Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving Web Site
Home Contact Me Sydney Reef Dive Sites Sydney Shipwrecks NSW Dive Sites Australian Dive Sites Overseas Dive Sites Dive Accidents and Incidents My Yachting Adventures 4WD Trips Weather Search 15 July 2024 18:13

About Me
My Diving
Web Links - Dive Clubs
St George Scuba Club
Some of my Best Photos
Contact Me

Dive Sites
Sydney Reef Dive Sites
Sydney Shipwrecks
Sydney Dive Visibility, Swell and Temps
Kelly Talking on ABC Sydney about Shipwrecks
NSW Dive Sites
Sydney Shipwreck Summary
NSW Shipwreck GPS/Marks
Australian Dive Sites
Overseas Dive Sites
Aircraft I have Dived
Old Bottles
Free Shipwreck Books

Dive Related Equipment
Shearwater Predator and Heinrichs Weikamp OSTC 2N
Uwatec Aladin Dive Computers
Apollo AV1 Underwater Scooter
Bauer Compressor
DIY Oxygen Stick - Nitrox
GoPro HD Hero Video Camera
My Camera Setup
Purchase of New Dive Boat
My Dive Boat - Mak Cat
My Old Dive Boat - Le Scat
My Dive Gear
GPS and Diving
Make Your Own Car Tank Rack

Marine Life
Rarer Sydney Marine Life
Bare Island Pygmy Pipe Horses
Bare Island Sea Horses
Bare Island Nudibranchs
Bare Island Marine Life
Encounter with Southern Right Whale and Calf

Other Dive Info
How Weather Affects Diving in Sydney
Visibility and Wave Averages in Sydney
Waves and Diving
Diving Weather and Sea Conditions
Tide Tables
Dive Accidents and Incidents
Dive Book Reviews
Site Map
Noel Hitchins 1951-2005
Lloyd Bridges - Mike Nelson in Sea Hunt
My Yachting Adventures
Below is a list of links to the main pages about my yacht, Catlypso and My Yachting Adventures:
  • Purchase of Catlypso
  • Details about Catlypso
  • Cleaning/Repairing Catlypso
  • My Yachting Adventures.
  • Login


    Forgotten your password?
    Request a new one here.
    Michael's 4WD Trips
    Click here for a list of my Four Wheel Drive and Camping Trips.
    Home Brewing
    Click here for an article about Home Brewing.
    Sydney Dive Site Hints
    "The SS Hilda is a nice wreck within reach of experienced divers"
    Old Mans Shoulder - North Head
    Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - North Head
    North Head
    North Head - this dive site is above the end of the word "technologies"
    The northern headland of the entrance to Sydney Harbour is called, not surprisingly, North Head. It runs in an east-west direction for over a kilometre and a half. All along this section there is excellent diving, especially when the north-easterly sea breeze is blowing strongly.

    One of the most popular dive sites is called Old Mans Hat. This is located approximately half way along the head. To the east of this dive site there is another great dive site. This may have a name but I am not aware of it as most people seem to just call the sites on North Head Old Mans Hat or North Head. We decided to call it Old Mans Shoulder as it is located near Old Mans Hat.

    Anyway, this site is located about 200 metres to the east of Old Mans Hat. Head out to GPS Reading xxxx (to come). When approaching the site, try to come in from the south and you will see the bottom rise from 27 metres to less than 10 metres in a very short distance. Anchor if possible on the deeper section, especially if the winds are from the south.

    Once you enter the water and descend to the bottom, head south till you are in the deeper section. The depth will be at least 20 metres. The wall is not a continuous single section but is made up of lots of huge boulders and larger rocky sections. Drop away from the wall to the south and the depth soon gets to 24 to 25 metres. There are lots of boulders here with some sand in between. Out even further the depth drops to 26 to 27 metres and the bottom is eventually sand with some small rocks. All of the rocks are covered in beautiful fixed growth. Not only are there sponges, there are sea tulips, gorgonias, lace coral and more.

    Old Mans ShoulderOld Mans Shoulder
    Two photos of the reef at Old Mans Shoulder

    Start heading in one direction. If the tide is incoming, I would suggest heading east, if it is outgoing, head west. In any case, the current here is normally not too strong to inhibit your diving, but you need to take it into account when planning and undertaking your dive. Due to the depth, you will only want to head in one direction for perhaps 10 minutes at the most before turning around. Come back a little shallower to ensure you see more of the dive site.

    During this section of the dive you are almost certain to see some sea dragons. There are lots along the whole section of North Head, so it is an unusual occurrence to do a dive and not see at least one.

    Old Mans ShoulderOld Mans Shoulder
    Two more photos of the reef at Old Mans Shoulder

    Closer to the wall there are a few overhangs and cracks formed by the boulders. There are even one or two small swim-trhoughs. In this area look for wobbegong sharks in the cracks and between the boulders. There are also some huge bull rays living in this area. One I saw (see the photograph at right) was at least two metres across. There are also lots of black reef leatherjackets in this area and also the occasional six-spined leatherjacket. Kingfish can be sometimes seen over the reef.

    Old Mans Shoulder
    A huge bull ray, one of two we saw at Old Mans Shoulder
    Once you are back in the vicinity of the anchor, head further on for a while. When you are closer to running out of no-deco time, come up to the top of the wall. This is about 13 metres, but can be as little as 10 metres.

    Turn around again and head back towards the anchor. The bottom here is entirely rock, with lots of boulders. The sponge gardens that you saw when deeper are now all gone. The rocks are covered in a pinky growth and there are some small anenomes on many. In between the boulders there are hundreds of one-spot pullers and sometimes ladder-finned pomfrets. Cuttlefish, squid and yellowtail can also be seen here.

    Go back to the anchor and then, if you have air. continue on again for a few minutes. Head back to the anchor and then north into the shallower water. There are some nice cracks here created by the boulders and you will see lots more fish. You can also do your safety stop here as there are some boulders that come up to about five or six metres.

    This is an excellent dive site, one of the best in Sydney. It is better done on an incoming or high tide although I have dived here near low tide and had good visibility. Visibility in my experience averages 10 to 15 metres and can get as good as 25 metres. Even if the water on the surface looks dirty, it can be clean on the bottom. The currents are normally not too bad (in fact I have never encountered a really strong one). Be careful when ascending away from your anchor as lots of boats go up and down this part of North Head.

    Most of the dive charter operators who work out of Sydney Harbour regularly do this dive or one similar to it.

    Copyright © Michael McFadyen 1990 to 2024
    Non-commercial use of an article or photograph is permitted with appropriate URL reference to this site.
    Dive shops, dive operators, publications and government departments cannot use anything without first seeking and receiving approval from Michael McFadyen.
    This web site has been wholly thought up, designed, constructed and funded for almost 30 years by Michael McFadyen without any help from the Australian Dive Industry.
    Website created 1996!