Sunken treasure: Gold Coast divers go over the top for what lies beneath
The Gold Coast’s world-class “floating” dive site will open next month with bookings opening under two local operators, to a city hoping that its famously sunny weather will return to shiny form, and prompting divers from around the world to lead a beeline to the standout attraction.
Wonder Reef, off the Gold Coast Spit, will open on June 8 to coincide with World Ocean Day.
The dive site features nine world-first buoyant sculptural reef flutes.
To withstand the strong swells and cyclones, the structures, up to 8 metres in size, have been attached to 75 tonne pyramid-shaped foundations made of concrete and reinforced steel.
Each flute offers its own intricate coral and marine life eco-system which combine to produce a hanging-garden type “bucket list” dive experience for visitors.
The reef, while positioned as a Gold Coast attraction and integral to a post-pandemic tourism revival, has drawn on expertise from across Queensland in its journey to become a unique underwater fusion of art, science and engineering.
The giant artistic sculptures, weighing more than 846 tonnes, were fabricated in Maryborough.
Townsville-based coral reef experts Reef Ecologic, in collaboration with Subcon Blue Solutions and Sea World, planted the coral on each of the structures to accelerate the colourful displays and marine life at the reef.
The coral was transferred from the Gold Coast’s Palm Beach Reef by the experts to the sculpture site 2.5 kilometres offshore from The Spit at Main Beach.
The Palaszczuk Government has invested $2.5 million and delivered a 50-year seabed lease for Wonder Reef.
A public competition, in which the attraction narrowly escaped being tagged Reefy McReef Face, was also held to secure the Wonder Reef name.
Mayor Tom Tate said the reef would become a natural drawcard for visitors to the city and attract scuba divers from around the world when it opened on June 8.
“It will be sunshine and visibility will be 6 metres and 30 metres down and you’ll be able to see wonderful marine life. I say to you it’s incredible,” Tate said.
The reef is expected to attract more than 16,000 diving enthusiasts a year to the Gold Coast and inject $32.8 million into the Gold Coast economy within 10 years.
Gold Coast Dive Adventures based at Runaway Bay and Queensland Scuba Dive based at Mariners Cove have been selected to run tours.
CEO of Gold Coast Dive Adventures Harry Cottrell said the organisation would offer scuba diving and freediving tours to the reef.
“We are excited to be a part of putting the Gold Coast on the international stage of extraordinary dive locations,” Cottrell said.
Queensland Scuba Diving’s Dave Abrahams said the company would provide tours for PADI certified divers and bundled experiences.
“With the opening of Wonder Reef in addition to the existing Wavebreak Island dive site, the Gold Coast now caters to all scuba diving levels and experience,” Abrahams said.