Whether an Australian port forms part of your cruise itinerary or marks your point of embarkation, this vast island holds many ports which showcase some of its natural wonders, rich culture, mouth-watering fare, and abundant wildlife. Australian ports of call offer a banquet of experiences for all tastes and the climate isn’t too bad either.
Steph from Cruise with Amber spent 10 months travelling around Australia and in this post, she takes us on a short tour around some of the main Australian ports you’re likely to encounter on a cruise.
Visiting Adelaide on a Cruise
The capital of South Australia, Adelaide is the port to visit for foodies and wine buffs. This port also acts as a perfect stepping off point to explore deeper into South Australia’s wine country (world famous McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley are all accessible on shore excursions).
The Adelaide Cruise Terminal is located approximately 30 minutes’ drive and 15km out of the city. Set out on a compact grid system, Adelaide is an easy port to explore on your own. Browse around the vibrant Central Market or take in some of Adelaide’s bustling restaurant scene. If you are feeling slightly more energetic, then you may wish to head out on a 4km hike from Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty or even Roof Climb the Adelaide Oval.
For those who prefer more sedate activities, Adelaide is not short of fantastic museums and art galleries, along with the outstanding Botanic Gardens. There’s even time to jump on a tram to head down to Adelaide’s Glenelg beach if you want to dip your toes in the Gulf of St Vincent.
Visiting Melbourne on a Cruise
Melbourne is a port to visit for culture vultures and sports fans alike. Situated about 50km north of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, do not fall into the trap of thinking that Melbourne is Sydney’s lesser sister. The state capital of Victoria, Melbourne is most definitely worthy of a longer stay (or a return visit).
Time your cruise right and you could combine your call to this port with a visit to the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne’s Albert Park or watch part of the Australian Open from the Rod Laver Arena, or cricket fans can head to the famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for a guided tour.
If you have time and like to explore a little more off the beaten track – a 6km or 30 min tram ride to St Kilda immerses you in Melbourne’s Boho culture with some impressive colonial architecture - and a visit to Luna Park is a must for vintage amusement park vibes. Head a little further down the Sandringham tramline to visit the colourful bathing boxes on Brighton Beach. If you have a few days in Melbourne then a trip along the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles is highly recommended.
If you want to stick closer to Melbourne’s Centre, a cruise on the Yarra River is a must and a stroll along the South Bank and South Wharf will keep you topped up with plenty of waterfront bars, restaurants, and cafes, punctuated by the occasional art installation.
Visiting Freemantle on a Cruise
Freemantle serves as the port of Perth, the state capital of Western Australia. The port is located approx. 20km out of the centre of the Perth metropolitan area at the mouth of the Swan River. To give you an idea of how vast Australia is, Perth is closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney.
While this might be one of Australia’s more isolated state capitals, Perth is a cosmopolitan oasis and certainly packs a lot in. Discover more about the gold rush’s role in the city’s explosive growth at Perth Mint (one of the world’s oldest operating mints) or take a stroll around Kings Park and Botanic Garden (an inner-city green space which makes New York’s Central Park look small in comparison). Perth also has an impressive array of beautiful beaches, eateries, and markets to peruse.
Head a little further out to discover the vineyards of the Margret River and Swan Valley or take a short ferry crossing to Rottnest Island nature reserve and spot a Quokka – dubbed "the happiest animal on earth" by National Geographic.
Visiting Cairns on a Cruise
Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef Cairns is located in North Queensland. Situated at just 16 degrees south of the equator, Cairns also benefits from a tropical climate. The cruise port is located in the centre of Cairns and if you’re flying in, the airport is only 8km to the north.
In and around Cairns there is plenty to do, but there are tropical jewels to discover if you have time to venture little further afield. If Cairns is the point at which you join your cruise, it might be worth arriving in port a few days before you embark or add on an extra few days to your itinerary when you disembark to explore more of what this corner of Australia has to offer. The flora and fauna in this part of Australia is a varied as it is enthralling.
Take a day trip to Fitzroy Island for crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and azure seas, or plan a longer boat trip over few days diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. If you have time perhaps explore Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest; with this combo, you can cover off two UNESCO World Heritage sites from Cairns in a matter of days.
PADI qualified divers and recreational snorkelers alike are spoiled with the richness and breath-taking beauty of the Great Barrier reef and The Daintree Rainforest is famed for its biodiversity – Cassowaries, Crocodiles, Butterflies, Marsupials and dare I say it – insects and arachnids.
For shorter shore experiences, there is much on offer, take a trip on one of Australia’s most spectacular train journeys: the Kuranda Scenic Railway which takes in panoramic views of the Barron Gorge National Park or alternatively you can fly through the tree canopies on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Whatever the length of your stay in port, Cairns offers a great based for adventurers.
Visiting Brisbane on a Cruise
The state capital of Queensland, Brisbane is the river city. Naturally, as a river city, the best place to get your bearings is from the water; You can either opt to travel with the locals on the CityCat or choose a more classic and relaxed lunch or high tea on the Kookaburra Queen or a morning cruise on MV Neptune. If you want to get a bird’s eye view over the whole Brisbane cityscape, then head up to Mount Coot-tha, 302 metres above sea level, located 6km to the west of the city. While you’re up at Mount Coot-tha, take time to explore the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and the Brisbane Botanic Gardens (not to be confused with Brisbane City Botanic gardens).
Exploring Brisbane is not complete without a visit to the South Bank which can be accessed via CityCat. Here you’ll be spoilt for choice for places to eat and drink and 17 hectares of lush parklands to stroll around (a picturesque walk through the Grand Arbour when the bouganvilleas are in full bloom is a must). South Bank is also home to Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre and Queensland Maritime Museum.
For a quintessential Australian photo opportunity – head to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and hold a Koala. Need a bit of retail therapy? Then head straight to Paddington for boutique shopping at its finest. If you visit in the winter (June – November) then a whale watching cruise is a must as Moreton Bay becomes a whale-watching paradise. If you have a bit longer to visit, then head out to Moreton Bay Island or south to the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise.
Visiting Sydney on a Cruise
A cruise which sails into or departs from Sydney Harbour should definitely be on your bucket list! The most popular Australian cruise port for international cruise passengers, Sydney’s iconic landscape and vibrant atmosphere makes this an excellent addition to any Australasian itinerary.
Whether it’s climbing the Sydney Harbour bridge (don’t forget to blow a kiss to Blinky Bill when you’re at the summit), dipping your toes in the water at Bondi Beach, joining a guided tour around the Opera House, or taking in the breath-taking views of the Sydney Skyline from Taronga Zoo or the Botanical Gardens, Sydney delivers on all levels. If you want to take it up another level – then make your way up to the Sydney Tower Eye for 360-degree views over Port Jackson and beyond.
If your itinerary departs from or terminates at Sydney Harbour, I strongly suggest you elongate your holiday with at least a few days to acclimatise and allow yourself the opportunity to take in more of this vibrant corner of New South Wales. If time allows shore experiences a little further afield such as the Blue Mountains National Park are not to be missed.