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 Norah Head

8-10 March 2008 

Coordinator: Carolyn Atkinson 

The original trip notice has been archived. Ron and Uli have provided photos.

Carolyn and Mark report:

We headed down to Norah Head for the Canberra Day long weekend (8-10 March). It was a great weekend, with a really good bunch of divers along for the trip - thanks to everyone for being so laid back, accommodating and helpful.


We camped at Freemans Camping Area in Munmorah State Recreation Area. A really beautiful spot and a campsite with good facilities . There are good bathrooms, BBQs, tables, water - and the campsite and bookings are well organised (minus hot showers, but the weather was great). The site is a 5 min walk to the beach, with a small lagoon nearby. The park itself is also really beautiful - nearby Frazer Beach is stunning.

We had sites 12,13, 14 booked - this is a big but very sun-exposed space in the central area with BBQ, water and tables in the area - and could easily accommodate 8-10 smallish tents. However, we ended up changing to sites 15, 16, 17, due to the noisy drunk scrubbers who invaded and took our campsites (12,13,14) on the Friday night. Sites 15,16,17 were much smaller and simpler (can comfortably accommodate only 5-6 tents), but had trees and shade. If you have a smaller group in the future, I'd book the shady sites, with over flow onto 12 or 18 & 19.

However, the National Parks people are pretty organised, they have a very clear booking sheet at the front gate, visit at least once a day, and it is unlikely that any confusion would happen again. However they do insist on payment at time of booking only give refunds 14 days in advance, which makes accommodation planning difficult. On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights we had 6, 14 & 10 people respectively and given the gate deadline (see below) this should be a good indicator of future ratios - anyway Saturday is the only busy night.

Getting there

There is no compromise with the Parks people - gates close at 9pm during daylight saving, 6pm outside daylight saving. And it is NOT easy to find, particularly at 8:55pm on a Friday night following Sydney traffic jams. Definitely leave at least 5 hours, preferably longer, to reach Norah Head from Canberra.

Exit the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway at the Doyalson Interchange (past Wyong and Toukley exits) and head north (left) onto the Pacific Highway. Keep going until you see the pedestrian overpass and then turn right at the lights Then take the first main right turn onto Elizabeth Bay Drive. This is where it gets even more confusing. Keep going until you reach a really small roundabout. There is a REALLY SMALL faded sign to the Munmorah State Conservation Area at the roundabout - turn right here onto Birdie Beach Road, which takes you into the Park. The signs to reach Freemans Camping Area are self-explanatory once you're in the Park.


We dived the Nerong on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Corinne's Canyon on Saturday afternoon, from Norah Head boat ramp. Sunday afternoon we headed up to Terrigal to dive Foggy's Cave with the grey nurse sharks. Monday morning we dived the Bonnie Dundee from Blacksmiths boat ramp, just north of the Swansea Bridge, with the plan being to dive the Swansea Bridge pylons. Great diving, Ron's pictures say it all. We also got some coordinates for some new dive sites from some local divers from Norah Head Search and Rescue, these have been added to the club's marks collection - so another trip up there sometime would be interesting.

Some tips for the unwary

Norah Head boat ramp is pretty steep. Subaru Foresters don't like it all that much, but can handle it, albeit with spinning wheels on the gravel part. It also opens directly onto the ocean so could be tough to launch/exit the boat in rough conditions. Experienced towers with appropriate cars are needed. However if worst came to worst, Norah Head search and rescue is directly next to the ramp and has a winch.

Foggy's Cave can also be dived from Norah Head and the extra kilometres it takes in Tigger to reach Foggy's Cave from Norah Head compared to Terrigal would be worth the extra boat ride, particularly if the conditions are good. Don't ever go to Terrigal from Norah Head on a warm lovely weekend; everyone in Sydney is already there. Traffic is a nightmare, as is parking.

Get the time of high tide right if you want to dive the Swansea bridge on Monday it was 2:30 after high tide, but it varies - check with the local dive shop. Diving it with a current of around 6km an hour is not a good idea, and high tide was too late on the Monday for us to dive the bridge.

Dive Planning

In total we had 16 divers over the three days and one boat (Tigger). We did around 56 dives in total over the three days. Dive planning went very well - thanks to everyone for being accommodating and compromising. First divers had generally left the campsite by 6.30am-7am, and were quickly on the water, which allowed us to get a lot of later dives in, and allowed everyone to dive the sites they were keen on, which was great.

Lesson for me on Boat prep: we all (in particular me, as coordinator) need to make sure we're on the ball in ensuring the boats are prepped - in particular that we have enough petrol for each boat run. Probably only a problem when you're faced with evil Terrigal traffic!

Thanks to everyone who came on the trip.


Carolyn and Mark

Ron reports:

The weather started off good, and just got better. On Saturday the wreck of the Nerong (1917) was covered with schools of fish, cuttlefish and wobbegong as usual, with reasonable vis below 21m, and a comfortable minimum temperature of 19C down at 45m. On Sunday Foggy Cave the Grey Nurse sharks turned up on cue, and mostly swam along the wall down to 38m, although later some went into the cave. Then on Monday there were so many fish over the wreck of the Bonnie Dundee (1897) we thought the sounder had malfunctioned. Absolutely no wind, and even better vis in nice the clear 20 degree water hidden by hordes of fish at 36m.

Ron's photos:

Uli's photos:

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