WA’s coastline offers an abundance of sights and experiences to treasure – The Australian


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Rowley Shoals Marine Park west of Broome

By Louise GoldsburyJuly 9, 2021

Where driving takes so long and flying skips so much, cruising makes sense in Western Australia. Brilliant blue and turquoise waters spill along our country’s longest coastline into the red rock of the north, the white sand of the south and rainbow coral reefs in between. Indigenous culture, wildlife and wilderness, underwater and overland adventures, and the fun of seaside towns can be enjoyed in the most relaxing way possible, often in one seamless trip.Over the past year, WA has seen more holidays afloat than anywhere else in Australia, welcoming the smallest ships to its mixed bag of ports: Esperance, Albany, Augusta, Busselton, Bunbury, Fremantle, Geraldton, Exmouth, Port Hedland and Broome, the gateway to the Kimberley. “Wonderful expeditions are being offered by Australian lines who are slowly starting to recover from the pandemic,” says Jeff Gilles, commercial manager, Coral Expeditions, which is sailing more than 50 voyages in the region this year.“It’s these local lines that have expert knowledge and excellent quality for authentic expedition cruising on home shores.” Several international lines have also thrown their sailors hats into the ring, waiting for government approval since cruising on bigger ships was suspended last year. Before the onset of Covid-19, Tourism Western Australia had heavily promoted the state to cruise companies around the world. Cruise ships anchored in Fremantle“These important relationships are what will help WA’s international cruise tourism business rebound when the time is right in the future,” a Tourism WA spokesperson said. In the meantime, ‘micro-cruises’ continue year-round on local boutique vessels, from 12-passenger boats and yachts carrying helicopters to modern ships capped at 99 guests, exploring some of the globe’s most desired destinations.The KimberleyMost of the action is taking place in the Kimberley, with departures from Broome, Wyndham or Darwin from April to October. True North, Coral Geographer, Coral Adventurer, Coral Discoverer, Great Escape, Lady M, Reef Prince, Eco Abrolhos, Kimberley Quest II, Kimberley Pearl, Odyssey Expedition, Ocean Dream and MV Diversity are among the top choices. Earlier in June, APT’s Caledonian Sky also gained approval as the only foreign-flagged vessel to operate in Australia, with a boosted proportion of Aussie crew.Despite the numbers, availability is extremely limited, and next year’s season is tipped to explode with the extra demand from overseas tourists — when they are allowed in. To beat the rush, Cruise Broome chairman Shayne Murray advises planning several months ahead.“As soon as the brakes come off, Kimberley cruises will be sold out a long time in advance, so book early,” he said. The outback oasis almost sells itself, as Peter Trembath, general manager of True North Cruises, said: “The still-wild nature of the Western Australian coast is great putty to work with.”Rowley ShoalsSeal on the beach at the Abrolhos IslandsRowley Shoals is an increasingly popular extension to a classic Kimberley itinerary, Coral Coast cruise or as a standalone trip. About 300 kilometres west of Broome, this cluster of three coral atolls is one of the world’s best dive and snorkel sites. Outside the marine park, you can snag a sailfish or try “catch and release” lagoon fishing. True North, Coral Expeditions, Great Escape and Diversity are among those that venture into this paradise.Abrolhos IslandsFive hours off the coast near Geraldton, the Abrolhos Islands are home to one the world’s most significant seabird breeding colonies, pristine reefs and the 1629 Batavia shipwreck, making it an exceptional place to snorkel, fish and birdwatch. Towing a 40-foot fishing boat and glass-bottom boat for underwater sightseeing, the 19-cabin Eco Abrolhos offers exclusive five-day getaways to go crayfishing, swimming with sea lions and hiking around the national park. Two short seasons run from February to April and September to November.West CoastBefore and after the Kimberley season, some ships relocate north or south via the west coast. These one-way adventures cover the highlights between Perth and Dampier or Broome and Exmouth, or the entire length in one itinerary, from 10 to 12 nights. Stunning islands galore — such as the Abrolhos, Dirk Hartog, Monte Bello, Barrow — and the jewel of Ningaloo Reef comprise a hard-to-beat collection.South West CoastThe Sun Princess Cruise Ship sailing through Ataturk Entrance, in AlbanyDeparting 20 January 2022, True North’s “Adventure South West” package includes a flight from Perth to Esperance, where the 36-guest yacht awaits to sail back to Fremantle. Go ashore at the pink Lake Hillier, spot orcas in Bremer Bay Canyon, kayak at Duke of Orleans Bay, visit Albany’s National ANZAC centre, have lunch at Margaret River and spend a day on Rottnest Island.Interstate cruisesCoral Expeditions also heads south on its ‘Across the Great Australian Bight’ voyage traversing this iconic stretch of sea cliffs on a 13-night cruise from Fremantle to Adelaide via Streaky Bay and Coffin Bay, SA. Departure dates include 8 November 2021, 23 October 2022 and, in reverse direction, 16 November 2022. A 14-night version from Melbourne (1 March 2022) adds Victoria’s coast, including the Twelve Apostles, and Kangaroo Island.The line’s other interstate cruise crosses the border to the Northern Territory. In January 2022 two 18-night “Across the Top of Australia” journeys between Broome and Cairns will take in the Great Barrier Reef, Cape York, Arnhem Land and the Kimberley coast. In April 2023 a solar eclipse expedition is scheduled between Darwin and Broome in partnership with the Australian Geographic Society.Big shipsThe five-masted Golden Horizon sailing shipWA ports also feature on round-the-globe voyages and Australian circumnavigations. More than 20 international cruise ships are pencilled in for peak season (October 2021 to March 2022). A potential new option, if permitted into Australia, is the five-masted sailing ship, Golden Horizon, which is planning an epic 73-day circumnavigation from December 2021.However, even the operations manager of Fremantle Ports, Thor Elliott, predicts these bigger vessels may not make it down under until the following summer. But a winter ship is coming: P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer is set to be based in Fremantle from April 2022.

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