Home to the Sydney Opera House, shelter for the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroo paradise – these are just a few coveted titles Australia holds. And thanks to the hundreds of cruises leaving from its ports each year, these incredible Aussie amenities are very much in reach.

We’ve brought together all you need to know about sailing Down Under, including the best places to see in Australia and the cruises that will take you there.

The skinny

Australia is now so prevalent on cruisers’ radars that just about every major cruise line sails into these warm waters in one way or another. A handful of ships even call Australia home, boasting both large and small fleets that promise cruisers a vast and varied experience.

Australian cruises hit their peak between October and April in line with summertime Down Under – good news if you’re used to the mercury taking a dip during these months. What’s more, cruise lines tend to send more ships down to Australia during the Aussie summer, so finding an itinerary and the ship to match should be a cinch.

P&O Cruises’ sister branch P&O Cruises Australia have long been Australia’s most established line, with ships that sail out of most major ports and itineraries that range from more than two weeks to just a weekend. More recently, fellow lines CunardCarnival Cruise LinesHolland America Line and Seabourn– have joined in too. Royal Caribbean® also sends out hundreds of thousands of passengers each year, especially with the help of its big-time ship Ovation of the Seas®.

What’s especially great about cruising in, to and around Australia is that often these cruises are grouped with nearby island countries. If you’re already down this far south, you might as well get the most out of your surroundings. Trips to New Zealand are often grouped with Australian cruise holidays, as are adventures in Tasmania, Fiji and destinations in Asia. There are even UK to Australia cruises, maximising convenience and country spotting.

Top ports

Listed below are just a few of Australia’s top ports, as well as some cruises to see them on. Keep in mind that many of the cruises cross over ports, so there’s a good chance that if a cruise goes to one Australian destination that’s on your list, it’ll probably go to another as well.

Brisbane is the capital of Queensland, the Sunshine State. As the name suggests, expect beautiful beaches and glorious weather when you arrive in this port! A great base for exploring the nearby Gold Coast and home to the aptly named Surfer’s Paradise, Brisbane is the best port in Australia for getting your dose of sun, sea and surf.

Sydney

Watching the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge slowly drift into view is a highlight of most Australia cruises, as there are plenty of photo opportunities to be had here. It’s one of Australia’s most cosmopolitan cities and serves as a major port of call or launching point for many cruise companies.

Sydney is also a shopper’s paradise, so it’s a great place to fit in some retail therapy. Westfield shopping centre is a must, but if you’re lucky enough to dock on a weekend, there are dozens of markets all around the city where you can find something unique.

Cruises to Sydney

Australia & New Zealand from Sydney from Norwegian Cruise Line
Roundtrip Sydney from Royal Caribbean®

Brisbane

Brisbane is the capital of Queensland, the Sunshine State. As the name suggests, beautiful beaches and glorious weather come standard at this port. A great base for exploring the nearby Gold Coast and home to the aptly-named Surfer’s Paradise, Brisbane is the best port in Australia for getting your dose of sun, sea and surf.

Cruises to Brisbane

Sydney to Brisbane from Cunard
Southampton to Brisbane from P&O Cruises
Round Australia from Princess Cruises

Melbourne

Cool and cosmopolitan, Melbourne is the beating heart of Australia’s cultural scene. In addition to experiencing the city’s fantastic shopping, you can spend the best part of a day wandering around Melbourne’s many art galleries and renowned coffee houses.

For those who prefer a slightly different type of culture, Melbourne is also home to Ramsey Street, the setting to world-famous soap ‘Neighbours’. A visit here is a must for any TV addict.

Cruises to Melbourne

South Pacific, Australia & New Zealand Collector from Holland America Line
Australia & New Zealand from Holland America Line

Perth

Perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Perth lies on the Western coast of Australia. If you love your wine, then Perth is a fantastic place to visit. Crisscrossed with vineyards, it’s a great place to get a taste of the local vino or bring back a bottle of your own – just be sure to check your ship’s requirements on how much alcohol you can bring onboard beforehand.

Alternatively, you could spend your day in port exploring Kings Park, one of the largest inner-city parks in the world. In addition to some of the best views in the city, it’s home to the Botanic Gardens which burst with beautiful displays of flowers and plants – making for one seriously colourful mid-afternoon stroll.

Cruises to Perth

Australia and New Zealand Cruise from Royal Caribbean®
Northern Australia Explorer from Princess Cruises

Cairns

Cairns is a must-visit for nature lovers as it’s the gateway to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. From here, you can book your snorkelling trip and get ready to weave through the reef’s colourful coral, marvelling at its diverse wildlife which includes thousands of species of molluscs, coral reef, sharks, whales and turtles. It is, without a doubt, an experience of a lifetime.

Cruises to Cairns

Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef from Princess Cruises
Australia Top End from Royal Caribbean®

Those may be a few of our favourite ports, but they’re by no means your only options.

Images by Tim Archer, Bertknot, Nickj Wikimedia Commons, Bill Harrison and Amanda Slater under a creative commons licence.  

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