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Port Douglas vs. Whitsundays - Better Cruises, Better Snorkeling/Diving?

Port Douglas vs. Whitsundays - Better Cruises, Better Snorkeling/Diving?

Old Oct 15th, 2009, 02:51 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4
Port Douglas vs. Whitsundays - Better Cruises, Better Snorkeling/Diving?

Hi! In March 2010, we've only got just over 3 days to spend near the GBR, and want to spend most of it out at sea. We just can't decide between spending nights at Airlie Beach on either side of a two-day, one-night snorkel/diving cruise with Prosail on their "Hammer" sailing yacht, or going up to Port Douglas and doing day trips to the reef. The Prosail Hammer trip, with just 20 passengers, sounds absolutely WONDERFUL, but I'm worried that there isn't much to do during the days we're stuck on Airlie Beach. Port Douglas seems to have a lot more land-based options for activities, but the reef trips all sort of sound like floating zoos, with a zillion people crammed on the boats. If I could find an overnight trip out of Port Douglas which was more similar to what Prosail and others have to offer in the Whitsundays, I think our decision would be simple. (I think a small group would help with the fact that we're both avid snorkelers, but I'm the only certified diver, so I don't want my partner to feel alone with a zillion strangers while I'm diving. Ten or twelve strangers would be better ;-)

SO, to summarize: 1) IS Port Douglas the better option for land-based activities like I think? 2) Is the GBR accessible in the Whitsundays comparable to that near Port Douglas? 3) ARE there any Whitsunday-style small yachts available for one-night trips out of Port Douglas?

MissKWilson is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2009, 04:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
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Sounds like you have already done some quality research, so I hope this information also helps you make some plans! I am not sure if you already have the sailing trip booked, or if you are still contemplating that? The simple answer is that there are more land based activities available from Port Douglas than there is from Airlie Beach (which is beautiful). It can be challenging when you have a couple where only 1 of you dive and the other snorkels. Some of the best parts of the Great Barrier Reef for diving and snorkeling are located further north than the Whitsundays. From Port Douglas you have access to the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Kuranda Scenic Rail and the Undarra Lava Tubes as examples. You can also do day trips that will allow you to dive and snorkel, with smaller operators. You may even want to do your 2-3 day dive cruise/trip based out of Port Douglas so you can maximize your time relaxing and enjoying your vacation, as oposed to traveling between destinations. Another option that I would like to suggest is Heron Island, which is a coral island and is on the southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef. It has great facilities for both divers and snorkelers, and also has a range of other activities available. To access Heron Island you would travel via Gladstone and then transfer to the Island. You have plenty of options available and I know you will not be disappointed by any of them, it is just a matter of narrowing it down to what your key interests are and also making sure you get value, for both the use of your travel and relaxation time, and your dollar. Hope this information helps with your plans. Safe travels, [email protected]
Lisa_SeeANZ is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2009, 02:00 AM
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I don't think you'll find the reef boats out of Port Douglas at all like "floating zoos"; there is only one, Quicksilver's Wavepiercer, which takes masses to a pontoon, easily avoidable and plenty of other good choices for day trips which include both snorkelling and diving off various reefs. Silversonic, Calypso, Poseidon are a few. Unless something's changed recently, there are no liveaboards out of Port Douglas, in this part of Queensland they all leave from Cairns and range from 1 to 7 or more nights. The longer duration ones go far north of Port Douglas to noted top dive spots like the northern ribbon reefs and Cod Hole, and some have option of travelling beyond the reef for Coral Sea dives.

For your time frame you certainly won't have time for a trip to Undara Lava Tubes from Port Douglas (as mentioned by previous poster) but plenty of land-based rainforest activities in the area for the short amount of time you have.
pat_woolford is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2009, 07:37 AM
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Thanks, Lisa and Pat, great suggestions -- Pat, we certainly wouldn't be against departing out of Cairns for a good two-day, one-night reef trip. Any suggestions on providers of that? Ideally, a smaller boat would be preferable. But the only overnight trip out of Cairns that I've seen is on like this luxury yacht (don't remember the company) for over 100 people that wants $500/night per person. OUCH! Prosail will take us out for a night for about $600 TOTAL. So any more downscale (we're not fancy people!) suggestions out of Cairns you or anyone might have would be great!
MissKWilson is offline  
Old Oct 31st, 2009, 05:16 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Sorry for delay MissK, if you're still reading you might be interested in Vagabond, a 65' yacht which leaves Cairns each Sat, Mon, and Wed. Takes only 11 passengers for two day one night liveaboard (snorkelling or diving), AU$290 per person in shared cabin. www.vagabond-dive.com
pat_woolford is offline  
Old Nov 1st, 2009, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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I'd pick Heron Island if you can. It is a reef island with excellent snorkeling and diving close at hand. The reef edge is only just off shore - as close as a couple of hundred yards. Also there is good snorkeling at high tide right off the beach. In my past visits, both snorkelers and divers were well catered for. The beaches are beautiful. There's just one resort and there are no daytrippers. Although it's a small island that you can walk around in 45 minutes, I'd almost guarantee you'll be wishing you had more time there.
RalphR is offline  
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