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Coral Expeditions at King Cascade Falls
A Coral Expeditions' excursion to the jaw-dropping King Cascade Falls on the southern Kimberley coast (Image: Coral Expeditions)

A Complete Guide to Australia Cruise Ports: From Tropical Cairns to Cosmopolitan Sydney

Coral Expeditions at King Cascade Falls
A Coral Expeditions' excursion to the jaw-dropping King Cascade Falls on the southern Kimberley coast (Image: Coral Expeditions)
Caroline Gladstone
Kerry Spencer

Last updated
May 9, 2024

Australia is a vast and beautiful country with a dazzling array of cruise ports in all corners of the compass.

For those in the know, Australia represents buzzy and diverse cities, from Perth in Western Australia to Brisbane in Queensland, plus luscious rainforests, miles of pristine white beaches and extraordinary nature (think koalas, crocs and kangaroos).

There are the culture-rich cities of Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney to explore. Rolling vineyards to imbibe at in the Margaret River region and wild canyons and waterfalls to marvel at in the Kimberley.

Whether you live in Australia and are considering a domestic cruise or are planning a bucket-list trip Down Under, here's your complete guide (clockwise from Sydney) to Australia cruise ports.

Sydney, New South Wales

Ovation of the Seas alongside in Sydney, Australia (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
Ovation of the Seas alongside in Sydney, Australia (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Home of the famous Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, Sydney is Australia's stellar city. The beautiful Royal Botanic Garden, ocean beaches and Taronga Zoo on the harbour's edge are must-dos.

Eden, New South Wales

A relative newcomer to some itineraries, Eden is a gorgeous town where whale-watching has replaced the profitable whaling industry of the 19th century. Historic Boydtown, Davidson Whaling Station and the fascinating Killer Whale Museum vividly tell Eden's stories.

Melbourne, Victoria

Cityscape Image of Melbourne, Australia (Photo: iPostnikov/Shutterstock)
Cityscape Image of Melbourne, Australia (Photo: iPostnikov/Shutterstock)

Australia's second largest city, Melbourne is situated on the Yarra River and has a European charm with stately 19th-century buildings and a great tram network. Beyond the city highlights of Melbourne Cricket Ground, St. Kilda Beach and the Victoria Market, there are daytrips to the gold-mining town of Ballarat and the Mornington Peninsula wineries.

Hobart, Tasmania

Hobart (Photo:Joel Everard/Shutterstock)
Hobart, is the charming capital of Tasmania (Photo:Joel Everard/Shutterstock)

Historic Salamanca Place and Constitution Dock (the finishing line for the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race) are right by Hobart cruise terminal. The headline-grabbing MONA art gallery is worth a visit via ferry, as is the very English town of Richmond, nearby wineries and a hike to Mt. Wellington for spectacular views.

Burnie, Tasmania

Located on the north-west coast, Burnie is the gateway to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The park is dominated by the mountain with its four dramatic summits and several glacial lakes. Closer attractions to Bernie include the town of Stanley, whose main attraction is a plateau called The Nut, and the cute town of Penguin to the east. A call at the Makers' Workshop in Burnie itself offers cheese-tasting and handmade crafts.

Port Arthur, Tasmania

Around 95km south of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur is the best-preserved convict site in Australia. From 1833 until 1877, Port Arthur, (named after the governor of Van Dieman's Land – the former name of Tasmania) was the destination for those deemed the most hardened of convicted British criminals. It consists of 11 buildings, including the convict-built church, famous for having no roof, the guard's tower and a huge penitentiary.  

Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide (Photo:ymgerman/Shutterstock)
Adelaide is a vibrant city filled with art, culture and fabulous food (Photo:ymgerman/Shutterstock)

A charming city with historic buildings at every turn, Adelaide, the capital of South Australia is the gateway to several excellent wine-growing regions, including the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Adelaide's fine produce can be sampled at the city's Central Market and at Maggie Beer's Farm Shop in the Barossa.

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Kangaroo Island, South Australia (Photo: Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock)
Kangaroo Island, South Australia (Photo: Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock)

Just off the coast of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island has wildlife by the score: koalas, Australian sea lions, New Zealand fur seals and, of course, kangaroos. Natural wonders include the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in the windswept Flinders Chase National Park.

Port Lincoln, South Australia

Port Lincoln in South Australia (Photo: Atosan/Shutterstock)
Port Lincoln in South Australia (Photo: Atosan/Shutterstock)

Situated on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, Port Lincoln is known as the seafood capital of Australia. It also has an excellent maritime museum and the adventurous might like to experience shark-cage diving. As the name suggests, wet-suit clad swimmers climb into a steel cage and are lowered into the ocean to come face-to-face with great white sharks!

Esperance, Western Australia

An Outback town by the ocean, Esperance has wonderful surfing and fishing and the offshore Recherche Archipelago of some 100 islands. Drop into the municipal museum to see pieces of the infamous space station Sky Lab that broke up in 1979 and hurtled to the Earth near Esperance.

Albany, Western Australia

An area of beguiling natural beauty, whale-watching and wineries, Albany is also the town immortalised as the birthplace of the Anzacs. It was here in October 1914 that the first of some 41,000 Australian servicemen set off for Gallipoli. The town has many monuments, including the stunning National Anzac Centre, the Peace Park and the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial where the Anzac Day dawn service is held each year.

Busselton (for Margaret River), Western Australia

Busselton (Photo:loneroc/Shutterstock)
Busselton (Photo:loneroc/Shutterstock)

Blessed by its position on the ocean and river, Margaret River (accessed from Busselton) is best known as a relatively new wine region – dating from the 1960s – that produces some of Australia's finest wine, including chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and Shiraz.

Fremantle (for Perth), Western Australia

Fremantle is the bustling port city and the getaway to Perth. Fremantle has some of the best-preserved architecture in Australia, much dating from the 1850s convict era. These include the eight-cell Roundhouse (Western Australia's oldest building), World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison and the pier. There are also great pubs. Excursions include ferries to Rottnest Island or along the Swan River to Perth.

Perth is one of Australia's most liveable cities, with wonderful parks and beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. Kings Park and Botanic Garden, which houses the War Memorial, also offers a great view.

Geraldton, Western Australia

One of the most significant sites in Geraldton is the Memorial the HMAS Sydney II, which sank in 1941, and was Australia's worst naval disaster. The remains of the ship were only discovered in 2008, 100 km off the coast of Western Australia. The memorial commemorates the 645 who lost their lives in a battle with a German warship.

Port Hedland, Western Australia

This is the place to see huge bulk carrier vessels, some up to 260,000 tonnes, loading up with precious iron ore, the major mineral mined in this part of the state. The best vantage points are West End and Redbank Bridge, while tours of the gigantic BHP Billiton Iron Ore plant at Nelson Point are available. The city is the gateway to the Pilbara, an outback region of fantastic gorges and waterfalls.

Broome, Western Australia

Broome (Photo:ronnybas/Shutterstock)
Broome (Photo:ronnybas/Shutterstock)

Situated on Roebuck Bay, and considered the gateway to the Kimberley region, Broome is known for its red rocks and red earth (known as pindan soil) turquoise blue waters and pearls. It was founded as a major pearling port in the 1880s and visits to pearl farms are still a popular attraction. Broome's Cable Beach stretches for miles and is the place to ride a camel or watch the legendary sunsets.

Kimberley Coast, Wester Australia

Coral Expeditions King Cascade Falls
Coral Expeditions King Cascade Falls (Image: Coral Expeditions)

This vast area between Broome and Darwin, consisting of tracks of wilderness, red cliffs, amazing rock formations and ancient rock art, hundreds of small islands and reefs, bays, waterfalls and croc-infested waterways, is ideal for scenic cruising. Yampi Sound, north of Derby, is a new inclusion.

Darwin, Northern Territory

Australia's tropical capital, Darwin is a laid-back city on the edge the Outback.  Most of the city is relatively new having been rebuilt after the devastating 1974 Cyclone Tracy. Nonetheless, it is steeped in WWII history and tours explore the tunnels built in 1943–1945 and the Defence of Darwin War Memorial is one of the most visited attractions, together with the Wave Pool. The Wave Pool (with its lively machine-generated waves) and Mindil Beach markets are great attractions. The 'jumping crocodile' cruises -- yes, these animals literally jump out of the water -- take place on the Adelaide River, 70 km away.

Port Douglas, Queensland 

Port Douglas (Photo:Martin Valigursky/Shutterstock)
Port Douglas (Photo:Martin Valigursky/Shutterstock)

Just an hour or so north of Cairns, Port Douglas is one of Australia's most stylish beach town with excellent restaurants and boutiques. It's perfectly located on the edge of the Daintree Rainforest and within a couple of hours of the Great Barrier Reef. Take a stroll along beautiful Four Mile Beach or an easy hike up to Flagstaff Hill for fantastic views.

Willis Island, Queensland

Located 450 km east of Cairns, and beyond the Great Barrier Reef, Willis is a tiny island has one structure – a weather monitoring station hosted by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, where just a handful of weather observers reside at any given time. Scenic cruising will reveal many of the hundreds of birds that also reside on the island including masked, brown and red-footed boobies. It is also an important turtle nesting ground.

Cairns, Queensland  

A walk along the Esplanade Boardwalk and a swim in the man-made Lagoon are the best ways to get acquainted with Cairns. Ships dock almost in the heart of town, which has great eating and shopping. A terrific day excursion is a trip to the village of Kuranda via either the Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, or a combination of the two. Another must-see is the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Cairns is also a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

Townsville, Queensland

A few hours south of Cairns, tropical Townsville exudes a laid-back atmosphere. Take a stroll along the Strand, a 2.2-km waterfront promenade with a rock pool and cafes, snap a selfie with a koala and feed kangaroos at Billabong Sanctuary, take the 20-minute fast ferry to Magnetic Island or if you're a diver take a trip to the reef and explore the Underwater Art Museum, a unique gallery beneath the waves.

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, Queensland  

Whiteheaven Beach on Whitsunday Island
The dreamy Whiteheaven Beach on Whitsunday Island (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Cruise ships anchor off Airlie Beach in Cid Harbour for trips to the Great Barrier, beautiful Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island and the youthful party town of Airlie Beach with its cafe and bar scene. For calmer pursuits there are many rainforest walking trails in the Conway National Park.

Brisbane, Queensland

Brisbane (Photo:Thomas Hansson/Shutterstock)
Brisbane (Photo:Thomas Hansson/Shutterstock)

Ships berth at the newly opened Brisbane International Cruise Terminal at Pinkenba, also known as Luggage Point, about 20 minutes form the city near the airport. A trip along the Brisbane River, which meanders through the city and suburbs, reveals grand old Queenslander-style homes lining the banks. Must-sees are the Gallery of Modern Art, Mount Coot-tha lookout and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Newcastle, New South Wales

Newcastle, Australia (Photo: Brendan Somerville/Shutterstock)
Newcastle, Australia (Photo: Brendan Somerville/Shutterstock)

The second-largest city in New South Wales (and two hours north of Sydney), Newcastle has been appearing on cruise ship itineraries ever once the old steel works closed in 1999 and the new Honeysuckle wharf and precinct opened. Flanked by historic buildings, which house cafes, hotels and even a small winery, Honeysuckle is popular with cyclists and those out for a walk. The city has six ocean beaches and heritage-listed sea baths (swimming pools).

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