Sailaway adventures and sustainable tourism with beautiful and capable Lagoon sailing catamarans

Below article written by The Multihull Group – See full article here 

Lagoon adventures on the Great Barrier Reef with Sailaway

Sailaway Port Douglas owners Steve and Katrina Edmondson have a unique product that stands out from the crowd and they are fiercely proud of that. They have catered to tens of thousands of guests seeking an authentic Great Barrier Reef experience, presented with a message of integrity and delivering on luxury and adventure.

Steve chooses Lagoon catamarans for his business. He is as passionate about the French cat as he is about sharing his love for nature and his beautiful corner of Australia with his guests.

Sailaway offers people access to a ‘wow factor’ as part of their holiday – “It’s in reach for people to enjoy a bit of that business class feel with their friends and family, in an everyday way.”

Why does Lagoon fit the bill?

This year Steve and Katrina celebrated their 15th anniversary of owning and operating the Sailaway business.

“With the Lagoon, we can live out our passions for sailing, nature and the environment. I have had confidence in Lagoon from the moment I first stepped aboard one whilst looking for a boat to take to Africa.

I went on a Lagoon 380 in charter through Pro Sail and it stood out from the crowd.”

“In my previous life I was in industrial design, product design and marketing. I have a feel for quality, clean, practical and attractive design. My confidence to invest in Lagoon would allow me to share the experience of nature on the Great Barrier Reef as I had done in Africa.

The development of Lagoon and the third generation design with flybridge led us to purchase a 500 (Sailaway IV) from the plans – it fitted my brief perfectly, being the ultimate design, professionally built, with innovation and quality.

Our satisfaction with the boat’s performance and durability is really high.

Our love of this vessel led to the purchase of our 2nd Lagoon 500, (Sailaway V) a boat we knew worked. It was the right size and design, with the classic vertical windows, the flybridge and plenty of stunning features… it has great space around the deck and it doesn’t look industrial.

It sails so well and has proven the test of time over 11 years, having done more work than every other Lagoon 500, equivalent to sailing around the world three times.

She’s still beautiful and has received a high level of attention and maintenance – she remains up to the task and is enjoyed by so many people.”

Why buy a boat in France?

As many Australasian Lagoon owners have experienced, picking up a newly commissioned vessel direct from the factory in France can be the start of a unique sailing adventure. Steve and Katrina picked up Sailaway in La Rochelle and had her delivered back to Australia, blogging about the experience of commissioning and preparing the boat for her journey home.

“During that journey, we combined the opportunity to go to the British Virgin Islands on our own boat for a month. We then handed the boat over to the crew, who delivered her home to Australia for her big launch. She was the first big production cat at the time in the southern hemisphere.

We’ve looked after the boat and she still works and sails beautifully. She has achieved her environmental credits and really stood apart.”

They then purchased their Lagoon 560 over a year and a half ago, they sailed as a family – “We took the kids to 15 different countries over seven months. We realised we were crap at home schooling but big on life experiences! Being on that big boat for seven months, we had a great time.”

“We had an experience in the Bahamas with a category one hurricane. We had anchored and were snorkelling off the Exumas Islands. We were having one of those ‘living the dream’ experiences. Then the weather took a swift turn and it became a ‘get back right now’ moment.”

The Lagoon 560 can be handled with minimal crew but as the skies darkening and the wind picking up it was confronting moment for Steve and his family. At 50 knots, while at anchor they put the engines on to take the pressure off the bridle. At 66 knots they were on the flybridge, ploughing into the wind like parachutists.

After four hours, with the wind peaking 80 knots they had the emergency Fortress FX 85 anchor at the ready but fortunately, everything held and worked.

“One thing I learned about sailing and adventure with the family is that it’s a even greater responsibility. …. in far North Queensland you’d have time to pack everything away… there we were with the wind at 80 knots at anchor in an unpredicted storm…

The Lagoon 560 feels like a Harley Davidson or a Landcruiser – it just laps it up, it takes the weather safely and with confidence. The boat never let us down. It always felt capable and sure footed.”

Climate action leaders

“We’ve chosen the angle of environmental awareness for our business, showcasing the environment in an authentic, sustainable and relaxing way.

This is done through the vehicle of good quality sailing cats built by Lagoon.

We were the first accredited Climate Action Leader by Ecotourism Australia, nationally awarded for sustainability 2002.

And using our success in green initiatives, we continue to be involved in campaigning and lobbying for sustainability.”

Is the sustainability message filtering through?

“It is. We committed early on, innovating and investing to deliver our ecotourism message with passion. We have planted 15 000 trees – we do that as a contribution for each passenger. Behind the scenes, we don’t wait for subsidies. We have marine biologists on our team to raise awareness.

We have targeted our market to consider what climate change means and how to have a low footprint, and that goes hand in hand with the best equipment and our philosophy, taking a small number of guests each day in a really nice way.

We focus on the natural diversity of Australia, particularly of North Queensland. And we do it with a level of professionalism, better than anyone else in the world. Tourism in Australia is an undervalued industry, but it is totally sustainable, it’s non-extractive and highly educational. People are relaxed on holiday, and combining being on a beautiful, stylish catamaran with a high standard of ecotourism gives them a chance to understand the message and be inspired.”

How do you get your message across?

“Our name, ‘Sailaway to the Great Barrier Reef’, conveys the message – a dedicated sailing experience to the very top spots with valuable, specialised permits. You see the name and the beautiful boat delivering an authentic sailing experience.

Throughout the experience, guests get the marine biologist’s interpretation of what’s happening, whether in the welcome brief or on your snorkelling trip.

On the heritage island walk on Low Island – the closest part of the Great Barrier Reef and the site of the first scientific research done on the reef in 1928 – we have trained guides who talk about the environment and the wildlife, such as the beautiful turtles.

Whether you’re a novice with no sailing experience wanting to go on a beautiful sailing cat or you have your own boat, our experiences deliver a level of comfort and authenticity and our team delivers a consistently good message.”

What do your guests have in common?

“The typical thing is that they’ve all chosen Sailaway consciously because they have thought about our message and our reputation. Discerning visitors who connect with what we do are all welcome.

We are true to our marketing and product and provide a high level of satisfaction. Our sunset sail is extremely popular – we ended up offering it seven nights a week and it’s a really good teaser to sail on a beautiful yacht in the evening – it opened up the market to anyone wanting to experience a top operator and luxury yacht in an authentic stylish way.

There are different levels of presentation, and our product allows for different budgets and tastes. Two people recently got married and took the boat out for a private sunset champagne celebration. We have a broad attraction but a focused message and delivery of stylish, personal experience with nature.”

What’s next for Sailaway?

“For our 15th anniversary we had a big celebration. We had a ‘yacht hop’, with our three beautiful boats lined up together. 136 people joined us, including John from TMG and his wife Rene, and we had our own little Boat Show, complete with Lagoon flags flying.

It was a great way for us to say ‘thank you’ to our network – our shipwright, our engineer, our sailmaker – they all play a part in making our business successful. We appreciate the support of TMG and other like-minded people who are passionate about sailing and about the industry.

As a small Australian tourism business, you have to stand out, you have to be unique. You need a strong, tight message or it’s not that straightforward (achieving success).”

“We have our newest product in Cape Tribulation and getting established in a remote location. With our Cape Tribulation cruise, we want our guests to know there are still exciting nature experiences on the wild side. Another option with Sailaway V is different again; an adult only sail to a heritage island, then back at sunset with a glass of wine in hand.

And then we have the sail combined with a trip to Mossman Gorge Dreamtime Walk, allowing our guests to discover two world heritage areas in one day. This innovative product is a good way of adapting our core strength.

We continue to work with agents in Europe and North America to inspire travellers to commit to a long journey to Australia to experience our unique product.

We look forward to promoting cool projects and authentic, individual experiences to encourage more travellers towards sustainable tourism at the Great Barrier Reef.”

To enjoy this truly unique experience in tropical North Queensland yourself, Steve can be contacted at or check out their website at

Sailaway featured by Travelling in Australia Magazine

Great Barrier Reef Tours

Snorkelling Port Douglas… Sailaway owner/operator Steve Edmondson’s relentless commitment for environmental sustainability and eco tourism caught the attention of journalists at one of Australia’s leading travel magazines; Travelling in Australia.

Read the Article

Protectors of the Reef: GBRMPA

Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling

Reef Management

Sailing Great Barrier Reef… The Great Barrier Marine Park Authority’s GOAL is to provide for the long-term protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

We all need to help

The marine tourism industry, recreational users, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and other government agencies all have a role to play in keeping the Reef ‘GREAT’. The GBRMPA in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA – historically referred to as the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) have developed management tools and processes to provide a range of tourism and other opportunities throughout the Marine Park, and to minimise the impacts of tourism activities on the marine environment so the diversity, integrity and productivity of the Reef is maintained.

Keeping everyone informed

Consultation on tourism management issues are undertaken at all levels including operators, sector associations and through the peak marine tourism body the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators.

The GBRMPA works closely with community groups, recreational users, Local Marine Advisory Committees (LMACs), and Tourism and Recreation Reef Advisory Committees (TRRAC) on key issues related to tourism and recreation in the Marine Park.

Working with the tourism industry and stakeholders, GBRMPA educates Marine Park visitors by promoting appreciation through interpretation and best practice information.


The Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling Great Barrier Reef

Sailing Port Douglas…

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established in 1975 and is the world’s largest marine protected area.


Natural Wonder
It is made up of nearly 2900 individual reefs very close together which include 760 fringing reefs and 300 coral cays.

Low Isles
Sailaway takes you to Low Isles, a network of islands and a coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef where you can sail & snorkel with the turtles.

Marine Wildlife
The fish are nothing short of spectacular. Turtles, eels, reef sharks, clams, sponges, rainbow fish, butterfly fish and sea cucumbers are just a few – snorkelling on the reef creates lifetime memories.

Low Isles Weather

Low Isles Beach

Low Isles Snorkelling… Because Low Isles has a protected lagoon, the water here is generally much more calm than it is on the outer Great Barrier Reef.  That means it’s the best for snorkelling, exploring and sailing.
On very rare occasions we do have to cancel our Sailing & Snorkelling trips out to Low Isles.  Generally this is only in very high winds (borderline cyclonic) or severe weather.

Low Isles History & Facts

Low Isles History…

What is Low Isles?

Low Isles is situated on a large,  200 hectare, oval shaped, coral platform.  Low Isles consists of a small coral cay, a large mangrove island, mudflats, seagrass beds, and coral reefs.

Where is Low Isles?

The Low Isles are located approximately 8 nautical miles from Port Douglas, in Tropical North Queensland, Australia.  Located within the Marine National Park Zone of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Low Isles and its historic lighthouse were registered on the Commonwealth Heritage List in June 2008 in recognition of their place in Australia’s cultural and Indigenous heritage and are is also under the protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

View Map

Weather & Reef Research

Weather data has been collected on Low Isles since 1887 and scientific associations date back to 1928 when it was the base for a year long scientific survey which studied the structure and ecology of the surrounding reef.

This study was the first detailed study of a coral reef from Low Isles anywhere in the world and many current theories of coral reef are based on the findings of this expedition.

Low Isles Lighthouse

Low Isles Lighthouse & Research StationToday the University of Queensland operate a Great Barrier Reef research station housed in what was previously the assistant lighthouse keeper’s house.

This centre provides exciting and stimulating reef research projects for scientists and students and more importantly plays a pivotal role in eco sustainable reef management.

Safe Snorkelling Haven

The islands are surrounded by 5.5 acres of coral reef very close to the islands, making it an ideal area for snorkellers.


Living amongst the corals in the blue lagoon are a large variety of reef fish including angelfish, damselfish, anemones, giant trevally, sweetlip, fusiliers and many green turtles are sighted daily.

The mangrove habitats of Low Isles virtually uninhabited Woody Island is a vital habitat for a wealth of bird species, including large, white Herons – a bird watchers delight.

Walking Trails

Taking the Island Heritage Walk is a ‘must do’ when visiting Low Isles. Learn about the history of Low Isles and its environment.



Go Green & Save the Turtles

Go Green! Save the Turtles bag artwork created by Low Island caretaker, Jenni Fox and sponsored by Sailaway to increase awareness of environmental best practices and assist funding of other educational materials i.e. information leaflets and interpretive centre on island near lighthouse. These medium sized durable, reusable bags are made of strong beautiful natural calico material and bags printed with “Save the turtles” artwork with Sailaway logo and message, proudly supporting Low Isles and turtle sustainability. Go Green – Go Sailaway!

Available only at the Sailaway Reef & Island Tours Marina base $7.50, plan to pick up one when checking in for boarding passes 30 mins prior to departure and perfect to use on Low Island and back home.

Sailaway to Eco Shamba Tree Farm Port Douglas

Steve Edmondson at Eco Shamba Tree Farm

ECO SHAMBA Tree Farm Port Douglas was established in August 2009 as an environmental initiative.

The location of suitable, high productive land was searched for. The investment and long term commitment was established on 27 Hectares (68 acres) of land, ex cane paddocks close to Port Douglas, adjacent to World Heritage Rainforest and boarding Crees Creek.

More about Eco Shamba Tree Farm


Environmental Responsibility is our business

Snorkelling Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Tours… Sailaway visits the unspoilt Low Isles where the first coral research was undertaken back in 1928. The lagoon is home to a large number of turtles that have little fear of snorkellers, as they know it’s a safe area.

The protection of surrounding waters has changed the resident turtles’ behaviour and now close-up, passive encounters occur daily. We gain great satisfaction from witnessing an increasing level of guest appreciation of the value of the reef and encourage this through first-hand encounters and education. We’ve also invested in a new Lagoon 500 luxury catamaran, which was chosen because it has the highest-quality equipment and meets the desired standard of our environmental values.

Eco Tourism Accredited

Firstly, the Low Isles are really close at just 8.5 nautical miles off the Queensland coast, allowing visitors maximum time there. Second, the Low Isles have a unique history and are a natural iconic landmark. This highly protected and unspoilt environment has recently achieved carbon-neutral status. This is done thanks to investment in a reworked solar-power system, battery banks and use of BioDiesel.

Sailaway employs qualified marine biologists and makes daily records that are sent back to GBRMPA to help with a program called “Eye on the Reef”. Our tourism experience has credibility; accurate interpretation from the crew is imperative to guest interaction. This expertise helps us pass on a better level of knowledge to guests who may be experiencing the underwater environment for the first time, and even for those who consider themselves to be knowledgeable already.

learn more about our team Meet the Crew

As an owner/operator, I’m in a privileged position to be innovative and proactive when it comes to climate change action. Being green and smart is a successful path for the future as before legislation requires it, we can initiate bigger changes in thinking if we are prepared to absorb increased investment and risk. We’re proud to be one of the first operators to install waste water treatment onboard, and have switched to recycled Bio Diesel and low emission outboards. It’s vitally important to preserve our natural assets for future generations and encourage more environmental ambassadors. The goal is for around 2million visitors to the GBR annually to take up their own climate change action and reduce their individual impacts.

Steve Edmondson
Owner & Skipper

We have plans to continue with carbon offsetting and will do this through the revegetation of an ex-cane paddock and neighbouring World Heritage Rainforest, which we recently purchased.  I hope that the continual development of carbon trading and offset schemes will create incentives for more businesses to think and act green.

I believe that allowing renewable forestation and carbon offsetting is the smart way forward as the environment can be a sound investment and benefit the future security of our children.