Cruising Australia By Sea

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You don’t need a motorhome to visit many of Australia’s iconic cities Why not take the strain out of exploring your own backyard, and take a cruise instead?

The deep, frigid waters of Carnarvon Bay are shimmering in the early morning light, as the ship steers in from the Tasman Sea and prepares to drop anchor in Masons Cove. In the distance, encircled by brooding hills, are the haunting buildings comprising Port Arthur Historic Site; one of the world’s largest and best preserved nineteenth-century penal colonies is literally on your doorstep. Standing on deck you can’t help but catch your breath in the cool morning air. In the convict era for which this site is famous, most people - convicts or otherwise - arrived by ship. Australia is consistently voted one of the world's top cruise destinations for good reason. For some, it's the promise of endless summer coupled with an oversupply of beaches, while for others, it’s all about the allure of its cultural and natural treasures. Here’s our top pick of some of our most popular and iconic ports of call.

In the world of cruising you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all about Sydney. A historic and beautiful port city, for cruise passengers key sightseeing is on the doorstep of any ship docked at Circular Quay, with The Rocks precinct surrounding the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the Harbour Bridge forming part of the backdrop, and the Opera House and Botanic Gardens just a short walk away. Beyond the city, a shore excursion can take you as far as the UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains, or even the famous 4,000-acre Hunter Valley wine district for "a tipple and some tucker.”


Cruising is more than just the New South Wales glamour city, however. In Brisbane, passengers have the chance to explore one of the most desirable places to live in the country, head south to the beaches and theme parks of the Gold Coast, or venture inland to enjoy natural attractions including Mt. Tamborine and the rainforests of the Canungra Valley. Further north, for many people a visit to the Great Barrier Reef is something else to tick off their bucket list. Besides scenic cruising past tiny islands, reefs and secluded beaches, from Airlie Beach you can explore the spectacular Whitsundays, and go snorkelling or scuba diving to discover its colourful marine life. There’s also Cairns, the “gateway to North Queensland”, and an oversized tropical village with its own attractions beyond its natural resources, a key one of which is the ancient Daintree Rainforest. 

The Top End

Venture across Australia’s “Top End” by sea, however, and you really feel like a seafaring explorer, with vast open spaces and a steamy climate enhancing the sense of adventure. Darwin is widely recognised as a foodies haven, and a gateway city to some of the country’s most acclaimed wildlife and national parks. At Territory Wildlife Park you can observe and learn about birds of prey, dingoes and crocodiles, while at Litchfield National Park it’s all about the landscape, from giant termite mounds, and monsoonal rainforest, to towering waterfalls.

The Kimberleys

Further west, a scenic cruise past the Kimberleys should not be missed if on offer, revealing a rugged coastline where dramatic red cliffs meet azure ocean. It’s a remote slice of the country famous for healthy reefs and biodiversity, and as a result, it’s a prime spot for spotting turtles, manta rays and humpback whales. Southwards towards Perth, Broome is a likely stop on many itineraries, a Kimberley outpost and former “pearling capital of the world” enjoying a rich Japanese, Chinese and Indigenous heritage.

The West

Fremantle is a thriving cruising hub, offering access to cosmopolitan Perth and the entire west coast. It is also a port which has embraced its maritime roots and become a destination in itself with interesting museums, quirky pubs and shopping areas. Head to the “big smoke”, however, and you can explore Kings Park, the Zoo, and the famous Perth Mint, and if you’ve ever fancied swimming with wild dolphins, you can do that there too. Beyond the city’s glittering skyline is another alluring option, however; the Swan Valley is ideal for a "foodie frolic" at its countless wineries, restaurants, breweries and distilleries. Further south is Busselton, from where you can explore photogenic Geographe Bay, the sun-drenched seaside town of Dunsborough, and Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, a spectacular area marked by rugged limestone sea cliffs. There’s also the Margaret River wine region, famous for complex Chardonnay, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, earthy Cabernet Sauvignon, and peppery Shiraz types.

The South

Heading eastwards from the southern tip of Western Australia, Adelaide is often described as "a big country town”, and a city of arts with expansive parks and gardens, museums and art galleries begging for exploration. And beyond the city, easy shore excursions take in the famous wine districts of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Melbourne is another great Australian capital, the country’s second-most populous city with a proud sporting history. A walk around Flinders Street and Federation Square, however, reveals a quirky, semi-secret underground of cool boutiques, cafes, vintage shops and backstreet chic, while away from CBD, Phillip Island and its delightful fairy penguins beckon, or you can head out to the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula or Dandenong Ranges to enjoy their wealth of gastronomic and winery options. 


Back in Tasmania, a new popular cruise destination, ports of call on offer include the quaint seaside town of Burnie on the Bass Strait, Wineglass Bay in the east which frames the spectacular Freycinet National Park, and historic Port Arthur on the rugged southeastern coastline. Also on many people’s bucket list is the Tasmanian capital of Hobart. Set on a beautiful harbour with the imposing Mount Wellington as a backdrop, alluring options for cruise passengers here include visiting Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can see endangered Tasmanian Devils, and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), now one of Australia’s top ranked cultural attractions.

For a great selection of luxe-for-less cruise holiday ideas, visit our sister website,

Joanna Hall