The Best Scuba Liveaboard Trips in Australia

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The best way to explore incredible reefs down under is on an Australia liveaboard trip. From Great Barrier Reef to Ningaloo Reef, these are the best liveaboard trips in Australia where you’re bound to be amazed by wildlife of all sizes.

Best Australia Liveaboards: Quick Picks

The Best Australia Liveaboards: At A Glance

LiveaboardNitroxWifiLengthCost
Ocean QuestYesNo36m$
Great EscapeNoYes26m$$$
Pro Dive CairnsYesYes24m$
Spirit of FreedomYesYes37m$$
SpoilsportYesNo30m$$
Coral Sea DreamingNoNo16m$$
Shore ThingNoNo15m$$
SeaestaYesNo17m$$
Reef PrinceNoNo38m$$
OdysseyNoNo24$$

The Best Scuba Liveaboard Trips in Australia: Reviewed

1. OCEAN QUEST – Our Top Pick

Image: Ocean Quest

Overview: Luxury catamaran liveaboard offering trips around the Great Barrier Reef.

The Ocean Quest is a 36 meter (118 feet) long luxury catamaran that specializes in sailing the waters of the Great Barrier Reef on the eastern and northern coast of Australia. It has 23 cabins that can accommodate up to 36 guests where your room choices include the Twin Cabins and Quad Cabins. It has onboard amenities like the air-conditioned lounge that is fitted with a bar, a sun deck and a dining area that serves Chef-quality dishes all served in buffet style.

Their itinerary involves a 3 or 6-day journey towards the popular diving spots of Great Barrier Reef like Norman, Saxon and Hastings reefs. On top of the day dives, the Ocean Quest specializes in 2 types of night dive packages – night diving with sharks and the fluoro night diving where you will be equipped with a special torch and mask filters to bring the reef to life in a range of amazing fluorescent colors. If you happen to book with the Ocean Quest from June to July, then you will have the chance to swim with Dwarf Minke Whales.

Year of Commission: 1988 (renovated 2017)
Capacity: 48 guests 
Destination: Great Barrier Reef

Length/Width: 36m/13m
Nitrox: Yes ($)
Internet: Yes

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel | Liveaboard

2. GREAT ESCAPE – Best Luxury Liveaboard

Image: Great Escape

Overview: Luxury small-ship liveaboard cruising the remote waters of Western Australia.

The Great Escape is a 26 meter (85 feet) long luxury catamaran that offers liveaboard diving in Western Australia. It has 7 cabins that can accommodate up to 14 guests where your room choices include the Horizon Staterooms and the Panoramic Staterooms. Its onboard amenities include the air-conditioned saloon, a helipad, a shaded sun deck, a jacuzzi and a dining area that serves International food prepared by their in-house Chef.

The itinerary of the Great Escape involves a 6 or 10-day journey towards Rowley Shoals or Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia where the marine ecosystem is still considered untouched and unexplored.

Year of Commission: 2006 (renovated 2015)
Capacity: 14 guests 
Destination: Western Australia

Length/Width: 26m/10m
Nitrox: No
Internet: Yes ($)

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel

3. PRO DIVE CAIRNS – Best Budget Liveaboard

Image: Pro Dive Cairns

Overview: High-value Australia liveaboard offering short trips around the Great Barrier Reef.

Pro Dive Cairns is a 24 meter (79 feet) long liveaboard vessel that operates the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It has 16 cabins that can accommodate up to 32 guests where all their rooms are classified as Twin Cabins. Its onboard amenities includes the air-conditioned saloon that is equipped with an audio-video entertainment system, a library, a bar, a sundeck fitted with loungers and a dining area that serves freshly cooked foods.

The itinerary of the Pro Dive Cairns involves a 3-day journey towards the top diving spots of the Great Barrier Reef like Flynn, Millen, Thetford and Pellowe Reefs. They serve international clients and their staff can fluently speak German Deutsch and Japanese Nihongo.

Year of Commission: 1998 (renovated 2015)
Capacity: 32 guests 
Destination: Great Barrier Reef

Length/Width: 24m/7m
Nitrox: Yes ($)
Internet: Yes ($)

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel | Liveaboard

4. SPIRIT OF FREEDOM

Image: Spirit of Freedom

Overview: Expedition-style liveaboard serving the Great Barrer Reef; great for experienced divers.

The Spirit of Freedom is 37 meter (121 feet) long-range liveaboard vessel that specializes in sailing the waters of the Coral Sea and the northern extremes of the Great Barrier Reef. It has 11 cabins that can accommodate up to 26 guests where your room choices include the Standard Double Cabins, the Quad cabins, Staterooms, and the Ocean View Cabins. It has onboard amenities like the main lounge that is fitted with couches, beanbags, coffee machine, a library, a shaded sun deck and a dining area that serves International cuisine freshly made by their in-house chef.

The itinerary of the Spirit of Freedom involves a 3 or 7-day journey towards the Coral Sea and the northern areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Ribbon reefs are the favorite dive spot of the Spirit of Freedom where their guests can have a comfortable yet adrenaline loaded underwater adventures.

Year of Commission: 1992 (renovated 2008)
Capacity: 26 guests 
Destination: the Coral Sea and North Great Barrier Reef

Length: 37m
Nitrox: Yes ($)
Internet: Yes

Check prices and trip dates: Liveaboard

5. SPOILSPORT

Image: Mike Ball Dive Expeditions – Spoil Sport

Overview: Spacious Australia liveaboard perfect for a mix of divers and non-divers.

The Spoilsport is a 30 meter (98 feet) long luxury catamaran that sails the waters of the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef. It has 14 cabins that can accommodate up to 28 guests where your room choices include the Budget cabins, the Club cabins, the Standard Cabins, and the Premium Double Cabins. Its onboard amenities include the air-conditioned lounge that has a bar, video/photo editing facilities, a sun deck and a dining room that serves Australian and International dishes.

The itinerary of the Spoilsport involves a 3 or 7-day journey towards the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. They often take their guests to their favorite diving spot called Cod Hole which is a reef depression populated with groupers. If you happen to book with the Spoilsport from June to July, then get ready for a great marine mammal interaction as the staff and crew will take you the wild playgrounds of the Minke whales.

Year of Commission: 1989 (renovated 2019)
Capacity: 28 guests 
Destination: the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef

Length/Width: 30m/10m
Nitrox: No
Internet: No

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel | Liveaboard

6. CORAL SEA DREAMING

Image: Coral Sea Dreaming

Overview: Small ship liveaboard that’s highly personalized to the needs and wants of its guests venturing around the Great Barrier Reef.

The Coral Sea Dreaming is 16 meter (53 feet) long sailboat that offers liveaboard cruise and diving in the Great Barrier Reef. It has 5 cabins that can accommodate up to 12 guests where your room choices include the Bunk Cabins, Quad Bunk Cabins, and the Private Cabin. Despite being small, it still has onboard amenities like the shaded sun deck and a dining area that serves freshly cooked foods served in buffet style.

The itinerary of the Coral Sea Dreaming involves a 2-day journey towards the top diving spots of the Great Barrier Reef like Three Sisters, The Whale, Little Tracey, Point Break, Michaelmas Cay and Upolu Reef.

Year of Commission: 2015
Capacity: 12 guests 
Destination: Great Barrier Reef

Length/Width: 16m/5m
Nitrox: No
Internet: No

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel | Liveaboard

7. SHORE THING

Image: Shore Thing

Overview: Intimate catamaran liveaboard exploring Ningaloo Reef; Best for groups.

The Shore Thing is a 15 meter (46 feet) luxury catamaran that specializes in sailing the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It has 4 cabins that can accommodate up to 10 guests where your room choices include the Deluxe Double Cabins and the Stateroom. It has onboard amenities such as the double trampoline area at the bow, the main saloon fitted with couches, a shaded sun deck and a dining area that serves freshly made foods.

The itinerary of the Shore Thing involves a 3 or 9-day journey towards the top diving spots of the Great Barrier Reef. They often take their guests to Ningaloo reef where you can see manta rays, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales and the occasional sightings of dugongs.

Year of Commission: N/A
Capacity: 10 guests 
Destination: Ningaloo

Length/Width: 15m/8m
Nitrox: No
Internet: No

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel | Liveaboard

8. SEAESTA

Image: Seaesta

Overview: Budget liveaboard trip that cruises around iconic points of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Seaesta is a 17 meter (56 feet) long custom-built dive vessel that specializes in sailing the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It has 8 cabins that can accommodate up to 20 guests where your room choices include the Twin Cabins, Triple cabins, and Quad cabins. It has onboard amenities like the main saloon, a shaded sun deck, a barbecue grilling area and a dining room that serves freshly cooked foods. The itinerary of the Seaesta involves a 4-day journey towards the top diving sites of the Great Barrier Reef.

Year of Commission: 1982
Capacity: 20 guests 
Destination: Great Barrier Reef

Length: 17m
Nitrox: Yes ($)
Internet: No

Check prices and trip dates: PADI Travel

9. REEF PRINCE

Image: Reef Prince

Overview: Luxury catamaran exploring the best dive sites in Western Australia.

The Reef Prince is a 38 meter (125 feet) long luxury catamaran that specializes in sailing the waters of Western Australia. It has 18 cabins that can accommodate up to 36 guests where your room choices include a range of cabin classes with deluxe cabins having prime ocean views. Its onboard amenities include the air-conditioned saloon, a sundeck and an open-air dining area that serves freshly prepared meals.

The itinerary of the Reef Prince involves an 8 or 13-day voyage towards the top diving sites of Western Australia like the Kimberleys and Rowley Shoals where most, if not all of its marine ecosystem are pristine in state.

Year of Commission: no data
Capacity: 36 guests 
Destination: Western Australia

Length: 38m
Nitrox: No
Internet: No

Check prices and trip dates: Liveaboard

10. ODYSSEY

Image: Odyssey

Overview: Spacious Western Australia liveaboard trip with plenty of room and excursions for non-divers.

The Odyssey is a 24 meter (79 feet) long luxury catamaran that offers liveaboard cruise and diving in Western Australia. It has 10 cabins that can accommodate up to 20 guests where your room choices include the Deluxe Double cabin and the Classic Twin Cabin. It has onboard amenities like the main saloon that is fitted with a large plasma TV, surround sound system, a shaded sun deck and an Alfresco dining area that serves freshly cooked foods.

The itinerary of the Odyssey involves a 10 or 14-day journey towards the best dive spots of Western Australia like the pristine and less explored Rowley Shoals. All your diving adventures with the Odyssey is supported by a 12 meter (40 feet) long expedition vessel named Homer that can comfortably take small dive groups to the most isolated dive spots of Western Australia.

Year of Commission: 2006 (renovated 2015)
Capacity: 20 guests 
Destination: Western Australia

Length: 24m
Nitrox: No
Internet: No

Check prices and trip dates: Liveaboard

Australia Scuba Dive Guide

Why Choose an Australia Liveaboard?

Everything in Australia is big. This also applies to the underwater world where dive sites are scattered along Australia’s 34,218 kilometer (21,262 miles) coastline. With the vastness of its seas, the best way to experience the many dive sites Australia has to offer is from a liveaboard trip. Most liveaboard trips run around the Great Barrier Reef or along Western Australia’s coastline.

Scuba divers can spot megafauna like sharks, whales, whale sharks to creatures like mantas and sea turtles. If you love to get close to the reef, there are also hundreds of species of reef fish and corals to admire.

Liveaboard vs. Dive Resort

If you want a trip that’s solely centered around scuba diving, consider a liveaboard trip. These trips often host three or more scuba dives per day, though some liveaboard trips also offer outside excursions like snorkel trips, kayaking, and island visits as well.

At a dive resort, you’ll likely only be able to dive two times per day. Most Australian dive resorts charge extra for dives on top of accommodation and food. Because liveaboards wrap the diving, meals, accommodation in one, it’s often cheaper to go on a liveaboard trip than to stay at a dive resort.

The Best Time to Go on an Australia Liveaboard Trip

Australia is a year-round dive destination, and the best time to go scuba diving depends on what part of the country you plan to visit.

  • The best time to go scuba diving in Western Australia, along Ningaloo Reef and Rowley Shoals, is from September to February; when the water is warmest. However, whale shark season in Western Australia is from March to September, and you have the highest chance of seeing them from April to July.
  • The best time to scuba dive around the Great Barrier Reef is from August to September. This is when visibility, water temperature, and current conditions tend to be best. For your best shot at seeing minke whales, plan your Australia liveaboard trip between June and August.

Australia Liveaboard Itineraries

Australia liveaboard trips tend to run four different scuba diving itineraries around Australia; the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef, Rowley Shoals, and Coral Sea.

Which one to pick?

If you want a short trip that will cover Australia’s classic dive sites, choose Great Barrier Reef.
If you want an underrated reef experience, choose Ningaloo Reef.
If you want a mix of diving and non-diving excursions, choose Kimberley Coast.
For adventure expeditions to remote areas, choose a Rowley Shoals Australia liveaboard.

Great Barrier Reef

Famous for: Being the world’s largest living organism, whales, sea turtles, corals.

We don’t need to tell you that the Great Barrier Reef is massive. There are a handful of Australia liveaboard trips that cruise around the reef, each with their own itinerary. Some popular dive sites include Norman Reef, Saxon Reef, and Hastings Reef. This cluster of reefs are home to hundreds of reef fish and coral species. Most liveaboard trips base their dive itinerary as they go, planning it around the different ocean conditions.

Wreck dives are on offer near Townsville (SS Yongola), the Ribbon Reefs offer coral pinnacles, coral bommies, swim thrus, and much more. Depending on your skill level, Australia liveaboard trips can accommodate drift dives, deep dives, dives catered to nudibranch-lovers, and more.

Ningaloo Reef

Famous for: Thriving reef life, whale sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, beautiful coastline. Many parts of the reef are accessible from shore, making it great for snorkelers as well as scuba divers. There’s a chance to see dugongs, whales, sea turtles, whale sharks, and mantas at just about every site.

A typical liveaboard tour with a Ningaloo Reef itinerary starts near Coral Bay, one of the most incredible snorkel spots in Australia. The liveaboard will also likely venture to Bateman’s Bay, a great site for spotting manta rays.

Kimberley Coast

Famous for: Unexplored dive sites, mega fauna, and interesting cultural and geological sites. These itineraries tend to offer scuba dives every other day or so–making it the best pick for scuba divers and non-diver groups.

Kimberley Coast liveaboard itineraries don’t tend to all follow the same stops as it is such a large space to cover. Some liveaboards depart from Broome, Western Australia and end in Darwin, Northern Territory.

In between, the liveaboard can venture around the Dampier Peninsula to the Buccaneer Archipelago, see the Horizontal Waterfalls and venture up the Prince Regent River to the King Cascades. Bigge Island with giant red cliffs, a great place to see Aboriginal artwork. Longer trips will head to the King George River, an incredible place to spot even more waterfalls.

Rowley Shoals

Famous for: Remote reefs rarely visited by anyone on the planet. An aquarium-like Marine Park.

For divers who want to be in the water all day, a liveaboard trip to Rowley Shoals Marine Park (300km northwest of Broome) should top any agenda. The Rowley Shoals Marine Park along with Mermaid Marine Park border the edge of Australia’s continental shelf. Throughout the park, you’ll see reef fish, sponges, corals, tuna, reef sharks, cod, wrasse, and more.

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