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Best Liveaboards In Australia

Table of Contents

The land down under is a destination like no other.

Spanning almost an entire continent, it is one of the few locations in the world where you can experience both tropical and temperate diving in the same country.

With over 25,000 km of coastline, Australia is home to countless reefs, wrecks and shoals, just waiting to be explored.

The infamous Great Barrier and Ningaloo Reefs provide some of the best tropical diving, whilst the south coast offers cool and tempestuous waters, brimming with sharks.

Australia has marine life to enchant any diver. From elaborate sea dragons in Sydney to great white sharks in Adelaide and mantas in Ningaloo, there will definitely be something to suit you!

Here are some of the best liveaboards in Australia to get you started:

AT A GLANCE: OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST AUSTRALIAN LIVEABOARDS

With so many opportunities, it can be hard to know where to begin.

FREE Liveaboard Packing Checklist

All the essentials PLUS things you need to pack that you might not have considered! Created by dive professionals working in the industry.

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Why Go On An Australian Liveaboard?

Australia is one of the biggest countries in the world and it would be misleading to say that liveaboards are suitable for every location. In fact, many areas don’t even offer liveaboards. This is because many regions have ocean conditions too unpredictable for cruising.

However many places, mostly in the north, offer excellent liveaboard opportunities. The weather is excellent year-round and the seas are often tranquil.

Liveaboards offer a unique way to experience diving. You can fully immerse yourself in a world that revolves around the ocean. Many liveaboard cruises offer upwards of 4 dives a day so you can explore all of the dive sites on offer. 

We recommend looking into getting your nitrox certification before you go. This allows you to extend your bottom time on deeper sites. It has also been shown that it reduces tiredness in divers over multiple dives

Liveaboards sail all over the world, from the tropical Raja Ampat to the pelagic paradise of Costa Rica. Whilst they are best suited to the more experienced diver, it is also a great way for beginner divers to gain experience and confidence.

They are aa great wat to meet new divers and make some friends whilst getting away from the distractions of life on and and get deeper into the scuba diving community.

 

Lots of liveaboards offer other activities in addition to scuba diving, for example, hiking, kayaking or special naturalist, or educational itineraries.

Best Liveaboards In Australia

Spirit of Freedom Australian Liveaboard boat on calm ocean
  • AC: Yes
  • # of Divers: 26
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Nitrox: Extra
  • Drinks: Yes
  • Price: Mid

Twice voted “Best Liveaboard in Australia” by the readers of Australia Dive Log, Spirit Freedom is a truly excellent liveaboard. It also offers flexible booking to suit your needs if something arises out of your control. 

She offers itineraries of various lengths all year round, both on the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. She also offers exploration itineraries into the reefs of the far north which offers an unparalleled opportunity for adventure and discovery.

She is fully equipped for divers, with nitrox (for an extra fee), a large diving deck with individual storage, freshwater showers, and a camera workstation.

She can accommodate up to 26 divers in 11 cabins, which have various configurations. Each has ensuite bathrooms, storage, housekeeping, and air conditioning.

Social areas include the sundeck, where you can sunbathe between dives or enjoy a beer at the end of the day, as well as the forward lounge. If your partner or spouse doesn’t dive that is no issue as they can snorkel and work. 

The dining room is spacious and serves fresh, healthy meals that can cater to dietary requirements. Alcoholic beverages with dinner and soft drinks are included in the reasonable price tag.

What we love

  • Voted “Best Australian Liveaboard”
  • Camera workstation
  • Extensive facilities

Downsides

  • Not the cheapest
  • Extra fee for nitrox

Leader in Liveaboard Sales

Coral Sea Dreaming Australian Liveaboard boat surrounded by divers
  • AC: Yes
  • # of Divers: 11
  • Wifi: No
  • Nitrox: No
  • Drinks: Yes
  • Price: Low

Coral Sea Dreaming is a liveaboard for those wishing to escape the crowds. Not only does it only have a maximum of 12 guests, but it sails off the beaten track to the more remote and less-visited regions of the Great Barrier Reef.

It has exclusive access to a number of coral reefs around Flynn and Milln Reefs which boast turtles, dolphins, schooling fish, and spectacular corals.

She is fully equipped for diving, with a shaded dive deck, rinse hoses, and tenders for getting to dive sites, though there is no nitrox capability onboard. A camera station is perfect for those who need to maintain equipment.

Cabins include twins, double and 4-person bunks, to accommodate various budgets. All cabins share bathrooms and feature both fans and AC.

Social areas include an inner saloon and a sun deck with hammocks. A bar will help with those post-dive beers, though the cost is additional.

What we love

  • Multiple languages spoken
  • Affordable
  • Small groups

Downsides

  • No nitrox available
  • No Wi-Fi available
  • Extra for alcoholic beverages

Leader in Liveaboard Sales

Pro Dive Carns Australian Liveaboard boat floating above coral reef
  • AC: Yes
  • # of Divers: 32
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Nitrox: Extra
  • Drinks: Yes
  • Price: Low

Pro Dive Cairns is a great liveaboard for those who want the best value for their money. She offers itineraries of various lengths to the Great Barrier Reef all year round. One is 11 dives over 3 days which may seem like a lot but is a great value for those wanted to get the most out of a trip. 

She has a dedicated dive deck that is fully equipped with gear storage and nitrox can be provided for an extra fee. Dive sites are chosen for their marine diversity and visibility and up to two-night dives are available. Both German and Japanese staff are available if requested in advance. 

16 cabins can cater to up to 32 guests. All cabins feature air-conditioned and share 8 bathrooms between them.

Social areas include the sundeck and internal saloon. A particular bonus is complimentary Wi-Fi.

In the dining area, you can enjoy three freshly prepared meals each day, which can be catered to dietary requirements. Alcoholic beverages are available for an extra fee.

What we love

  • Great price
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Multiple languages spoken
  •  

Downsides

  • Extra fee for nitrox
  • Extra for alcoholic beverages
  • $80 per person for Government Environmental Management Charge

Leader in Liveaboard Sales

Coral Discoverer Australian Liveaboard cruising on open ocean
  • AC: Yes
  • # of Divers: 72
  • Wi-Fi: Limited to certain times
  • Nitrox: Extra
  • Drinks: Extra
  • Price: High

The Coral Discoverer is a large cruising vessel that operates along the north coast of Australia as well as adventures into Raja Ampat and Papua New Guinea. Though she is not exclusively a diving vessel, she has full diving capabilities. She also offers trips ranging from 11 days t 25 days so yu can choose whatever type of adventure you want.

The diving features of the Coral Discover include a dive deck, dive tender and nitrox, for an extra fee. It also has flexile booking which is nice but read up on the exact details. 

She is a large vessel, with 36 cabins catering to 72 guests which lend this liveaboard more of a cruising feel. All cabins have ensuites, storage, AC, window, and iPod dock.

Social areas are big and well suited to the large number of guests. There is an inner saloon, sundeck, observation deck, three bars, a shaded cabana area and even a gift shop. There is Wi-Fi, for an extra fee. A variety of extras are on offer, including kayaking, yoga, massages and spa treatments.

Food is prepared fresh each day and is served buffet style. There are complimentary snacks, soft drinks, welcome cocktails and alcoholic drinks with dinner. Beach BBQs are often organized and specific dietary requirements can be catered for (so plant-based is an option). The staffs all from Australia and New Zealand so they may not be multiple lingual so ask if English is not your first language. 

What we love

  • Extensive social areas
  • Cruise-like feel
  • Naturalist guide onboard

Downsides

  • Expensive
  • Extra for alcoholic drinks and wifi
  • Lots of people

Leader in Liveaboard Sales

Shore Thing Australian liveaboard sailing on open ocean
  • AC: Yes
  • # of Divers: 10
  • Wi-Fi: No
  • Nitrox: No
  • Drinks: Extra
  • Price: High

The Shore Thing catamaran is an award-winning eco-tourism vessel, ideal for the environmentally conscious diver. The trips range from 3 to 8 days and great for snorkelers as well as divers. 

She explores the stunning Ningaloo Reef on the west coast of Australia. Operating year-round on these flawless waters, you can dive with manta rays, turtles, whale sharks, and even dugongs which can be spotted all year. While if you want to see the humpback whales March to August are the ideal times but as usually with diving nothing is guaranteed. 

She is fully equipped for diving, with a shaded dive deck and tender for easy access to dive sites, though no nitrox is available.

Shore Thing can accommodate just 10 guests in 4 cabins and ensuite staterooms and deluxe cabins with shared bathrooms. All cabins have air conditioning. These small numbers are on purpose to give the best service to the guests. 

Guests can relax in the air-conditioned saloon or catch some rays in the hammocks on the sun deck.

The dining area is alfresco so you can enjoy the breeze and view as you eat. The bar is available after your day of diving, though alcoholic drinks are extra.

Other activities available onboard include kayaking and fishing.

What we love

  • Camera station
  • Kayaks and fishing available
  • Small groups

Downsides

  • No nitrox
  • No wifi
  • Expensive

Leader in Liveaboard Sales

When To Dive In Australia

Diving in Australia is dependent on the season. The summer months in Australia are from November to March, with December and January often the hottest months. May to September is winter and July and August bring the coldest temperatures. 

The south coast, which is exposed to Antarctic winds and currents, remains cool throughout the year. Melbourne’s water temperatures range from a chilly 19oC in January to an even chiller 13oC in August. The waters of the south coast and surrounding regions can be tempestuous throughout the year, but especially in winter.

The northern regions are tropical. Though they experience seasons, it is a more equatorial climate. The temperature average in Cairns, for example, cools from 28oC in January to 22 degrees in August. Their winter also brings heavy, tropical rainfall and the summers are relatively dry. The water temperatures range from 22oC in August to 28oC in January. 

Diving in the summer months is good across Australia, but during the winter, you might want to head north!

Ningaloo

Diving in Ningaloo Reef is great all year round. Whilst the dry season (from August to December) is the warmest, it is not the best time to see the big pelagics for which Ningaloo is known:

  • Whale sharks appear from March till June
  • Manta rays from May to November
  • Humpback whales from July to November. This is also the best time to see dolphins and dugongs.

Great Barrier Reef

You can dive on the Great Barrier Reef year-round, though the best season for scuba diving is from August to December when you can get the best visibility. 

In October and November, you can witness coral spawning events. Minke and humpback whale encounters can be seen from May to August to the minkes and November for the humpbacks.

Australia Diving Guide

Conditions

Australia is so large that it is impossible to comment on the conditions in any given location. At any one time, there will be dive sites that are perfectly clear and ones with 18ft+ (5m) visibility, ones with ripping currents, and others that are quite still and can be dove by everyone. 

We advise looking up conditions more locally to the area you will be diving in.

Marine Life

The wildlife of Australia is infamous in popular lore and marine life is no exception. Species and distribution is dependent on the region.

The northern, tropical regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territories and Queensland are similar to the Indo-Pacific region. The coral reefs are abundant and teeming with life including brightly coloured reef fish and assorted macro critters. You will also encounter big pelagics at certain times of the year, such as leopard sharks, manta rays and whale sharks.

As you move down the east and west coasts into more temperate waters, the type of diving changes. You will not only need a thicker wetsuit, even in summer, but you will encounter different beasts. 

The bright coral reefs transform into rocky reefs populated with seaweeds rather than vibrant corals. The fish are correspondingly less colourful too. This southern region is often noted for its abundance of big fish like sharks, potato cod and grouper.

Special Encounters

Australia has a great number of weird and wonderful creatures which are big draws in their own right.

Here are just a few:

Weedy Sea Dragons

Weedy sea dragons are an elaborately fronded sea horse like creature. They range in colour from dull greys to vibrant pinks. 

They hide in the seaweed in the temperate waters of Sydney and the southeast coastline. They are popular among macro photographers and their shy personalities have earned them a sweet reputation.

Weedy seadragon swimming in the water

Great White Shark

Ah, the great white shark  it doesn’t get more famous than that and it you can see them here check out these places as well. 

These enormous beasts have a fearsome reputation, especially in Australia. Whilst they are responsible for a number of deaths each year (far less, it should be pointed out, than the number of human-caused shark fatalities), people still can’t wait to share the water with them. 

Though they are sighted in many locations, the best place to dive with them is Port Lincoln, a few hours west of Adelaide. Try and pick a boat that attracts them without chum – like Adventure boat charters, who prefer to attract these behemoths with rock music.

Great white shark swimming towards camera

Sea Lions

Sea lions are often referred to as the puppy dogs of the sea because of their cute, whiskery faces and playful natures. 

Many people rank them highly on their scuba diving bucket list and its easy to see why. A number of locations hold the possibility of scuba diving with sea lions, but it is far more reliable to swim, freedive or snorkel with them, in Jurien Bay or Port Lincoln.

close up of a baby sea lion

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are frequent tourists in Australia. Each year, they migrate up and down the coasts to give birth in the warm South Pacific during the southern hemisphere’s winter. 

During the springtime, they head back down to the Antarctic with their calves to continue feeding throughout the summer. 

This offers uniquely reliable sightings off both the east and west coastlines. 

Whilst it is unusual to spot them whilst scuba diving, it is not unheard of in locations like Ningaloo Reef.

Humpback whale rising to the ocean surface

Sharks

Sharks are a large part of popular culture in Australia. Whilst the number of attacks is minute, it is important to be aware of the risks. Scuba divers are at low risk of attack from any of the large sharks found in Australia – usually great whites and tiger sharks. 

If you are swimming, surfing or snorkeling, follow local advice to stay as safe as possible and remember that millions of people take part in these activities safely every year. 

Conclusion

Australia is an exciting and diverse country with an abundance of excellent diving. From the tropical coral reefs of the north to the big pelagics in the chilly temperate waters of the south, there is something to suit everyone.

Whilst liveaboard diving is not ideal for all areas of Australia, many areas are perfect for cruising. Enjoy the beauty of this amazing country from both above and below the waves and book your Australian liveaboard today!

  • Welcome

    My name’s Austin Tuwiner, a PADI Divemaster based in South Florida. With nearly 10 years of diving under my belt, I’ve accumulated the knowledge to help readers become better divers, buy their next piece of gear, and plan their dream dive vacation!

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