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Cruising In Australia - Port Highlights

Ben Hall

Australia is consistently voted one of the world's top cruise destinations thank to its endless summer weather, an oversupply of beaches, and a lineup of great departure points including Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. While Sydney is still firmly the hub of Australia’s cruising world, there are ports around the country, both large and small, that welcome cruise ships of all sizes, even the larger ones. Here’s our A-Z of the key ones.

Adelaide: It’s often described by larger sibling cities as "a big country town," but Adelaide combines a trend towards the arts with a relaxed, semi rural atmosphere. The port welcomes ships transiting between the east and west coasts, and the remote Outer Harbour requires a train, bus or taxi to take visitors to the city centre, where expansive parks and gardens, museums and art galleries await exploration. Further afield, you can take day-trips to the famous wine districts of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.  

Brisbane: Dubbed "BrisVegas" by locals and visitors alike, the most northern of the eastern seaboard capitals has a reputation thanks to its subtropical climate, and a lively dining and nightlife scene. While all-day and half-day city tours around Brisbane will keep most cruise passengers busy, you can also opt to get up close and personal with wildlife at Steve Irwin's famous Australia Zoo or at one of the Gold Coast’s theme parks. Natural attractions like Mt. Tamborine and the rainforests of the Canungra Valley are also on offer for anyone seeking something a bit different. 

Cairns: The “gateway to North Queensland” is a hub for visitors exploring the Great Barrier Reef, and the region’s famous Daintree Rainforest including Kuranda. The city is easy-going, and like an oversized tropical village with a reputation as a backpacker haven, but over the past 20 years it has evolved into a quite sophisticated city with attractions beyond the natural. Besides quaint cafés and top quality restaurants, it’s also become a haven for duty-free shopping.   

Darwin: This is another major northern gateway city, predominantly to the ‘Top End’s’ spectacular national wildlife parks. It also has a well earned bit of a reputation as a hard-partying town, with a distinctly outback attitude to life, but in recent years that’s changed. Darwin has a new focus as a foodie’s haven as well as being a genuine multicultural city. Although it lacks sightseeing opportunities beyond the national parks outside of town, a visit to one of its many colourful markets is a great way to discover the heart and soul of the place. 

Fremantle/Perth: Besides offering port access to Perth, Fremantle has become a destination in itself, with a small collection of interesting museums and quirky pubs, cafés and shopping areas to welcome cruise passengers. Meanwhile tours to Perth will take you to Kings Park, the Zoo, the famous Perth Mint or into the glorious Swan Valley for a "foodie frolic" at the area's wineries, restaurants, breweries and distilleries, as well as local markets. And if you fancy swimming with wild dolphins, you can do that there, too. 

Hobart: Tasmania’s capital is an increasingly popular port of call on many Australian itineraries for good reason. A small city set on a beautiful harbour, with the imposing Mount Wellington as a dramatic backdrop, Hobart fuses beautiful architecture and scenery, with a strong colonial heritage. In the early 1800s, Tasmania was settled as a British penal colony when it was known as Van Diemen’s Land, and today, fortunately for visitors, much of the original architecture from that period remains intact and ripe for exploring. 

Melbourne: Australia's second-most populous city has a proud sporting history which includes the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the picturesque Albert Park Grand Prix circuit. Around the port area there’s been plenty of urban renewal, but many historic buildings have been preserved and converted for commercial or retail use. A walk around Flinders Street and Federation Square reveals a quirky collection of cool boutiques, cafes, vintage shops and backstreet chic. And beyond the city limits on day-tours you can head to Phillip Island to be entertained by Fairy Penguins, or venture to the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula or Dandenong Ranges, where a wealth of gastronomic and winery options awaits. 

Sydney: First settled by British convicts and their overseers in 1788, Sydney is both historic and beautiful, and an ideal place for cruise passengers to explore. The Rocks is on the doorstep of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, and can be independently explored on foot. Other options including taking a stroll across the Harbour Bridge, taking a selfie at the Opera House steps, wandering through the Botanic Gardens or, if time permits, taking ferry ride across the harbour to Manly. Department stores and boutiques, trending restaurants, and quaint pubs are a just a stone's throw away, and beyond the city, shore tours can take you to the scenic Blue Mountains or the 4,000-acre Hunter Valley wine district. 


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  1. Posted by on 8th Oct 2018 Verified Customer

    Can't Beat Oz 5 Star Review

    We're living here for a few years for my husband's work and we love cruising here. The first cruise was P&O which wasn't that great, but then we went on Celebrity to NZ and haven't looked back. We're from the USA and yes, we were new cruisers!

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