Australia Liveaboards Review: Best Dive Boats For 2024

written by local expert Becky Rogers

Becky is an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast and is now living in France as an expat. When she is not writing about travel gear and various destinations she has visited during her travels, you can find her playing with her two dogs.

Thinking of going on an australia liveaboard? In this article, I am going to walk you through our top picks as well as give you tips on how to choose the best ones.

Whether you’re an avid diver, a water sports enthusiast or a lover of marine life, Australia is a magical place that will attract and win the hearts of many a traveler. Why? Because it is the gateway to some of the most magnificent sites in the world!

Scuba diving in Australia is a must-do for water enthusiasts and here’s why.

Home to the Great Barrier Reef, liveaboards in Australia give divers the opportunity to explore the majestic 2,300km-long ecosystem, made up of thousands of vibrant coral reefs and hundreds of diverse islands.

Have a life changing experience diving among the world’s largest collection of coral, fish, molluscs, starfish, dugong (sea cow), turtles, dolphins and sharks. 

Besides the Great Barrier Reef, there are plenty of other destinations in Australia that are worth adding to your diving bucket list. Cruising the Whitsundays Islands is another must do while in Australia!

Western Australia is notable as it’s teeming with unspoiled reefs and is arguably just as beautiful to dive as the Eastern side. You’ll find an abundance of marine life lurking among the vibrant corals just waiting to be discovered.

No matter where you go, a liveaboard diving in Australia is the best way to see all the country is hiding below the surface.

Be amazed with the vast amount of life present in these warm waters, and have an unforgettable diving trip exploring it all.

Editor’s Australia Liveaboard Picks

Best Budget Liveaboard in Australia

Ocean Quest

Max Divers: 48

Rooms: 22 cabins

Bathrooms: 23

Best Mid-Range Liveaboards in Australia

Spirit of Freedom

Max Divers: 26

Rooms: 11

Bathrooms: 13

Best Luxury Liveaboards in Australia

Odyssey Expeditions

Max Divers: 20

Rooms: 6 /AC

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Best Australia Liveaboard Comparison Table

Boat NamePriceGuestsShared CabinsPhotography StationExtended ItinerariesReviews
Ocean Quest$48
Rum Runner$16
Coral Sea Dreaming$12
Spirit of Freedom$$26
Shore Thing$$10
Odyssey Expeditions$$$36

Best Budget Australia Liveaboards

Ocean Quest

Max. Divers: 48 guests

Rooms: 22 cabins / AC

Bathrooms: 23

While the Ocean Quest might be the best budget liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef, it is by no means lacking in amenities or the diving experience that it provides.

Permanently moored at the Outer Reef, guests can benefit from a great night’s sleep and be ready for their speedboat transfer to the dive sites in the morning. Another benefit of this is flexible itineraries, allowing you to choose a trip ranging from one to five nights.

On this recently-refurbished 36m Catamaran, you will find 22 air-conditioned cabins with en-suite bathroom, a lounge, sundeck, dining room, and a well-stocked bar with an entertainment system.

Enjoy up to four day dives a day and one night dive, where you can experience the magic of fluoro diving in all its glory. Nightly “Shark In The Dark” dives and “Meet The Minke” whale scuba dives are also available if you dare!

What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Personal Diving Gear, Tanks, Weights, Belts, All Meals, Transfers/pickups from Hotel

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Ocean Quest

Rum Runner

Max. Divers: 16 guests

Rooms: 4 cabins / AC

Bathrooms: Shared

Rum Runner is an ideal liveaboard for anyone seeking a short budget diving trip in Australia.

This boat offers two itineraries: one that lasts two days and one night, and one that is four days and three nights.

The shorter trip takes you to the Outer Barrier Reef, while the longer expedition takes divers to shark-infested waters for exploring. Even on a two-day trip, you’ll dive up to six times, making for a fully-packed diving trip.

Besides great itinerary options, the Rum Runner features multi-share accommodations, with up to 16 guests per trip. This is an awesome boat if you’re traveling solo and interested in getting to know fellow divers, as it’s a hostel-like atmosphere.

When not in the water, hang out in the open salon and galley or in the deck areas. You’ll have all your meals on board, and the boat even has a Bring-Your-Own-Alcohol policy, allowing guests to bring what they please, as long as it’s not in a glass container.

This liveaboard diving in Australia is great for those on a budget.

What’s Included: VAT, Environment Tax, Fuel Surcharge, National Park Fees, Port Fees, Visas, All Meals, Accommodation

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Rum Runner

Coral Sea Dreaming

Max. Divers: 12 guests

Rooms: 4 cabins / AC

Bathrooms: Shared

Coral Sea Dreaming is another great budget option for those looking to dive in the outer area of the Great Barrier Reef. On a quick one-night trip, you’ll get to explore less crowded areas of the most famous reef in the world, at varying levels of difficulty.

Coral Sea is a great boat for beginners because it gives you a taste of scuba life. The crew even offers a quick “try-dive” for those who aren’t certified!

The Coral Sea Dreaming is 18m long and has three different cabin classes, catering to different budgets. It’s a small ship and only takes a maximum of 12 guests, leading to a personalized and unforgettable experience delivered by a world-class crew.

What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, All Meals, Private Dive Guide, Rental Gear, Snorkel Gear, Towels, Complimentary Toiletries

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Coral Sea Dreaming

Best Mid-Range Australia Liveaboards

Spirit of Freedom

Max. Divers: 26 guests

Rooms: 11 cabins / AC

Bathrooms: 13

Voted as the “Best Australian Liveaboard” by readers of Australasia Dive Log, you could argue that there’s no one better to host you for a three, four or seven-night diving cruise.

Offering state of the art rooms with air conditioning, private bathroom, wardrobe, and ample storage, the Spirit of Freedom aims to provide guests with a premier experience both above and below Australia’s waters. You’ll feel right at home when settling in after a full day of diving. While you’re not in the cabin, lounge on the deck on a beanbag or grab a drink from the bar.

With a spacious dive deck and camera workstation, you can really explore and document your once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Great Barrier Reef.

What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Transfers/pickups from Hotel

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Spirit of Freedom.

Shore Thing

Max. Divers: 10 guests

Rooms: 4 cabins / AC

Bathrooms: 4

The Shore Thing catamaran offers a more intimate liveaboard experience, hosting up to 10 guests in two staterooms with en-suite bathrooms and two deluxe cabins with shared facilities.

Offering year-round diving and snorkeling cruises that explore Ningaloo Reef on the west coast of Australia, divers can opt for three to nine-night itineraries, depending on their preference.

With such a small group, you can get the best possible scuba diving experience as you can enjoy uncrowded dive sites and one-on-one time with experienced guides.

That’s not even mentioning all of the marine wildlife that you’ll see on the trip: manta rays, turtles, dugong, reef sharks, whale sharks, and the humpback whale, just to name a few!

What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels Provided, Transfers/pickups from Hotel, National Park Fees, Snorkel Gear, Kayaks, Wetsuit

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Shore Thing


Max. Divers: 28 guests

Rooms: 14 cabins / AC

Bathrooms: 14

A perennially popular liveaboard in Cairns, especially among enthusiastic divers, is the iconic Spoilsport. Custom built to explore the Coral Sea, this award-winning dive vessel is known as one of the top diving liveaboards and one where you get the best bang for your buck.

When it comes to diving, Spoilsport has you covered. Offering three, four, and seven-night liveaboard diving trips, divers can benefit from carefully chosen itineraries that maximize visibility and marine life quality.

This, together with night dives and an “open dive deck” policy, where guests can plan and dive independently with dive buddies, means that guests really get to experience the best of the Great Barrier Reef.

Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to discover unique marine life including the Dwarf Minke Whales! This is one of the highlights of liveaboard diving in Australia for sure.

In addition to  premier diving, Spoilsport also makes you feel at home with air-conditioned staterooms (some of which have ocean views), your own en-suite bathroom, and dedicated staff who cater to your needs.

What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Possible Fuel Surcharge

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Spoilsport

Best Luxury Liveaboards in Australia

Odyssey Expeditions

Max. Divers: 20 guests

Rooms: 6 cabins / AC

Looking for a true luxury diving adventure? Then look no further than the luxury floating hotel that Odyssey Expeditions.

Accommodating up to 20 guests in beautiful staterooms, this 24m boat offers many amenities to be enjoyed. It has 3 outdoor viewing decks plus state of the art viewing TVs and surround sound systems.

The Odyssey Liveaboard is accompanied a 12m expedition vessel giving guests easy access to the best snorkel and dive spots around the Rowley Shoals in Australia.

Another perk of the Odyssey Expeditions is they offer trips ranging from 3 to 9 nights! No matter the length of trip you’re looking for, this luxury vessel has you covered.  

What’s Included: AT, Fuel Surcharge, National Park Fees, Port Fees, Hotel Transfer, Drinking Water, Soft drinks, Tea & Coffee, Full-Board Meal Plan (All meals), Snacks, Special Dinner, Fishing, Snorkeling Guide, Cabin Towels, Deck Towels, Laundry / Pressing Services.

Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Odyssey Expeditions

Australia Liveaboard Diving Highlights

Australia is a true underwater paradise, making it one of the best places in the world to take a diving adventure on a liveaboard.

While there is so much to explore, the main highlight is the Great Barrier Reef.

With such a massive ecosystem that is actually visible from space, this one location is on the bucket list of thousands of people when it comes to scuba diving sites.

Why? Because it’s awesome!

Taking up almost a quarter of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef systems. Just try to imagine the plethora of marine life that lives there, the diving adventures that are just waiting to be had, and the unique experiences that a diver could have in some of the best dive sites in the world.

Imagine swimming next to huge whale sharks or minke whales in an underwater world that extends for miles and miles while you’re feeling incredibly small and insignificant. It’s pretty incredible just thinking about it, so imagine what it would actually feel like experiencing it?

If you’d like to visit the Great Barrier Reef, a liveaboard is certainly the best method.

People diving the Great Barrier Reef tend to do it on a day trip from shore, so the inner reef has a ton of dead coral and less diverse marine life, not to mention swarms of divers. This is why most liveaboards take divers to the Outer Reef which is far less crowded, largely unexplored and thus extremely healthy.

The Great Barrier Reef is certainly what puts Australian diving on the map, but to the west of the country is an unspoiled paradise with some of the most pristine dive sites in the world.

Western Australia is home to some of the most exciting marine parks in the country, with remote sites like Mermaid and Clerke Reefs which are in tip-top condition.

Leaving from Broome, Australia, liveaboards in the west spend time exploring Rowley Shoals which is filled with coral gardens. It is home to over 650 species of fish, most of which are not found near the shore.

A liveaboard trip in the West is the best way to have a unique diving experience off the beaten path. In fact, liveaboards are the only way to have this experience as the sites visited aren’t accessible directly from shore on a day trip.

No matter where you choose to dive, on a liveaboard, you can really maximize your time both on the water and in the reef. Plus who wouldn’t want experienced and passionate guides that can show you the most popular areas as well as the hidden gems that they’ve perhaps discovered themselves?


Australia Diving: What You Need to Know

Best Time to Go Diving in Australia

While you can dive the Great Barrier Reef all year long, it is recommended that you go between June and December.

During these months, you’ll experience excellent visibility (reaching 60 meters/200 feet) and during this time, the water temperature drops which attracts many exciting species. If you want to see manta rays, whale sharks and minke whales, this is the best time to dive.

The minke whales are a highlight of any scuba diving trip to Australia and is something we recommend you time during your trip!

If you are interested in Western part of Australia diving, it’s best to go between September and December. Be sure to book early, because as mentioned, a liveaboard is the only way to explore Rowley Shoals so trips fill up fast!

Australia Diving Safety

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the best liveaboard destinations for beginner divers as the current is very mild and the dives here have excellent visibility. This has led to many divers completing their Open Water PADI courses on liveaboards here, but obviously, diving anywhere isn’t without its risks.

While scuba diving in Australia, be aware of your surroundings, listen to your guide, and beware of “stinger season.” Stinger season is from November until May and it’s a time where there is an abundance of jellyfish and stingers in the waters.

This shouldn’t be an issue with a liveaboard as they will most likely provide you with a stinger wetsuit but it’s always good to be aware of potential dangers.

Regardless of where you’re diving, it’s advisable that you always have a neon dive flag or collapsible pole stowed in your BC pocket in case the current sweeps you astray.

For peace of mind during your diving adventures, we recommend having dive insurance in case of any medical emergencies.


How to Get to Australia

Australia is easy to get to, with many airports that receive international flights daily.

If you’re taking a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, your liveaboard will depart and return to Cairns. Cairns has an international airport, so it’s likely you will be able to fly directly there.

In the unlikely event that there is no direct flight, you will be able to connect very easily from another hub like Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne.

If you’re taking the Western route, you’ll need to fly into Broome, which is less accessible than Cairnes.

Broome has an international airport but is only serviced by a handful of flights, making connecting much more likely. The best option is to fly into Perth, and then take a domestic flight to Broome.

No matter where your liveaboard destination is, you’re likely to have an airport transfer coordinated by your ship. The crew will pick you up at the airport and accompany you to the port of departure making for an easy, hassle-free trip.

Best Diving Itineraries in Australia

Short Australia Liveaboard Diving Trips

Australia is a great destination if you’re looking for a quick diving getaway. There are tons of liveaboards that offer trips lasting between one and five nights, always stopping at different sites for premier diving.

Even on one-night trips, you can expect to dive up to six times at several different sites. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway, spend three nights on the water and explore even more of what Australia has to offer.

Most short itineraries take divers on Great Barrier Reef safaris, primarily focused on the Outer Reef. Diving in the Western part of Australia is typically reserved for longer trips as it’s much more remote and takes longer to get to.

Extended Australia Liveaboard Diving Trips

If you’re interested in a true Australian dive expedition, there are plenty of itineraries that offer six to 14-night trips all over the country.

An extended trip will allow you to explore even more of the Outer Reef or fully enjoy all that Western Australia has to offer.

On longer trips, you’ll visit more remote sites that are farther from shore, presenting divers with more diverse wildlife and unbelievably healthy underwater ecosystems.

Best Dive Sites in Australia

1. Great Barrier Reef Dive Sites

The Great Barrier Reef is the most famous place to dive in Australia and there are several dive sites there that offer an unparalleled diving experience.

2. Osprey Reef

Located in the northern Coral Sea section of the Great Barrier Reef, Osprey Reef is famous for its outstanding visibility (over 40 meters!).

This site is great for exploring and features tons of swim-throughs, small caverns and pinnacles, making for a fun dive. It’s a super remote site which has led to its pristine condition and abundance of marine life and coral.

While diving at Osprey Reef, you’ll run into several species of sharks and large pelagic fish. This is one of the best dive spots in Australia close to the Great Barrier Reef!

3. Ribbon Reefs

Ribbon Reefs is an isolated part of the Great Barrier Reef marine park and is made up of a chain of ten reefs. This site is quite remote and is located north of Cairns.

Stretching for 120 kilometers, this site is only accessible by liveaboard, making for a unique experience. This site is home to 1,500 species of fish and 400 species of coral.

Because Ribbon Reefs is so far from shore, it’s in the best condition possible with vibrant corals and outstanding marine life. While diving at Ribbon Reefs, you’ll get to explore various sites within the reef chain that all offer divers something new

4. Steve’s Boomie

This site is well-regarded not only in Australia but throughout the world. Located within Ribbon Reef, Steve’s Bommie is a pinnacle that is filled with marine life.

Anemone swarming with clownfish draw people from across the globe, and octopus lurk among the rocks waiting to be discovered. There is so much going on at this site that it’s ideal for not only diving but a prime location for underwater photography as well.

great barrier reef

While there are many amazing scuba diving sites in the Great Barrier Reef, there are equally wondrous sites in the Western part of Australia.

5. Rowley Shoals

Rowley Shoals is perhaps the most well-known dive site in Western Australia and is frequented by divers who are interested in areas less traveled.

This site is made up of three coral shelf atolls and is home to 650 species of fish. It’s not a quick dive, but will take several trips underwater to explore it in its entirety.

If you’re diving in Western Australia, it’s nearly a guarantee that you’ll spend time at Rowley Shoals.

6. Mermaid Reef

Mermaid Reef is northeast of Rowley Shoals and is filled with lagoons, caves, and walls making for an interesting dive.

It’s in excellent condition and features many different sites for divers to explore. While diving at Mermaid Reef, you’ll run into turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, dolphins and tuna.

Who knows, you may even spot a mermaid while you’re down there!

7. Clerke Reef

Clerke Reef is another famed site in Western Australia. It’s part of the Rowley Shoals marine park and is close to Mermaid Reef, making for a convenient trip if you’re in the area.

Clerke Reef is located in a beautiful blue lagoon and is considered an aquarium dive site because the water is calm, the diving is easy, and the site is filled with healthy marine life.

Visibility at Clerke Reef is often 50 meters, allowing you to see all the moray eels, grey reef sharks, and 230 types of coral perfectly.

diving beside turtle

Search for your dream Australia liveaboard here!

There you have it! We hope this article has helped you compare these liveaboards in Australia so that you can find one that is suitable one for you. For those looking for last-minute deals, and Divebooker offers great discounted prices which are worth checking out.  

Now go and experience Australia in all its glory — I hear it’s great!

Additional content contributed by Jane Elmets

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means that if you book any of the liveaboards above, we get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. This commission will help us maintain this site so we can keep producing awesome free content for you.

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