Beautiful Australian Ports of Call and the Cruise Lines that Visit Them

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May 24, 2016

by KARLA COURTNEY, Writer and Family Travel Specialist

Along Australia’s 25,760 kilometres of coastline you’ll find it all: lush rainforest, ancient rock formations, white-sand beaches, world-class wineries, quaint towns and cosmopolitan harbours. If there was ever a country made for cruise holidays, surely this is it. Where to start? Here are seven of our favourite ports of call and how to enjoy them.

Broome, Western Australia

Why we love it
While Broome is a beautiful beach holiday destination in itself, it’s also the gateway to the Kimberley Coast, where rugged red rock panels are punctuated by waterfalls, gorges and Indigenous artworks. It’s so remote and untouched that most of it is accessible only by sea.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Take a flight to view the Horizontal Falls, a natural phenomenon where millions of litres of water gushes through two narrow gorges. As the name suggests, it looks like a waterfall moving horizontally on top of the sea.

Cruise line to try
APT specialises in luxury river and small-ship cruises and is currently offering several sailings between Broome and Darwin, on board MS Caledonian Sky, touring the Kimberley Coast and the Top End of the Northern Territory. Learn more

SEE ALSO: One Perfect Week in the Kimberley

The rugged Kimberley Coast, Western Australia


Why we love it
Your ship docks right at the city centre at Circular Quay. With the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in view, this has to be one of the flashiest places in the world to disembark.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Do the coastal walk from Bronte to Bondi, exploring beautiful, rugged coastline on the way to one of Sydney’s most iconic spots, Bondi Beach. Bronte and Bondi are a 10-kilometre taxi ride from Circular Quay. Give yourself 30 minutes each way to account for traffic.

Cruise lines to try
Royal Caribbean’s latest ship, Ovation of the Seas, will be the largest ship to visit Australia. Cruises from Sydney on this ship start in January 2017. Learn more

Cunard offers a number of itineraries calling at Sydney as a part of the cruise line’s world cruise itineraries. Learn more

P&O Cruises Australia’s new ship, Pacific Explorer, will join the fleet in 2017, offering several itineraries departing from and calling at Sydney. Learn more

SEE ALSO: Plan your trip with our full Sydney travel guide

Airlie Beach, Queensland

Why we love it
This small town bursts with visitors seeking the ultimate Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef experiences: white-sand beaches, verdant islands and vibrant sea life.

If you only have time for one excursion…
It’s a toss-up between a sailing tour through the Whitsunday Islands or spending an afternoon snorkelling. Depends on how wet you want to get.

Cruise line to try
Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess and Sea Princess call at Airlie Beach, with a few itineraries available from September 2016. Learn more

Whitehaven Beach
Aerial view of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Queensland

Busselton, Western Australia

Why we love it
This beautiful and quiet beach town is also the gateway to the Margaret River wine region. It’s relatively new to the cruise scene – in November 2014, Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess was the first ship to call at Busselton.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Do a Margaret River wine tour and have a lazy lunch. We recommend booking a table on the terrace at Leeuwin Estate. The food, the wine and the views overlooking the manicured gardens and grapevines are impeccable. By road, the distance from the port to Margaret River is about 55 kilometres.

Cruise lines to try
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will visit Busselton as part of the cruise line’s world cruise itineraries in early 2017 and 2018. Learn more

Princess Cruises will offer itineraries that call at Busselton starting in December 2016. Learn more

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Why we love it
Located off the south coast of Australia, about 110 kilometres from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is unique in that it’s quite a large land mass that was spared most of the impacts of European settlement and is a true wildlife reserve with some of the most spectacular and untouched flora and fauna in the country. And yes, you will see kangaroos – in fact, the island is home to its own smaller breed that has longer, darker brown fur.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Book a 4WD safari that includes visits to Seal Bay (home to one of Australia’s largest sea lion colonies) and Flinders Chase National Park (the location of the Remarkable Rocks).

Cruise line to try
Holland America Line offers a number of itineraries, on board MS Maasdam, calling at Kangaroo Island. Learn more

Remarkable Rocks
The Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Hobart, Tasmania

Why we love it
Tasmania’s capital offers natural beauty, exquisite food and wine experiences and one of the most unique private art museums in the world.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Catch a ferry to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Located on Hobart’s naturally beautiful Berriedale peninsula, it houses the vast and eclectic art collection of Australian businessman David Walsh and is Australia’s largest privately funded museum. The ride is 30 minutes each way and offers lovely views of Hobart harbour.

Cruise lines to try
Princess Cruises has several itineraries that call at Hobart. We recommend one that also sails by Wineglass Bay you won’t go ashore but you will get a spectacular view. Learn more

Carnival Australia offers a number of Tasmanian cruise itineraries that call at Hobart. Learn more 

SEE ALSO: Plan your trip with our full Hobart travel guide

MONA, Hobart, Tasmania

Lizard Island and Ribbon Reefs, Queensland

Why we love it
To experience the vastness of the Great Barrier Reef, you must go to its outer reaches. Lizard Island, 250 kilometres north of Cairns, is one of the most remote spots on the reef you can visit. The island is home to a national park and perfect beaches and offers some of the best snorkelling you’ll find. About 20 kilometres east of Lizard Island is the tip of Ribbon Reef 10, one of 10 long, thin reefs that together stretch for more than 80 kilometres. This is one of the most famed diving spots on the reef and is accessible only by boat.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Take any opportunity you can to get into the water.

Cruise lines to try
and Holland America Line both offer itineraries that allow you to go ashore on Lizard Island and spend an afternoon sailing in the Ribbon Reefs region.

Pictured at top: Cunard Royal Rendezvous event in Sydney