Great Escape Charter Company, Kimberley, Western Australia © The Great Escape Charter Company
Guide to Cruising the Kimberley
There are many outstanding cruising experiences on offer in Australia's Kimberley region.
By Fleur Bainger
Two billion years of natural history are on show along the isolated Kimberley coast in Western Australia. Waterfalls blow fine mist over clifftops, giant boab trees stand like proud sentinels and Aboriginal rock art hides in the crevices. Among all this age, there's the most sought after commodity: peace, best achieved while reclining on the deck of a cruise boat.
Multi-day tours, all covering roughly the same itinerary, depart from Broome, Wyndham (via Kununurra) and sometimes Darwin. Here are the top cruises in the Kimberley.
Boutique luxury: True North Adventure Cruises
True North Adventure Cruises have been operating for over 30 years, offering tours that promise intimate views and up-close encounters. The multimillion-dollar vessel, True North, hosts 36 people, retaining a boutique feel while offering a five-star hotel-style experience. An on-board helicopter whisks guests over waterfalls, islands and cliff edges. Choose from shorter, seven-day cruises, longer 14-day events or specialist expeditions focusing on coast and coral.
Barefoot luxury: The Great Escape Charter Company
Family-owned and run, The Great Escape Charter Company has a 26 metre (85 foot) luxury catamaran that caters to just 14 guests, with six crew members (including an excellent chef) attending to their every need. Each room has a queen bed, flat screen TV and private bathroom. Importantly, a helicopter sits on the roof, providing access to those hard-to-reach places. There's also a spa on the front deck and wi-fi.
Big boat comforts: Silversea Cruises
Silversea Cruises' newly refurbished vessel, Silver Discoverer, delivers the ultimate big boat luxury experience. For the 120 passengers on board, all rooms have butler service and ocean views. There are lounges, a pool and poolside grill, a sundeck, two gyms and even a beauty centre. Zodiac boats ferry guests to terrestrial sites, fishing spots and narrow waterways. Helicopter excursions to places such as the four-tiered Mitchell Falls can be arranged and a flight to the Bungle Bungles is included. Historians, naturalists and geologists travel on board.
Eco-adventure: Kimberley Expeditions and Eco Abrolhos
While almost all Kimberley cruises include a respectful appreciation for the environment, Kimberley Expeditions and Eco Abrolhos each offer a special focus. Both vessels are stable catamarans with shallow drafts, allowing them to nose right under waterfalls, meaning less jumping in and out of Zodiac boats to see things. They are owned and run by passionate couples who have been in the region for years and aim to tread lightly on the extraordinary nature they visit. On one of these cruises and you'll be joined by no more than about 38 other passengers, ensuring intimacy and camaraderie.
Traditional Cruising: APT
Highly regarded touring company APT owns and operates two 'sister' expedition vessels in the Kimberley. Travel with a maximum of 100 guests and 75 on-board crew, plus an expert 10-member Expedition Team who provide valuable insights for the entirety of your cruise. Discover the reefs, coastline and remote gorges by Zodiac, inflatable boats that let you get close to the action. Plus, step ashore to explore remote locations. Benefit from the intimate on-board atmosphere while still enjoying the benefits of spacious suites, restaurants, bars, library, gym and salon. Both ships have internet access, and APT cruises include national park entrance fees, airport transfers, port charges, gratuities, all meals and select beverages while on board.
Ten-night highlights: Coral Expeditions
30 years ago, when Coral Expeditions made the first exploratory cruises in the Kimberley they had to rely on hand-drawn ‘mudmaps’ and the knowledge of fishermen and early explorers to navigate the vast and unpredictable coastline. Today, with decades of experience behind them and in-house expert guides, maps, tidal charts, and landing notes, they use their knowledge to skilfully showcase the beauty and diversity of the Kimberley. Join a 10-night Kimberley expedition and witness the power of nature at the magnificent King George River and its towering twin falls, explore ancient rock art with knowledgeable guides, and witness diverse marine life and cascading waters at Montgomery Reef.
Targeted trip: Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures
If you don’t have a week or two to spare, and want to fly in and out to a specific part of the Kimberley coast, Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures may be your best bet. Following a scenic flight from Broome, its 12-person luxury houseboat departs from the fascinating Horizontal Falls and targets the thousand islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago over a four-night adventure. Helicopter excursions provide alternative views of the rocky red surfaces, and a new speedboat delivers thrilling experiences next to the remote landforms, as well as access to excellent fishing zones.
Intimate opulence: YOTSPACE superyacht voyages
For an exclusive luxury getaway, YOTSPACE superyacht voyages’ 35-metre (115-foot) superyacht offers the perfect base to connect with the Kimberley in style. Fitted with just four ensuite cabins, both the 11 and seven-day escapes are designed to be as bespoke and intimate as you desire, allowing guests to immerse themselves in this remarkable region in peace. In between exploring, guests can enjoy the yacht’s outdoor spa, sunset cocktails and the onboard chef’s gourmet creations.
Blending luxury and adventure: Kimberley Quest
The multi-award-winning Kimberley Quest run a variety of cruises aboard their custom-built vessel, the Kimberley Quest II. Step aboard its lavish deck for the ultimate Kimberley adventure. The vessel itself is fitted with luxurious comforts including air conditioning, a spa, library and a top deck designed for relaxing. As for the off-board experiences, the activity list is endless. Think scenic helicopter flights, swimming in nature-made pools, exploring ancient walking trails and watching the region’s most incredible wildlife. With the boat’s helipad and jet boat, there’s no corner of the Kimberley you can’t reach.