Published on : Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Visitors to popular holiday destination, Port Stephens, can now sail through the region’s dolphin-filled waters aboard an authentic three-masted Chinese junk boat – the only one operating in Australia.
The newly opened Shaolin Charters aims to offer a relaxed and uncrowded sailing experience on the blue waters of Port Stephens for both holidaymakers and groups, with opportunities to take photos and spot marine life.
Carrying only 23 passengers, the 15m-long junk, Shaolin, strikes a unique image on Port Stephens, particularly when her dragon-filled, red sails are unfurled.
Shaolin was originally built for a retired US naval officer in 1966 in Hong Kong. With an impressive history, the vessel has circumnavigated the world twice, been through two cyclones, served as a listening post for the CIA off the coast of China and even been boarded by pirates. She then sailed the Pacific for a time before chartering passengers between Port Douglas and Lowe Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Recently Port Stephens locals, Sandy and Russell Byrnes, have had Shaolin refitted and relocated to her new home in Nelson Bay in Port Stephens.
Guests onboard the vessel get the chance to stand at the helm of the traditional Chinese junk and even experience an underwater viewing of marine species and sponge gardens, using the junk’s glass-bottom tender. During summer months, snorkelling activities are also available. Dolphins, seals and penguins can be spotted from the junk.
Shaolin Charters now offers daily cruises on Port Stephens as well as special event charters for 10-23 passengers, including corporate groups, weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries, cocktail parties, theme cruises, formals, school groups, birthdays and hens/bucks nights.
Two hour bay cruises are available three times a day: 9am, noon and 3pm, with different hours during public and school holiday periods. Free coffee and tea are served on board, with soft drinks available for purchase and BYO beer and wine welcome. Saturday and Sunday lunch cruises can include yum cha for $15 per person extra.