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Australian Offshore & the Great Barrier Reef
When winter looms in North America, it’s spring in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef and the country’s beach towns beckon to anyone not ready to start bundling up. Crystal Endeavor departs from Cairns on October 31 and after a detour to Lizard Island and Ribbon Reef then sails south before arriving in Sydney on November 14. It’s an itinerary that includes all of Australia’s highlights: pristine islands, both lush rain forests and excursions to the dusty outback, chances to learn about Aboriginal culture, and a stay in lively and welcoming Sydney.
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    Day 1
    You’ll start your cruise aboard Crystal Endeavor in Cairns, one of Australia’s most appealing beach towns. The ship starts boarding in the morning, so you’ll want to arrive at least the day before, if not a few nights in advance, so you’ll have time to explore the Wet Tropics of Queensland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or enjoy the lively atmosphere of Cairns with its seaside bars and restaurants.
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    Day 2
    Lizard Island and Ribbon Reef
    You’ll start your second day aboard Crystal Endeavor on Lizard Island, located on the Great Barrier Reef. The granite island has powdery beaches, reefs just off its coast, and trails through grasslands, acacia woodlands, and mangroves. Keep your eye open for the island’s most famous resident, and its namesake, the yellow-spotted monitor lizard as you hike through its interior. In the ocean off the island, coral gardens teem with colorful fish.

    In the afternoon, you’ll continue on to Ribbon Reef, which is actually a “ribbon” of ten individual coral reefs strung along the continental shelf and running for approximately 125 miles. A variety of colorful fish reside in the warm, gentle currents and turquoise waters. The area’s dive sites include caves, coves, and canyons populated with curious creatures from the docile potato cod to the flame-red scorpion fish.
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    Days 3 and 4
    Coral Sea Islands
    Australia’s remote and pristine Coral Sea Islands are located roughly 450 miles off of the Queensland coast. While there are some 51 islands and islets in the Coral Sea, only one, Willis Island, is inhabited. The rest are surrounded by crystal-clear waters and have lagoons and coral reefs that are paradises for nature lovers, divers, and snorkelers. The Willis Islets are nesting sites for turtles while birders will want to bring their binoculars to the deck to spot seabirds, including masked, brown, and red-footed boobies.

    At Flinders Island, a collection of tiny cays, atolls, and lagoons are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Their amazing coral gardens teem with life, from tiny sea slugs and green turtles to tiger sharks and stingrays. At low tide, the cays offer a convenient rest stop for a variety of seabirds.
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    Day 5
    Hinchinbrook, Brook, and Dunk islands
    Today Crystal Endeavor visits several islands along the Great Barrier Reef that are all homes to national parks lush with tropical vegetation and home to a remarkable diversity of animal species. The opportunities to explore some of the world’s most complex and precious ecosystems along the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s Swain Reef National Park–plus the unique habitats on the islands and atolls throughout–are simply astounding.

    Hinchinbrook, the largest island on the Great Barrier Reef, is surrounded by mangroves, fringing reefs, and seagrass beds that sustain dolphins, dugongs, turtles and more. As a protected park, it’s a refuge for a number of endangered species, including the giant tree frog. Dunk Island counts the famous blue Ulysses butterfly among its wealth of species. And the Brook Islands (a group of three islands) are host to breeding colonies of bridled, black-naped and roseate terns. There are no trails through the Brook Islands, which are all part of a protected national park, but you’ll be able to spot the resident birds from the deck of Crystal Endeavor.
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    Day 6
    Magnetic Island
    Australia’s Magnetic Island got its name from Captain James Cook, who believed that magnetic fields there were interfering with his ship’s compasses, but the island was home to the Wulgurukaba Aboriginal people for millennia before the English explorer sailed by. Even though it is only 25 minutes by ferry from the mainland, Magnetic Island remains wonderfully undeveloped. It is also relatively dry compared to some of its more lush, tropical neighbors, creating an interesting contrast as you explore the Great Barrier Reef. The mountainous island of rocky granite headlands and towering pines is home to an abundance of wildlife, including Australia’s iconic koalas as well as rock wallabies and brushtail possums.
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    Day 7
    Whitsunday Islands
    You will likely recognize the Whitsunday Islands even if you have never visited them before—the 74 islands, only four of them inhabited, are perennial favorites of advertisers looking for destinations that can play the part of a tropical paradise. On the largest island, Whitsunday, powdery white beaches are backed by a lush green wall of vegetation. Among the many animal species that call the islands home are six of the world’s seven sea turtles. The most famous stretch of the islands is Whitehaven Beach, which runs for seven miles along Whitsunday Island. With its remarkably pure white sands, it’s a regular contender for the title of the world’s most beautiful beach. After you relax on a towel by the sea, or take a dip in it, you will likely agree with that judgment.
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    Photo By Mudgee65
    Day 8
    Northumberland Islands
    The Northumberland Islands are a scattered group of islands accessible only by private charter flights, aboard a private yacht, or to travelers who arrive, like you, on an expedition ship like Crystal Endeavor. Opportunities to visit remote archipelagos like the Northumberland Islands is part of what distinguishes Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises from other cruises. All of the islands provide ideal settings for seaside walks and water sports.
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    Day 9
    Outer Reef
    Among the world’s bucket-list destinations, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef ranks high. The world’s longest coral reef runs for some 1,430 miles and includes 2,900 individual reefs and some 900 islands. Other numbers to remember: the reef is home to 30 different whale, dolphin, and porpoise species; 17 different sea snakes; and 1,500 different fish species. Birders will want to bring their binoculars to the deck—215 different bird species also call the reef home. Crystal Endeavor calls at a number of islands that other cruises don’t, including the Percy Islands, which get their name from the Duke of Northumberland’s family name. Middle Island, the largest of the group, is a national park that is home to 600 different species of flora and fauna.
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    Day 10
    Swain Reefs National Park
    Australia’s Swain Reefs National Park include nine remote cays. Humpback whales and sea turtles can be found in the ocean near the cays, but they are most important as a nesting site for a number of different bird species. A number of different boobies, gulls, terns, and other species can be found in the park. Below the sea, the islands are popular with divers and snorkelers thanks to the many tropical fish found along its reefs.
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    Day 11
    Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliott Islands
    Australia’s Capricornia Cays National Park includes eight different coral cays along the Great Barrier Reef, including Lady Musgrave Island. This 35-acre island sits at the southern tip of a large protected blue lagoon and is a hot spot for reef walking, snorkeling, diving, and bird watching. Underwater spectacles include schools of pelagic fish, sea snakes, manta rays, and reef sharks. Its forested landscape attracts a host of seabirds, including white-capped noddy terns. Lady Elliott Island sits outside the national park, but it is equally stunning. The southernmost coral cay along the reef, it’s an important nesting site for green and loggerhead sea turtles.
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    Day 12
    Fraser Island
    With an area of more than 700 square miles, Fraser Island can boast that it is the world’s largest sand island—it’s also Australia’s sixth largest island. There’s a remarkable diversity of landscapes here—mangroves, rain forest, eucalyptus woodlands, coastal heaths, and miles of sand dunes—explaining in part why the island has been included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Hervey Bay is a calf nursery for humpback whales while other species that can found on dry land include dingoes, wallabies, sugar gliders, sand monitors, and over 350 species of birds.
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    Day 13
    Cruising the Coast of Australia
    You’ll continue south today, through along the coast of Australia. It’s another opportunity to take advantage of the amenities on Crystal Endeavor. Perhaps for you that means simply enjoying the ocean views from bed in your suite. When you are ready to eat, choose from four different dining options, including Italian at Prego and Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, under the direction of world-acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa, at Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. Or you may want to learn more about Australia at one of the enrichment lectures.
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    Day 14
    You’ll arrive today in Sydney, the last stop on your Australia adventure aboard Crystal Endeavor. Few cities in the world have a setting that can compare to Sydney’s, built around its remarkable natural harbor. It is accented with two of Australia’s iconic landmarks, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Whether you want to dive into the city’s history and museums, its dining scene that reflects the influences of Sydney’s many immigrant communities or spend a day at one of the famous beaches, you’ll experience the legendary warm Australian welcome wherever you go.