What is the best way to see Australia? To us the answer is simple, by sea. After all the vast majority of interest to see is either on Australia’s islands, coast or immediate hinterland, and travelling by sea on a small ship with a fleet of Zodiacs opens up the area in the most perfect way. The next big question is which itinerary, the country is so large it’s impossible to include all points of interest unless you are prepared to invest a number of months. We believe the best option is an itinerary that takes you from the extreme north of Queensland to the far south in the state of Victoria. After this the decisions come a little easier. Do we plan a mixture of the usual cities, towns and tourist haunts or do we concentrate our time on Australia’s unique natural world. Our view is most certainly the latter, so much about this fascinating country’s wildlife, geology and culture is unique and we have therefore designed this expedition to incorporate remote islands, natural parks and stunning landscapes allowing us to begin to understand what makes this vast New World so endlessly fascinating.
We will travel from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to Thursday Island, the most northerly point of Australia and from the very top of Australia we will journey all the way to its bottom. A momentous voyage along the entire length of its Pacific Ocean coast. In the Torres Strait islands archipelago, Australia’s most northern frontier, life moves slowly and centuries old cultures are passed down in song. From Cape York we journey south visiting remote communities each with their own culture, seeing indigenous rock-art and exploring some fascinating national parks.
Our Zodiacs will be so valuable as we explore the off shore islands of the Great Barrier Reef, landing on remote beaches and taking in the sights which have not changed since Captain Cook landed here in the 18th century. There will be so many intriguing places to see as we make our way south, Dunk Island with its spectacular rainforest, the pristine Whitsundays in the heart of the Barrier Reef and Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Leaving the Queensland coast we enter New South Wales, a state with an equally splendid scenery and wildlife as well as some famous vineyards and botanic gardens, and lastly on to the state of Victoria. Here, Wilson’s Promontory awaits, Australia’s most southerly national park and a drive along the Great Ocean Road, surely Australia’s most scenic journey. Our journey ends in the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne, having taken us some 2000 miles by sea. Travelling with our team of experts and being joined by guides and naturalists along the way, will make for a magical and enlightening experience ‘Down Under’.
Arrive this afternoon and transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay. The remainder of the day is free for independent exploration or to relax and enjoy the hotel facilities.
Spend the morning at leisure. In the early afternoon we will take a city tour including the 53 hectare Botanical Garden and National Orchid Garden which displays over 1000 species of orchids. Continue to the exotic streets and stalls of “Little India” before visiting Kampong Glam, Thian Hock Keng Temple and the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple in Chinatown. After the tour we transfer to the airport for our scheduled flight to Port Moresby.
Arrive this morning and transfer to our hotel where day rooms will be ready for our use. In the late afternoon we will transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky which is moored in the city and sail this evening.
Take the chance to relax on board, join the lecture programme or find a spot on deck.
Our Australian voyage starts on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. The island’s hidden past will be revealed on a coach tour this morning. Step back in time with a visit to Green Hill Fort, which was built in response to a Russian War scare. Once used as munitions storage space, the fort’s underground tunnels and rooms today house the Torres Strait Museum, where you can see informative displays on the region’s pearling, shipping and military history. Continue to the Gab Titui Cultural Centre where we receive an insight into the Aboriginal art and culture of the Torres Strait islanders which depict myths and legends. Over lunch we will reposition to Cape York and, if weather permits, land on the northernmost tip of the Australian mainland.
Cruising along the Cape York Peninsula we arrive at the Piper Islands National Park. These five islands are owned by the Kuuku Ya’u aboriginal people who have given us permission to visit. The islands are made up of low, vegetated cays and support over 75 species of seabirds, shorebirds and forest birds including terns, pied-imperial pigeons and beach stone-curlews whilst the islands support one of the largest roosting population of black noddy in Queensland. This is also an important nesting area for hawksbill turtle and green turtles have also been spotted in the waters around the island. We will use our Zodiacs to explore the coastline and land for nature walks.
Anchor this morning in Bathurst Bay, our gateway to the Cape Melville National Park. This is one of Australia’s more remote national parks and is best accessed by sea. The park mixes rainforest, mangroves, heathlands and woodland and isolation has produced a high proportion of endemic plants not found elsewhere in Australia, including foxtail palms which decorate the boulder strewn from the Melville Range. We will also keep an eye out for wildlife such as Godmans rock wallaby and endemic lizards and frogs, whilst birders can search for beach stone-curlews and red-tailed black cockatoo. Return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon we will find a spot to lower the Zodiacs for a swim or snorkel on one of the nearby reefs.
Designated as a National Park in 1937 and a Marine Park in 1974, Lizard Island boasts a wonderful number of natural wonders and is a lovely place to spend a day. The island was first visited by Captain Cook in 1770 and he named it after the large number of lizards he found here. We will use our Zodiacs to land on one of the sandy beaches where our naturalists will lead nature walks along the islands trails. Keen birders can keep an eye out for lesser golden plovers and pied imperial pigeons whilst we may see the yellow spotted monitor or another of the eleven species of lizard that reside here. Meanwhile the fringing reef offers a chance to snorkel and we may see the “Clam Garden” where we find giant clams up to two metres long living among an array of hard and soft coral. Those feeling active may wish to take a strenuous walk to the top of Cook’s Look, the highest point on the island at 363 metres offering wonderful views over the island group and reef.
Modern day Cooktown is located on the site where, in 1770, Captain Cook brought the Endeavour for repairs after damaging the ship on the offshore reefs. Known as Waymbuurr in the native aboriginal language, it was a popular meeting place for the local tribes and when Cook arrived it was the first recorded meaningful meeting between the indigenous Australian population and Europeans. A morning walk will include the James Cook Museum, housed in a 19th century convent and showcasing the history of the town from Cook’s arrival to the Palmer gold rush period of the late nineteenth century as well as insight into the culture and history of the indigenous Guugu Yimithiir aborigines. Also see the 150 hectare botanical gardens before we return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon at sea.
Spend the morning on Dunk Island, a spectacular tropical rainforest island and the largest island in the Family Islands National Park. Known as Coonanglebah to the the Djiru Aboriginal people, which translates as “the island of peace and plenty”, it sums up this lovely location. On nature walks through the eucalypt forest we will keep an eye for the many species of birds, with over 100 species having been recorded on the island, as well as monitors, tree snakes and the brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly. Over lunch we will sail the short distance to Hinchinbrook Island where we plan to Zodiac in the Hinchinbrook Channel. Flanked by mountains on the island the scenic channel is home to mangroves and wildlife including snubfin dolphins and dugongs.
Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef are the 74 islands of the Whitsundays. Surrounded by warm tropical waters the majority of the islands are uninhabited and remain pristine and untouched. After a morning at sea we will anchor over lunch in one of the stunning bays and use our Zodiacs to land on a sandy beach. From here our onboard naturalists will lead nature walks through the forests where we may see brush turkeys, goannas and wallabies. Alternatively enjoy a swim or relax on one of the sandy beaches.
After a morning at sea we arrive during lunch at Great Keppel Island, situated just above the Tropic of Capricorn and one of the 18 islands of the Keppel group. Fringed by turquoise waters, hard coral reefs and sun drenched beaches it looks like a perfect tropical island. On land the island covers over 1500 hectares with 90% of the interior made up of native bushland and winding walking trails which is abundant with wildlife. More than 100 species of bird life have been recorded including kookaburras, ospreys, beach curlews and rainbow lorikeets and we may also see blue tongued lizards and possums. We will spend the afternoon on nature walks, snorkelling on the reef or maybe choose to relax on one of the sandy beaches.
At over 184,000 hectares Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Created over hundreds of thousands of years by sand blown from the Australian mainland it is a wonder of freshwater lakes, crystal clear creeks and immense dunes of coloured sands which continue to evolve. It is also the only place in the world where rainforests are found growing on sand dunes whilst the wallum heaths on the islands interior provide magnificent displays of wildflowers in the spring. On shore we can see a profusion of wildlife including the infamous dingo whilst the waters are home to dugong and dolphins. The Great Sandy Strait that divides the island from the mainland is a recognized wetland area with mangrove colonies, seagrass beds and thousands of migratory seabirds. We will anchor in Kingfisher Bay and spend the day exploring this natural wonder on a series of islands drives and walks.
Spend the day at sea as we sail towards New South Wales.
As we continue our journey along the New South Wales coast our captain and expedition leader will keep a lookout for a suitable landing. We hope we will be able to use zodiacs to access the sandy beach at Trial Bay where we can visit the gaol that was built in 1886 located in the Arakoon National Park. The gaol was originally used to house prisoners brought to the area to build a breakwater in the harbour whilst later, during the First World War, it became an internment camp for people of German descent in Australia. Enjoy the views from the sentry house or maybe take a walk through the surrounding forest of the National Park. If we cannot land at Trial Bay we will look for alternate options on the coastline.
Founded in 1804 Newcastle grew as a major centre for exporting coal which was delivered along the Hunter River to the port. Today it is not only renowned for its historical heritage, but also as a popular gateway to the Hunter Valley, one of the finest wine regions in New South Wales and one of Australia’s oldest wine producing areas. James Busby is credited for starting the wine industry here way back in 1824 and today the region boasts a wide variety of winemaking styles from traditional to modern. After a scenic drive we will visit a couple of the regions vineyards where we will enjoy tastings of the famed Hunter Valley Semillon. Alternatively, spend time in Newcastle and see the Christ Church Cathedral, Nobby’s Headland and Lighthouse, Honeysuckle Harbour and the Art Deco Civic Centre.
This morning we cruise up the Clyde River into Batemans Bay. The expansive waterway at the mouth of the Clyde River was named by Cook on his voyage of discovery along this coast in 1770. However it was not until well into the 19th century that the township of Batemans Bay appeared. While Batemans Bay is the largest on the coast south of Nowra, it maintains its small town atmosphere. We have the chance to explore the region for native kangaroos, wallabies, possums, bandicoots, sea eagles and brilliantly coloured parrots. We will visit the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens and historic Mogo where the rustic atmosphere has been preserved resulting in a quaint village in which you can find a wide variety of unusual and attractive craft and antique items. Meanwhile in Mogo State Forest we can walk in the bush for sightings of kookaburras, rosellas and black cockatoos. Alternatively, a full day tour to Canberra will cross the Great Dividing Range to the Australian Capital Territory. Here we will visit the Australian Parliament buildings and have some free time to explore the capital city.
Cruise this morning into the port of Eden situated in magnificent Twofold Bay, the third deepest natural harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. A morning excursion will take us to the Ben Boyd National Park, a stunning coastal park of sheltered inlets, Aboriginal middens, historic buildings and wildlife. There will be a choice of walks for all levels and the chance to visit Boyd’s Tower, reach the lookouts with views over the Pacific Ocean where, at this time of year, we may see humpback whales on their migration back to Antarctica or watch for white bellied sea eagles in the skies. We will also have some free time in Eden when you may visit the Killer Whale Museum to learn more about the whaling history of the region and the unique relationship between whalers and the wild killer whales. Alternatively find a spot to try some of the region’s famous oysters.
After a morning at sea we arrive in the Gippsland area of Victoria. Wilson’s Promontory is mainland Australia’s southernmost National Park, an isolated area of granite headlands, with unique vegetation and geology. The park is affectionately known as “The Prom”, and is famous for its abundance of native animals, birds, reptiles and plants, magnificent beaches and thick coastal forest. After using the Zodiacs to land on one of the beaches our onboard naturalists will lead a series of nature walks.
Today we have a choice of tour options. Embark on a long full tour of the Great Ocean Road. On this glorious coastal drive we enjoy a treetop walk at the Otway Rainforest and marvel at the amazing rock formations of the Port Campbell National Park, including the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. Along the way we see pristine beaches and rugged rocky outcrops of the Great Ocean Road and make a stop at Kenneth River to spot koalas. We return to the ship later this evening. Alternatively enjoy a morning visit to Cloude Hill Gardens located in the Dandenongs. This historic working garden redesigned in the 1990s, should be in spring bloom. Return to the ship for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure. We moor overnight.
After breakfast we will transfer to Melbourne airport for our scheduled indirect flight to London.
Suites on the Castle Deck measure 22.7 square metres and feature four port holes, en-suite bathroom with shower and spacious wardrobes.
Caledonian Superior Suite
Suites on the Caledonian Deck measure 21.6 square metres and feature en-suite bathrooms with bath tub and shower (except for suites 329, 330 and 331 which feature only a shower), spacious wardrobe and large window.
The Premium Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a spacious wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower (cabins 431 and 432 feature a bathtub) and a large window.
Promenade Prem. Balcony Suite
The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Owner's Corner Suite
The two corner suites on the Promenade Deck measure 22.6 square metres and feature one window facing to the side and two forward facing portholes, a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom with shower.
Bridge Deluxe Balcony Suite
Balcony Suites The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 90 metres
Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites)
Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012
The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows.
If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub.
Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request.
With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board.
For your comfort, safety and security
The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only.
Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.