What flights do I need to book for my Kimberley cruise?

So you have your Kimberley cruise booked and now you are ready to book your flights. Before you do, just check out my thoughts on flights to and from Broome, Darwin and Kununurra. 

Let me start by saying that airlines load their inventory about 10-11 months prior to departure. If you have (wisely) booked your cruise more than a year ahead of departure then you cannot book your flights straight away. Diarise to have a look at the flights around 10 months out (and we usually send a reminder as well).

We can definitely help you work out the best flight options to fit your trip. My team and I have been booking Kimberley cruises for over 15 years so we are very familiar with the flight options and can make recommendations if you need our assistance.

But we do not book the flights. Instead, we strongly recommend that you book directly with the relevant airline on their website. Unlike our cruise partners, Australian airlines have decided they do not want to work with agents.  

Your flights should be booked directly with the airline on their websites as follows:

www.qantas.com 

www.virginaustralia.com.au

www.airnorth.com.au 

Avoid third party, online travel agents such as Webjet and the like. You will pay extra fees using these companies with no extra benefit.

A quick note about using frequent flyer points. Direct flights from the eastern states to Broome are close to being the most expensive domestic routes in Australia. Coincidentally, Qantas has a monopoly on these routes (yes that’s sarcasm). if you can get reward flights for this route it is a very efficient use of points – you are getting better value than you do normally. But you need to be ready to pounce on them when the flight is released for booking as reward seats go fast.

Flights to/from Broome.

You can get to Broome from anywhere in Australia in one day. The question is; how long will it take?

There are several daily flights to Broome from Perth with both Virgin Australia and Qantas. So you can get to Broome from the east coast any day if you are content with flying via Perth. As you can imagine it is a long trip – often over 8 hours with the transit times.

Sunset camel ride along Cable Beach, Broome

Of course going direct to Broome is better. Qantas (and only Qantas) have direct flights to Broome during the dry season (May – September) from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. It is important to note that these are not daily flights. Traditionally Brisbane – Broome has been once a week whereas there are usually direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne at least three times a week. Again I stress these direct flights operate just during the high season.

The schedules tend to vary year to year but in 2022 here were the days of operation:

Melbourne – Broome and Broome – Melbourne: Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Sydney – Broome and Broome – Sydney: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Brisbane – Broome and Broome – Brisbane: Sundays only

If you are from the eastern states then it might be an idea when looking at flights to consider the direct option even if it means an extra night or so in Broome. We can look at your individual itinerary and advise you about this.

Getting to Broome via Darwin

There is another way to get to Broome and that is via Darwin. Usually this entails an overnight connection (at your expense) in Darwin before connecting onto the Kununurra/Broome flight operated by Airnorth but this is an option worth considering especially for some Queensland travellers (see below).

Flights to/from Darwin

This is much easier. There are daily, direct flights between Darwin and every mainland capital city (yes, I’m including Canberra!). And for Queenslanders Air North also operate regular flights to/from Darwin and Toowoomba, Townsville and Cairns. 

Broome – Kununurra – Darwin and vice versa

During the Kimberley cruise season there are daily flights between Darwin and Broome and back. And on most days there are flights between Darwin and Kununurra and Broome and Kununurra. These flights are operated by Air North but also codeshare with Qantas so you can either book on the Air North website or with Qantas. This can be an expensive flight by the way and using reward points is a really good idea if possible.

Regional cities to Broome

For those flying from Tasmania and regional cities in NSW, QLD, VIC you are likely to be flying to WA via Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. 

One thing I would like to suggest is perhaps not trying these flights in one go. The direct flights to Broome from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane leave early/mid-morning. If you are flying in from a regional airport to catch this flight you may be looking at a very early departure from home and a tight connection between flights.

In theory the time between flights in Sydney or Melbourne of as little as 30 minutes is considered adequate for connection purposes. But my goodness that doesn’t leave much wriggle room for delays. Anyone who has ever caught a commercial flight in Australia knows that just because it is scheduled to take off at a certain time does not mean it actually will. I  sometimes wonder if those airline staff who oversee these extremely tight flight connections  have ever actually had to change planes in a large (and perhaps unfamiliar) airport.

Sure if you miss your connection  in Melbourne or Sydney then Qantas will endeavour to get you to Broome somehow but it won’t be direct and it is a stressful way to start your holiday.

Both Sydney and Melbourne airports have (by Australian standards) reasonably priced hotels either walking distance from the terminal or a short shuttle ride away. So is it worth considering flying the night before and staying over in Sydney or Melbourne for the night. If the flight is booked all the way through to Broome then you probably don’t even need to collect your bags as they will be forwarded onto the connecting flight. So make sure you have a change of clothes and a toothbrush in your carry on bag and then you can make your way to your gate without stress.

Here is an example of what I mean as recommended to some Newcastle based clients earlier this year. On the day of their departure the Qantas flight connection was:

Depart Newcastle 6am to arrive Melbourne 7.40am

Depart Melbourne 8.15am arrive Broome 10.50am

This should be fine but obviously no room for problems. All it takes is a 30 minute delay out from Newcastle and this connection is missed. So my recommendation would be to catch a late flight from Newcastle the day previous. In this case that flight left at 6.45pm to arrive in Melbourne at 6.30pm. The airport hotel was about $250. In this instance my clients felt this was more than a fair price to eliminate the stress of trying to do the flights in one go.

By the way this suggestion even applies for passengers departing Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne who are not catching a connecting flight. Unless you live right near the airport, maybe save yourself the stress of morning traffic and overnight near the airport.

Would you like our help in advising your best flight option?

If you would like assistance working out the best flight options for your Kimberley cruise then one of our team will call you at the scheduled time. Remember we do not book flights ourselves but, after a discussion with you, we will send through our recommendations – flight numbers, times and indicative prices.

Please note we are only able to assist our own Kimberley cruise clients.


About Jenny

I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here  and I will call you then.

Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements.  If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here.   I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.