Buyer's guide to classic Cruise Craft boats

By: John Willis

Here are 8 of the most sought after used Cruise Craft boats on the market.

Cruise Craft boats are among the best-loved and most recognised fibreglass boats in Australia. The company has been making fibreglass boats since the 1960s and over the decades, dozens of boats have come and gone. Here are some of the most sought after classic (i.e. used) Cruise Craft boats that appear on the market.


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Cruise Craft ­Reef Finder 533

Cruise Craft Reef Finder 533

One of Australia’s favorites, the Cruise Craft Reef Finder 533 was a revolution in cuddy-cabin design and construction. It’s fair to say there were softer-riding boats on the market at the time, but the Reef Finder hit the mark with its combination of freeboard, deck room, cuddy layout and general fishability. It was easily towed by a family vehicle and it had enough room for the whole family. This was one of the first smooth-sided Cruise Craft hulls, and it provided a terrific combination of features. Cruise Craft Reef Finder boats are still highly sought after on the used boat market, and there are some magnificent specimens both in original and restored condition.

Whilst the recommended horsepower range was specified at 70-150hp, the greater majority were fitted with 115 or 120hp OMC V4s or 135hp Mercury V6s outboard motors. Hulls were produced from 1987 to 1994.


Cruise Craft Rogue

Cruise Craft Rogue 14

Cruise Craft made no less than 1534 examples of the Rogue. When introduced in 1970, the Cruise Craft Rogue 14 was the boat for every man in the emerging fibreglass market. It sounds silly now, but back then you could buy a complete Rogue 14 fitted with a Johnson / Evinrude high compression 55hp outboard (commonly known as a "hand grenade") as a complete tow-away package for under $4000. This was a booming time where everyone wanted one of the new "plastic fantastic" boats, and the Rogue fitted the bill. It was considered a family fish / ski runabout; plenty of people learnt to waterski behind one.

Today there are still countless Cruise Craft Rogue boats fishing every day around the country. The Rogue was one of the first clinker-sided, flared-bow, wide-beamed fibreglass Cruise Crafts and it was considered a "bluewater" hull in its day. Most old salts around Australia would agree the Cruise Craft Rogue is an Aussie boating icon.

The Recommended horsepower range was from 33-75hp. They were commonly fitted with Johnson / Evinrude 40, 50, 55 and 70hp outboards. Production started in 1970 and ceased in 1978.


Cruise Craft ­Reef Raider 166

Cruise Craft Reef Raider

The Cruise Craft Reef Raider 166 is a no-nonsense, fishing cuddy-cabin with a tough-as-nails hull. Its sistership, the Cruise Craft Raider 166 runabout, uses the same hull. Both earned a strong reputation in the Australian boating market. We know of a Cruise Craft 166 Reef Raider that was rammed amidships by a 35ft yacht and was then involved in a tail-end road accident, and it still performed day after day. They offer plenty of room, a ton of stability and very good seakeeping abilities for their size. The anchoring setup for the runabout was primitive compared to today’s standards.

The Cruise Craft Reef Raider was one of the first fish-and-dive-oriented cuddy-cabs and it was commonly doing battle with the other Queensland-built cuddy-cabs from rival Seafarer, namely the V-Sea and Viking.

The recommended outboard motor horsepower range was from 70-115hp and they carried the weight of the big old straight-six Mercury engines quite well. Hulls were produced from 1972 to 1980 (Raider) and 1974 to 1984 (Reef Raider).


Cruise Craft 580D

Cruise Craft 580D

The Cruise Craft 580D was a 5.8m (19ft) displacement half-cabin fitted with a fuel-efficient diesel engine. They’re still popular on the big estuaries of the Georges River, Sydney Harbour and Pittwater, as well as on the estuaries of south-east Queensland. They were particularly popular during the fuel crises of the early ’80s. The Cruise Craft 580Ds were true overnighters with an enclosed cabin with galley, head and folding tables. They typically had a massive top speed of around 13kmh, and were commonly fitted with the 13hp twin-cylinder Volvo Penta diesel and shaftdrive.

Cruise Craft built 84 of the 850D packages between 1980 and 1987 and was presented with the ABIA Boat Of The Year Award by Sir James Hardy in 1980. We found Kevin’s thoughts on the 580D quite fitting: "The 580D owners spent very little on fuel but plenty on alcohol, so the overall economy wasn’t great!"


Cruise Craft Stinger 506

Cruise Craft Stinger 506

When it comes to 5m runabouts, the Cruise Craft 506 Stinger really hit the spot. You just can’t miss its distinctive styling, with crisp clear lines and the traditional Cruise Craft beamy hull with flared bow. The 506 hull was also used for the Tiara low-profile half-cabin, the Regal half-cabin, and the Charger bowrider. The Cruise Craft 506 Stinger is one of the early smooth-sided hulls and it carries "teak" trim on the bow and stern acting as non-skid. The Stingers were one of the first Cruise Craft runabouts to feature a walkthrough section in the screen and bow, and hence they were quite user friendly. They had a big interior, deluxe back-to-back seating, and they were beautifully trimmed. Used boat dealers still love them as they have such appealing lines and an extremely high quality construction.

Cruise Craft Stinger boats were a very popular family boat as they were easily towed on a single-axle trailer behind an average six-cylinder family vehicle. Stingers were great all-rounders, and rated to a maximum of 150hp they were very desirable watersports packages.

Most were fitted with 90-115hp outboard engines and the hull was manufactured from 1985 to 1990.


Cruise Craft Outsider 580

Cruise Craft Outsider 580

Whilst later-model Outsiders were much better packages, the Cruise Craft Outsider 580 was one of the first walkaround cabin configurations in the country. We plebs were all envious of the Cruise Craft Fishing Team boats that graced nearly every fishing competition on the east coast in the early ’90s, manned by some great fishing personalities. The Cruise Craft Outsider range turned the corner into fully dedicated sportsfishing packages with a walkaround allowing you to fish 360 degrees around the cabin, or fight that fast-moving pelagic all around the boat. These superb boats were fitted with deluxe stainless-steel-framed seating and toughened glass windscreens, and they came with a huge non-skid deck area, wide coamings with plenty of storage, a moulded livebait tank and bait boxes, built-in tackle boxes and high freeboard. The Outsider 580 was also one of the first models to feature 25in extra-long transoms, a huge improvement for deep-vee boats. This lifted the powerhead a further 5in out of the water compared to the previous 20in long-shaft models, a big advantage when fishing in sloppy conditions with the weight of a few anglers at the stern.

The specified power rating was from 120-185hp and most were fitted with 150hp outboard motors. The hull was manufactured from 1990 to 1995 and was superseded by the Cruise Craft Outsider 550.


Cruise Craft Explorer 570

Cruise Craft Explorer 570

This author (of which a younger version is shown here) has a real soft spot for the Cruise Craft Explorer 570. I landed my first IGFA gold medal striped marlin in an Explorer 570 in horrendous seas and with an inexperienced crew at Bermagui, NSW, back in 1996. The Explorer was built like the proverbial brick outhouse. Its stylish half-cabin created not only a terrific sea boat, but also a versatile cruiser or family boat that still performed well with as little as a 115hp outboard. As with most half-cabin boats of the day, there was little thought given to the anchoring setup through the cabin hatch. Otherwise, however, the layout was excellent, the ride reasonably soft and smooth. Explorers fill you with confidence, with a big hull footprint for a 5.7m boat.

Their specified horsepower range was from 90-175hp, although most were commonly fitted with OMC’s 140hp V4 engine. A relatively large 150lt fuel tank fed these thirsty carbureted beasts, which were available with a sterndrive option in the deep 22° hull. Hulls were produced from 1980 to 1994.


Cruise Craft ­Hustler 570

Cruise Craft Hustler 570 MK2

When Cruise Craft released the Hustler MkI in 1981 the market exploded for bowriders. Finally, here was a family sports boat that used all of the available hull space. You could accommodate a party of friends or just spread out with the array of seating and lounge options. These were comfortable boats, with thickly-upholstered seats and drop-down back-to-back seats that became sunlounges. However, there was more to the Hustler than just watersports. Being based on the strong and efficient deep-vee 570 hull, she easily converted to a serious rough-water contender. They’ve even been fitted with towers and outriggers for offshore gamefishing action!

Kevin Nichols tells an interesting tale about the Cruise Craft Hustler. It was at the 1981 Adelaide Boat Show where he spotted a pair of feet in brown shoes on the opposite side of his Hustler. It turned out to be Barry Spooner from International Marine / Caribbean, measuring the hull with the palm of his hand. Kevin offered him a tape measure and they both had a good laugh. The Caribbean Calais was born not long after.

Cruise Craft Hustlers were built in MkI and MkII models between 1981 and 1990 and they had a specified horsepower range of between 90-185hp. They went really well with 175hp Johnson Faststrike outbaords motors and Mercury engines. However, they still did okay with the 135hp Mercury or 140hp Johnson / Evinrude outboard motors.


Originally published in TrailerBoat #281, April / May 2012. Why not subscribe today? 


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