Cruising in Australasia can be anything from a nine-night cruise around the Kimberley in Northern Australia, to a couple of weeks taking in the highlights of Australia and New Zealand.
There are also voyages of a month or more sailing around the continent of Australia, and voyages from Australia to the South Pacific.
A few cruise lines are based in Australia year-round, but others either position ships in the region for the Antipodean summer (the UK’s winter), with Sydney a favourite port , or visit as part of a world cruise. Favourite ports include Fremantle (for Perth), Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, where most ships will stay at least one night.
Several cruise lines have voyages to the South Pacific from Australia, but the region is also on most world cruise itineraries and companies including Paul Gauguin and Windstar have ships based there year round.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
This modern city, the former capital of New Zealand, sits between the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea, which makes
it ideally located for cruises to the Bay of Islands. Ships clock at Princes Wharf, in the main waterfront area. The city’s main attraction is the Sky Towc1; rising to more than 1,000 feet; you can admire the views or, if you’re feeling daring, leap off on a bungee jump to plummet more than 600 feet! OuiSidc the city limits, visit the wine-growing region or take a full-day trip to the thermal wonders of Rotorua with its collection of geysers and geothermal springs.
Visiting cruise ships clock either at the city’s cruise terminal at Portsicle Wharf or the freight terminal. From both locations, it is taxi ride or shuttle bus into the city. Alternatively, from the wharf, hop on one of the fast ferries that ply the Brisbane River. It flows past one of Brisbane’s main attractions the South Bank Parklands, built (or the World Expo in 1988. For some animal magic, visit the Lone Pinc Koala Sanctuary to sec these cuddly creatures close up or visit the zoo established by naturalist Steve Irwin. For some beach time, head to Surfer’s Paradise, a 90-minute drive away.
BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
The South Pacific offers a remote idyllic escape and this ultimate island retreat, with lush tropical peaks and surrounded by bright turq uoise waters, boasts a classic desert island feel. Cruise ships generally anchor in Pofai Bay and take passengers ashore by tender. One of the most popular excursions is an island tour i n a truck or a bumpy 4×4 adventure. Alternatively, the clear waters of the lagoon lend themselves to glass-bottom boat rides, snorkelling trips and even helmet dives. Don’t miss refreshments at the island’s celebrity watering hole, Bloody Mary’s.
Cairns is the gateway to one of Australia’s most famous attractions – the Great Barrier Reef (some cruise companies alternatively drop anchor at Yorkey’s Knob, a beach location about 45 minutes outside the city). While day trips to the Great Barrier Reef are arguably the top draw, you can take the two-hour drive to Daintree National Park or jump on the Kuranda Scenic Railway that trundles through the rainforest to the tourist village of Kuranda.
The city, at the mouth of the Swan River, is the gateway to Perth, some 12 miles away. If you’re in town for a day, you’ll have to choose between visiting Fremantle or Perth as it isn’t really possible to do both. Fremantle is more convenient and there are free shuttle buses into the town, where attractions include the Western Australian Maritime Museum. If you choose Perth, take a city tour and finish with a boat ride back to Fremantle. Attractions outside the city include the Yanchep National Park and mysterious limestone pillars in the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park.
Atmospheric and cosmopolitan, Melbourne is a captivating hub that is easy to get around, helped by a quirky and efficient tram system that links the port with the city. The tram stop is a few minutes walk from the cruise pier and it takes 20 minutes to get into town. Of course there are also taxis. If you want to stay close to the city, take a cruise along the Yarra River or visit the Federation Square entertainment complex and open-air Queen Victoria Market. Further afield , ride the Puffing Billy steam train, relive the region’s gold rush era at the outdoor interactive museum at Sovereign Hill or go deep into the countryside of the Yarra Valley to sample the local wineries.
Sailing into the world’s largest and most iconic harbour, under its famous bridge and past the distinctive Sydney Opera House, is an unforgettable experience and an attraction in itself. Harbour cruises showcase the city’s different neighbourhoods, while the harbour bridge climb is an exhilarating way to get the best views. Take in a concert at the Sydney Opera House, stride out along the sands of Bondi Beach or Manley, the epitome of Aussie outdoor life, or join a walking tour of The Rocks, the city’s historic heart, filled with shops and restaurants. Ships dock either at Circular Quay, the hub of the capital’s transport links on land and water, or Barangaroo in Darling Harbour. Some ships also moor in the harbour, and bring passengers into Darling Harbour by tender.
Many cruises through the South Pacific start and end here; ships dock on the waterfront in the city, which is a busy place with a French feel. The city’s covered market is a colourful draw while the Museum of Tahiti and the Gauguin museum, which recounts the artist Paul Gauguin’s life and works, are worth visiting. Those in search of the island’s Polynesian culture and natural beauty should leave Papeete to explore Tahiti’s rugged east coast and the lagoons in the west. There are also 4×4 jeep safaris and hikes in the rainforest.
WELLINGTON , NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand’s capital is perfect for exploring on foot and is within reach of both cruise moorings – Aotea Quay, where larger ships dock, is a 20-minute walk away while Queens Wharf is in the centre of the city. Buses and taxis are plentiful. For the best views take the cable car from Lambton Quay to Kelburn and for the best insight into the country’s history visit the impressive national museum, Te Papa. The capital’s botanic garden and nau tical museum are popular draws; Lord of the Rings fans can take tours to key locations used in the films. Explore the surrounding landscape on a trip into the adjacent wine country and visit a nearby fur seal colony.