View Comments
Kimberley cruising
Stephen Scourfield Kimberley cruising

We pull into the Kimberley's King George River and follow its winding way from a wide mouth pouring into azure ocean, past mangroves and then great ramparts of Kimberley sandstone.

Round big sweeps and one final bend that reveals twin waterfalls, dropping side by side, throwing off a misty rainbow. Sparkling white gossamer against a massive red face.

Cruising the Kimberley coast reveals such spectacular sights every day; at every turn. It might be the 400sqkm Montgomery Reef which appears bizarrely in mid-ocean as the tide drops. It might be the indigenous rock art of remote sites like Raft Point.

The Kimberley across the north of WA is often and rightly described as one of the last wildernesses and marine treasures - rated alongside the Arctic and Antarctic. An area of significant biodiversity and one of the most intact tropical marine ecosystems on Earth.

Along its 13,000km coast are some of the biggest tides in the world, with spring ranges of up to 12m in some places, not far behind the world's highest tides of 15m in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia.

So it is no surprise that the Kimberley has become such a sought-after cruising ground.

In recent years, there have been more small ships and boats, and Broome and the Kimberley Holidays has used its extensive experience to pull it all together in its Kimberley Cruises 2012/2013 brochure.

One should, perhaps, start with multi-award- winning adventure- cruiser True North, for North Star Cruises - which owns and runs the purpose-built ship - was one of the pioneers of luxury voyages along this coast.

For the 2012-13 season, there is a six-night Kimberley Islands itinerary from Broome to the Hunter River and back (from $8495 per person, twin-share, to $12,595), seven nights right along the coast between Broome and Wyndham (from $9495 to $13,995) and 13 nights between Wyndham and Broome, really exploring ($13,995 to $22,995). Like many of the cruise operators, this includes fine dining and many activities.

True North can take up to 36 passengers, but Kimberley Quest II's limit is 18 - accompanied by six crew. Kimberley Quest also has seven, nine and 13-night itineraries.

Orion takes up to 106 guests with 75 crew and has a 10-night itinerary between Broome and Darwin (from $9100 to $19,055 each). It blends gourmet cuisine and nature expertise.

Coral Princess Cruises also has 10-night itineraries between Broome and Darwin on the 63m Oceanic Discoverer (from $8690) and on the purpose-built 35m power catamaran Coral Princess (from $6990).

The Great Escape, which is smaller and accommodates up to 14 guests, also has shorter itineraries of four nights (starting at $3385 per person). From Broome, this includes Montgomery Reef, Raft Point and Sale River. It has other itineraries up to 13 nights.

Lady M Luxury Cruises has eight (from $7040) and 14-night (from $12,320) itineraries, and was originally built as a private vessel, but now takes up to 18 passengers.

Escapade is a purpose-built catamaran, hosting just four passengers under sail. It has a four-night itinerary (from $2325 with shared facilities, $3275 with ensuite) and six-night ($2815 and $3765).

Odyssey Expeditions, a motor catamaran for up to 20 guests, bases its trips on eight-night voyages (from $6700).

Increasingly, there are more choices and the brochure cleverly couples these with tour and rail expeditions, accommodation and some special bonus offers. Combinations of cruises with The Ghan and APT 4WD Adventure tours are also featured. In his introduction to the brochure, the Broome-based company's managing director, Bernard Whewell, rightly says: "One visit to our region is never enough. Its dramatic landscape stays with you and lures adventure travellers back year after year." And how true it is.

·Details: Download the brochure at broomekimberley. com.au/Portals/0/Brochures/ KimberleyCruises2012.pdf or call 1300 245 565.