I would say “The” best dive I have had in New South Wales (NSW) state is at the Gutter. While I was on Light to Light trek, I met a fellow trekker who had completed her PADI Open water course at Shell Harbour. She suggested that I head to this amazingly beautiful place and dive with the Grey Nurse Sharks. Unfortunately, I did not see the Grey Nurse Sharks but I did see so many other things that I will cherish for life.
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Where is The Gutter?
The Gutter is the most popular dive site in the Bass Point Reserve in Shell Harbour. The Gutter is the dive site that is suitable for all levels of divers as it is a bit protected from the swell. Entry into the dive site is just 3 metres and is very safe.
Shell Harbour is a city in the Illawara region of NSW. It is soon becoming into a holiday destination on the NSW South Coast as more and more visitors are heading up to the city for weekends and vacations. Shell Harbour is after Wollongong on the way to Kiama.
Note: There are no cafes near the dive site. So ensure to take something to eat and water with you before going to The Gutter.
How to get to Shell Harbour?
The distance between Sydney Central Business District (CBD) and Shell Harbour is around 105 kilometres (1 hour 30 minutes drive).
Note: There are street parking in the city centre. Shell Harbour can get very crowded especially at weekends.
The distance between Shell Harbour CBD and the car parking space at the Gutter is around 4 kilometres (7 minutes drive).
- Note: Around 2 kilometres of the road is on dirt road.
Shell Harbour can be reached easily from Central train station in Sydney. One needs to take a train and a bus to reach Shell Harbour.
- Train – Wollongong train station is the closest train station to Shell Harbour. The trains leave at Central train station. The train journey is around 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Bus – Then one needs to take a bus from Wollongong to Shell Harbour (bus number 53). The bus journey is around 40 minutes.
- More up-to-date information on the bus route and timings can be found on the Transport for NSW.
- Credit/Debit or Opal transportation cards can be used to pay the fare on public transport in Sydney.
There is no public transportation from Shell Harbour to the car parking at the Gutter. One can just walk as it is only about 4 kilometres.
Dive Site at The Gutter
Even though the weather was a bit gloomy and cloudy, the visibility was absolutely amazing. It was around 8 to 10 metres.
The entry of the dive site is at 3 metres. Then the divers need to swim a bit to reach the 10 metres rock. The actual dive starts at the 10 metres rock. The dive site has lot of weed and sand. But once deeper into the ocean, there are plenty of coral reefs that one can see. The coral reefs are very pretty and are of every colour possible.
Note: Beware of your fins when you swim around the corals as they could touch and destroy the coral reefs.
- Type of Dive: Shore dive.
- The dive site is a short distance (100 metres) from the car park. The short walk is on the rocks so be careful while carrying down the gear.
- Even though the entry point has a lot of rocks, the entry into the site was very easy.
- Take a torch with you for diving. This is the best way to spot the micro marine life.
- Dive site: Open (Sea).
- Depth: 20 to 30 metres.
- Visibility: The visibility was extremely good when I dived, probably the best I have got in NSW. Note: The visibility depends mainly on the conditions of the ocean and the weather.
- Ideal for: All level divers including the beginners. The entry and exit points can be a bit tricky during high tides.
- Wet suit: Yes (7 mm thickness) advised. The Australian waters especially in Sydney are a bit chilly.
- Current: No current at all when I dived.
- Note: The current can cause fatigue.
There are public toilets available opposite to the car park. There are no changing rooms and one needs to change either in their vehicles or behind the closed toilets.
- Note: The toilets do stink.
The marine life is abundant and is stunning. Ranging from plenty of Octopuses to the weedy sea dragons, the marine life is great. I saw two octopuses carrying eggs, groper, goat fishes and a weedy sea dragon.
The best time to dive is in the mornings as there is less crowd and the visibility is much better.
Dive Centre and Cost
- Dive Centre: Shellharhour Scuba and Photography.
- Address: 41 Addison Street, Shellharbour, NSW 2529.
- Cost: Guided shore dive with full gear and 1 Nitrox tank cost just AUD 93. I dived with a Nitrox tank. Note: The dive centre carries the gear including the tanks to and from the dive site.
- Rented equipment: One Nitrox tank, BCD, weights, a regulator, 7 mm wet suit, fins, and boots.
- Booking: No need to book for the guided tour. Just be at the dive centre at 8:30 AM and you can join the divers heading to the dive site. The dive crew leaves the dive centre at 9 AM, so ensure to be there before that if you want to join them.
I loved Shellharbour Scuba and photography dive centre. The dive staff Mick and Michela were brilliant. I have never dived with anyone so good and friendly in NSW, except for Karleen and Malcolm in my dive at Camp Cove.
- It is very cheap to do a shore dive when compared to other dive centres. The guided tour is free and the divers only need to pay for the equipment hire.
- The dive crew is very approachable and friendly. Loved, loved and loved them and highly recommend diving with these amazing bunch.
- The other regular divers were very nice too and took care of the new divers.
Is it safe for solo female travelers?
As a rule in Scuba diving, it is always best to dive with a buddy and if you are a newbie like me then an instructor works best. So, always buddy up with some more experienced than you. If you are going with a dive centre, then there is nothing to be worried about as the safety is taken care by the centre.
Shell Harbour is extremely safe and has very nice people. However, like any other city, be cautious and know your surroundings, especially at nights.
I would love to dive at Shell Harbour again and explore the other sites around the area, especially the Bushrangers Bay which is famous for its grey nurse sharks.