Howies Scuba

Scuba Diving Perth WA

Shore Diving 

Boy in a Boat Reef
Hillarys' Boat Harbour

  • Shore Dive: Groin Dive: Reef Dive.

  • Max Depth: 7 meters.

  • Dive Conditions: 1m swell, low Easterly winds, swell period less than 11.5 seconds, calm weather on the days prior to dive. Do not dive with a swell greater than 1.5 meters, can become mucky and surgey. Southerly & westerly winds can make the entry and exit a little rough.

  • Dive Flag at site: No.

    Disclaimer: Whilst Boy in a Boat Reef may appear an easy dive, the entry and exit points are open to additional risk which may be alien to your usual dive routine and, such risks may have the potential to cause severe injury. By diving here you agree to take all appropriate precautions and actions to maintain you and your buddys' safety and well being, regardless of the information contained here. Always dive within your own personal limits and if you are not sure..... DO NOT DIVE IT!


  • Simple enough get to AQWA, or Hillary's Boat Harbour, ask anyone who has been in Perth for a week or more and they should be able to tell you where it is.

  • Ok, just in case you ask the only person in Perth who does not know what you are talking about, Hillary's is North of the River (Swan River) it is approx. 20 minutes from Perths' CBD.

  • Take the Mitchell freeway and get off at Hepburn Ave. you can't miss it, as long as you headed to the coast when you came off the freeway, from Perths' CBD that would of been a left hand turn or from either direction WEST.

  • Stay on Hepburn for 5 minutes, at the end you will come to two roundabouts, straight over at the first one (large one) and take a left onto Southside Dr at the second one.

  • Follow signs for AQWA, drive past AQWA (on you left) you will see a walkway overhead, quayside is on your right, drive through there (the walkway not the quay), and you are now behind AQWA, you will find some free car parking spaces at the back of AQWA, just make sure you are not causing any obstruction or parking illegally.

Get comfortable you are about to read a lot of information on the two entry and exits for this site.

Getting Ready & Getting In (Option 1 "The hard way")
  • Get your gear ready and do all your final checks (BWRAF), make sure you do your equipment checks here at the car park, the last thing you need is a long walk to the dive entrance and then have to come back because you have forgotten something or an O' ring blows.

  • Anyway after you have geared up, lock all your belongings in the car and make your way along the dusty mainly concreted path to the T' junction, looking at the wall, walk to your right.

  • I kid you not this a fair walk, over 300 meters, you may as well know this now as you have to walk it anyway. This is a real disadvantage about this site for the novice diver. The novice diver is usually over weighted when first learning to dive (not all, I know but lots) and they have to carry these extra weights all that distance. Maybe wait until summer and wear a thinner wetsuit, or wait until you have your weighting sorted, something like that or, use option 2......... did you hear me "USE OPTION 2".

  • Ok lets dispel some myths about Boy in a Boat Reef.... well actually just two myths...... If you have read any of the numerous websites about BBR then at some point you will have read that there are steps at the T' junction along the groin/harbour wall and, a sign with information about the reef. Well here it is...... there is no information or steps at the T' junction..... there used to be but there isn't any more..... I do not know the true story why these steps were removed but they have.

  • I have heard that if you walk to the end of the groin (seaward end) that the rocks are easier to climb up there, but I am not too sure or convinced about that. There are steps at the beginning of the groin (by the main shopping car parks) but the surface swim would be massive. However I will discuss something in-between in option 2.
  • All bitching and moaning aside, the T' junction is the point at which you enter the water and with a wee bit of caution it is possible, as I am still here to write this with all limbs attached.

  • This spot in the wall is quite obvious as out of all the sand coloured rocks, bang in the middle of them at the T' junction is this clay brown coloured boulder. If you look beneath this you can see what was the old steps in the rock.

  • Just help each other up and down, if required pass gear up and down and then gear back up on the wall.... DO NOT FALL OFF !

  • Ok you are up.... simple ????? oh yeah that was the easy part.
  • You are now up and looking over the dive site, you are a few meters from the water and only a 100 meters from the start of the reef.

  • Did I say a few meters from the water...... hahahaha.... ok its not that bad but, you have about 6 - 8 meters of steepish rocks that you have to navigate and obviously gets slippery closer to the water you get, be careful these things can be sharp. Just take your time, like getting up, where and when safely possible just assist each other down to the waters edge.

  • When at the waters edge inflate your BCD and carefully lower yourself in, and enjoy the short swim (swim under water, it take less than 5 minutes and you never know what you will see).
  • NOTE: make sure you mark your exit some how, so you know where to climb back up, we dropped the weight from the dive flag at the entrance/exit on the sea bed and pulled the flag out with us, then followed the line to the weight and climbed out. There is a large signal pylon on the left of the exit on the jetty quay side.
Getting Ready & Getting In (Option 2 "The not so hard way")
  • As with option 1 do all your final checks in the car park.

  • When I first dived this site we used option 1, this is a long hard walk (300 - 350m) a difficult climb but, a nice easy short snorkel or swim (80m) to the reef.

  • Option 2 is pretty much, no walk but, a massive snorkel 400m on a heading of 290 degrees/reciprocal 110 degrees, And I do mean a snorkel as I wouldn't be wasting precious air getting to the reef underwater.  However the climb up the wall isn't as hard as option 1 and neither is the climb down, plus you get the option of getting all the weight off you straight away by getting into the water and putting some air in your BCD.
  • Personally, I would take option 2 to getting to the reef if I were a novice diver, but that's up to you.

  • There is a small set of steps cut into the groin face, just where you park and kit up behind AQWA. Looking at the wall it should be just to your left, (see photos here).
  • Once on top of the wall and looking straight out over the water, to your left there is a concrete slope.

  • This slope looks like some dodgy construction guys had a shed load of spare concrete and no where to dump it, so they backed up at the dead of night and tipped it over the wall, doing a quick runner and creating this very helpful entry and exit slope.

  • I do like making obvious statements but please be careful, just because there is a nice set of steps cut into the wall and, an easy slope down to the waters edge that doesn't mean its not dangerous. With all your gear on the steps require steep strides to get up, pushing your centre of gravity or weight distribution way back, the small walk to the slope is rocky and uneven and the slope can get very slippery and, on one dive we nearly lost one of our buddies off the top of the wall, so seriously take your time and help each other, even if that means passing gear up and down and donning and doffing in the water.

  • Entry is easy enough, I use a giant stride without fins on and sort them out in the water. If you want you can lug all your gear up onto the wall and hand to hand it into the water and get all your gear on in the water. This may have some merits when it comes to balance, but you would need a few of you to move gear over this distance. Whatever way you choose just take your time and help each other through out this stage.

  • Ok to the best of my knowledge the extra swim will take you between 10 - 15 minutes to complete, option one takes about 20 minutes to walk, climb and swim to the site plus or minus a few minutes. I have given a direct route heading of 290 degrees to the reef, if you like you can use visual navigation by lining yourself up with the two large channel markers off in the distance like goal post (you get the analogy) I am not talking about the yellow sanctuary markers, you will either see the reef or see the water breaking over it. Or you could if you wanted to, snorkel the groin then swim across to the reef from your entry point in Option 1.
NOTE: Regardless of which entry/exit point you decide to use consider using a rope tied off at the top of the rocks to give you some stability.
  • So after nearly killing yourself to get in here, I guess you want to hear about the dive...... in a nutshell its awful... a total waste of time..... hahahaha.... seriously I love this site.

 Dive Review:

  • Started diving "Boy in a Boat Reef" in spring 2011 and I have to say I was very impressed with this dive site. This has to be one of the prettiest dive sites I have dived around Perth. I know that sounds a bit girly but it describes it perfectly, the colours created by the marine life and formations of the reef make for a beautiful, compact and simple dive with so much to offer. This dive site is so simple once you are in, I could not see any reason why all divers wouldn't be able to navigate or enjoy BBR.......what great praise for a shore dive site......... but unfortunately not a 10/10.......... and if you didn't read the previous thousand paragraphs.

  • Well simply put, Boy in a Boat Reef is a pain in the arse to get in and out of due to Hillarys' harbour wall, and like all the dive sites North of the river, anything more than a 1 meter swell and low easterly winds and you won't get the dive that this site and you deserve, especially after all the hard work getting in. So not only is it weather dependent but also dependent on your set of mountaineering skills you learned on your open water course........... what do you mean you didn't cover rock climbing when learning to scuba dive !!!

  • That said, I do believe this is a dive you should complete if the weather conditions are right, regardless of how difficult it is to get to. I know you won't do this site every week so if the opportunity arises to dive it....... I would...... Compared to a lot of the other shore dive sites around Perth, I would be surprised to hear that anyone would find much fault with this as a shore dive.

Navigating The Reef

  • Once you have made your way over to the reef you have two simple choices, either clockwise or anti-clockwise, on my first dive here we went anti-clockwise and cut in and over the reef as the arrows indicate in the second photograph. On all other dives we have currently gone clockwise and at the 3/4 stage nipped over the reef then out.

The Reef

  • Boy in a Boat is a limestone reef, as you can see from the pictures above it is a nicely compact reef, however to fully explore all this in one dive maybe a little difficult unless you stay extremely shallow and only descend at certain points, but then that's not fully exploring is it, so maybe if the weather is good, and you have the leg strength of a pack horse a double dive maybe the way to go.
  • I have found the reef to be quite elegant with little passage ways cut into the reef, opening up and closing down again with a slightly winding feel to it. There where some small holes to drop into, some sheltered spots to swim in and out of and, some nice little swim thru's to. There where ledges and over hangs, lime stone pillars reaching up and little nook and crannies that you could just peer into, a beautiful little site.
  • The reef has not disappointed on any of the dives I have completed since my first dive here, regardless of the dive conditions.

  • She has opened up a fair bit on these dives, finding more and more ledges, overhangs, hidden nook, crannies, swim thru's, caves, and with more holes to drop in and out of.

Life on the Reef

On the first day I dived here the shear diversity of colours that were paved right through the dive site, I am happy to say was unbelievable. I have tried my best to represent these here within this wall of colour but as always it will fall short, as all divers will know, there is no substitute for being there, being enveloped by the experience, being lost in the moment.

I have dived a few dives North of the River, on the reefs that are spread out along West Coast Drive. But I have not seen the type of life in such abundance and variety as I have at Boy in a Boat Reef. I do not know why it should be so different here compared to say MAAC which is only a couple of kilometers down the coast, in generally similar water.

As you can see from these images that the life florishes at Boy in a Boat Reef, painting the walls is a vast array of sessile creatures including: tethya sponges, cup sponges, tube worms, tangled worms, bryozoans, lace corals, ascidians, gorgonians, corals, and the list goes on and on, and that's just the stuff stuck to the walls of the reef.

Every turn you will find something illuminating, like I did with this beautiful egg ribbon which I found when exploring one of the trenches behind the reef.

Or the illuminous green compound Ascidian? just encrusting on the reef. The list doesn't stop, everywhere you look there is something different.

One thing I do like about Boy in a Boat Reef is the coral has had time to develop, and as much as they won't compare in size to their tropical cousins they are decent size for such shallow cool waters.

These corals below must of been just shy of a meter in length or width, something you wont see on other shore dive sites.

Reef Fish

There is an abundance of fish species on and around the reef, however sometimes its either patience or luck that are required to see some of the more secretive types.

There are a large number of Scalyfins at this site, and I have found these to be very aggressive and territorial in their behaviour. If you take the time and don't get flustered, listen and feel for the clicks made by the Scalyfin when it defends.

Also you will find large schools of Bream of varying stages of development in the surge zones.

To date I have seen: Leatherjackets, Carp, Cods, Pikes, Morwongs, Drummers, Old Wives, Boxfish, Cardinalfish, Rabbitfish, Zebrafish, Scalyfins, Moonlighters, Wrasse, Flatheads, the list goes on and on and on........... brilliant little dive site with a diversity of fish that wont disappoint, trust me, just take your time and you will see it.


Sea Grass Area

  • There is more to Boy in a Boat Reef than just the limestone reef itself, between the entrance and exit and surrounding the reef is a healthy sea grass area.
  • As stated earlier on, my advice is to swim under water both there and back rather than a surface swim (option 1 entry), its only a brief swim, 80 meters or so, and the sea grass can be a great place to find some little gems. And if you choose Option 2 then you can check out the sea grass area on your return.
  • Due to the shallow nature of this dive site you should get plenty of bottom time, so maybe save a little bit of that bottom time for the journey back so that you can explore this area a little bit longer.
  •  The sea grass area surrounding the reef and to and from the reef continually harbour some beautiful creatures.

Harbour Wall

  •  Ok, last but not least, if after all that you still have a few minutes of spare air burning a hole in your cylinder that you just have to use up, well fear not the dive is only over when you climb out, and just before you do that is the Harbour Wall, which has enough life, enough nooks and crannies for you to poke your head in and have a look around.
  • Boy in a Boat Reef has a series of sunken "Placards" describing local marine life, how many of these dotted around the dive site I am unsure of, and on my dives here I have come across only two, which I have to say were coated some type of encrusting stuff and needed a firm scrub to reveal the slightest of information, far more than I was prepared to offer up at this time (see video).


  • Dive it.......... just be careful

Video Compilation



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