starting from the one location. Like all twin-hulled boats, it is very stable on the move and at rest. Of course the smaller size of the boat means that they can only cater to smaller groups. Bear this in mind when choosing your operator.
When planning my trip, I approached all the six approved operators seeking a package price for dives, accommodation and tank/weights. Only two supplied package prices, one did not even respond and the rest provided individual prices for bits and pieces. A bit of learning to be done by some operators!
Anyway, we chose Divers Delight and we drove down to Wirrina Cove and the Marina St Vincent each morning. It is only about 10 or so minutes drive from Normanville. Amelia from Divers Delight met us and had our tanks and weights. John the skipper was also there preparing the boat. Amelia offered divemaster services to us but we chose to explore the wreck ourselves. We had very good service from them and I certainly can recommend them. Contact Divers Delight on 08 or go to their Web Site.
THINGS DO ON NON-DIVING DAYS
If the weather goes bad or you want a day off, there are a few close places worth visiting. Start with a drive to Cape Jarvis, the point closest to Kangaroo Island, then cut across to Victor Harbor with a few diversions into the local state forests and national parks. This will still get you to Victor Harbor well in time for lunch. You can visit the whaling museum, Granite Island (where you can see penguins) as well as other local sites. Some nice pubs and cafes can be found for lunch.
There are also some local vineyards, but they are only open on weekends and we did not have time to visit them.
A nice little town, with good facilities, restaurants and pub. A good place to be based while diving the HMAS Hobart.