Swanage Pier

Diving Swanage

If I was a gambling man I’d be tempted to bet that more new divers took their first sea dive under Swanage Pier than at any other site in the UK. I would also bet that many of them, no matter how long they have been diving for, still like a dip there.


The secret to getting a great dive day at Swanage is to bag a parking place on the pier. This can be easier said than done at weekends when conditions are good in summer. Then you need to be there well before the pier opens but in the week and away from the summer holidays thingsSwanage pier are far more peaceful. Even if you can’t get a coveted pier parking spot don’t worry. Unload by the pier gate and leave a kit minder while the driver parks at the long stay car park just a few yards up the hill behind the pier. Currently, parking costs £9 to stay all day and divers are charged £2.50 each. This charge is waived if you are diving from a boat leaving the pier. The pier trust kindly provides plenty of trolleys for diver use so just grab one or these and use it to shift your kit to wherever you base yourself.


Anyone who knows me or reads my blogs knows that dining opportunities are a key feature of my dive planning. No problems here, there are great breakfast, lunch and dinner options within a very short stroll of the pier. As I write this the pier is completing an extensive renovation programme and I understand the new, on-pier,  “1859 Pier Cafe & Bistro” is now open. No need to bring a packed lunch to Swanage!


Diving under Swanage Pier

This is a shallow dive and at high tide, you are unlikely to get below 5m or so even out at the far end of the pier. Conditions here are pretty good for most of the time.  The wind direction that can ruin the visibility and bring in the waves is an easterly.  I’m a fan of XCWeather for keepingPipefish snout an eye on wind direction and strength when planning a dive. Swanage Bay does have quite a bit of silt on the bottom so after a period of bad weather it can take a day or two for conditions to pick up.


The easiest option for getting in is down the steps just by the gents toilet! Watch out, they can be slippy. There is enough depth by the steps when the tide is up but at low tide you need to take some precarious steps across the stones to find enough depth to swim in. Once in, its an easy and short swim to the pier itself. I have never felt any current here so your dive should be nice and gentle… I have absolutely no issues with easy, chilled diving.


Navigation is dead easy. If its dark up top and there are pier pilings on each side you are under the pier. If not – you aren’t.  Just follow the pier out and then when your turn point is reached turn around and come back. When you hit a wall the dive is over.


This is a dive about the little stuff. Look out for nudibranchs, juvenile fish, pipefish, small flatfish, crabs and lobsters. Bass, mullet, John Dory and shoals of sandeels are regular visitors. Do look out for the delightful Tompot Blennies which always remind those of more senior years of DenisTompot Blenny Healey.  There are also the inevitable resident wrasse – I remember a small but feisty territorial cuckoo wrasse making it very clear that I should depart their territory post haste!  If you are a fan of close up and macro photography this is a dream location.


When diving the pier the only real hazard is navigating away from the pier.  It is used by fishermen so there is an entanglement risk while boat traffic is frequent so stay under the pier or deply an SMB


Boat Diving from Swanage

Two companies operate from the pier. Divers Down is one of the oldest dive stores and training centres in the UK, dating back to 1958. They operate a compressor offering air and nitrox fills and have a store in case you forgot anything. Divers Down operate two dive boats and visit all On board Mary Jothe local and sometimes not so local dive sites.  They keep an up to date list of trips with vacancies. They also post last minute places on a board outside the shop so you might be lucky if you just turn up in the morning. Many of their trips are shuttles – they accept bookings from buddy pairs, no need to fill the boat and simply take you out for a single dive and bring you back. You can organise your day as you wish, maybe combining a dip under the pier with one or more boat trips during the day.  Swanage Boat Charters offer a similar service. They too run two boats with one tending to do charters or shuttles to more distant sites while Mary Jo, generally skippered by the unflappable and helpful, Bryan, covers more local sites.  Swanage Boat Charters have a very useful website where, once you are registered, allows you to see all their trips for the whole season and book online.


Boat dives tend to be to local wrecks at slack water with a number of options for thrilling drift dives when the tide is running. Don’t miss the opportunity to drift from Old Harry Rocks or across the Peverell Ledges. The wrecks are many and various. Open Water divers will love the Fleur de Lys, a wreck of a trawler which sank in 1969 and which sits in 13-15m of water. I love taking a trip to the Valentine Tanks; amphibious tanks which sank (who’d have thought that could happen!) during trials before D-Day. There are two tanks linked by a line making navigation between them easy – although I know a diver who managed to get lost here 😉  They contain a prodigious amount of life far out of proportion to their size. Expect lobsters, edible crabs, conger eels, big shoals of pout and pollack.


The iconic wreck at Swanage is the Kyarra. Look at the display outside Divers Down for more detail and if you are on Mary Jo ask Bryan to show you his treasure box which includes old perfume bottles whose contents still retain their scent. This big wreck is in range for an Advanced Open Water or BSAC Sport divers.


Rather than attempt to catalogue all the Swanage wrecks visit this interactive map on the Swanage Boat Charters site.


I am lucky in that I can get to Swanage for a day’s diving and still be home at a civilised time but I still try to build in at least a couple of weekend trips down here. There is plenty of accommodation from campsites, self catering and a whole range of hotels and plenty of great eateris and pubs for post diving entertainment. Why not visit Swanage for a dive or two? As long as the winds aren’t the dreaded Easterlies you won’t regret it.


If you want to find a group of divers who love diving Swanage and go there regularly get in touch with us at Scuba Blue and find a recent trip report here.  Scuba Blue organise trips locally and abroad and operate a dive club open to any agency. We can offer training through PADI from Try Dive to PADI Professional as well as wide range of Specialities.



Here are some useful links for anyone planning to visit Swanage.


Swanage Pier Trust

Divers Down

Swanage Boat Charters


The women of Scuba Blue at Brixham Breakwater Beach

PADI Women’s Dive Day outing to Brixham

Since 2015, women from all around the globe have been getting together to celebrate PADI Women’s Dive Day to bond over their love of the ocean and a passion for scuba diving!


Ballan Wrasse at BrixhamThis year, Vicky from Scuba Blue invited ladies from Somerset, Devon and Dorset to meet at Brixham to enjoy a scuba dive out to Ladybird Cove followed by a second dive along the Breakwater. Here is her report.


Jellyfish at BrixhamAmong the group were relatively new divers, divers with years of experience and some who were just getting back after having a year or so out from diving. It was wonderful to see some new faces to Scuba Blue as well as catching up with the usual lovely ladies from the dive group.


The viz wasn’t great, but in places we enjoyed 3-4m and there was enough life to keep us entertained!! Large edible crabs, lobster, compass jellies, free swimming scallops and some lovely examples of Ballan wrasse.


After the first dive, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Breakwater Bistro, chatting away and sharing ourSnakelocks Anemone dive experiences from the UK and further afield. We also discussed the upcoming Scuba Blue trip to Curaçao, which many of us are booked on and getting extremely excited Yet another jellyfish!about!!


Following lunch, we headed back into the water for our second dive. We emerged to find glorious sunshine for the rest of the afternoon and, after packing all the dive gear away,  we enjoyed Sue’s fabulous homemade cake and, of course, plenty of Haribos, whilst sitting on the beach.


A brilliant day had by all and I’m already looking forward to the next Scuba Blue dive trips to Swanage on the 5th August and Porthkerris on the 18/19th.


Yes we did get in the water


Contact us at Scuba Blue to find out about forthcoming dive trips. We run regular trips but also just go diving locally on a regular basis. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a dive buddy, we can sort that out for you. Sign up for our email newsletters and follow us on Facebook to stay in touch.


If you haven’t been diving for a while we can organise a skills review to build your confidence again. Whatever it takes to get you diving.


Happy diving everyone!


Vicks xx

The Scuba Blue divers on Mary Jo. Happy folk after a great dive

Swanage Dive Trip 8th July 2018

The fabulous summer weather continued as a group of 12 divers made their way to Swanage last weekend. As usual, we all met for the traditional pre-dive breakfast in the sunshine overlooking the sea.


The Kyarra before meeting its end after being torpedoed in 1918We dived with Swanage Boat Charters and their very friendly and helpful skipper Bryan aboard “Mary Jo”.  Loading the boat in near 30-degree heat was a challenge but we were soon cooling down en route to our first dive site. We were off to dive the historic wreck of the “Kyarra”.


The Kyarra had various roles, from a luxury liner to troop carrier and even a hospital ship. The wreck had just passed the 100th anniversary of it’s sinking in May 1918 when it was torpedoed by a U-Boat. The South West of the UK has so many wrecks waiting for us to explore.  This wreck lies in approximately 30metres of water with the top of the wreck at approx 25 metres.  Damage by the torpedo and time is evident but it still provides a glimpse of what she would have looked like. There are numerous swim-throughs and a chance of finding treasure including old perfume bottles, ceramic tiles and even false teeth !!!!


Getting the kit set up before the diveAs we descended the shot line it was clear this was going to be a fabulous dive with visibility well over 10 metres. We were greeted at the bottom by an enormous Conger Eel and the wildlife just kept on coming.Bryan, the skipper of Mary Jo There were huge shoals of Pout Whiting that almost engulfed us. Bib, Wrasse, Lobsters, Tompot Blennies and all the usual sea life suspects are there. As we were diving on air our no deco time was up much too soon and we returned to the boat for between dive refreshments.


The second dive was a drift dive over the famous Peveril Ledges with a depth ranging from 10metres to 18metres. This turned out to be another fabulous dive and whilst it didn’t have the high octane speed of an “Old Harry” drift, the current was just right to allow us to see any wildlife we passed along the way. We spotted huge Wrasse, crabs, scallops and an undulate ray but the amazing topography of the seabed was the highlight for me.


Back onto the boat for more refreshments and then back into Swanage to offload at the pier. We then enjoyed fish and chips in the warm evening sun whilst sitting on the Swanage sea wall outdoing each other on sightings from the daysTompot Blenny diving.


A fabulous day with a fantastic group of divers and loads of laughs. If you would like to join us on one of our trips keep an eye on the  Scuba Blue website and facebook pages for details or call the shop on 01404 891808.


To see the wealth of wrecks near Swanage check out this amazing interactive map on the Swanage Boat Charters website – https://kyarra.com/map/map.html  and to book a trip with Bryan at Swanage Boat Charters go to their site at https://kyarra.com/  They take bookings by buddy pairs and all their upcoming trips can be seen and booked online.