Southern Great Barrier Reef Locations – Gladstone Region
The Southern Great Barrier Reef locations take in Mackay to Capricorn Reef which extends south to Lady Musgrave Island.
Great Keppel Island Reef
A fringing reef protects Great Keppel Island, the largest in the Keppel Group. Visitors can wade the calm waters to check out the schools of brightly coloured fish. The island is accessible via a half-hour ferry ride from the town of Yeppoon, near Rockhampton.
A pure coral cay with vegetation and birdlife, it boasts near the island some of the region’s best coral reefs and, consequently, one of the best snorkelling spots. Marine life is abundant (900 fish species), excellent visibility and about 20 fine nearby dive spots. Also nearby are Blue Pools, a sloping reef snorkelling area in a sheltered cove with many gutters, ledges, and caves, and Coral Canyons, a dive site maze of channels, canyons and ridges housing octopus, lionfish, stingrays, reef sharks and turtles, among others. Surfing is possible on Lamont Reef.
A neighbour of Heron Reef, its highlight is the sloping Wistari Wall that plunges from 3 metres to 20 metres and features much delicate coral. The current brings in trevally, mackerel, rainbow runners, and barracuda and resident species include Maori wrasse and coral trout.
Lady Musgrave Reef
The reef around the island is about 2,900 ha and features a vast lagoon famous for its bommies, diversity of coral cover and 14 world-class dive sites. Divers and snorkelers will be emersed in extensive coral gardens, amazing marine life, and exciting drop-offs.
One Tree Island Reef
It’s a small shingle cay with a lagoon and reef near Gladstone and is renowned in scientific circles for long-term studies conducted into reef and cay environments over the past 50 years.
Fitzroy Reef, the largest in the Bunker Group, is a closed ring reef with a deep lagoon with the entrance through two narrow, natural channels. The corals are diverse and include a large community of branches on the lagoon floor. The reef flat and lagoon are feeding areas for turtles.
Hoskyn Islands Reef
A small pair of coral cays, it is one of the region’s most untouched island and reef systems. It features an abundance of marine life, including manta rays, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracuda and tuna and is a vital turtle breeding ground.
A popular shore diving site in front of the town of Bargara, near Bundaberg, it fringes the headland, features colourful hard corals and varies in depth from two to eight metres. An abundant local marine life and reef fish abound.
Cochrane Artificial Reef
A short boat trip from shore in Woongarra Marine Park, the reef consists of the impressive 50-metre ‘Ceratodus II’ and 40-metre ‘Porteur’ surrounded by two Mohawk aircraft and a Kingair and other artifacts encased in coral and inhabited by sea life.
A colourful underwater playground south of Bargara in Woongarra Marine Park, it features hard and soft coral including gorgonian sea fans and pretty soft corals. It hosts various marine life, and colourful bommies visited by schools of barracuda, trevally and lionfish.
Lady Elliot Island Reef
The corals are diverse, and the bommies and platform reefs away from the crest contain the best examples of coral cover and diversity. To the south, large coral platforms form a distinct outer edge of a gutter from the peak, the platforms displaying massive table corals and staghorn. Elsewhere, much of a steep slope has good coral cover, and there are scattered bommies and larger platforms providing excellent snorkelling and shore-based diving. Off Lady Elliot Island are Anchor Bommie, Lighthouse Bommies, Maori Wrasse Bommie, and The Three Pyramids.
One of the most impressive dive sites near the island. This imposing tower of coral sits on the seafloor at 21 metres and stands 10 metres tall. A bommie riddled with ledges, small caves, and swarms of cardinalfish is fed upon by patrolling packs of trevally.
A group of coral outcrops west of the island feature bommies hosting a vast array of marine life – batfish, stingrays, white-spotted shovelnose rays, green and loggerhead turtles, sea snakes, moray eels, coral trout, reef sharks, trevally, barracuda, and manta rays.
Maori Wrasse Bommie
Off Lady Elliot Island and named after the family of Maori wrasse that calls the area home, it’s ideal exploring for intermediate divers, with reef sharks spotted patrolling the reef wall and arches.
The Three Pyramids
On the sheltered western side of the island, the three coral bommies rise from 20m, their coral heads attracting a great variety of marine life.
A long ridge of coral that varies in depth from 2 to 12 metres, it features lovely hard corals and offers many ledges and caves for divers and snorkelers to explore.