Small Ship Cruises in Australia

Australia's vast size and diversity means exploring this amazing country is very well suited to a multi-day adventure cruise.

A large and incredibly diverse country, Australia small ship cruises offer an ideal way to enjoy a variety of spectacular sights, see native wildlife, learn about the country’s history and culture, and take part in a number of activities. Whether you’re a photography junkie, a nature lover, a culture vulture, a thrill seeker, or someone who just loves experiencing new places, the varied cruises around Australia are sure to tick all your boxes for a great vacation to remember. Covering more than 7.6 million square km (2.0 million square miles), Australia is famous for its unique wildlife, including the kangaroo, wallaby, koala, dingo, emu, and crocodile.

Australia also has a generally laid-back atmosphere, glorious beaches, the remote outback, and of course its Aboriginal culture. Historically the home of native Aboriginal groups, Australia was first discovered by Europeans in the 1600s. Penal colonies, gold rushes, mining opportunities, and farming industries led to more and more outsiders heading to Australia. Today a popular tourist destination for people from all four corners of the globe, see what makes Australia so unique onboard an Australia adventure cruise.

Best Australian adventure cruises and areas to visit

Western Australia - A cruise around the Kimberley will reveal stunning waterfalls, ancient rock art, and scenic rivers, as well as including possible activities such as fishing, helicopter rides, swimming at the croc-free Surveyors Creek, and hiking.

Discover Rowley Shoals, a coral reef off the coast of Broome and in the Timor Sea. Teeming with marine life, the area is known for offering some of the best diving in all of Australia. It’s also a top spot for deep-sea fishing.

Enjoy awesome wildlife encounters at the Ningaloo Reef, known for its feeding whale sharks. The beaches are breeding areas for sea turtles and the water system supports a huge aquatic population, made up of fish, corals, birds, molluscs, and more. Migrating dolphins, whales, manta rays, and dugongs pass through the reef in the winter months.

The Abrolhos Islands, located in the Indian Ocean, contains a lot of protected conservation areas. A major place for seabird breeding and home to an array of life, both on land and in the water, the islands are also known for rock lobster fishing. Several shipwrecks lie at the bottom of the sea.

South Australia - Boasting an active cafe culture, great shopping, beaches, and architecture, and a lively night scene, did you know that Adelaide was never used as a convict settlement? It was always populated by free people. Surrounded by glorious wine regions, sample delectable local wines and admire the lush scenery of the famous Barossa Valley.

Kangaroo Island is another highlight of an Australian cruise, home to an abundance of interesting flora and fauna and boasting sublime beaches and craggy cliffs. Discover charming fishing villages and remote sandy coves, and enjoy activities such as fishing, snorkelling, and sunbathing. Cage diving with sharks is also popular with many guests.

Enjoy scenic hiking in Coffin Bay, and sink your teeth into some locally farmed oysters. Port Lincoln, on the other hand, is known for its tuna.

Great Barrier Reef - One of the world’s most desired destinations, especially for fans of underwater discovery, the expansive Great Barrier Reef is the biggest coral reef system on the planet. A cruise around the Great Barrier Reef takes in various stunning islands, all offering differing delights, as well as letting you explore the wildlife-rich waters.

Lizard Island is a tropical haven, home to, as the name suggests, an abundance of lizards. A perfect place for snorkelling, you can also enjoy pristine sandy beaches. The long and thin Ribbon Reefs can only be accessed onboard an Australian cruise. Underwater photographers will love diving in the calm and clear waters.

Hinchinbrook Island is home to Australia’s biggest island national park. It is also the largest island in the Great Barrier Reef. Rugged with towering mountains, it is inhabited by numerous endangered species. On Dunk Island you can discover the dense rainforest and magnificent beaches, whilst Nathan Reef boasts colourful coral gardens.

Tasmania - An island state, highlights of cruises to Tasmania include the state capital of Hobart, Port Davey, a rugged coastal wilderness with plenty of active adventures, and Port Arthur, a former convict settlement that is steeped in history. The shallow Bathurst Harbour, with its reddish brown waters, is another scenic spot that can only be reached by boat.

Admire the towering pink granite peaks of Freycinet National Park, relax on gorgeous white sandy beaches, explore hidden coves, and observe an assortment of local wildlife. Keen ornithologists will be particularly impressed. A cruise lets you take in the best of the wildlife and scenery with complete convenience.

Sydney - Cruise through Sydney Harbour, feasting your eyes on the iconic sights of Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, often referred to as the Coathanger. A trip along Hawkesbury River lets you see plenty of fish and sharks, with aquatic life including great white sharks, marlin, bull sharks, whales, octopus, turtles, and crabs. The lands alongside the river were once inhabited by different Aboriginal groups.

Cape York and Arnhem Land - A trip around Cape York and Arnhem Land in northern Australia lets you traverse in the wake of Captain Cook, creating your own adventures and discoveries as you gaze upon stunning landscapes, meet local Aboriginal groups, spot diverse nature and wildlife, and see splendid artworks.

Learn more about the Tiwi culture, visit the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard Island and watch a plethora of lizards scuttling across the land, stand at the most northern point of all of Australia at Cape York, and learn about trade from times gone by.

Best time to cruise in Australia

The best time to visit Australia depends on what part of the country to plan to explore and what your main interests are. An Australia cruise is a fantastic experience at any time of the year, though some periods are often more popular, for various reasons, than others.

If you are planning to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the best time to visit is between June and November. The weather is pleasant and there is usually good visibility in the waters. The May to October dry season is the best time to visit destinations in Western Australia, such as the Kimberley and Abrolhos Islands. March to June is the best time, however, to see whale sharks around the Ningaloo Reef. December to February is the warmest time in Sydney, attracting large numbers of visitors. Booking an Australian cruise to and around Sydney in the shoulder seasons can, however, yield savings whilst still being in a period of good weather. From June to August is Tasmania’s winter; expect cold conditions with rain and snow. Many people choose to visit Tasmania between spring and autumn for the warmer weather.

How to get to Australia

Australia is a huge country, with the busiest airports located Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. There are numerous airports all around the country though, so getting around by air is easy. Do keep in mind, however, that it takes around 4+ hours to fly the width of the country; you may want to choose a primary arrival airport relatively close to your cruise departure point.

Where do Australia cruises depart from?

There are airports within easy reach of all departure points for cruises in Australia. Shuttle services may be available between airports and ports, though taxis are always widely available too. Cruise departure points include Perth, served by Perth Airport (PER), Broome, served by Broome International Airport (BME), Sydney, connected by Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport (SYD), Adelaide, with Adelaide Airport (ADL), Cairns, home to Cairns Airport (CNS), Tasmania’s Hobart, connected by Hobart International Airport (HBE), and Darwin, linked by Darwin International Airport (DRW).

Australia Cruise Tips

  • Plan your Australia cruise in plenty of time to ensure availability for your desired dates and to prevent potential problems with availability of connecting flights etc.
  • It is best to plan to arrive in Australia at least a couple of days before your cruise departure in case of any flight delays or other holdups.
  • With so many excellent Australia cruises to choose between, carefully consider your options to ensure that you book the trip that is best suited to your interests. Consider aspects such as cultural visits, wildlife encounters, excursions, and the activities offered.
  • Check the weather for the time of year and area where you want to cruise, and don’t leave any of the essentials at home. If visiting in the summer, don’t forget sunglasses, suncream, and a hat. If your cruise will be during the cooler months, pack plenty of warm clothes and dress in layers.
  • Snorkelling gear is usually offered onboard (when applicable), but you may want to consider taking your on for a comfortable fit.
  • Don’t forget your hiking boots/shoes if you plan on joining hikes and guided walks.
  • With so many excellent photograph opportunities, keep your camera batteries fully charged and carry spare batteries and a spare memory card.
  • Change your money into Australian dollars, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your planned return date, and, if you need a visa for Australia, make sure you obtain all necessary paperwork well in advance of your trip.

Contact our reservations team and get started on arranging your next adventure cruise to Australia.

Australia Reviews

  • 9.2 Superb
  • 4 Verified Reviews
  • 9.2 Superb
  • Kim R
  • United States United States

I only did a little snorkeling. It was a great, but a little chilly due solely to the weather.

Cruising Australia in July on the Hammer

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Samantha B
  • United States United States

Snorkeling was fabulous!

Cruising Australia in December on the Entice

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Anna-Lena N
  • Germany Germany

Definitely the best way to explore the Whitesundays area, would recommend

Cruising Australia in June on the Broomstick

  • 8.8 Fabulous
  • Marcin R
  • Australia Australia

The weather was very calm, almost no wind so we didn't sail. Instead we met a lot of sea animals like humpbacks, dolphins and turtles.

Cruising Australia in August on the Broomstick