Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Cabbage Tree Island Trawler
Port Stephens is located to the north of Newcastle. This is a very protected waterway, although it is quite shallow and the entrance can be quite dangerous. At the entrance, there are three islands which not only protect Port Stephens from certain seas, they are also a hinderance to safe navigation at times. Over the last 150 years, many ships have hit these islands and sunk.
The northern-most of the three islands is Cabbage Tree Island. This is the largest of the three, being a about 800 metres long and 250 metres wide. It runs north-south. The main spot for dive is on the western side of the island. About two-thirds way along this side as you run north, there is a small inlet. This has a GPS Reading of 32ΒΊ 41' 27" S 152ΒΊ 13' 18" E. Note that all the GPS Readings on my Web Site are taken using AUS66 as the map datum. If you use another datum you may be about 220 metres off the wreck. See my GPS Page for more details and how to convert readings.
Anchor at this location which should be off the southern end of the inlet. Descend and drop to the bottom (5 to 8 metres). The reef is composed of lots of small rocks. Swim to the west and the reef deepens to to 11 metres. Swim to the west, with perhaps a little stray to the south. You will soon come across the wreck of a fishing trawler that sank here in (I think) 1997. It was fairly intact in 1999 but now is broken up badly. The first bits you will see are from the stern area. There is a toilet bowl sitting out in the open as well as many sections of hull and fishing gear.
About 20 metres to the west from here is the bow. This is in 13.5 metres and is a bit more intact. It is certainly more recognisable. The bow is on its starboard side and consists of the first 10 metres of the boat. The bow section has some spots where you can enter (if small) and is home to some interesting fish. When I dived here there were three pineapplefish here, one near the bow itself and two back near the break. These were all out in the open, unlike any other pineapplefish I have ever seen before. There were also a school of striped catfish here.
After visiting the wreck, swim across the sand back to the reef edge. Follow this to the south. You may see some flathead on the sand, as well as small rays. I have even seen an eagle ray in this area. Once you have explored a good distance (say reaching 15 metres), return back to the anchor a bit higher on the reef. Try a depth of 10 metres on the way back.
As well as thousands of yellowtail, seapike, diamond fish, sweep and one-spot pullers, you will also see things like long-finned bannerfish, moon wrasse and combfish. There are some octopus and moray eels to be seen.
All in all, a very nice and easy dive. Note that you should try to do this dive at high tide or as close as you can get to high tide. This is because on an outgoing tide a lot of dirty water comes out of Port Stephens.