The Luxury Marina Guide to the Great Barrier Reef

By George Bains

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is a dream destination for adventurous superyachts looking for an inexhaustible source of inspiration. The sheer volume and diversity of the reefs guarantee a marine escapade like no other. To enhance the experience for superyachts in the Great Barrier Reef region, there are an array of world-class marinas and luxury facilities all in prime locations to explore the tantalising reefs. Here, we select some of the standout luxury marinas that superyachts should be aware of before visiting the Great Barrier Reef…

Cairns and Port Douglas

Tropical North Queensland is the gateway not only to the stunning northern reefs, but also to the South Pacific islands. The superyacht marinas in this area are within just a short cruise from some of the world’s most captivating dive and snorkel sites, with a spectacular range of seascapes to ensure each day there is something new to savour.

Cairns Marlin Marina

Cairns Marlin Marina is a thriving superyacht homeport for the South Pacific region that boasts the largest berthing facilities in Australia. The marina features 12 dedicated superyacht berths up to 140-metres in length, with a first-class service to ensure that Captains have everything needed for a seamless transition. This is helped by the fact that both the marina staff and local superyacht agents have a wealth of experience in the industry, and work diligently to provide a bespoke service to each incoming yacht.

The first thing that blows visitors away is the central location of Cairns Marlin Marina to the city and all its amenities. This is no doubt a reason why vessels so often tend to extend their stay in Cairns, as guests and crew are within a short walk from the city’s best restaurants, bars, 5-star hotels and shopping districts. Should owners and their guests wish to spend some time on land, Cairns Marlin Marina is attached to the opulent Shangri-la Hotel, though there are plenty of other options along the beautiful Cairns Esplanade.

A sublime selection of absolute waterfront restaurants treats guests to exquisite fresh seafood with views across the water and rainforests beyond. A popular venue for the superyacht community is Salt House, a divine restaurant and bar with VIP treatment found in the heart of the marina. The surrounding area is brimming with thrilling activities from reef exploration to ATV tours in the rainforests and cultural trips to fascinating indigenous sites. In Cairns there is never a dull moment and Cairns Marlin Marina is at the very heart of that, providing superyachts with world-class facilities to ensure they can stay long enough to experience all that the area has to offer.

Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina

A short cruise north of Cairns is the tropical paradise of Port Douglas. It is hard to comprehend that this charming town, with the aesthetic and blissful ambience of a remote island, is just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city. For superyachts wanting a taste of tropical delight, the award-winning Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina provides the perfect base for adventures.

The redeveloped Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina is part of the esteemed Crystalbrook Collection, which specialises in luxury resorts and experiences throughout Australia, including three located within Cairns. This is apparent in the bespoke service and boutique offering at the Marina, with a full concierge service available for visiting superyachts to maximise the potential of their stay. Onsite, there are fabulous dining and bar amenities in the serene rainforest setting that will have guests instantly fall into a state of utter relaxation.  

Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina has 135 berths accommodating superyachts up to 50 metres in length, though larger vessels have been accommodated. The Marina is perfectly located for guests to explore some of the most remote areas of the Great Barrier Reef, with plenty of hidden gems that make for an exhilarating charter experience.

The Whitsundays

Further down the east coast from Cairns and Port Douglas are the Whitsundays, an enchanting collection of 74 majestic islands surrounded by glistening turquoise waters. That the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park stretches this far down Australia’s glorious coastline speaks for the magnitude of nautical treasures available to explore, with over 3,000 different coral reefs inhabited by thousands of species of fish.

The Whitsundays is a superyacht paradise made up of white sand beaches, kaleidoscopic reefs, and perfect anchorages dedicated to larger vessels. The region is also home to two of Australia’s premier luxury superyacht facilities, both with their own unique offering which adds extra panache to a superyacht charter.

Coral Sea Marina Resort

Formerly Abell Point, the Marina merged with the lavish Coral Sea Resort in 2019 to create an all-encompassing destination for luxury travel. Coral Sea Marina is a state-of-the-art superyacht marina, driven much by the vision of owner Paul Darrouzet. The Australian entrepreneur has been recognised for his tireless service to the superyacht industry, and with Coral Sea Marina he has achieved something truly special that ticks ever box for visiting superyachts.

Coral Sea Marina is located in Airlie Beach on the Australian mainland, an ideal position to explore the wonders of the Whitsundays. The Marina has a plethora of berthing options available for superyachts up to 80m, and a dedicated superyacht concierge team is on hand to assist with all needs of a vessel throughout its stay. Knowing the superyacht is being well cared for then allows owners and guests to enjoy the magnificent facilities at Coral Sea Marina Resort.

The investment and development of Coral Sea has very much kept the needs of Captains and crew in mind. Airlie Beach town is a vibrant base filled with an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and shops, perfect for short or long stays. The Coral Sea Resort has been renovated with a new-look pool and a beautiful restaurant and bar area. The upgrades to the Hotel also include a brand-new fitness room overlooking the ocean along with a stunning new pool which provides the perfect place for relaxing after a day of exploring the reefs.

Hamilton Island Marina

Hamilton Island is one of the world’s most iconic boating locations, and the Marina is very much a destination within a destination. A vibrant lifestyle and world-class facilities welcome superyachts into the heart of the Whitsunday Islands, where a yachting paradise awaits.

At Hamilton Island Marina, you are very much in the epicentre of the yachting action, surrounded by magnificent cruising grounds which you can enjoy from the exclusivity of the Hamilton Island Village and luxury complex. There are 301 berths in the Marina which can accommodate superyacht of up to 60m in the heart of this natural splendour. Before yachts have even begun to explore the playground of the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island will already have guests indulging in the high life.

Luxury is at the core of everything on Hamilton Island, offering an unrivalled selection of high-end accommodation. Among those is Qualia Resort, one of Australia’s esteemed Luxury Lodges. Qualia in itself is a reason to visit Hamilton Island, built to be a ‘private resort of sensory perfection’ that perfectly fits in with the luxury of a superyacht escape. Hamilton Island is well endowed with opulent facilities, from indulgent spas to a breath-taking Beach club which provide an idyllic setting for blissful relaxation.

This Marina experience does pack a punch with exhilarating activities. Like all other marinas mentioned, Hamilton Island is a hive of water sports activity, but there are some particular benefits to this establishment. Hamilton Island boasts its own private 18-hole golf course for those keen to enjoy a round of golf with the backdrop of the sensational Whitsunday Islands. Here, you can also enjoy exclusive helicopter and seaplane tours of the iconic Heart Reef, located within Hardy Reef.


The incredible cruising grounds in the Great Barrier Reef region are made even more special by the luxury offering of these world-class superyacht marinas. Now, with the new possibilities for charter in Australia, there is no better time to experience this magical natural wonder by superyacht.

By George Bains