Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour on the northern coast of New South Wales is one of the most famous holiday locations in Australia. There are a large number of excellent beaches along the section of coast near the city. As well as some huge resorts and hotels, there are the usual motels and caravan parks. Located about seven hours drive from Sydney, it is not too far from Sydney for a diving weekend so long as you can leave the city around lunch time on the Friday.
For divers, the main attraction is the southern section of the Solitary Islands. The islands are South, Split and South West Solitary Islands and they are located just to the north of the harbour. I have only ever dived South West Solitary before so on this trip we want to dive the other islands. This is the third section of our trip, having previously dived Julian Rocks and Anemone Bay in North Solitary Island and now working our way back to Sydney.
From our previous stop at Wooli, it is a 60 minute drive to Coffs Harbour and we find our accommodation at the Park Beach Caravan Park. This is straight behind the main beach and although not as good as the park at Wooli, not too bad.
The next morning the already poor weather of the previous two days has markedly deteriorated. The winds from the south are gale force and the seas huge. There is no chance of diving today so we go for a walk along the beach before travelling down to the marina and Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve at the entrance to Coffs Harbour itself. The wind is strong enough to almost blow you off your feet and we watch the waves crash into the rock below. Out to sea we spot a large rigged sailing ship. This is the Young Endeavour and it makes a spectacular sight as it makes its way into the harbour. The waves are breaking across the entrance and I thank God that I am not on the ship as it lurches through the entrance with waves breaking all around. A bit hairy I reckon!
We spend the rest of the day sightseeing and shopping. A late afternoon walk along the beach shows that the wind has moved from the south to the west and the seas are already starting to flatten. It looks good for the next day.
The next morning we head down to Jetty Dive which is located near the railway station and the harbour. Jetty Dive's owner, Mike Davey, greets us and we load our gear onto the dive boat and are soon on our way to the harbour to launch the boat.
We do two dives here at South Solitary Island, Manta Arch and a drift from the Boulders to the Gantry, more about them in other articles.
After the day's diving, we head back to Sydney arriving mid-evening. All in all, this has been an excellent dive trip. We have been away six nights, had nine dives and seen some great fishlife. The total cost of the accommodation, diving, air fills and second tanks was $376. Including petrol and food, the cost was less than $550. Great value!
As usual, Michael McFadyen paid for all his own accommodation and diving on this trip so he will write about his own real experiences of the dive operators and the diving without any biais.