Dream Run to Lady Elliot Island

We are in catch up mode with our posts, having been on the Southern Great Barrier Reef for 9 days without internet service. We have so much to show you that we have decided to publish a series of five posts about the Capricorn and Bunker Group, each post showcasing a particular coral cay or reef we stopped at. This initial post in the series focuses on Lady Elliot Island, the first link in the chain of reefs.

The chart shows the overall chain of cays and reefs, starting at the very bottom right hand corner at Lady Elliot Island. Over our five posts we will explore in a northwest direction.Capricornia CaysWe have a dream run from Burnett Head on 11 July and cover the 42nm in 6 hours with a steady SE breeze. It is such a buzz to start our Coral Sea Cruise after two months of struggling up the East coast. There is an odd mix of anticipation, relief the day has finally come and apprehension.

Lady Elliot -7687

Our navigation screen, showing us approaching Lady Elliot. 8.4 is our speed over the ground, 18.3 is the wind speed, and 11.4 is the apparent wind speed.

You lose sight of land for a while and that too adds to the excitement. We sail for a few hours, with no one else in sight, just the ocean all around us. If you have never sailed to a coral atoll, it is quite an experience. About 10 miles away from the cay you spot a skinny strip of vegetation on the horizon.

Approaching Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island appears on the horizon

Then as you get closer, you notice the waves breaking on the reef, the change in water color, from deep ultramarine, to brown where the edge of the reef is and beyond that the most amazing aqua color where the sandy lagoon is.

Lady Elliot Island

Approaching Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island

Arrival at Lady Elliot Island

At Lady Elliot the lagoon is enclosed so there is no access by boat and you have to anchor in the lee of the island, on the edge of the reef. One of the new things we have discovered is that Marine Parks have installed a few public moorings near some of the reefs. Here there are two, both available for 24 hours. We pick the one that offers most shelter. It makes life easier instead of having to anchor in deep water. The island houses a resort and a tiny airstrip. Yachties are discouraged from coming ashore but we don’t care. We are here for a snorkel and an overnight stay on board, then we are off to the next island along.

The water is 220 which sounds warm after we have been used to much cooler temperatures, but even with a wetsuit on you soon get chilly. Wade is immediately at ease in the water, diving and pursuing turtles; I am a bit rusty with the snorkeling thing and underwater photography but still manage a few pleasing shots. And it really is wonderful to be at the reef.


Damselfish weaving between staghorn coral

Damsels at Lady Elliot Island

Lovely Damsels

Colourful reef and vibrant little fish


Oh good! Take It Easy is still there!

Threatening skies at Lady Elliot Island

Threatening evening skies at Lady Elliot Island

We have a jiggly night on the mooring but feel so good about being here and waking up at a coral island!  Our next stop will be Lady Musgrave where we intend to spend a few days.

Breaking waves over the reef at Lady Elliot Island

Early morning at Lady Elliot Island- the waves are breaking over the reef

25 thoughts on “Dream Run to Lady Elliot Island

  1. This is very exciting! As always, your pictures are fantastic Chris. How long a trip to get to Lady Musgrave? It’s getting better by the day…I’m glad! Take care! 🙂

    • Hi HJ – the colours at the Reef are always amazing. it is only 20 miles to Lady Musgrave, so a few hours’ sail. The underwater shots get better as we spend more time snorkeling!

  2. Great to see some health in the Coral and fishies!! and warm water!
    Much happening on the Island?

    • Hi Waz! We were the only yacht there. A few dive boats for the tourists staying at the resort, but otherwise pretty calm. The coral on all the cays we have visited was healthy. Only a bit of storm damage in the more exposed parts of the reef, but no bleaching. This is what we expected. The bleaching is apparently severe in the northern part of the GBR.

  3. That threatening evening post is awesome! Cant’ wait to get up there. Sitting in sunny (but windy today) Sydney (Pittwater). xxx Trish

      • We are trying! We made Pittwater on Monday after 5 days and 3 hours (including a 20 hour stopover at Refuge Cove, WP). Had a few things to sort out but now just waiting for a weather window…..

  4. Hi Chris and Wade, was thinking of you guys last weekend as we stuck our heads out the Gold Coast seaway, looking north to warmer seas, but alas, back to Hope Harbour waiting for the opportunity to head south to Melb. If you get bored with your pleasant conditions, feel free to give us a hand to bring our boat back south😎
    Really enjoy your cruising posts, thank you..

    • Hi Ross, do you know the top temperature in Melbourne today is 12 degrees – do you really want to go there? We are not going anywhere we can’t wear shorts! Sorry 🤪! Glad you enjoy our adventures – more of that coming.

  5. Hi Chris and Wade,
    I can only dream.
    Busy preparing our house for sale. We have bought a new house (still to be built) in a local retirement village. The Brightside is, then we can travel. I am not your normal tourist as after a couple of weeks I want to go home. I received my copy of Cruising Helmsman yesterday in which you have an article. Looking forward to reading it
    I enjoy receiving your posts

    • Hi Clive, really nice to get your comment. Glad you enjoy our posts and articles. A move to a retirement village is a big decision and a good one for the long term. Where are you planning to travel to once it is all sorted? And what happens to your boat?

  6. Sounds like you are having a lot of fun times, you are certainly in the right place & warm weather, shorts only. Wishing I could be there . Cheers & beers.

  7. It was great chatting yesterday and having a few laughs. What fun times you are having. love the coral and the little fishies. Looking forward to more editions. Take care you two.

    • Hi Susie – there are always funny things happening… like when mates on Sv Karm asked us whether we have sign language when underwater to warn each other of sharks. We all went ‘hand on head’ for the fin and ‘arms out’ to show size, and two thumbs backwards for ‘back out of here’! We all cracked up! And there is always the garbled ‘shark’ cry underwater!

  8. I remember the screams of shark I made to you at LHI and the laughs we had over that little one! 🦈😂

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