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The best new Australian seaplane adventures

Three new tours that let guests see the land down under from up above and on the water.

By Max Veenhuyzen
Published: 13 February, 2017

There’s nothing like a seaplane to see Australia’s endless stretch of coastline. And while seaplanes and flying boats feature throughout Australian aviation history, they’re enjoying a resurgence thanks to their ability to offer intimate, personal travel experiences. The planes’ compact size not only allows them to take off and land in destinations off-limits to larger aircraft, but ensures low passenger numbers on each flight. Here you’ll find some of the best new operators as well as the country’s newly opened seaplane terminal on Sydney Harbour. Grab your camera and hop aboard.

Perth to the Margaret River and back in a day

Swan River Seaplanes, Margaret River, Western Australia

Launched at the start of 2017, Swan River Seaplanes’ luxury Margaret River wine tour transports guests to the iconic West Australian wine region both quickly and stylishly (by car, the trip takes around three hours each way: by plane, it’s less than an hour). Departing in the morning from South Perth’s Queen Street jetty, each 50-minute flight begins with a scenic flyover of the city, the Swan River and Fremantle before heading along the state’s awesome coastline. After touching down in Margaret River, you’ll be taken on a five-hour wine tour that includes a gourmet lunch. Leaving might be the hardest part of the trip but the promise of being back in the city centre in time for pre-dinner drinks should soften the blow.

Sydney Seaplanes sweep the harbour

Sydney Seaplanes' Rose Bay Terminal, New South Wales

Seaplanes have long shared Sydney’s waterways with yachts, ferries and other seafaring vessels: the first international airport was built for seaplanes departing from Rose Bay in the city’s east. Now that history has been given a luxury makeover with the opening of Australia’s first purpose-built seaplane terminal last year at Rose Bay. Along with sweeping harbour views, the terminal is also home to a flying boat museum and the Empire Lounge, a waterside bar serving food and drinks. Consider one of the various fly-and-dine packages that combine a scenic flight of Sydney with lunch at legendary waterside restaurants such as Jonah’s, Berowra Waters Inn and Rose Bay’s own Catalina, a white-washed dining venue that shares its name with flying boats used in WWII by Australian airmen.

Red Baron Seaplanes offer a classic experience

While many seaplane operators pride themselves on their fleet of modern aircraft, Red Baron Seaplanes takes a different approach to the guest experience, running tours in a classic 1964-built biplane. Painted in an eye-catching shade of fire-engine red and customised to be able to land and take off on water, this open-cockpit, two-passenger aircraft is something of a rarity in the world of global aviation. Originally based in Townsville, Red Baron Seaplanes has spread its wings to the west coast, and from February will offer scenic flights around Perth, departing from Elizabeth Quay.