Australia is regularly voted one of the world's top cruise destinations. Why? Some say it's the endless summer weather or the oversupply of beaches, while experts suggest it could be Sydney's scenic, natural harbor and iconic landmarks, including the opera house and Harbour Bridge. Australia is also much more than just Sydney. Coastal cruises visit the other major port cities and open up opportunities to venture inland to wineries, national parks, tourist attractions and shopping precincts.
It is quite feasible to begin or end a cruise at most Australia ports, extending your vacation with a land tour extension. Let's face it: Australia is a long way to travel for most folks, so why not make full use of your time Down Under and add on an outback tour to Uluru or Alice Springs?
best time for australia cruises
Australia is a year-round cruise destination, although the so-called "Wave Season" (October to April) is when Aussies go particularly cruise-crazy, and you'll find the greatest choice of departures, vessels and itineraries. While winters (June to August) in the southern states can be chilly, you won't need snow shoes or thermal undies. Summers (December through February) can be hot -- darned hot -- so if you're visiting over the Christmas period, be prepared with wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen and water bottles for those days when temperatures get into the 30s Celsius (high 80s and 90s Fahrenheit).
Sydney - Beyond the immediate port district and city, organized (full-day) shore tours can take you as far as the scenic UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains or even the famous 4,000-acre Hunter Valley wine district for some "tipple and tucker." the downtown precinct immediately around the Overseas Passenger Terminal in The Rocks makes for a fascinating exploration, easily done independently on foot.
Stroll across the Harbour Bridge (or climb it), visit the opera house, meander through the gorgeous botanic gardens or, if time permits, take an inexpensive ferry down the harbor to Manly.
Melbourne - Australia's second-most populous city is proud of its non-convict heritage and therefore conducts itself with an air of cultural superiority. Much urban renewal has taken place around the port area, but many of the historic buildings have been preserved and converted for commercial and retail use.
A guided or self-guided walk around Flinders Street and Federation Square reveals a quirky, semi secret underground of cool boutiques, cafes, vintage shops and backstreet chic. Away from Melbourne, day-tours are typically offered to Phillip Island, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula or Dandenong Ranges.
Brisbane - Playfully christened "BrisVegas" by locals and visitors alike, the most northern of the eastern seaboard capitals enjoys a reputation for lively nightlife in a semitropical environment. While all-day and half-day city tours around Brisbane will keep most cruisers busy, there is an option for longer trips to Steve Irwin's famous Australia Zoo or one of the exciting theme parks along the Gold Coast. Natural attractions like Mt. Tamborine and the rainforests of the Canungra Valley are also on offer.
Sophisticated city galleries and rooftop bars, desolate subtropical beaches, cool-climate vineyards: the greater Brisbane region deals in Queensland's most gasp-inducing contrasts. Star of the show is Brisbane itself, a lush, sultry metropolis with flourishing restaurant, bar and cultural scenes that attest to its coming of age.