Melbourne Pier Dives
Divers with Jellyfish at Blairgowrie Pier, Anzac Day 2006. Photo: David Bryant, SeaPics.
Given the greater city of Melbourne and surrounds includes the shorelines of Port Phillip (shore length 264 km) and Western Port (shore length 263 km), there are many piers which are great dive sites. We have customers who almost exclusively dive Blairgowrie Pier, with occassional visits to Rosebud Pier or Flinders Pier. So much diversity and great stuff to see and it's just an easy pier dive away.
10 Things You May Not Know About Diving Victoria's Piers
- Spoiled For Choice
Victoria is loaded with easily accessible pier diving choices, attracting divers from interstate and overseas, plus many die-hard local divers. From Flinders Pier in Westernport Bay to nearby Mordialloc, Mornington, Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea Piers on the Mornington Peninsula and across to St Leonards Pier near Queenscliff, this smorgasbord of options rates with some of the best dives in the country and rarely disappoint.
- The Ultimate Artificial Reefs
Piers in Victoria generally feature long rows of wooden pylons coupled with expansive wooden or concrete seawalls. These structures become encrusted with vibrant sponges, ascidians, bryzoans and kelp, forming a rich tapestry that plays host to all manner of sea life. Some piers rival the Great Barrier Reef for colour and diversity, often in just two to six metres depth.
- Teeming With Life In Critter Paradise
Dragons and ponies. Smooth rays, eagle rays, skates and banjo sharks. Giant cuttlefish, squid squads and octopus allsorts. Angel and Port Jackson sharks. Tasseled anglerfish, sea jellies and seals. Leatherjackets, salmon, pipefish, dragonets, blennies, seamoths, goblinfish and gobies. Massive seasonal aggregations of spider crabs, nudibranchs galore and more. Even the odd cormorant, penguin or lost turtle have been spotted beneath Victoria's piers.
- Each Pier Has A Unique Personality
Flinders Pier is renowned for weedy sea dragons and draughtboard sharks. Sorrento Pier can only be dived at night after the ferry to Queenscliff has stopped operating. Blairgowrie Pier is considered a Mecca for nudibranchs, offers some of the greatest diversity of marine life in the state and — being well protected — is diveable under most conditions.
- And Each Is Best Dived Under Certain Conditions
While Victoria's piers can generally be dived any time of the day or night and all year round, each has its own optimal conditions based on wind direction and strength, and time of entry in relation to the tide (visibility is often better on incoming and around high tide). Willyweather and webcams are a pier diver's best buddy in pre-assessing likely conditions beneath the surface.
- Intricate Tapestries Of Micro-Environments
Don't under-estimate less obvious parts of the terrain. Be sure to thoroughly explore the sandy bottom, surrounding seagrass, pylons, seawalls, natural and man-made nooks and crannies and the surrounding open water (though make sure you watch out for hooks and lines in action from the pier above!)
- The Slower You Go, The More You Will See
While it might be tempting to think of the pier as some sort of end-to-end underwater racetrack, the slower you go, the more you will see.
- Buoyancy Is Key
Careless diving can quickly silt up the water, and fins swiping against sandy bottoms and pylons can cause significant damage to marine life. Neutral buoyancy will always result in a better experience for you and for the environment you are visiting.
- Piers Are Subject To Construction, Decay And Repairs
Piers are subject to works in alignment with human needs and responsibilities. The current replacement of the eastern seawall at Blairgowrie Pier provides excellent opportunities for volunteer divers to be involved in the ground breaking 'Operation Sponge'. This initiative aims to salvage thousands of sponges, relocating them to new sections of seawall before the decaying sections are removed from the water (well worth checking out on Facebook and getting involved!)
- Pier Diving Is 100% Addictive
Victoria's piers are accessible for divers of all levels and experience and filled with endless possibilities for underwater photographers. Satisfy you OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Diving) and check out one of Victoria's amazing piers soon!
The above information is taken, with permission, from an article by PT Hirschfield (Pink Tank Scuba), as published in the September 2016 edition of DiveLog Australasia on page 16. See also PT's blog, Pink Tank Scuba.
Our Melbourne Pier Dive Picks
This is a great site for macro photography as there are many nudibranches (it is nudibranch heaven here!) and other little critters. At night octopuses and different types of squid are commonly seen.
Weather Required: The following winds will be okay: N <15 knots, W <15 knots, S <15 knots, E <25 knots. Fairly protected however, so apart from having bad visibility the site should still be safe to dive when the winds are a bit stronger. High tide is better so you can get more depth.
Flinders Pier is the best spot to find weedy sea dragons. There are dozens of them here and during the right season you might see them carrying eggs around. It's not uncommon to encounter seals here. They like to play with you by swimming straight at you, which is spooky in low viz. There are also large stingrays that circle the pier. Leafy seadragons have been spotted here by a couple of people (and photographed) but this is a rare find.
Weather Required: All winds other than strong E or NE winds though if the ocean is rough, it will have surge and poor viz. High tide is better as tide movement is 1.5 metres. Best dived at slackwater, or on an incoming Western Port tide, and when there has been no rain as viz will be best.
L-shaped pier approximately 500 metres long. Built about 1860 to service the lime trade. Points NNE so not diveable in strong N winds. A long walk to the lower landing (50m from end of pier). Much better at night as more things come out then. During the day can be fairly sparse. You can find a seal now and again, crabs in their thousands, leatherjackets, goatfish, octopuses (Sand, Keeled, Blue, Maori), calamari, dumpling squid and bottletail squid in their dozens, nudis, stargazers, lots of seahorses (pot belly and short headed), schools of pike during summer, pufferfish and stingrays. There are parts that must be nurseries as during certain times there are many baby critters here. See large stingrays fairly often and you can see crowds gather on the pier to watch them swim around. Heaps of people fishing usually, so stay under the pier where the marine life is.
Weather Required: The following winds will be okay: N <15 knots, W <15 knots, S <15 knots, E <25 knots. Not current prone. Better at high tide to get more depth.
The above details about our favourite pier dives were provided by Michael Mallis.