In a previous installment of Avid Cruiser Voyages, we wrote about the natural splendors that awaited cruisers in New Zealand. It’s almost impossible, however, to talk about New Zealand without mentioning another country, equally as fascinating and diverse, located just a few days’ cruise away. We’re talking, of course, about the land Down Under – and the excitement of Australia cruises.
Where New Zealand is largely lush and verdant, Australia represents a fascinating mix of cosmopolitan cities and vast open spaces. It is a country that sports six climate zones ranging from tropical to desert. It is a land of contrasts that has often dubbed the “island continent.”
Australia features the desert expanses of the Outback, where you’ll find kangaroos, koalas, wombats and the platypus. Equally stunning is the Great Barrier Reef, an underwater wonderland teeming with marine life. Ships and human occupation are closely monitored and regulated, so expect your cruise ship to pass well away from this protected area.
Australia also boasts breathtaking cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne. Often called the most spectacular harbor in the world to enter via a cruise ship, Sydney’s famed Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge await guests on deck and evoke the spirit of “G’Day!”
Not surprisingly, most Australian cruises begin and end in the beautiful city of Syndey. Home to nearly 5 million inhabitants, Sydney is arguably the most vibrant, cosmopolitan city Down Under. But while most Australia cruises may begin and end with Sydney, Australia definitely doesn’t.
The vast majority of cruises offered around Australia will likely also include ports in New Zealand, and can even originate as far away as the Hawaiian Islands. Frequently, these voyages can also include ports of call in Bali, Indonesia, and even the South Pacific paradise that is Tahiti. How far your ship travels really depends on the duration of your voyage, and whether it is intended as a repositioning cruise or not.
While it happens less frequently, a few lines do offer one or two voyages that complete either a partial or full circumnavigation of Australia, but beware: A full circumnavigation can take up to a month to complete, and even a partial navigation can last up to 20 days or more with plenty of sea days interspersed in between. Maps don’t adequately showcase the size and scale of this massive country.
Regardless of cruise length, there is no shortage of interesting, diverse and convenient ports for cruise ships of all shapes and sizes in Australia.
North of Sydney, the city of Brisbane is the capital of the Australian state of Queensland. Cruisers who enjoy shopping would do well to visit the open-air Queen Street Mall, while the Queensland Maritime Museum offers a fascinating display of lighthouses, marine engines, and shipwreck information for those interested in the country’s nautical heritage.
Across the country, in Western Australia, the port of Fremantle (near Perth) is a popular turnaround port for cruise ships on longer partial-circumnavigation runs. Known as Freo to the locals, it’s tough to beat the white sand and azure seas of nearby Port Beach. But the city itself also boasts a remarkable number of astonishingly well-preserved 19th century buildings and streets in Fremantle’s downtown core.
Visitors to Fremantle can also see the oldest building in Western Australia firsthand: the 1830-built stone prison known as The Round House. Used for colonial and indigenous prisoners until 1886, this imposing structure became a police lockup, then the living quarters of the Chief Constable and his family. Plans were already afoot to turn The Round House into a museum by the late 1930s, but the onset of World War II intervened, and it wasn’t until the late 1960s that it finally achieved this purpose and opened to the public for the first time.
On some cruises, overland journeys may be offered to the famous Ayers Rock. Situated 335 kilometers from the nearest town (440 if driving), this stunning plateau rises nearly 3,000 feet from the earth and illustrates just how vast and unyielding Australia’s inland areas are.
Read more about many of the ports in Australia in Cruising Down Under In Photos & Videos: Highlights Of Australia & New Zealand On Silver Shadow
Whether you circumnavigate the country or merely visit its eastern shores, Australia is one of those Avid Cruiser destinations that makes the long journey worthwhile — and abundantly rewarding.