WA’s coastline offers an abundance of sights and experiences to cherish

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Rowley Shoals Marine Park west of Broome

Where the driving takes so long and the flight jumps so much, cruising really makes sense in Western Australia. Brilliant blue and turquoise waters flow along our country’s longest coastline into the red rock of the north, white sands of the south, and rainbow coral reefs in between. Indigenous culture, wildlife and wilderness, underwater and land adventures, and the fun of beach towns can be enjoyed in the most relaxing way possible, often in just one trip.

Over the past year, WA has seen more vacations afloat than anywhere else in Australia, welcoming the smaller ships to its mixed bag of ports: Esperance, Albany, Augusta, Busselton, Bunbury, Fremantle, Geraldton, Exmouth, Port Hedland and Broome, the gateway to the Kimberley.

“There are wonderful expeditions being offered by Australian companies that are slowly starting to recover from the pandemic,” said Jeff Gilles, commercial director of Coral Expeditions, which makes more than 50 trips to the region this year.

“It is these local lines that have the specialist knowledge and excellent quality for authentic expedition cruises to the original coasts.”

Several international companies have also thrown their sailors’ hats in the ring, awaiting government approval since cruising on larger ships was suspended last year. Prior to the onset of Covid-19, Tourism Western Australia had heavily promoted the state to cruise lines around the world.

Cruise ships anchored in Fremantle
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 ships, from 12-passenger boats and yachts carrying helicopters to modern ships with seating for 99 passengers, exploring some of the world’s most desirable destinations.

The Kimberley

Most of the action takes place in the Kimberley, with departures from Broome, Wyndham or Darwin from April through 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 some of the best choices. Earlier in June, APT’s Caledonian Sky also gained approval as the only foreign-flagged vessel to operate in Australia, with an increased proportion of Australian crew.

Despite the numbers, availability is extremely limited and next year’s season is expected to explode with additional demand from foreign tourists – when they are allowed to enter. To avoid the rush, Cruise Broome president Shayne Murray advises planning several months in advance.

“As soon as the brakes are released, Kimberley cruises will be sold out well in advance, so book early,” he said.

The outback oasis almost sells for itself, as Peter Trembath, Managing Director of True North Cruises said: “The still wilderness of Australia’s west coast is a great putty with which to put it. to work.

Rowley shoals

Seal on the beach of Abrolhos Islands
Seal on the beach of Abrolhos Islands

Rowley Shoals is an increasingly popular extension of a classic Kimberley Itinerary, Coral Coast Cruise, or Self-Guided Travel. About 300 kilometers west of Broome, this cluster of three coral atolls is one of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the world. Outside the Marine Park, you can catch a sailboat or try your hand at catch and release lagoon fishing. True North, Coral Expeditions, Great Escape and Diversity are among those who venture into this paradise.

Abrolhos Islands

Five hours off the coast near Geraldton, the Abrolhos Islands are home to one of the world’s most important seabird breeding colonies, pristine reefs and the 1629 Batavia shipwreck, making it an exceptional place for diving, fishing and bird watching. Towing a 40-foot fishing boat and glass-bottom boat for underwater tours, the 19-cabin Eco Abrolhos offers exclusive five-day getaways to fish for crayfish, swim with sea lions, and go boating. hiking in the national park. Two short seasons run from February to April and September to November.

Western coast

Before and after the Kimberley season, some ships move north or south via the west coast. These one-way adventures cover the highlights between Perth and Dampier or Broome and Exmouth, or the length of a route, from 10 to 12 nights. Stunning islands galore – such as Abrolhos, Dirk Hartog, Monte Bello, Barrow – and the gem of Ningaloo Reef make for a collection that’s hard to beat.

South west coast

The Sun Princess cruise ship sailing through the Atatürk Entrance, in Albany
The Sun Princess cruise ship sailing through the Atatürk Entrance in Albany

Departing January 20, 2022, True North’s “South West Adventure” package includes a flight from Perth to Esperance, where the 36-passenger yacht waits to return to Fremantle. Go ashore at Pink Hillier Lake, spot killer whales in Bremer Bay Canyon, kayak in Duke of Orleans Bay, visit the ANZAC Albany National Center, have lunch at Margaret River and spend a day on Rottnest Island .

Interstate cruises

Coral Expeditions also heads south on their “Across the Great Australian Bight” journey through this iconic expanse of sea cliffs on a 13-night cruise from Fremantle to Adelaide via Streaky Bay and Coffin Bay, SA. Departure dates include November 8, 2021, October 23, 2022 and, vice versa, November 16, 2022. A 14-night version from Melbourne (March 1, 2022) adds the Victoria coast, including the Twelve Apostles, and Kangaroo Island.

The line’s other interstate cruise crosses the border into the Northern Territory. In January 2022, two 18-night Across the Top of Australia trips between Broome and Cairns will pass through the Great Barrier Reef, Cape York, Arnhem Land and the Kimberley Coast. In April 2023, a solar eclipse expedition is planned between Darwin and Broome in partnership with the Australian Geographic Society.

Large ships

The Golden Horizon five-masted sailboat
The Golden Horizon five-masted sailboat

The ports of WA are also part of the round the world voyages and Australian circumnavigations. More than 20 international cruise ships are scheduled for peak season (October 2021 to March 2022).

One potential new option, if licensed in Australia, is the five-masted sailboat, Golden Horizon, which features an epic 73-day world tour from December 2021.

However, even Fremantle Ports director of operations Thor Elliott predicts that these larger ships may not go down until the following summer. But a winter ship is coming: P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer is expected to be based in Fremantle from April 2022.


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