Pirate ship on the sea

How to have a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’ adventure on Queensland’s high seas

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Ahoy me hearties! It’s official. The team from Disney have announced they are heading Down Under to film the next blockbuster instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Men Tell No Tales – and it’s set to take place in the tropical waters off Cairns. Ahem, or should that be ‘The Cairnbbean’?

With the likes of Orlando (sigh), Johnny (swoon) and Geoffrey (our home boy hero!) rumoured to be adding their star power to Australia’s northern shores, we think it’s time to batten down the hatches and take a look at some real-life swashbuckling adventures right here in Queensland.

Ship wheel
First up, we say forget The Black Pearl, Queensland has its own sailing vessels that ooze the magic of a bygone era.

Try the Solway Lass, a 1902 Dutch-built classic tall ship, or the Derwent Hunter, an elegant 1946 Australian-built vessel, and ply the waters of the Whitsundays dropping anchor at some of the best known treasures of the Great Barrier Reef like Whitehaven Beach and Hayman Island.

Further north at Magnetic Island (so named because of the “magnetic” effect the island had on the ship’s compass of Captain Cook way back in 1770) is Providence V, a 62-foot gaff rigged schooner that cuts a path around the granite-boulder beaches of the island.

SS Yongala Fish

If sunken treasures are what you seek, then our number one pick of the north would have to be the SS Yongala. You won’t find gold bullion here, but you will find a three-metre thick wall of precious marine life wriggling around the wreck of the 1903 steamer. Sunk in 1911, the Yongala is hailed as one of the best dive sites in the world and home to feeding turtles, rays, giant gropers, clown fish and thousands and thousands of colourful fish.

Closer to Cairns lies the Lady Bowen, an elegant old girl who met her fate in 1894 when she crashed into a shoal just off Dunk Island.

Sailing the Low Isles

Not everyone wants to be a brigand of the past and Tropical North Queensland has just the ticket for modern-day daredevils with a bias for light-weight vessels that would have Jack Sparrow drooling. Start with Sailaway Port Douglas, the first Lagoon 500 new production boat built in Bordeaux France to come to Aussie shores and Aquarius, a 62-foot luxury sailing cat that swiftly carries adventurers to Low Isles where clown fish, clams and the odd metre-long reef shark are all within arm’s reach.

With your high-seas adventure picked, the next thing on this list is the old sailor’s serum. And by that we mean rum! No need to look offshore for the distilled drop when Queensland produces some of the world’s best – Bundaberg Rum.

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Known locally as “Bundy”, this dark drop was first produced when a brigade of sugar millers decided to turn a waste product into a profit. Fast forward 150 years and today, Bundy is world class, having taken out a gold and silver award against 1400 other spirits in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

There’s more to Queensland’s liquor cabinet than Bundy and much of it comes from the Atherton Tablelands in Tropical North Queensland. Try de Brueys Boutique Wine for a blend of exotic liqueurs flavoured up by lychee, mango or jaboticaba. Or unearth Mt Uncle Distillery, a treasure hidden deep in a banana plantation, serving up flagship flavours like banana liqueur.

With all that on offer, we say, welcome all pirates! Hoist the sail. It’s time to hit the deck!

I’ll drink to that!

*Photography: @Garry_Norris (Solway Lass, feature), Rowan Bestman (Bundaberg Rum).