Just below the surface of the waters of the Hood Canal, a whole new world exists waiting to be explored. It is carpeted with sponges and seaweed, populated by wolf eels and octopus and visited by the occasional seal and even (rarely) a six-gilled shark. Although the cold water of the Pacific is daunting, the variety of marine life it holds is well worth the chilly SCUBA dive.
With its comparably slower currents (to the rest of Puget Sound), the Hood Canal offers many opportunities for rewarding shore dives and live boat dives of various experience levels. Diving is not just for the summer time, the winter and early spring offer excellent opportunities because the cooler weather means clearer visibility (rain run off notwithstanding).
We have coalesced a list of some of the top dive sites of the Hood Canal as recorded by excellent books such as Betty Pratt-Johnson’s 141 Dives in the Protected Waters of Washington and British Columbia (1977) and Stephen Fischnaller’s Northwest Shore Dives (2000), as well as diver’s blog reviews, such as Scott Boyd at Emerald Sea Scuba and Nicolle Prat at Pacific Northwest Scuba.
#1. Flag Pole Point
East and West
Outside of Lilliwaup, just to the South of Mike’s Beach Resort is a dive site more comfortably accessed by boat (but you can free swim to it also). Called “the knuckle” this dive site consists of a series of rock formations, rising like a mini range of mountains from the ocean floor. Because this formation is farther out and more exposed to currents, this site usually has excellent visibility and there are lots to see. Lingcod lay their eggs at this protected site, and there are resident wolf eel and octopus populations. Since the rise of “the knuckles” is so rapid, the site can be difficult to locate— check the dive blogs for more information and ask your local dive shop.
#2. Potlatch Park -
While the diving at Potlatch is less dramatic than the site above , if you are just getting your flippers wet, this is a great place to start out. This shore diving spot is easy to get to, has showers to wash off gear, and it provides opportunities to get comfortable with your equipment and practice techniques.
#3. Scenic Beach State Park –
Like Potlatch, this site is accessible from the beach and it is rewarding for all experience levels. There are plenty of marine life to observe on this sandy-cobble beach, which shifts after 15 ft into a large eelgrass bed, likewise teaming with all the sea creatures that are heir to this environment.
#4. Octopus Hole –
Although parking for this site is limited, this wall site is easy to access from shore and gratifying for all experience levels, but it is a popular spot! It is recommended you brings a flashlight to see the friendly octopuses and wolf eels. Remember this is a protected site, so no harvesting or disturbing the site (and no taking of the glass bottles that octopuses like to hide in).
#5. Sund Rock Marine Preserve
Easy beach access to this site is available through Hoodsport ’N Dive for $20 per diver. This is an iconic dive spot of the area —Hoodsport ’N Dive even offers diving classes at this site. From the beach you swim out through eelgrass environs filled with perch, crabs and other types of sea life. When you reach the Rock you are greeted by wolf eels, octopuses, sea stars, lingcod and other bottom fish. As it is a marine preserve it is closed to harvesting and fishing — so no spear guns!
#6. Twanoh State Park –
This full service park, has a gentle current, which gives divers the freedom to dive whenever— independent of slack tides. You will find a large eelgrass bed filled with interesting fish, such as tube-snouts, black eye gobies and sticklebacks. After about 40 foot depth you can find tube-dwelling anemones. These anemones are entertaining to watch as they feed with their long graceful tentacles. Use a dive flag and submerge when you pass the roped swimming area (and stay submerged and deep to avoid any boat traffic).
#7. The east side of Hood Canal Bridge
This is a more intermediate dive. Leaving from the park at Salsbury Point heading toward the Hood Canal Bridge, this shore dive requires you time your swim out to the dive area right before the beginning of slack tide, so that the current pulls you out to the bridge, then you can save your energy for the swim back. On your swim out to the bridge you pass through eelgrass beds, which are teeming with perch, soles, shiners and other sea creatures. When you reach the concrete bridge supports you are greeted by a fantastic display of plumose anemones and many different types of nudibranchs. Be careful of boat traffic and pace yourself for the long swim to and from the bridge.
For more information on scuba opportunities in the Hood Canal area, visit our scuba things to do page!