East coast

Dive Sites

Bicheno

East Coast, Tasmanian

Much of the area surrounding the town of Bicheno is dominated by impressive granite geology that forms a unique underwater environment. Massive boulders create a myriad of underwater caves and swim-throughs, and provide shelter from the swells that hammer the east coast. Diving in the area caters to both the novice open water and experienced deep technical diver, but the quality of Bicheno diving only improves with the depth. The majority of diving is found on the eastern side of Governor Island which was declared a marine reserve in 1991. Abundant sponge gardens, impressive kelp beds, prolific fish life and caves packed with delicate invertebrates make Bicheno an ideal destination for SCUBA divers, snorkelers and underwater photographers.

More than 20 boat dives and 6 shore dives have been described in the area surrounding Bicheno. The information below details just a few of the more popular dive sites:

Image by David Clode

Golden Bommies

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This challenging deeper dive, found on the eastern edge of the main rock formations, is perhaps Bicheno's most famous site. Two 10 m tall bommies lie on a sandy bottom in 40 m of water. The granite formations get their name from a spectacular covering of yellow zoanthids that give the bommies a golden glow. Both bommies are covered with sea whips, many of which are encrusted with a thick mass of jewelled anemones.

Photographers will enjoy the huge variety of invertebrate species such as nudibranchs, basket stars, sea spiders and cuttlefish that surround the rocks. Large schools of butterfly perch can usually be seen, as well as boarfish, banded morwong, trumpeter and cowfish.

Recommended Certification

The Canyon

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The Canyon is a valley between two submerged cliffs that starts in 15 m, just to the north-east of Governor Island. The dive starts by dropping over part of the Hairy Wall and running alongside the Rose Garden before turning across to Paradise Reef and returning to the Hairy Wall where a ledge houses a number of large lobsters. Keep your eyes open for the large gnome kitted out in SCUBA gear.

The area is renowned for its enormous and colourful sponges interspersed with ascidians, hydroids, sea whips, sea fans and anemones. The spectacular scenery makes The Canyon particularly well-suited to marine naturalists and underwater photographers.

Recommended Certification

Visibility

10 - 50m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

40m

CHALLENGING

Visibility

10 - 50m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

33m

CHALLENGING

Hairy Wall

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The Hairy Wall gets its name from an incredible array of sea whips and sponge outcrops that cover a steep rock drop-off running parallel with Governor Island. While many of the area’s other dives start or end on this wall, it’s worth dedicating a dive to exploring the remarkable variety of invertebrate life that collects amongst this sea whip garden. The visibility is often better at this site due to moderate currents that flush the area. Be careful to monitor your depth, as it is all too easy to descend beyond 40m at the base of the wall.

Recommended Certification

Bird Rock

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This dive features some interesting swim-throughs and caverns in depths of 10-20 m. The rock is visible from the shore (the steep one at the southern end of Governor Island covered in cormorants and seagulls) and is one of the nicest moderate-depth dives around Bicheno. It has three main areas: “The Elbow”, which is found beneath the rock itself, and is packed full of butterfly perch and other fish life; the “t” cave south of The Elbow that supports gardens of sea whips; and “The Ballroom” which lies between the main rock and a large patch of kelp and is a living room-sized cavern encrusted with spectacular jewel anemones. The floor of this cave is carpeted with masses of sponges , and large fish can usually be seen hovering in the shadows. Bird Rock is one of the best dives to see nudibranchs and sea spiders, and is a fantastic shallower alternative to some of Governor Island’s deeper dives.

Recommended Certification

The Rose Garden

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A valley full of sponges lies in 35m of water on a mass of broken boulders between two walls at the northern end of the main diving area. This immense sponge garden stretches for over 100 m as a patchwork of reds, oranges, pinks, purples, yellows and whites. Finger sponges, sea ferns, ascidians, sea whips, sea fans, zoanthids, solitary corals and tube worms carpet the boulderfield which teems with invertebrate life. Wrasse, leatherjackets, cowfish, trumpeter, jackass morwong, boarfish and butterfly perch are typical inhabitats of the sponge valley. The diversity of fish and vast array of sessile invertebrates make the dive an excellent spot for scenic divers and photographers, or those easily entertained by pretty colours.

Recommended Certification

Fish Rock 

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Fish rock, also known affectionately as just ‘The Rock’ is without a doubt the most famous shore dive in Tasmania. Entry is via the shelter of the breakwater where you will find yourself on a weedy reef often home to cuttlefish, squid, large schools of mackerel and inquisitive leatherjackets. The rock itself is about 75 m offshore in a roughly notherly direction at the extreme edge of the reef. It is virtually impossible to miss if you turn right out of the breakwater and keep the sand on your left. A large split runs through the centre of this 8m tall boulder, and is sanctuary to a large number of fish. Pelagics can often be found circling the rock while seahorses, seadragons and nudibranchs shelter amongst the weed on the rock face. Other invertebrates such as tunicates, sea spiders and hydroids can be found around the rock and on the nearby reef. The dive is an excellent introductory dive with safe entry and exit, and also provides some fantastic night-time scenery.

Recommended Certification

Trap Reef

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North of Governor Island in 30-35m of water is a pinnacle that rises to within two metres of the surface. The dive begins at the top of the reef and descends down a kelp-covered gully to a broken boulderfield covered with a multi-coloured mosaic of finger sponges, ascidians, bryozoans, sea whips and yellow zoanthids.

A number of fish species are resident on the reef, including banded morwong, magpie perch, butterfly perch, bearded cod, cowfish and stingarees. A great deeper dive if the swell around Governor Island is too rough.

Recommended Certification

Visibility

10 - 50m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

35m

CHALLENGING

Visibility

10 - 50m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

40m

CHALLENGING

Visibility

10 - 50m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

20m

MODERATE

Visibility

10 - 50m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

35m

CHALLENGING

Visibility

5 - 30m

Depending on time of year/weather conditions

Water Temperature

12 – 16 ºC

Depending on the time of year

Depth

15m

EASY

Southern Cross Reef

This often ignored dive sport is truly the secret of the East coast. Heading out from the old Bridport boat ramp on a glorius, windless and sunny Sunday we locate the reef at  -40.950113527277786, 147.4281147230324  around 10minutes to start. Maximum depth is 18m with most interesting critters spotted around the 12m mark, water temp sitting at a nice 14℃ and vis of around 5m.

 

The first thing I notice is the abundance and variety of life swimming by, not only this, but the marine life is curious about what i'm doing. Just some of the cuties we encountered were Nudibranchs, Blue throated wressels, Snapper, Rays and Sea stars. 

 

There is also an much shorie fun to be had at the old pier with many critters making there home there, great for the kids or non divers as well.

Photos and description contributed by Mim Schulz