Highly competitive long-term berth rates at Abell Point Marina make this an ideal base for cruising further afield. Spending a season, at Abell Point can save costs that may accrue elsewhere, and in terms of charter revenue, may generate some significant returns in the process.
The Whitsundays are located in the central part of the reef and provide unprecedented access for both northern and southern reef anchorages and islands. There are several places, which offer some great cruising, once you have spent time in the Whitsundays.
Here are some of our recommendations of locations that provide access to a range of activities, experiences and natural icons when using them as a base:
Explore Northern Queensland
The best-known run involves voyaging north, past Magnetic and Orpheus Islands off Townsville, Bedarra and Dunk Islands, to the Marlin Marina at Cairns, then on to Port Douglas, Lizard Island and the Cod Hole. Add in Cooktown and its namesake associations with Captain James Cook’s exploration in 1770, for a dose of early Australian history. Cook is also behind the name, ‘the Whitsundays’ as well as naming other coastal landmarks in the region. The northern mainland ports offer a stunning mix of reef and rainforest experiences, and provide perfect cruising temperatures all year-round.
This schedule could easily become a 14 day inshore-offshore odyssey, with different people aboard for the return trip.
Explore Southern Queensland
Southbound routes from the Whitsundays can take in Brampton Island off Mackay, Great Keppel and Heron Islands off Rockhampton, and less visited Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Islands near Bundaberg.
An absolute must see, when heading south is Heron Island. American captain Mike Hein, who spent over a year cruising the coast in the 40-metre super sportfisher Mea Culpa, describes this end of the reef as perhaps his favourite, due to the unspoilt pristine waters and absolute privacy he found there. A glance at the charts reveal more intriguing small islands nearby, where only occasional sport fishermen roam. By contrast, Torres Strait and the far northern end of the reef can be a bit murky and messy.
Further south again brings you to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, and then come the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, with state capital Brisbane in between. Established superyacht refit and repair yards are located in both Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Beyond them are Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largest cities, with their iconic landmarks and nonstop events, plus pristine Tasmania, known as ‘the apple isle.’
From Abell Point Marina it is also only a relatively short passage across the Coral Sea to the untapped possibilities of the Pacific. Starting with french-speaking New Caledonia and its substantial marina in Noumea, as well as the nearby Isle of Pines – amongst the Pacific’s most beautiful waters. Or there is French-English speaking ex-colonial island of Vanuatu, where death-defying bungee jumping was first tried by natives using vines tied around their ankles.
The Solomons, like Vanuatu, was a battleground in World War II – think Guadalcanal – and rusting planes and tanks still abound in the jungles, as do sunken ships offshore, now a mecca for avid scuba divers. Huge pelagic fish can be caught these parts, a test if skill for any offshore angler. The east coast of Papua New Guinea, adjacent to the Solomons, is likewise a recent magnet for superyachts and boutique cruise ships
The islands of Fiji are fast becoming a popular superyacht destination in the Pacific region. With deserted tropical islands, strong cultural diversity, abundant coral reefs and villages steeped in indigenous traditions, the Fijian cruising grounds are a must see. Based on Denarau island, Port Denarau marina has seen some significant upgrades over the last three years and has emerged as a well- equipped superyacht facility providing access to all Fiji has to offer.
Again from the Whitsundays, across ‘the pond’ or Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s largest city Auckland and the country’s southern fjords beckon. With vibrant cities, rugged coastline, secluded bays the topography of New Zealand is one to be experienced and a definite must on the South Pacific cruising route. One could do worse than organise golf or fishing or wine cruises, or a combination of all three!
Beyond New Zealand and Fiji to its north, a well-prepared 40-metre vessel can make it safely across to French Polynesia. All that is required is for owners and captains to perhaps extend their horizons a little, and take a fresh look at the possibilities.