Cruising itinerary for Australia - The Southern Great Barrier Reef

5-Day itinerary cruising from Lady Elliot Island

The Southern Great Barrier Reef Yacht Charter Itinerary

Far from the Whitsunday Islands at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef there lies a plethora of gorgeous dives sites and unique World Heritage islands just waiting to be discovered on an Australian Southern Great Barrier Reef luxury yacht charter.

The water is invitingly warm throughout the year and temperatures range from 29°C/84°F during the southern hemisphere summer to a cool 17°C/62°F in winter during July. Depending on what time of the year you visit, you'll encounter nesting birds and turtles, migrating rays, humpback whales dolphins and so much more. Here is a short itinerary you could incorporate into a week-long charter, leaving you plenty of freedom to lie back and relax or add in some of your own choice destinations.

Day 1: Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island is one of the top destinations in the Great Barrier Reef, offering no fewer than 20 dive sites within it surrounding corals. The Coral Gardens is a maximum depth of just 12m/39ft which makes it ideal for snorkelers too. It's a fantastic night dive site where different marine species can be observed at rest, while nocturnal creatures such as the painted cray come out to play.

Encounters varies from 6m/19.8ft to 14m/45.9ft in depth and is a wonderful drift dive over staghorn coral as myriad Rabbit Fish, Red Throat and Spangled Emperor dart about. Lastly, the Lighthouse Bommie reaches a maximum depth of 15m/49ft and boasts manta rays year-round as well as bull rays, coral trout and whitetip reef sharks.

Paddleboard and kayak above colourful corals and even more brightly coloured schools of fish, and keep an eye out for turtles and manta rays as they glide beneath you. Between May and August manta rays migrate past the island and this is the perfect time for an encounter in the shallows, and whale song from humpback whales might serenade during their own journeys around the same time.

The island also has some of the most diverse birdlife amongst the Great Barrier Reef islands, with over 105 different species flying in to nest.

Guests can fly directly to the island to meet up with their luxury yacht via private jet, or organise to meet up at a different marina beforehand and cruise to this magnificent location, getting to know the crew and the amenities on board along the way.

Location highlights: Lighthouse Bommie, Coral Gardens, Encounters

Day 2: Lady Musgrave Island & Lagoon

Cruise during the night to wake up to the gorgeous turquoise waters of Lady Musgrave Lagoon, a renowned diving haven consisting of 3,000 acres of living reef. Friendly leopard sharks and whitetip reef sharks patrol these waters and make for memorable encounters amongst this stunning seascape.

The island will tempt you ashore with its beautiful white sands perfect for sunbathing and beach games. Walk around the island to discover its alluring flora and fauna, then end the day with a dinner by candlelight at sunset.

Location highlights: Lady Musgrave Lagoon

Day 3: Fitzroy Reef

Far from the rest of civilisation, the Fitzroy Reef is a majestic 838 acres with the shallow Fitzroy Lagoon at its centre. At only 6m/19.7ft - 10m/32.8ft deep, this is an excellent and highly rewarding location for beginner divers who will find themselves surrounded by 1,000 different species of small coloured fish and massive coral structures. Hawksbill turtles, Green turtles and Loggerhead turtles all swim these waters, along with three different species of dolphins and numerous species of ray, most notably the black blotched stingray and the blue-spotted Lagoon ray.

Your on board chef will prepare a sumptuous feast in between dives, and the on board sunbeds will surely beckon you to rest with refreshments from the wet bar and uninterrupted views. At sundown, dine alfresco on the sundeck and admire the unpolluted night skies before falling asleep in your luxurious cabin.

Location highlights: Fitzroy Reef

Day 4: Heron Island

A short cruise to Heron Island will provide you with beautiful white sands and a laid-back resort atmosphere for sunbathing and meals in the sunshine or shade. Green turtles and Loggerhead turtles visit the shores throughout the year, and the birdlife is just as impressive with tens of thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters coming to nest during the breeding season.

Get out the water toys to kayak and paddleboard out to the reef, where you'll have an incredible view from above of the teeming fish and corals just metres below; snorkelling and Scuba diving is essential to see these natural marvels up close.

Queensland University uses the island for research, and wildlife and ecology tours are available to deepen your appreciation for this fragile biome.

Location highlights: Heron Island, Heron Reef, The University of Queensland Heron Island Research Station

Day 5: Fraser Island & Hervey Bay

Saving what is arguably the best until last, Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island at 123km long and 22km at its widest point. This world heritage site can claim 72 colours in its rainbow cliffs, and it is the only place in the world where rainforests grow up to 200m/656ft from the sands. Cool off in one of the 100 or so freshwater lakes across the island, the most famous being Lake McKenzie which is filled only with rainwater - nothing stored in the ground. Take a close look at the flora and fauna throughout the island, and go for a swim and choose from among 20 sites, including wrecks and artificial reefs.

Humpback whales pass through Hervey Bay and this is an unmissable opportunity for a close encounter with these gentle giants. As the day draws to a close, disembark at the town also named Hervey Bay where charter guests can explore the botanical gardens and get in some shopping before catching their connecting flights home at the airport.

Location highlights: Lake McKenzie, Hervey Bay, Hervey Bay Botanical Gardens

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