North Queensland Yacht Charter Itinerary
Australia is a land of striking contrasts and the Great Barrier Reef is no different, although it's best to charter a luxury yacht to experience its true wonders up close.
The reef runs along a great proportion off the eastern coast, however some of the greatest snorkelling and diving sites are to be found amongst the Ribbon Reefs in North Queensland, where encounters with friendly cod, turtles and manta rays will instil visitors with a sense of wonder.
This southern hemisphere destination offers around eight hours of sunshine and warm seas around 20°C/68°F no matter what month you visit. At the height of the summer season in January temperatures average 29°C/84°F, although it might feel a lot hotter under the intense sun, while winter temperatures dip to 17°C/62°F and are more prone to short sharp thunderstorms that add a dramatic flair to the days.
Revel in the freedom to roam where you please with an itinerary catering entirely to your interests and those of your group. Fill your days with water sports and soft sandy beaches, stopping by at the occasional port to visit national parks, museums, galleries and boutique shops and local markets.
Day 1: Port Douglas & Opal Reef
Begin your charter in Port Douglas, a resort town filled with boutique shops along Macrossan Street, and surrounded on all sides by pristine national parks. Groups that arrive before the charter (or want to extend their stay in Port Douglas at the end) have myriad hiking trails through rainforest to choose from, all while serenaded by the bird calls of native species. Four Mile Beach to the south is a popular place to lie back and watch the world go by. Instead, hop aboard your luxury yacht, meet your Captain and crew, and discover the best and most unique locations eastern Australia has to offer!
Opal Reef is approximately three hours cruise away to fit in a hearty lunch and wear it off with a nap on the sunbeds before reaching the destination. This reef provides multiple Scuba dive sites, some of which are shallow enough for snorkelers to swim about and get close to the wildlife: Clownfish, butterflyfish and parrotfish calmly waft through the water, they are so used to human company, and in certain locations there are nurseries for white-tipped reef sharks. Lizardfish conceal themselves amongst the coral and stingrays lie motionless on the sandy sea floor - a wonder for all ages not to be missed.
As sunset tints the skies above, your Captain will find a secluded anchorage where you can delight in your professional chef's creations along with a fruity cocktail from the bar.
Location highlights: Daintree National Park, Mount Lewis National Park, Kuranda National Park, Macrossan Street, Opal Reef
Day 2: St. Crispin or Rachel Carson Reef
Early risers who wake with the sun can begin their day with yoga on one of the spacious decks before a freshly made breakfast in the open air. Remain amongst the reefs and continue to play with the water toys, fish for your lunch or go to even more incredible dive sites from St. Crispin Reef to Rachel Carson Reef to the north.
St. Crispin, nicknamed the 'flower garden', is noted for having an abundance of soft corals in the shallows and a variety of colourful fish swarm around these structures: Sweetlips, Sergeant majors and bumphead parrotfish are picture-perfect, and a video would be a great memento of your travels.
Location Highlights: St. Crispin Reef, Rachel Carson Reef
Day 3: Ribbon Reefs & Cooktown
The inner side of the Ribbon Reefs boast thriving coral gardens concluding in towering pinnacles surrounded by schools of fish.
Dry off back on board and have lunch before going on your second dive, or cruise to Cooktown for some time on solid ground. Learn more about local history at the Cooktown History Centre and Cooktown Museum, take a stroll around the Botanical Gardens, hike through Mount Cook National Park and on your return stop by the beautiful Finch Bay. End the day with a cruise along the Endeavour River to take in its beauty at sundown.
Location highlights: Cooktown History Centre, Cooktown Museum, Cooktown Botanical Gardens, Mount Cook National Park, Finch Bay, Endeavour River
Day 4: Cooktown & Northern Ribbon Reefs
Start the morning learning about the aboriginal stories and legends that cover this region - and Australia as a whole - with an arranged aboriginal guide. Over the course of five hours you will visit six rock art sites, culminating with the Rainbow Serpent Cave rock art.
Return to your luxury yacht in time for a late lunch and some sunbathing while your captain takes you to the northern Ribbon Reefs for more fishing, snorkelling and Scuba diving that give close encounters with the characterful fish of all shapes and sizes. Sink into the comfortable sofas in the lounge for a family film before bed, and rest in absolute comfort
Location highlights: Rainbow Serpent Cave
Day 5: Northern Ribbon Reefs
There are many dynamically named dive sites amongst the Ribbon Reefs: Dynamite Pass, Challenger Bay and The Temple of Doom to name but a few. All have their unique features, but perhaps one of the most famous locations is Cod Hole - a less impressive name than the others but home to friendly large potato cod, red emperor and Maori wrasse that will make divers feel like they've entered a world of giants.
The whole day will be dedicated to visiting the multitude of sites in the area, interrupted only for a wonderful lunch and rest to recover some energy for later in the day. Play on the water toys and fish for Maori wrasse, black marlin, kingfish and other mouth-watering treats for your dinner while rays, lemon sharks and sea turtles swim beneath your boat.
Location highlights: Cod Hole, Dynamite Pass, Challenger Bay, The Temple of Doom
Day 6: Northern Ribbon Reefs & Lizard Island
Wake up to the magnificent Northern Ribbon Reefs and start the day at your own pace. Continue exploring the area using the water toys and tender, or return to some of your favourite places from the day before to satisfy your curiosity.
As the afternoon wears on you will head to your next destination: Lizard Island. This national park is aptly named for its lizard population and has minimal development. Even more beautiful reefs encompass the coast where there are soft sand beaches perfect for shutting out the rest of the world to a natural soundscape.
Location highlights: Cod Hole, Dynamite Pass, Challenger Bay, The Temple of Doom, Lizard Island National Park
Day 7: Lizard Island & Port Douglas
On the final day of your charter, take the time to savour the sunshine and the delicious meals and cocktails prepared by your professional crew. Hike up to Cook's Look for panoramic views of the island and its surroundings, then settle down in one of the beaches such as Mrs. Watson's Bay for beach games, snorkelling and a well-deserved nap.
Return to Port Douglas to disembark after a sensational holiday amongst some of the world's most stunning - and as yet uncrowded - tropical yacht charter destinations.
Location highlights: Cook's Look, Mrs. Watson Bay
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