Imagine jumping off a boat into the beautiful waters of the Gold Coast, the city visible along the coastline and the world’s first buoyant reef just metres below you ready to be explored. All done with the support of the incredible team at Gold Coast Dive Adventures. This is Wonder Reef.

We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Yugambeh people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

We’ve already unpacked the ultimate Gold Coast adventure itinerary, but what are these experiences really like? We sent our Explorers straight to the source to get a feel for Gold Coast’s magic first-hand. 

Quick Overview

Wonder Reef is the first buoyant reef in the world and it’s right here on our Gold Coast! Escape the cold for some incredible winter diving at the most unique dive site I’ve ever seen. 

About Wonder Reef

Wonder Reef is a one of a kind dive site just off the Gold Coast coastline featuring nine buoyant structures acting like a giant kelp forest, reaching from the ocean floor up to 22 metres high. 

The creators of the reef have generated over 32,000 cubic metres of habitat for the incredible local marine life by transplanting coral fragments from local reefs – very, very carefully. Since being installed in 2021, more than 30 fish species now call the reef home. The floating structures showcase some pelagic species of marine animals less common than what we have the chance to see at most dive sites on the ocean floor. 

The innovative design and installation of the reef is a massive engineering achievement, with the foundations themselves weighing an impressive 72 tonnes each to eliminate the need for invasive piling and geopolymer concrete used to minimise the carbon footprint.

As Diving Wonder Reef is a year old this year, now’s your chance to see it in its early stages, before coming back again in a few years to see how much it’s changed! The team at Gold Coast Dive Adventures (GDCA) say they see changes every week as the reef grows and evolves. 

Wonder Reef History

Harry, the co-owner of GCDA, told us that the site just north of Surfers Paradise was originally planned for a retired naval ship to create a new dive site, but this fell through. Disappointed, the Mayor at the time established a design competition open to anyone, to design an artificial reef in the location. The winner was Australian artist Daniel Templeman who, along with global reef experts Subcon Blue Solutions and the City of Gold Coast, brought Wonder Reef to life. 

How to Get to Wonder Reef

The tour to Wonder Reef leaves from Runaway Bay Marina with pickup offered from hotels in the local area for the morning sessions. Otherwise parking is available at the marina. 

For public transport alternatives to Runaway Bay Marina, there’s the 711 bus from Southport or 719 bus from Griffith University (Southport)/ Harbour Town Shopping Centre. 

Or, if you’re flying into the Gold Coast just to dive (which we couldn’t recommend doing more) it’s a 30 minute drive direct from the airport!


And then, you take a boat!

Where to Stay Near Wonder Reef

Since the morning sessions are super early (6am, gasp), I recommend staying nearby in Surfers Paradise rather than travelling on the day unless you live locally. I stayed at Main Beach and it was the perfect location for the dive as well as exploring the Gold Coast in the days before and after.


Rise and shine!

Where to Eat Near Wonder Reef

During the dive a little snack is provided on the boat and lunch after returning to the marina. While in Surfers Paradise there are so many great food options. A lunch favourite of many is Surfers Pavilion for its great location on the water with amazing seafood and drinks. A super cute cafe for breakfast in Main Beach is Le Jardin Cafe Restaurant.

What other activities are nearby?

I was surprised at how much diving there is to do on the Gold Coast. Wonder Reef forms the 11th dive site on the Gold Coast dive trail which includes shipwrecks, cliff faces, and rocky reefs. The team also recommended North Stradbroke Island as an incredible day trip, departing from Runaway Bay Marina which is next on my list for sure.

Skill Level


You’ll need at least an Open Water Diving License to sign up to dive Wonder Reef, but it’s so worth it. If you hold Advanced Diving accreditation you’ll be able to adventure all the way to the base of the sculptures to explore even more at a depth of 30 metres. Otherwise you’ll spend your time exploring the main floating structures between 8-18 metres. 

If you don’t have your Open Water certification don’t stress, the Learn to Scuba Dive course with GDCA gives you what you need. Just be aware you’ll need to allow four days to complete this before you can go to Wonder Reef. The team are incredible, patient, fun, and experienced at working with beginners to those divers tackling their Dive Masters.


Allow around 7-8 hours for the double dive tour, this includes the briefing and preparation, boat trip and diving time at two dive sites. The time spent in the water will depend on who you’re with and your air consumption, we spent around 50 minutes underwater exploring Wonder Reef with 29.9 metre max depth. 

If you’re travelling by plane, make sure you leave enough time after your dive before flying! The recommended 24 hours gives you heaps of time to explore the area before heading home. 

Essential Gear for Wonder Reef

  • Open Water certification or higher
  • Swimmers
  • Dry clothes for after the dive
  • Jumper or something warm to wear in between dives – that wind can be cold sitting on the boat!
  • Towel
  • Thongs
  • Dry bag to keep phone/clothes on the boat dry
  • GoPro or other device for documenting your trip (don’t forget to take a spare battery on the boat with you like I did)
  • OPTIONAL: Your own scuba mask, snorkel, boots, and fins. The team at GCDA has everything available to hire if you don’t have your own 
  • NOT OPTIONAL: Your ‘happy days’ attitude – all the best scuba divers have this

What’s it Like to Dive Wonder Reef

The first buoyant reef in the world? As a regular scuba diver based in Sydney I’d never heard of such a thing and was absolutely stoked to be able to check it out. 

After waking up at 5:30am and admiring the stunning sunrise from my hotel balcony, I was picked up from my hotel in Main Beach near Surfers Paradise by the lovely Nicole. 

Once I arrived at the marina, the team helped fit me for gear and loaded up the boat.



There’s space for you to leave anything you don’t want to take with you behind. Harry then gave us a brief history lesson about the site and a safety rundown before we walked to meet the boat. There are toilets and a little cafe along the way so make sure you make these pit stops if you need anything before heading out.

Once jumping off the boat you descend to the top of the structures which rests about eight metres underwater. Since I have my advanced diving licence, we went straight to the bottom to begin exploring the bases. These large triangular structures were incredible to see and we even swam through one of them.



After a while at 30 metres depth, we ascended to join the Open Water group inspecting the swirly sculptures. These host a tonne of marine life and are rapidly growing and developing. Climbing back onto the boat our lovely hosts made hot soup, tea, and coffee for everyone before the next dive. 


Wonder Reef Destination Gold Coast Divers

Photo thanks to Destination Gold Coast

The second dive location was dependent on the weather conditions that day, we had great visibility with relatively calm waters and went to Wreck of the Scottish Prince. The Prince is an old whisky ship that sailed from Scotland in the 1880s – rumour has it if you’re lucky you’ll spot an original bottle of whisky on the ocean floor. It was incredible to see the life developed here over 100 years, showing a glimpse into the future for Wonder Reef. 

Make sure you look and don’t touch! This is a heritage site and must be preserved, so don’t take anything with you – although this is a good rule to follow, heritage site or not. 

Read more: Remember to leave no trace

On our boat trip back to the marina we spotted a pod of dolphins playing and feeding. They were incredible to see so close to the boat, made even more magical with the city skyline in the background. 



By the end of the day, I’d witnessed massive schools of fish, Queensland groupers, scorpion fish, wobbegongs (the biggest I’ve ever seen!), a sea turtle, super cute puffer fish, moray eels, octopus and more. A special shout out to Heath and Callum who were the underwater guides on the day and made it so incredibly special.


Tips for Visiting Wonder Reef

  • Arrive on time/ early so you have heaps of time to fit out your gear to be the most comfortable on the dives
  • Bring a jacket, no matter how warm it is it can be cold on the boat in between dives
  • Be careful not to touch or take anything. Remember Wonder Reef is only two years old, which makes it very fragile

FAQs Wonder Reef

Where is Wonder Reef located?

Wonder Reef is located 2.5km offshore from Main Beach near Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. It’s about a ten minute boat ride from the departure point at Runaway Bay Marina. 

When is Wonder Reef open?

Bookings are available for 6am or 12:30pm sessions on a Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. 

Do I need to book Wonder Reef in advance?

Yes, book in advance to the Wonders of the Gold Coast Double-Dive (Wonder Reef) with GCDA.

When is the best time of year to dive the Wonder Reef?

Now! Winter is diving season and if you’re from Sydney or hate the cold water you tend to miss out on all that incredible diving. Head up to the Gold Coast for the warmer waters and experience what you just can’t see in Sydney or anywhere further down south.

How long should I spend at Wonder Reef?

Allow a day for the double dive as well as time after diving before flying. 

Is Wonder Reef good for beginners?

Yes, but you need your open water certification to dive at Wonder Reef which you can do with GCDA. 

What other dive sites are there on the Gold Coast?

The Gold Coast dive trail includes:

  • Wonder Reef
  • Wreck of the Aquarian
  • Wave Break Island
  • Gold Coast Seaway – The Spit
  • Wreck of the Scottish Prince
  • Mermaid Reef
  • Palm Beach Reef
  • Kirra Reef
  • Snapper Rocks
  • Cook Island
  • 9 Mile Reef


Right now is the best time to escape the cold of the south and experience the magic of the Gold Coast for yourself. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to the warmth!