So much of Cape York’s attraction lies offshore. A perfect adjunct to any land-based exploration is a Great Barrier Reef cruise.
Ranging from a few hours to several days, a cruise along our UNESCO World Heritage Listed coral reef is an experience that will remain with you for a long time.
The premier cruise product for this region would have to be the 7-day, 6-night "Tip of Australia" cruise offered by Cairns-based, Coral Princess Cruises. Choose either a Thursday Island-Cairns itinerary or vice versa aboard their 35m, 50-passenger luxury catamaran. The corresponding leg is by air. Each expedition cruise allows you diving, snorkelling or glass-bottom boat excursions on some of the most beautiful, remote and seldom visited stretches of pristine coral reef imaginable. Passengers are also offered a DVD video record of their journey, including diving and shore excursions.
Thetford Reef, Swinger Reef, Lizard Island, historic Cooktown, Stanley Island, Davey Reef, Forbes Island, Magra Island and Albany Passage are the highlights of "Tip of Australia". Not only are you able visit the riotously colourful underwater reefs and swim alongside such evocatively named creatures as the Clown Fish (think Nemo), Nudibranch, Diagonal Banded Sweetlips and Saddled Butterfly Fish, but there’s a lot to be learned about early European and Aboriginal settlement as well.
On Lizard Island, host to one of the most exclusive island resorts in the country, a heart-wrenching tragedy unfolded in 1881. Left alone while her new husband was fishing for sea-slugs, 21-year old Mary Watson, her infant son and a wounded Chinese servant were forced to flee the island in a hastily improvised metal tank after a violent altercation with the local Aboriginals. The refugees floated forty miles north and washed ashore on island No.5 in the Horwick Group where they quickly died of thirst and exposure. Cruel and savage retribution saw over 100 aboriginals hunted and killed by the vengeful Cooktown residents and police after what they understood to be a kidnap and murder, but what was more likely an ignorant misunderstanding on both sides. Young Mary Watson’s diaries and her "brave pioneering spirit" served as an icon for generations thereafter. The ruins of the Watson cottage are still there on Lizard Island today and Mary's grave can be seen in Cooktown cemetary.
Stop Press: Coral Princess Cruises launch the brand new 63 metre, 76-passenger Oceanic Princess this year (2005). It will also visit Cape York as part of its Top End cruising schedule.
Coral Princess Cruises