Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef
March 14-24, 2018
Sail from Sydney on this exciting itinerary exploring the Gold Coast of Australia.
As your ship passes Harbour Heads, you are presented with the shimmering skyline of Sydney - hailed by many seafarers as "the most beautiful harbor in the world." Two prominent landmarks, Harbour Bridge and the sail-like curves of the Sydney Opera House, grace the backdrop of this picturesque harbor. There is a wealth of adventure waiting in Sydney - from its cosmopolitan city center to miles of beautiful beaches and the Blue Mountains. Australia's oldest and largest city was born in 1788 with the arrival of the "First Fleet" transporting 760 British convicts. Today, Sydney is the largest port in the South Pacific and is voted the most popular destination in the South Pacific.
Airlie Beach is your gateway to the Whitsunday Archipelago. These 74 islands feature pristine fringing reefs, calm, lagoon-like waters, and superb beaches. The archipelago is one of Australia's premier playgrounds.
The Whitsundays were once mountains. Rising seas at the end of the Ice Age formed the Whitsunday Passage between the islands and the mainland.
Cairns is one of Australia's hottest vacation destinations. Cairns boasts three of Australia's great natural wonders. Just offshore, immense bastions of living coral form the Great Barrier Reef. Sixteen miles of superb beaches stretch to the north of the city - the famed Marlin Coast. And inland lays the immense Daintree National Park. Cairns itself basks in tropical sunshine, balmy breezes waft in from Trinity Bay. The city's graceful, tree-lined esplanade was once the gateway to the gold fields of North Queensland.
Cairns graceful, tree-lined esplanade was once the gateway to the gold fields of North Queensland. A travel tip - Cairns is pronounced "cans."
In 1877, the aptly named James Venture Mulligan struck pay dirt on Hodgkinson River, igniting the fabled North Queensland Gold Rush. At the height of the boom, Port Douglas boasted 12,000 residents and 27 hotels. Bust inevitably followed boom, and Port Douglas slid into decades of obscurity. Then came a second gold rush in the 1980s as tourists flocked to the North Queensland Coast. Located between the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas provides a perfect gateway to hardy adventurers en route to rainforest and reef.
In addition to its nearby scenic wonders, Port Douglas boasts several resorts ranging from the Sheraton Mirage to the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa in the heart of the rainforest.
Note: Port Douglas is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship's tender.
This tiny island measures in at just 1,600 feet long by 490 feet wide, though it is the only permanently inhabited island in the Coral Sea Islands Territory. You won't find any neighborhoods, schools or homes here, however. The only structures on Willis Island comprise a weather monitoring station hosted by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, where just a handful of weather observers reside at any given time.
Willis Island is one of several tropical islands sitting beyond the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea Islands Territory, and is surrounded by thriving reefs where many creatures make their homes. Numbering into the thousands, Willis Island itself caters to many species of seabirds, including Masked, Brown and Red-footed Boobies that cry out nearly 24 hours a day. It is also an important nesting ground for turtles.
Note: Willis Island is a scenic cruising site. Ships will slowly travel past while a knowledgeable port lecturer points out significant sites you'll be able to see from onboard.
Once considered the "country cousin" among Australian cities, Brisbane is today the nation's third-largest metropolis - and one of the most desirable places to live in the country. Lying on the banks of the meandering Brisbane River, this cosmopolitan city boasts elegant 19th-century sandstone buildings, a lively cultural scene and superb parklands. Brisbane is also your gateway to uniquely Australian adventures, be it the theme parks of the Gold Coast or Queensland's dazzling beaches.
The beaches south of Brisbane form Queensland's Gold Coast. Travel tip: Brisbane is pronounced "Bris-bin."
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