On Friday 31st July, a Captains’ dinner held in Cairns by the SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef highlighted the startling potential of the Australian city as a superyacht homeport for the South Pacific region. Perfectly nestled between two natural wonders, Cairns is a truly inexhaustible destination resting on a strong backbone of major superyacht infrastructure. Its small island culture and first-world facilities make Cairns an attractive base for superyachts to explore the adventures of the South Pacific.
Both local and international Captains gathered at the atmospheric Salt House restaurant against the iconic backdrop of Cairns Marlin Marina. Among the attendees were the Captains of 85m Lürssen superyacht Amatasia, 60m CRN Ramble on Rose, 37m Vitters Explorer Dardanella, and local charter favourite 35m Spirit – a nominee for multiple Acrew Awards this year.
Graham Tindall, Captain of Ramble on Rose, shared his experiences of Cairns as he returned for a second time. “I arrived in Cairns for the first time in February, it was incredibly hot and left me in no doubt I was in the tropical north,” explained Tindall. “The passage from Bali was relatively uneventful meteorologically speaking and entering the GBR at the Northern most point was quite a thrill.
“Once inside Marlin Marina, the view is immediately attractive with views over the bars and restaurants and an exuberant nightlife. Socially, the town leaves nothing to wish for with shops and stores to cover every aspect of a bustling town and are easy to reach in minutes by car or even walking. The airport is a 20-minute drive on the outskirts of town making Cairns a very accessible town and marina.”
An Endless Source of Inspiration
As a destination for thrill-seeking superyacht owners and guests, Cairns has it all and more. The region is perhaps most synonymous with its location at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Despite largely misplaced perceptions, the Reef remains a spectacular kaleidoscopic diving experience and the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. The effects of bleaching and cyclones impact a small part of the Great Barrier Reef which is closely monitored and showing good signs of recovery. There is nowhere else in the world that guests can explore waters containing 1625 species of fish and over 600 strands of hard and soft coral.
The sheer volume of the Reef (344,400km2) means that even while some areas are in the process of recovery, the Great Barrier Reef remains the largest and most diverse Reef experience in the world. There is no better place to visit for genuine marine exploration, and now superyachts even have the rare opportunity to make history and join Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef in survey projects on the 40% of the Reef which remains undocumented.
This region extends all the way down to the majestic Whitsunday Islands, where Coral Sea Marina Resort and Hamilton Island Marina offer exclusive superyacht marina facilities. Hamilton Island is a worthwhile destination in of itself, with its own golf course and private access to the famed Heart Reef.
Not all of the adventure is concentrated at sea, and Cairns is blessed with a second UNESCO Heritage Listed natural wonder – the Daintree Rainforest. As the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree provides unique opportunities for natural and indigenous experiences that would enhance any superyacht charter. Running for thousands of kilometres alongside Queensland’s tropical coastline, the Daintree adds extra adventure within close proximity to your superyacht.
There are an extraordinary range of diverse activities to engage in. Just a 10-minute tender cruise from Cairns Marlin Marina is the Mandingalbay Ancient Aboriginal Tour, reached by an exotic voyage through the mangroves (looking out for crocodiles along the way). Here, you will be given a warm and touching Aboriginal welcome before immersing yourself in their culture and learn about the history and traditional uses of the land. Deeper into the Daintree, the Kuranda Rainforest Journeys offer high-octane tours on ATVs through the rainforest ravines, and even the chance to come face to face with a wild Cassowary, the dinosaur-like bird. These are just a couple of the many enthralling activities that can bring you closer to Australia’s magnificent natural beauty. In Cairns, boredom is never an option. With plenty to do all-year-round, this is comfortable setting for crew and an inspiring destination for guests.
A Superyacht Service
If the Reef and Rainforest are the natural wonders of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region, then there is one further wonder that warrants a mention. The people.
The Superyacht Group Great Barrier Reef is a wonderful community of highly experienced people with shining individual personalities, all connected through their shared determination to deliver a high quality of service to visiting superyachts. From arranging airport pickups through Elliott’s Limousines to navigating the entry process, local superyacht agents go to extraordinary lengths to accommodate your every need. Many of the members have extensive experience working onboard superyachts, and know what is required to make Captains, crew, and guests comfortable during their stay.
Unlike the jet set shores of the Côte d’Azur or the Costiera Amalfitana, Cairns offers luxury in a more laid-back and low-key culture. This is not to say that luxury in Cairns is confined, far from it, only that it is embedded in a more subtle environment that generates a relaxed atmosphere more fitting for a long-term stay.
In fact, this exact culture has sparked rave reviews from superyacht owners visiting the region, who have felt a sense of freedom in being able to walk among the town without the need for a security detail following behind them. This is one of the great strengths of Cairns in having an island-culture but the security of a developed first world country. Whether recognised by the locals or not, superyacht owners are guaranteed peace and privacy during their stay.
With Cairns Marlin Marina situated in the centre of the town, all of the luxury amenities lie within just a short walk. There are an array of opulent resorts and hotels, from the Shangri-La Hotel overlooking the Marina to the state-of-the-art Crystalbrook Collection resorts based along the Esplanade. Should you wish to venture north of Cairns to experience the tropical paradise of Port Douglas, Crystalbrook also runs the superyacht marina based there, so you can be assured of a high-quality bespoke service.
A Crew-friendly City
For crew, everything needed for a long-term stay is highly accessible from the Marina. Gyms, resorts, restaurants, and bars are all within a stone’s throw.
Captain Graham Tindall continues: “The crew have everything at their behest from nightlife to weekend excursions to the rainforest and outdoor activity parks. I have heard no complaints, only approvals. Again, with the airport being so close, travel will be easy from a rotational point of view. Excursions to the GBR are frequent and easy. These are fishing, diving, and sightseeing excursions that I would encourage any crew member to undertake.”
While the natural wonders provide plenty of entertainment and exploration, the International Maritime College in Cairns provides crew with the opportunity to upskill and use their stay proactively, especially useful when superyachts are taking advantage of the refit infrastructure available.
World-class Superyacht Infrastructure
An integral component of Cairns’ rise as a homeport is its growing refit capabilities. A strong history in naval and commercial shipping industries has translated into specialist superyacht expertise.
BSE Maritime Solutions is home to Bessy, the world’s largest Travelift at 1120t, which was put to use on 54m Mischief in May. The next stage of their development is set to include a 5000t Syncrolift ready to accommodate any superyacht. Neighbouring shipyard Norship boasts incredible in-house capabilities that are exported throughout the South Pacific. This includes full engine testing facilities and manufacturing capabilities for reverse engineering that eliminate the need to import, parts thus cutting lead times and costs.
An Alternative Superyacht Paradise
The timeless natural splendour that surrounds the city of Cairns will always pull tourism of all forms. Investment in luxury amenities and refit infrastructure has developed Cairns into an increasingly viable and desirable homeport. New charter legislation in December 2019 has provides an added incentive for visiting superyachts to enjoy the adventures of the Great Barrier Reef. There is no denying that some fine-tuning is needed, as would be expected following such drastic changes in legislation, yet the potential is raw and exciting, the destination is inexhaustible, and the experience is unforgettable.
Establishing Cairns as a homeport for the South Pacific is part of the Queensland government’s Superyacht Strategy to become the a key superyacht hub in the Asia Pacific region by 2023, and they are well on their way to achieving this. An alternative haven for superyachts looking to divert from the traditional Mediterranean and Caribbean destinations, Cairns is superyacht ready.