Swansea Bridge

Jane - Entry Swansea Bridge
Swansea Bridge
Centropogon australis (Fortesque) - Swansea Bridge
Pineapplefish (Cleidopus gloriamaris) - Swansea Bridge
Pseudolabrus guentheri (Gunthers Wrasse) - Swansea Bridge
Cirrhitichthys aprinus (Blotched Hawkfish) - Swansea Bridge
Scorpaena cardinalis (Red Rock Cod) - Swansea Bridge
Acanthurus nigrofuscus (Dusky Surgeon) - Swansea Bridge
Plotosus lineatus (Striped Catfish) - Swansea Bridge
Sepia plangon (Mourning Cuttlefish) - Swansea Bridge
Mexichromis festiva - Swansea Bridge
Glossodoris atromarginata (Black Margined Glossodoris) - Swansea Bridge
Hydatina physis (Rose Petal Bubble) - Swansea Bridge
Bullina lineata (Lined Bubble) - Swansea Bridge
Dolabella auricularia (Short Headed Sea Hare) - Swansea Bridge
Seastars, Starfish (Class ASTEROIDEA) - Swansea Bridge
Centrostephanus rodgersii (Spiny Sea Urchin) - Swansea Bridge
Sponges (PORIFERA) - Swansea Bridge
Sponges (PORIFERA) - Swansea Bridge

Swansea Bridge is an iconic dive on the Central Coast. It is very much a fish watch dive. I always have a wry smile on my face watching all the fisherman on the banks of the channel, and wonder if they truly appreciate how many large fish hang out under the bridge and mostly out of their reach.

You can only dive the bridge on slack water and recommended only on high tide as the water from the ocean comes flooding into Lake Macquarie. I wouldn't even like to think what the visibility would be like at Low tide. If there has been a lot of rain in the days leading up to when you want to dive, Swansea is a good place to avoid as the Vis can close down to 1-2 meters. Commonly Vis will be 10 meters making a very good dive around the bridge pylons.

The sure fire way to get the entry time correct is to call Snorkel Safari at Swansea. You can also work it out yourself as follows. On a 1.5m high tide you enter the water 2hrs 30mins after Fort Denison high tide time. For each 10cm of tide, add or subtract 10 mins from the entry time:

  • 1.2m - 2 hrs
  • 1.3m - 2:10 hrs
  • 1.4m - 2:20 hrs
  • 1.5m - 2:30 hrs
  • 1.6m - 2:40 hrs
  • 1.7m - 2:50 hrs
  • 1.8m - 3:00 hrs

There are two common places to enter the bridge dive both on the Southern side (ie. Swansea town center side) of the Bridge. If you enjoy swimming against the current on the way to and from the dive, use the boat ramp on the Western side of the bridge. I much prefer to park behind the Swansea RSL club on the Eastern side of the bridge. You can kit up in the car park and do a giant stride off one of the small boat wharves. Alternatively, walk down to the storm water drain half way towards the bridge, use the concrete steps to make your water down to water level and enter. If you enter at the drain, take particular note of the area as you submerge as this is your exit point for the dive.

The beauty of entry on the RSL side of the bridge is that you can drift down with the current, especially if you enter a little early and drift back with the current when the tide turns. If you enter and you feel that the tide is already flowing out, but you are sure you got the entry time correct, don't be too concerned at the water can back-eddy here and as you get deeper and closer to the bridge the current will behave as you would expect.

The channel wall is interesting in itself so spend some time making your way down to the bridge. You will commonly see Morays (Green and Sieve Patterned) and Octopus in between the rocks. You will start to see smaller schooling fish such as Mados and Stripeys. Over the last couple of years there have been Blue Barred parrot fish present in this area, even over winter.

Once amongst the pylons on the bridge it is very easy to become disoriented if you are not careful with your navigation. If you do become disoriented you must be very careful surfacing under or around the bridge. The area is subject to a large amount of boat traffic. My other word if warning about diving the bridge is as soon as you sense the tide turning it is very much time to turn around and make you way out from under the bridge. Especially on a large high tide it turns fast and what feels like a gentle current initially turns into a mask ripping current surprisingly quickly.

There is a very specific way I tend to dive he bridge these days. I make my way down the channel passing the inside pylons. You will sense when you are in the middle of the bridge (ie. between the north and south bound lanes of the Pacific Hwy) as the light will open up. Once at the far pylons I start making my way down the bridge pylons toward the middle of the channel. You will come across a large rectangular "box" where there is pipework heading down from the surface as well as large square major support pylons. Explore these pipes for there length, there will be many fish hanging around the pylons and using the pipes to shelter from any residual current. There is stacks of growth on the pipes, and many critters such as crabs hanging out.

Once you get to the end of the pipes you will see them head for the surface again and another large box structure supporting them. You will find the sand carved out from under this support. At times their are pineapple fish that hang out under here. You will also likely find maori cod in this carve out as well. From this support you head back into the middle of the bridge. You will come across a much smaller pipe that travels across the channel that you can use as a guide for navigation also. By this time the tide is likely turning and I head back mostly the way I came. On the way back you can use the large pipe to shelter from the outgoing tide on your way to making it back to the edge of the channel. From here you can just drift back to the exit point, grab a hold of something to help you do a safety stop before exiting. You probably wont get any deeper than about 12m on this dive.

I enjoy doing this dive regularly. It is a great shore diving option if the sea conditions don't allow me to get out the boat. If you are keen for a day of shore diving, try "The double" which involves doing one of the shore dives at Nelson Bay a little earlier than the high tide and then make your way down to Swansea in time to catch the entry time at the bridge. If you are a total dive tragic, "The Triple" sees you finishing your day of shore diving at Terrigal Haven.