Review: Great Barrier Reef Sailing Cruise

A luxury Sail is the perfect getaway to see the Great Barrier Reef explore the abundance of underwater wildlife at Mackay Cay. Adding in the extra flare of the eco-friendly sailboat, an onboard marine biologist, & catering for small group’s which offer a more intimate climate, Sailaway Cape Trib hits high on the list of things to see & do in Tropical North Queensland.

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

How to get there

Drive north 45 minutes from Port Douglas and arrive at the only cable ferry in tropical Australia, the Daintree Ferry, which provides the southern access into the lowland Daintree Rainforest.

The sealed road north of the Daintree River meanders through the lush Daintree Rainforest covered Alexandra Range, to spectacular lookout points and magnificent tropical beaches.

Check in is at the Kulki Daintree National Car Park at 8.30am. Now there is very limited service in the Daintree, which adds to the experience! Who doesn’t love to switch off and get back to nature? Anyways, the Ferry will supply you with a Map of the Daintree to help you find your way around, although its quite simple, all the beaches are on one main road you just keep following along where the Rainforest meets the Ocean. If you are worried, or terrible at directions like me, google maps from your chosen accommodation and the Kulki National Park beforehand and take a screenshot, this worked well for me.

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise


– Authentic luxury sailboat
– Abundance of underwater wildlife at Mackay Reef
– Beautiful sandy Cay
– On Board marine biologist ready to answer all your questions
– Intimate climate, with limited number of guests catered for
– Glass bottom boat

What you’ll do

Arrive at the Kulki Daintree National Car Park & make your way to the beach. From here the crew will meet you, take your name and load you onto a small boat that transfers all the passengers to the main sailboat anchored up out in the deeper section of the bay.

After boarding the sailboat, & filling out a quick medical questionnaire, you are free to find a cozy spot for the ride out to sea as you watch the sail’s go up, and hit the breeze then we are off.

Now the crew warned me, with the winds we had on the day we went out, the front of the boat was going to get a bit wet, and oh they were right! I choose to sit at the front to get that wonderful feeling of sun kissed skin, as my hair blew in the wind under the sails of the Sailaway, while I still think it was the best spot in the house, I did get splashed with the salty waves, so I was prepared to get wet!

Arriving at the reef

Arriving at Mackay reef, this place was stunning! I could see the sandy cay shinning in the sun off in the distance, the clear blue waters and coral in front of us. We all quickly suited up in our sting suits, goggles and masks and jump in to explore what wonderful creatures lived under the sea.

My favourite was swimming with the sea turtles, they are just adorable! Unfortunately, someone forgot to charge the go-pro (meaning me, whoops!) so I missed these underwater shots, but its all filed away safely in my memory as a day never to forget!

Now having a marine biologist on board means you have the option of going on a guided snorkel, the staff are very friendly and supportive of anything you need. There were a few families on board with us, and the staff were great with showing the kids the ropes on snorkelling and even provided a guided tour for an overseas visitor who had never been swimming. They were just exceptional with their quality of service.

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

Time to refuel your energy

We jumped back on board the boat, to the rest of the crew, (only 3 on board, which was plenty!) who were preparing a delicious lunch.

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

Second snorkel or glass bottom boat / visit the cay

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

After lunch, we had the option to do a second snorkel, or jump on board the glass bottom boat, which is permanently anchored out at Mackay Reef for the enjoyment of Sailaway’s guests. The glass bottom boat tour then stopped off the long-anticipated Mackay Cay, where we jumped off and explored the sandy slice of heaven surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters. The cay really was something special, I have a deep new love for Cays and the stunning water that surrounds them.

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

Raise the sails and head for shore

After exploring the cay and returned to the main boat, we prepare for the sail back to mainland, again with my favourite seat in the house right up the front, we watched the rugged mountain tops that were once in the distance become more prominent, as the day came to an end.

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

What’s included

  • All equipment for snorkelling – mask, fins, stinger suit
  • Lunch, morning Tea & afternoon tea
  • Guided snorkel with an experienced marine biologist
  • Glass bottom tour boat
  • Drinking water is free and included in the tour all day

 What to bring

  • Camera / underwater camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Towel
  • Swimming Gear
  • Money for optional extras on board ie. drinks

My recommendations

Alicia GBR Sailing Cruise

Sailaway is perfect for families or a romantic couples getaway, it really is for anyone looking to get away from the more commercial reef trip tours with loads of people on board and take advantage of a smaller group environment. Sailaway has a real authentic feel over other tours, as they rely primarily on their sails for means of transport and are not just for “the sail look”, not to mention they are an eco-friendly family-owned operation, all food & produce served on board are locally sourced. Their tenders use bio-diesel, recycle on board & have a wastewater treatment system in place.

We sought out accommodation in Cape Tribulation and found an amazing eco-friendly holiday home called, Daintree Cascades, which is situated right next to your own private swimming hole in a crystal-clear creek. The creek provided hydro-electricity for the property, and is fully self-contained, even better, no reception to really get in some much-needed relaxation! What I would call a perfect weekend getaway in Tropical North Queensland.

To purchase your very own Sailing Cruise experience, click here:

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For more things to do during your next visit to Cape Tribulation, check out the full catalogue here:

Browse All Cape Tribulation Experiences

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