We Dived The Gold Coast’s New World-First Buoyant Reef

We Dived The Gold Coast’s New World-First Buoyant Reef

John McMahon
John McMahon


I enjoy a SCUBA dive as much as the next guy, though beyond a casual dip while on holiday in a far-flung corner of the globe, I can’t say local diving delivers enough to grab my attention. Sydney’s year-round ocean temperature is just a little too cold for my liking and the visibility beneath the waves can be very hit and miss.

But when I took the plunge again last week, 2 clicks off the Gold Coast and for the first time in years, I quickly remembered why the effort is always worth the reward. I splashed down in sunny Queensland as a guest of Destination Gold Coast to explore the local government’s latest and incredibly ambitious diving destination, Wonder Reef.

Gold coast Wonder Reef

Wonder Reef is an artificial reef, there’s no hiding it. Although while you might not think there’s anything sexy about manufactured fun, I can assure you that the final product needs to be seen to be believed.

The innovative fusion of art, science, and engineering opened to the public in early June after years of development and $5 million in funding. It’s the world’s first buoyant reef design, and it’s submerged just 10 minutes from the marina and a stone’s throw from the Gold Coast’s iconic Main Beach skyline. Better yet – and glorious news to my ears – its average water temperature in winter is a toasty 21.7 degrees. Tell me more.

Nine huge corkscrew-like structures, designed in part by artist Daniel Templeman, are anchored to the ocean floor in triple triangle-like formations. The intention, I was told, was to give the impression you’re swimmingly through a cluster of hot air balloons with thousands of fish in between.

Wonder Reef

The uncoated steel flutes have been wrapped with six different species of coral that were carefully transported from the nearby Palm Beach reef and over time will cultivate a unique ‘hanging garden’ about 22-metres off the ocean floor.

These are regenerative structures, designed to withstand cyclonic waves up to 18.5 metres high as well as aiding in marine ecosystem research. To keep everything as natural as possible, they’re engineered to sway with the kinetic energy of the ocean, nurturing what will soon be a giant kelp forrest, and are positioned at depths achievable by every level of certified SCUBA diver.

On a clear day there’s no other way to describe this vertical drop dive than pure magic. Divers can marvel at all nine structures in a single vista, and that’s before you’ve even got up close and personal.

As an Open Water Diver that’s capped to a depth of 18-metres, I was still able to descend right to the base of the flutes to get a true sense of their scale above me. An inquisitive lion fish caught me by surprise while I was down there observing some massive crayfish, and Queensland groupers spiralled around me in a playful feeding frenzy.

Over time, the reef’s creators envisage turtles, dolphins and larger predators eventually calling the area home, with soft, branching corals providing food and shelter for yet more fish species. 

Wonder Reef

Advanced Open Water divers can drop even deeper to the reef’s foundations on the seafloor that weigh about 72 tonnes each. If there’s not already enough going on to keep you busy, these pyramid-like anchors also feature landing platforms and swim-throughs.

On the surface there are four moorings to facilitate diver access to Wonder Reef, which includes one public mooring that keen SCUBA divers can buy a permit for and tie up to with their private vessel.

But why not dive with the professionals that know it best? Gold Coast Dive Adventures and Queensland Scuba Diving Company are your go-to operations; the fun and friendly teams are super relaxed and have been diving the site since day one. The benefit of seeing it every other day of the week means they’ll know what to look out for and, most importantly, the real-time conditions to help you choose the best possible day to get wet.

Wonder Reef

Head down for a double dive at Wonder Reef or pair it with a shore dive at the 17th-century shipwreck of the Scottish Prince (a breezy 5 minutes away by boat). From bommies to rock walls and grey nurse shark colonies, Wonder Reef now takes the Gold Coast’s coveted dive site tally to 11. If the previous 10 world-class spots weren’t enough of an excuse to don your wetsuit on the Gold Coast, Wonder Reef might just be the slam dunk.

Book your Wonder Reef dive now at wonderreef.com.au


This article is sponsored by Destination Goldcoast. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Boss Hunting.

John McMahon
John McMahon is a founding member of the Boss Hunting team who honed his craft by managing content across website and social. Now, he's the publication's General Manager and specialises in bringing brands to life on the platform.



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