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Cape York & Arnhem Land: Cairns to Darwin

Example 12 Day Cruise aboard Coral Expeditions I
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This Cape York and Arnhem Land expedition is a fascinating small ship voyage combining the very best of Australia’s northern coastline, exploring the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the ‘Tip of Australia’ at Cape York, the Arnhem Land Coast, and the rarely-visited Tiwi Islands. Join the Coral Expeditions I for a remarkable 11-night voyage of discovery from Cairns to Darwin, visiting otherwise inaccessible locations and meeting the friendly indigenous people of the Torres Strait and the Top End.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Embark in Cairns
Day 2 : Lizard Island
Day 3 : Stanley Island | Davey Reef
Day 4 : Forbes Island | Magra Island
Day 5 : Cape York | Thursday Island
Day 6 : Nhulunbuy (Gove)
Day 7 : Hole in the Wall & Beach BBQ
Day 8 : Elcho Island Artists
Day 9 : Liverpool River | Maningrida
Day 10 : Cobourg Peninsula
Day 11 : Bathurst | Melville Islands
Day 12 : Disembark in Darwin


  • Explore Lizard Island, one of the most beautiful islands on the coast
  • Snorkel with some of the 1,500 species of fish at the Great Barrier Reef
  • Visit Gab Titui Cultural Center for a children's traditional performance
  • Tour the remote Bathurst and Melville Islands and learn of Tiwi culture


Coral Expeditions I

Places Visited

  • Australia
  • South Pacific
  • Bathurst Island
  • Cairns
  • Cape York
  • Cobourg Peninsula
  • Darwin
  • Elcho Island
  • Forbes Island
  • Hole in the Wall
  • Liverpool River
  • Lizard Island
  • Magra Island
  • Maningrida
  • Melville Island
  • Nhulunbury (Gove)
  • Stanley Island
  • Thursday Island
  • Trinity Bay


Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Zoom through the Horizontal Falls A day ashore remote islands Access the shore aboard the the Zodiac Admire ancient Aboriginal rock art Local children taking a swim

Day 1 Embark in Cairns

Board the Coral Expeditions I at Trinity Wharf, Cairns. After departing Cairns, travel across Trinity Bay before mooring on the Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy time to snorkel over the reef and view the many colorful corals and tropical fish that call the reef home. This evening meet fellow travelers and friendly crew while enjoying the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party.

Day 2 Lizard Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Explore secluded Lizard Island, one of the most beautiful islands on the Queensland Coast. Enjoy swimming, snorkeling and a walk along the beautiful sandy beach. If you feel more energetic, join your guides on a walk to ‘Cook’s Look’ on the island’s peak, the highest lookout on this part of the reef. From this high point, Captain Cook was able to navigate a safe passage back through the treacherous waters after repairing the Endeavour near Cooktown over 200 years ago. Enjoy the stunning scenery - a photographer’s delight, the views from the lookout over the World Heritage-listed reef and surrounding tropical islands are magnificent!

Day 3 Stanley Island | Davey Reef

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Visit Stanley Island in the Flinders Group to view the Endaen Aboriginal rock art gallery that depicts sailing ships of the last century. This is a unique art site seldom visited due to its isolated location. At Davey Reef and Cay enjoy swimming and snorkeling and observe the large seabird rookery.

Day 4 Forbes Island | Magra Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy the day exploring historic Forbes Island. Its reef provides some fantastic swimming and snorkeling opportunities. Visit Magra Island for beachcombing, bird watching, and a tropical sunset.

Day 5 Cape York | Thursday Island

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Venture ashore at Cape York as the sun rises over the "Tip" on Australia's northernmost point. Enjoy champagne and welcome the new day. Anchoring at Thursday Island, learn of the history of European settlement and the large pearling fleets. Have the opportunity to observe the distinctly different cultures of the Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginals whilst enjoying a tour of the island. Visit the Gab Titui Cultural Center where the children perform traditional dances. Continuing on to Horn Island discover the significance of the Torres Strait Islands during World War II. Travel ashore on Horn Island and stay overnight at the Gateway Torres Strait Resort.

Day 6 Nhulunbuy (Gove)

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Board a short charter flight across the Gulf of Carpentaria to Nhulunbuy (Gove). Upon arrival, visit the Yirrkala Art Center. Following a light lunch, enjoy time to explore this frontier town before visiting Nambarra Art Center to see some fine examples of local artwork. Overnight at Walkabout Lodge.

Day 7 Hole in the Wall & Beach BBQ

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Rejoining Coral Expeditions I, cruise through the narrow "Hole in the Wall". Expert guides and lecturers share the fascinating history of the Macassan traders and early discoverers to the Arnhem Land coast. Enjoy a gourmet Aussie Beach BBQ as the sun spectacularly sets over the Arafura Sea.

Day 8 Elcho Island Artists

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Be welcomed by friendly locals to their Elcho Island community. Enjoy insight into their culture and meet some of the local artists who have their unique art exhibited in the famous art galleries of the world, including the Louvre. Attend the local church service to share in the local culture.

Day 9 Liverpool River | Maningrida

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Anchor in the mighty Liverpool River before traveling ashore to explore the Maningrida Art Center, Museum, and local "boutique", where hand painted clothing and fabrics are offered for sale. Join the Expedition Leader and guides on an Explorer tour of the river before rejoining the small ship.

Day 10 Cobourg Peninsula

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a full day to discover the Cobourg Peninsula. Port Essington is famous for its failed Victoria Settlement. Local National Park Rangers guide exploration of the ruins. Also visit the Ranger's Interpretation Center at Black Point.

Day 11 Bathurst | Melville Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a true highlight, visiting remote Bathurst and Melville Islands. With traditional Tiwi people as guides learn of the unique cultures and visit their fascinating art center. Tiwi hosts share a cultural performance and basket-weaving exhibition before a traditional afternoon tea of damper and billy tea. Tonight say farewell to new-found friends while enjoying the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party.

Day 12 Disembark in Darwin

  • 1 Breakfast
Arrive into Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory and gateway to the "Top End".

Coral Expeditions I

Gateway Torres Strait Resort

Walkabout Lodge

Per person starting at
Coral Expeditions I - Cabin Twin Share
Select a Date
Six cabins, decks C & D. 10 sqm with twin beds.
Coral Expeditions I - Stateroom
Select a Date
Five Staterooms on deck C. 13 sqm with twin or double beds.
Coral Expeditions I - Upper Deck Stateroom
Select a Date
Upper Deck Staterooms
Eight upper deck staterooms on deck B. 14 sqm with twin or double beds.
Coral Expeditions I - Deluxe Stateroom Double
Select a Date
Deluxe Staterooms
Six deluxe staterooms on deck c. 17 sqm with twin or double beds.


Solo Travelers:
A 50% single supplement is charged or select the “twin share” program. Book a cabin at the posted fare and the Coral Expeditions I will attempt to match you with another solo traveler of the same gender. If not possible, enjoy the sole use of the cabin at the twin share price.

Important Fare Information:
Rates are posted based off of the current exchange rates from Australian Dollars. Please contact us for current exchange rates.

This itinerary is an indication of the reef, islands and coastal areas hoped to visit. While every effort will be made to follow this itinerary the Coral Expeditions I reserve the right to vary this itinerary to make allowances for weather, tidal conditions and any other reasons whatsoever.

Cruise Inclusions:
  • Accommodation in selected room grade for the number of nights as listed in each itinerary
  • All meals
  • House beer and wine during lunch and dinner service
  • 24 hour soft drinks, tea, and barista-style coffee
  • Captain’s welcome and farewell drinks
  • Access to islands, marine, and national parks
  • Guided tours on Xplorer expedition vessel, Zodiacs, glass-bottom boat, and kayaks
  • Touring as described in each itinerary
  • Services of expedition staff and lecturers including briefings and knowledge-sharing sessions
  • Port taxes and government charges imposed by government authorities
  • Pre and post flights, transfers and hotels
  • Entry visas/travel permits
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to phone and internet communications and bar charges (outside of the included drinks package as highlighted), laundry charges and souvenir purchases


  • 11 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 11 Dinners
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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Kassandra Miller
Kassandra M

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Beyond expectations! Then again we weren't sure what to expect. Lovely stay at the lodge, met other like-minded travelers (many had their trips planned by Adventure Life) and the owner was a gracious hostess. It felt like you were one happy family, visiting with a favorite aunt.
Nancy Sin

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