Best Diving sites in Port Douglas

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If you have dived in Port Douglas before, please share your experiences: Dive spots you would recommend, which Dive Center you used, Fishes & Diving, Visibility, Currents, etc. Please post your comments in the section below, by doing so you will help fellow divers to plan their next trip ;)

In this page you will find more detailed information about scuba diving in Port Douglas.

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Best Dive Review

Dive centers in Port Douglas mostly dive on the Agincourt Reef System which is part of the excellent Ribbon Reef. There are about 45 dive sites in the area. It is mostly drift and wall diving. There are also very easy dive sites featuring shallow and colourful coral gardens worth exploring, which also make great spots for the the snorkellers our there! The package usually includes 2 or 3 dives, the lunch and snacks onboard.

The reef is incredibly healthy with a teeming marine life. You can spot many pelagic fishes such as Barracudas and Dogtooth Tunas. It is also not rare to spot a Whitetip Shark and other species of reef Sharks as well as the Blue Spotted Stingray.

Port Douglas Boat Harbor

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/miqspix/5260659237/

You will notice many Cods, which is a kind of a big Grouper during your dives. In particular you can see many of them in Cod Hole and Castle Rock dive sites. Manta Rays is a possible encounter too!

During the right season you might even spot a Humpback Whale, a Minke Whale or a pod of dolphins, and dugongs are also sometimes spotted.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to six different species of Turtles! So you will definitely have a good chance of at least spotting one of ’em coming up for air!

If you take a Liveaboard, you can dive more remote areas such as the excellent Osprey Reef offering some of the best diving in the world! It is home to many of the big fishes with lots of Shark action and you could even observe a wild Shark feeding at North Horn dive site. However this destination is more suitable for experienced divers.

I usually use this website to book in advance my Liveaboards in Australia as they usually have the lowest rates I find. I like it because they have an easy booking system.

How to dive Port Douglas?

Liveaboard:

The main and best parts of the Great Barrier Reef are located quite far away from the mainland. If you want to dive on the magnificent Osprey Reef you need to take a liveaboard. The best spot is called North Horn, and is famous for its resident population of Sharks.

The dive operators often feature shark feeding and you can have the chance to spot Whitetip Reef Sharks, Silvertip Sharks or the rare Tiger Shark! Many Packages are available from the low budget liveaboard to very luxurious vessels.

Most of the liveaboard trips start from Cairns but several dive operators start from Port Douglas.

Port Douglas Dive centers:

Port Douglas is closer to the Ribbon Reef than Cairns, and you can reach the best spots within 1 or 2 hours on fast boats. The most famous dive site of the area is called Cod Hole where you can observe friendly giant Potato Groupers up close. It is an excellent place for underwater photography.

Watch this video to see a bunch of divers up close and personal during a cod feed!

Where to stay?

I usually use this website to book in advance my hotels in Port Douglas as they usually have the lowest rates I find. I like it because it's free to cancel and change the dates.

Best time to dive in Port Douglas

Port Douglas has a Tropical Climate. The weather is mostly sunny with occasional heavy rainfall. The summer (November to April) is hot and humid while the winter (May to October) is a bit cooler. The air temperature ranges from 23°C to 30°C year round. It is possible to dive all year round on the Great Barrier Reef:

  • The wet season runs from January to March with usually heavy rain early in the morning or late afternoon but nothing really to worry about and rainy days are rare.
  • Dry season with sunny weather runs from May to December.
  • The visibility is very good all year round but the best visibility is generally in June and from September to November.
  • The Minke Whales season runs from June to August.
  • The humpback whales season is from June to November.
  • The Coral Spawning occurs in October and November
  • High Season runs from May to September. Port Douglas is a popular holiday destination and during this period the population of 3000 people can double! So you should book your diving resort or your cruise well in advance!

The best scuba diving season on the Great Barrier Reef runs from mid-August to mid-December with excellent conditions.

Hot tip:

  • From November to March is the Jellyfish season. Protected swimming areas are set up on the popular beaches.

Top liveaboards in Port Douglas according to divers reviews

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Dive courses

Port Douglas is a fantastic place to learn scuba diving with excellent and easy sea conditions. There are many dive centers in the town and it is possible to pass your Padi Open Water certification in any of them. There is also the Tech Dive Academy. They are specialised in teaching advanced and tech diving to go deeper but they also offer the all the Padi courses.

Dive centers in Port Douglas provide excellent services and dive training. Most of the diving is done on superb fast boats with great services onboard.

Scuba Diving conditions

Conditions are good all year round in Port Douglas.

Water temperature ranges from 23°C to 29°C with July being the coldest and February the hottest month.

The current is generally gentle around Port Douglas but can be fierce if you go on the Ribbon and Osprey Reefs.

The visibility on the Great Barrier Reef is generally between 15 to 60 meters. The further you go, the better the visibility will be.

The depth ranges from 5 to 30 meters but most of the dive sites are suitable for beginner divers and don’t go below 20 meters deep.

Port Douglas Beach Four Miles

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/84329163/

Snorkelling in Port Douglas

Port Douglas provides excellent snorkelling opportunities. You can snorkel right in front of the beach or you can join a snorkelling tour on the Great Barrier Reef! It is possible to hire equipment from your resort or in several places in town. If you book a tour, the rental of the snorkelling gears is included in the package.

As for the divers, you will need to pay a “reef tax” of $20 per person in addition of the tour price.

Hot tip

  • When Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, don’t forget your sunscreen and a T-shirt to protect from Sunburn! The Australian rays can be harsh.

Diving Safety

If you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to Port Douglas, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this diving insurance as they offer worldwide coverage and focus on providing scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.

Travel Guide

Now that you know all about the underwater world, you might want to start planning your scuba holiday! Check out our Port Douglas Travel Review for information about how to get there, activities and excursions, where to stay, and more.

Diving Reviews for this region

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Dive spots reviews in Port Douglas

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Liveaboard Reviews in Port Douglas

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34 dive logs in “Port Douglas

  1. Diving (day trips) from Port Douglas is far better than Cairns, as there are less people and the reefs are in much better condition. All the operators are top quality although some do not go to the outer reef for every dive – diving the inner reefs is generally not so spectacular. Expect to see a bit of everything, from white tip reef sharks, local favs like resident cod or Maori wrasse and even the little things such as nudis and glass shrimp if you take the time and look closely. Liveaboard trips (ex Cairns) up the Ribbon Reefs and to Osprey are a must do.

  2. Where do you do to pick up a tour on the Yongala Wreck? Out of Cairns or townsville? Is it hard to find a dive center that goes their?

    • The Yongala is an awesome dive. We went a few years back out of Townsville with Yongala Dive. There’s a couple of companies that go there, I think all out of Townsville (it’s a way from Cairns).
      Yongala Dive gave us a great day out, plus we organised our accomodation with them too.

  3. Any recommendations for dive operators? I have only one day to dive this Sept. and would prefer not to be on a boat with 60 people (private charters are way out of my price range).

    Thanks in advance! :-)

    • Hi,
      I wouldn’t expect the numbers to be too hectic this time of year, even though personally I think September is the best month to dive this part of the reef.
      The smaller companies such as Calypso tend to stick to the inner reefs like Opal, which does not have the vis or numbers of fish that the outer reef has, so keep that in mind.
      I’d still recommend Silver Sonic or Poseidon even though they can carry more pax – you can always ring and ask what the numbers are for that day. Also keep in mind that they will have intro divers and certified and the various groups will avoid diving together.
      Sorry I can’t be more definite, but enjoy your day whatever you decide, and keep and eye out for whales :)

      • Thanks for the reply! I have been looking into Blue Dive, have you heard of them? It sounds like they run on the Poseidon but you get your own Dive Master and saved seating on the boat. My finance and I are certified divers but don’t dive often (I’ve only done Little Cayman about 4 years ago, right after I got certified) so I like the idea of personal attention.

        P.S. I so hope I see whales! :-)

        • Hi,
          Blue Dive I believe are fairly new, but may have taken over from Tech Dive which was a well respected company that also used Poseidon for its dives. You may get a smaller group to dive with but of course that won’t affect the overall numbers on the boat that day.
          It sounds like a good idea and you may have more opportunity to ask qus on things youre not sure about. Just so you know though none of the operators out there will just throw you in and let you dive, you’ll always be with a dive master so don’t worry about that :) Have fun!

        • Sorry – Tech Dive are still operating (I just checked). They might be another option for you to look at for a private cert dive tour, and they use SilverSonic which is a newer (and nicer) boat.

        • I just got a response from Blue Dive and they may be too expensive. I did more looking around on Poseidon website and it looks like you can book a private guide through them for less money. Still more research to go but I sincerely appreciate your help! :-)

  4. We have not been diving in three years, but have logged about 15 or more dives. We want to dive Austrialia July 2014 lst week. Would you recommend Exmouth or Port Douglas. We want to see the most color and coral. The best reefs to see, but we also don’t want a dive that will be danagerous or extremly rough conditions. Thank you for your help.

    • I haven’t dived Exmouth although it’s definitely on my to-do list. I can’t really comment on dive conditions there at all. The Navy Pier has been rated as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, however you need to have recent (6mths) dive history to dive there.
      I would consider your trip as a whole and what/where else you want to see – keep in mind that Exmouth is a long long way away, a 2 day drive from Perth but worth it if you’re heading up to Broome. Port Douglas has a whole lot more too see and is much closer if you’re travelling the east coast.

      • Oh and one more thing for Exmouth – May through to July is peak whale shark viewing season! Probably not making this decision easier for you!

  5. Julz,
    I am a Physical Therapy Student (Australians call it Physiotherapy) that has to attend clinicals (“work for free without pay”) for school. I thought what better way than to come to the place that pretty much grandfathered Physiotherapy & has some of the best diving in the world! Hopefully the school can handle all of the legal documentation and everything works out. I have been able to get a little bit of loan money from school to make this happen but it will probably be a once in a lifetime opportunity unless I move there! In the best case scenario I will be attending two 8 week clinicals back to back. The first starting March 23, 2015 & the second clinical starting May 18, 2015. I will be working 40 hours a week at these clinicals therefore I will only be able to take 2 day trips on weekends or possibly dive after work. I am hoping to stay in 2 separate geographic locations (for 2 months each) in Queensland to experience more diving regions. Under these conditions what geographic towns would you stay in? Thanks so SO very much!!

    • Hi Nicole,
      What a pleasant dilemma…. I’d have to say Cairns for one, definitely – it’s a large enough town to support your Physio placement and as plenty to offer for not just diving but other things to do as well. There’s quite a number of dive operators directly out of Cairns. Save one weekend at least to dive from Port Douglas which takes to further north to the Agincourt Reef system which has drastically less visitors per year. Further south from Townsville you also have the spectacular Yongala wreck for another weekend trip.

      As for another town… further down the coast is less ‘tropical’, but still great diving. I haven’t done a whole lot of dives down south, but have dived the wreck of the HMAS Brisbane from Mooloolaba (Sunshine Coast), which was fantastic, so I’m sure the Sunny Coast has plenty of other great dive sites.

      Happy researching and all the best!

  6. Hello,
    I am planning to be in Port Douglas for a couple of days this coming August. I am an experienced diver looking for a day trip to the outer reef from Port Douglas. Which operator would you suggest? I am not a fan of sharing the boat with snorkelers as in my previous experience it limits what the divers can do. I read some good comments abut Poseidon, but they take a lot of snorkelers. Could you please give me your suggestions? It is the two of us so I am not sure about a totally private charter (I wish I could afford it), but a smaller group of people would be highly appreciated. Thank you very much.

    • I’ve just come back from Port 2 days ago and had a great day out on Silver Sonic. All the boats from Port cater for both snorkelers and divers, with numbers of each changing day to day. I dived with an experienced group of just 6 ppl and a divemaster while the other less experienced group was taken separately.
      Unfortunately I know this isn’t quite the answer you’re looking for – there are no exclusive dive boats – however I’m sure you will still have a great day out. (There may be some dive boats from Cairns such as ProDive, but the diving is not as good.)

      • Hi Julz,

        Thank you very much for your reply. I have been researching both Silversonic and Poseidon tours and reviews. One consistent comment from experienced divers is that overall Agincourt reef was …. Kind of dead, broken coral, etc. I have been in different paces around the world and I thought that diving the GBR would be spectacular topping my list, but the consensus is different:( Did you dive the Opal reef? A lot of people preferred it, and I guess there is one operator, Calypso, that goes there. Any thoughts on Opal? Thank you again, looking forward to hearing from you soon.

        • I haven’t dived Opal myself, and I’ve heard mixed reports from locals – I think it can be as good as the outer reef and I know Calypso are long-term experienced operators.
          Remember that broken coral out on Agincourt and the rest of the outer reef is mostly naturally occurring from storms and cyclone activity – being on the outer edge of the reef means it cops all the rough weather that comes in from the Coral Sea. Also I’ve heard hundreds of comments about ‘lack of colour’ however many tourists don’t realise that around 80% of coral is various shades of cream, tan and brown. My advice is to dive shallower – more light = more coral. Below 15m you will see sharks, larger fish, boulder coral and many things, but the intensity of reef life lives shallower.

    • Just figured I’d provide some feedback on my trip last Sept. We dove with Poseidon and it was great! The boat was not full and 90% of the people were snorkelers which I thought was awesome because I love smaller dive groups. The divers went off one side of the boat and snorkelers on the other, so there was no waiting. (And Julz was correct that the intro divers dive separately.) The first dive (Barracuda Bommie – AMAZING!) there was only about 8 of us, and the last dive I was the only customer to go. AND the last dive was a drift dive which I had never done before.

      Of course, all of this pertains to September. We had only one day to dive, and we really lucked out with weather and visibility. Not sure how packed charters are the time you are going, but it was recommended to us to be flexible because the better the conditions, the better the dive sites are for that day.

      Side note – We stayed at the Sheraton whose grounds are amazing. So many beautiful pools everywhere, I was sad that I couldn’t spend more time there. (We had to do Port Douglas in 2 days, which I can’t complain about because it was worth the trip!) The rooms are pretty dated, but I didn’t care because I wasn’t planning on doing much else there than sleeping, lol!

      • Hi Kat,

        Thank you very much for your comment. I also have only two days in Port Douglas and I am trying to maximize my fun there. I am still in between Poseidon and Calypso for diving tour. How did you like the Agincourt reef? I hear a lot of comments that it was kind of dead. What did you think? What else do you suggest to do in Port Douglas? I looked into Sheraton and Thala beach resort which is in the rainforest on the beach, sounds exotic. Thank you very much for your advice, hope to hear from you soon.

  7. Has anyone been on a over night live aboard with Blue Dive from Port Douglas. We are concerned about how rough the water will be in July and if we would be better off just doing a day trip. Thank you

  8. I thought the diving in Australia would be rated at least a 5 star, but what I see here it is rated a 2.75. I am going to dive with Blue Dive on the Posiedon, the first week of July but from what I am reading I am afraid I will be very disappoint. If you had one day to dive and you were a little better than a beginner diver, where would you go in Australia to see the most color? Thank you for your help. DM

  9. Hello,

    Did anyone ever dive in Papua New Guinea? I can’t find any websites for dive operators there. I am not looking for a liveaboard, only day trips. Any suggestions? Thank you!

  10. Blue Dive….Just back from a super overnight trip with Blue Dive in Port Douglas. The diving and office staff went of their way to help.
    3 species of Shark, turtles and even a minke whale cruised by.
    Food excellent and our dive guides Jenny and Adriana know the reefs really well. I can only recommend. Much better then Cairns diving.

  11. I will be traveling to Port Douglas the 1st week of October and am looking to dive with ScubaDave onboard the Calypso. Does anyone have any experience with them? One of the services they are offering is a private guide. I am an experienced diver and am wondering if the price of a private guide is worth the cost.

    • Steve, We’re right behind you arriving 3rd week of Oct. I just sent an email to ScubaDave myself and we’re also trying to decide on boats and destinations, so, please let me know whatever you find out.

      I hear tell Osprey is the best, but requires overnight to get out there. I also saw a posting that there was some permanent moored entertainment platform at Agincourt but I’m not sure of size and scope. There looks to be multiple reefs at Agincourt so it might be OK. We do not like cattle cars and rushed dives.

      my email is jjsilver@yahoo.com, so please let me know whatever you find out and how it goes. Maybe we’ll be in front of you for the next trip.

      • Osprey is THE best! You just have to jump on a live aboard to get out there. I think there’s a couple of companies but Spirit of Freedom is a great one. If you have enough time to do a 5 day trip then it is worth every cent!
        PS avoid Quicksilver’s pontoon out at Agincourt if you dislike cattle cars. Also not the best option for divers anyway. Check out Silver Sonic or Poseidon, I’ve been out a number of times on Sonic and always have a good day.

        • We decided to do one day onboard Silversonic and one day aboard Calypso. We can’t do the live aboard because there are a few other things we wanted to do, like race cane toads at one of the local bars.

  12. ohh forgot to post some advise.

    Like you, we’re very experienced and dive around the world. A good dive master makes all the difference in the world. Some boats have em, some do not. A site can be large and you may/may not be able to see it all so finding a specific structure (or animal) unless you know where it is, can be impossible.
    Find out if the boat provides dive masters and how large the group is. If you are going to pay these gross prices, might as well pay a little more to ensure satisfaction. I would hate to spend this kind of money and be disappointed

  13. Hi!
    I’m planning to go to Port Douglas the 2nd week of october and stay there for 2/ 3 days, just to visit Great Barrier Reef. I’ve never dive before but i’d like to do it there, for my first time. Would you have any suggestion for beginners, about the experience, site or operator?
    Thanks!!!

    • Hi Cintia,
      I think it depends on how comfortable you are in the water already, and whether you have been snorkelling already and want to spend as much time in the water as possible. If you are very happy swimming, snorkelling etc, then I’d recommend Silver Sonic, as you can dive your first dive and then add on 2 more dives afterward on different sites. You can also choose to snorkel at the other sites if you don’t want to dive, although there are no ‘out-of-water’ activities (besides sunbaking!). They are a very good operator, safe, experienced and a beautiful boat.

      If you’re a bit less comfortable in the water then Quicksilver’s trip out to the reef pontoon is good because you can still do your first-time dive, and then have other options such as underwater observatory, semi-submersible submarines, snorkelling and snorkel tour with Marine Bio, Oceanwalk dive, helicopter, etc etc. You can also choose to do a second dive, however it will be at the same site.

      Depending on the time of year, Quicksilver can get very busy (max people over 400!) whereas Silver Sonic is only max 80, so it could pay to check with Quicksilver (who own boat boats) how many people are booked on for the day. Don’t worry though, the reef pontoon can take 250 people or more without seeming busy as it is huge :)

      I hope this helps!

  14. Hello all,

    I thought I’d revive this topic! My wife and I will be travelling to Queensland this August and are very much looking forward to it. I have been to Cairns before and took my diving course there, but this time we will only go snorkeling (my wife can’t dive and I’ll just join her snorkeling, not diving). Could anyone tell us whether the snorkeling options are better from Port Douglas or from Cairns? Is there a difference in reefs – and particularly, giving the best snorkeling experience – which you will visit departing from either of the two? We would also love to hear if anyone has a particular company which you can recommend for a snorkeling trip. (it does not necessarily have to be a trip without divers on board, as long as that does not compromise the snorkeling experience (for example because you then may go to deeper sites which are good for divers, but not so much for snorkeling).

    Are live-aboards also available for snorkeling, and if so, does anyone know a company that offers it?

    Many thanks in advance! Best regards,
    Jelle

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