HAVING SPENT A YEAR CRUISING Australia on M/Y Felix, I am often asked what advice I would pass on to other captains. In short, my response is this. Come to Australia – you won’t regret it.
Like all destinations, there are idiosyncrasies and considerations to bear in mind, yet with the proper prior research, none of these have been insurmountable and the reward is immense. No two stretches of coastline are the same. Each time we cruised, there was something new and different to see for our intrepid owners and their guests.
The owners of Felix are on board very often, so the yacht is one of the most utilised in the industry. This can be challenging for the crew, yet Australia’s extraordinary natural attractions and great destinations assisted enormously in making each trip memorable.
I did not use any agents while cruising in Australia. Having thoroughly read all the requirements online, the crew and I completed our port of clearance and visa paperwork with few to no issues. The crew entered Australia on extended 408 visas, designed for entertainers and sportspeople. For some passport holders, there were additional health and police checks, but it was all manageable.
We cleared in Brisbane and found the Border Protection team to be professional, yet felt the quarantine and biosecurity staff needed to learn more about yachting.
My advice for cruising with guests would be to chase the temperate weather. The north of Australia can be unforgiving in the summer so after clearing into Brisbane, we headed south. First to Sydney to enjoy the big city cruising, celebrate New Year in the harbour, navigate the Hawkesbury River and visit the Blue Mountains, before carrying on down the coast to Tasmania.
It is hard to select a standout for the cruise, yet if I were pressed, it would be Tasmania.
Tasmania is a very special place with some very special cruising options – all of which will delight guests.
As a vessel over 35 metres, you are required to take a pilot in Tasmanian waters; as a private yacht, we took a pilot into Hobart and then the pilots and Harbour Master gave the vessel a pilot exemption. The Harbour Master and Pilots Association are willing to work with yachts.
Crossing north-west over Bass Strait, we entered South Australian waters and spent a month cruising around Kangaroo Island, the Yorke Peninsula and closer to Adelaide itself. Part of our itinerary planning for the guests included not only coastal discovery but inland 22s as well. Guests got the opportunity to tour the Barossa Valley, the Flinders Ranges and well into Australia’s interior at Coober Pedy, the famous desert mining town where the houses are built underground.
We rounded out the summer months in Victoria, cruising around the Mornington Peninsula and the bays of Wilsons Promontory before heading into the Melbourne CBD to the Melbourne Superyacht Marina – one of the most ideally located marinas the yacht has ever been berthed at.
The crew and guests alike enjoyed exploring Melbourne and its surrounds, going as far as Mildura and Mungo National Park on the New South Wales border.
For those summer months in the southern states of Australia, the prevailing winds are south-south-west from 10–20 knots. Occasionally, a low-pressure system would appear but there was time to prepare and manage the itinerary accordingly. We used the national weather forecaster, the Bureau of Meteorology, and felt well-informed on weather patterns.
As the weather cooled we headed north, stopping in Sydney and Brisbane to do some maintenance work.
If there is one thorn in the side of cruising in Australia, it is the limitation of slipping and lifting facilities for larger yachts, though this is changing rapidly with a few yards upsizing.
Finally, we cruised up the Queensland coast into the protection of the Great Barrier Reef to enjoy the islands and beautiful tropical cruising that the guests had not yet experienced on this trip.
Airlie Beach is a great place to provision and re-supply your vessels. The Abell Point Marina is one of the best marinas I have ever been to, with the very friendly staff willing to do anything to make our stay perfect. The locals are also very welcoming.
Flying into Proserpine is not the best as there are not enough flights per day; you are better off having guests arrive and depart from Hamilton Island. The concierge services at Hamilton Island are extremely helpful and willing to work with you and meet and greet your guests.
The local authorities in the Great Barrier Reef – the GBRMPA, Reef VTS and Whitsunday VTS – are all very accommodating. Do your homework and use their websites or call them to get your questions answered. It’s not as hard as people make it out to be.
We visited five of the seven states and territories of Australia and it has been a great cruising experience; one that certainly beats the milk run to which we will slowly return.
Visiting yachts to Australia will discover temperate rainforests, spectacular beaches and a dark convict history in mysterious Tasmania while cruising in South Australia offers everything from world-class wine regions to desert adventures.
Cosmopolitan, gourmet cities welcome you in grand old Melbourne, glitzy Sydney, and the subtropical river city of Brisbane – all backed by magnificent exploring country of soaring ranges, ancient forests and dusty outback towns.
In the west, the affluent city of Perth is surrounded by wine country and wildflowers and a sapphire sea before the great outback takes over, running thousands of kilometres north before hitting the Kimberley, a remote wilderness of staggering proportions.
In Australia’s Top End, Darwin is the epitome of the tropical frontier city, acting as the gateway to Kakadu Rainforest and its magical swimming holes, and further south, to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia’s Red Centre.
Rounding Cape York and returning to the east coast, over 2,000 kilometres of coral reef and blissful tropical islands greet you on the Great Barrier Reef, one of the planet’s ultimate cruising destinations.