For anyone’s who’s ever had a taste of it, scuba diving is an intoxicating experience offering a portal into an enchanting world.
Being immersed underwater evokes a sense of serenity, wonder and deep connectedness with nature, which explains why people tend to get hooked on this dreamy past time.
In Byron Bay, there’s no better place to whet your appetite for diving, or snorkelling, than at the revered Julian Rocks.
Not only does this famed site offer the rare opportunity to come face-to-face with some of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring marine life. It’s also steeped in local indigenous legend, which – without getting all woo-woo on you – adds to its undeniable ‘energy’.
A World-Class Spot for Divers
Regarded as one of Australia’s top dive sites, Julian Rocks is nestled in the Cape Byron Marine Park.
This protected zone is only 2.5 kilometres from Byron Bay’s Main Beach (or a zippy 10 minutes by boat), which makes it a superb and easy one-day outing from Elements of Byron.
Just below the surface, the swirls of tropical and cool temperate waters pulse with life, hosting more than 1000 recorded species of marine life. Creatures great and small inhabit this wonderland.
Among the cast of characters you’ll find leopard sharks, loggerhead turtles, dolphins, manta rays and scorpion fish. You’ll also see an array of soft and hard coral.
The bio-diversity and abundant wildlife have been attracting visitors and locals here for years, and with good reason, not to mention the many caves and swim-throughs to be explored.
Any visit to Julian Rocks is a spectacular adventure, just one of many to make your stay in Byron Bay truly memorable!
Make sure to check out these top 4 diving sites at Julian Rocks:
Great for newbies with its shallow conditions (6-12m), this site is located on the sheltered western side of Julian Rocks. Home to a wide variety of marine life, the Nursery also includes the anchor and chain from the Volunteer sailing ship, which was wrecked off Tallow beach in 1864.
The Cod Hole
A spectacular underwater swim-through reaching depths of 18m, located roughly 30m from the northeastern tip of Julian Rocks. Considered the best spot to see large Pelagic fish, this area is also popular with grey nurse sharks during the colder months (June to November).
The Cray Cave
Reaching depths of 25m, this swim-through is considerably narrower than the Cod Hole.
It is located at the exposed south-east end of Julian Rocks and is frequented by grey nurse sharks, cod, loggerhead turtles and bullrays.
At depths that range from 9-15m, this dive site is extremely popular with a whole host of turtle species including green, hawksbill and loggerheads. You’ll also be diving with eagle rays and, if you’re lucky, massive manta rays that like to hangout here.
The Aboriginal Legend of Julian Rocks
Australia’s indigenous culture is one of the most ancient cultures on the planet.
Most people would be familiar (to some extent at least), with the Aboriginal belief in the Dreamtime, which includes creation stories and describes the intertwining of land and ancestral spirits.
Julian Rocks, with its two distinct islands that look heart-shaped when seen from the right angle, boasts a fascinating tale. Without further ado, let’s dive into it (pun intended)!
The Aboriginal name for these two islands is Nguthungulli, which means ‘Father of the World’. As the creator of land, water, animals and plants, he played a central role in the Dreamtime stories.
According to local Bundjalung folklore, the Nguthungulli rocks were formed by a jealous husband who threw a spear at a canoe carrying his wife and her lover. The canoe broke apart and partially sank, leaving only the prow and stern sticking out of the water.
These two ends became Julian Rocks – home to the eponymous Nguthungulli who is said to live in one of the islands’ caves.
How to Get There – Local Dive Operators
While Byron Bay is associated with hot, sticky summers lazing on the beach, it’s also a fabulous winter destination. Enjoy clear blue skies and sun during the day, and snuggle up with a doona at night.
If you’re keen to discover Julian Rocks, you’ll be delighted to know that diving is spectacular year-round.
Whether you’re a novice or experienced diver, you don’t need to venture far to find an experienced local operator running daily snorkelling or diving expeditions. Many leave from The Pass, where dive boats can be seen launching most days, depending on the weather.
Byron Bay Dive Centre is a golden oldie, claiming the title of the town’s original dive centre. The centre offers refresher courses and is the only diving facility in Byron to issue PADI and SSI diving certifications. For something to really get the adrenalin going, you can also learn how to free dive to depths of 20 metres.
Another well-established operator is Sundive, which has been training divers since 1988. As Byron Bay’s only Padi 5-star instructor development centre, Sundive keeps the diving experience intimate with six divers or less with each guide.
At Blue Bay Divers, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of popular and off-the-beaten track dive sites. Tuck into some homemade snacks in between dives. This company is the only one in town with double dive trips on its menu, so there’s plenty of time to discover the many treasures of Julian Rocks and mingle with your fellow divers!
Want to enjoy an outing in the company of friends and family? Speak to a dive operator about a private charter.
Can’t get enough of the ocean? Check out some of Byron’s best snorkelling and diving.
To get perfect underwater images to take home with you, join award-winning underwater photographer, Ross Gudgeon for one of his workshops. These sessions cover everything from selecting the right camera gear to advanced post-production skills. For up to date course outlines, dates and costs please contact Ross directly at: [email protected] or phone: 0412 862 305.
For a sneak preview of what you’ll see under the waves, download the free eBook, Marine Life of Byron by John Natoli.
Want more inspiration for things to do in Byron Bay? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Byron Bay.