From scenic flights to private dinners, the top cruise lines’ 2023 Australian shore excursions give you a taste – and a tasting – of the best our country has to offer.

From the red rocks of the Kimberley to the glistening white sands of the Whitsundays, the view of Australia’s coastline is one of the highlights for the cruises that traverse our waters. But there’s only so much you can see and do from the ship: as you pull into port, the destinations reveal their splendour.

Just as everything at sea has become more opulent over the years, so have the offerings available to passengers when they arrive at a destination, with the transition from onboard to onshore becoming more discreetly seamless, stepping from a luxury suite to an exclusive experience.

With wildlife encounters, yachts and special access to some of the most iconic landmarks, there are dozens of exceptional ways cruise passengers can explore the country.

new south wales shore

New South Wales

Sydney shines bright for any cruise passenger, particularly those who dock with the Sydney Opera House or Harbour Bridge as the view from their room – although both sites are also worth seeing up close, which is why shore excursions will take passengers behind the scenes of Sydney Opera House’s concert hall or climb to the top of the bridge.

For a special Sydney experience, Seabourn can fly you on a seaplane direct from the harbour to the Hawkesbury River for stunning views of the city and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, before landing in front of the exclusive Cottage Point Inn for a long lunch surrounded by the sounds of the wildlife. Coral Expeditions also makes the most of Sydney Harbour on its signature voyages, with passengers boarding one of two historic tall ships for a friendly race across the water, past the city’s famous sights.

Just north of Sydney, Celebrity Cruises offers a trip from the Newcastle port to the Hunter Valley where, among the eucalyptus trees, guests can taste the semillon the wine region is famous for, plus a four-course degustation menu that showcases some of the best other local products.

When Azamara returns to Australia at the end of 2022, it will offer a private helicopter transfer from Sydney to the Hunter Valley for a locally sourced lunch with matching wines. Or, further down the New South Wales coast at Eden, you can head out on the clear waters of Pambula Lake to help a veteran farmer harvest, shuck and taste Sydney rock oysters.

Northern Territory

northern territory

Cruises along the Northern Territory coast take passengers from the cosmopolitan streets of Darwin to the heart of ancient cultures in Arnhem Land, with opportunities to access some of Australia’s greatest national parks. While many ships will offer the opportunity to visit Litchfield National Park from Darwin, Celebrity Cruises has the option to take a helicopter flight over the park to take in the vistas of cascades and sandstone outcrops from the air and gain a different perspective of its dramatic rocky escarpments and waterfalls.

Although Uluru is a long way from the coast, Coral Expeditions has a special signature event that flies guests from Darwin to explore the Red Centre within a day. The private charter flight arrives in time for a traditional welcome, a tour of the main sights, sunset drinks at Kata Tjuṯa, and dinner at the iconic Sounds of Silence under the bright desert sky, before returning to Darwin that evening.

And Scenic will make its ocean cruising debut in Australia in 2024, with an inaugural 29-day cruise from Newcastle to Broome. As the Scenic Eclipse explores the Northern Territory, one of the highlights will be the Cobourg Peninsula at the very tip of the Top End, where local guides will take guests on bush-tucker safaris and into the rugged national park in open-back 4WDs, for a more adventurous type of luxury experience.



In Far North Queensland, two of Australia’s most recognisable UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites form the background for cruises travelling along the coast. A stop at Port Douglas provides the opportunity to explore where the rainforest meets the reef, with excursions into the Daintree Rainforest’s Mossman Gorge, and out to the Great Barrier Reef, where you can swim and snorkel among tropical fish and colourful coral.

Princess offers a shore excursion to see a different side of the rainforest region around Port Douglas, with a local chef leading guests to his favourite farms to taste sugar cane and chocolate and collect fresh produce that will star in a three-course lunch. Back on the water, Coral Expeditions takes its yacht-like 72-guest Coral Discoverer right up to an isolated speck of sand at Sudbury Cay near Cairns for exclusive sunset drinks in the middle of the reef.

For many luxury cruises, the Whitsundays is the focus of their time in Queensland, with a range of ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Cunard offers a day on a yacht, sailing between islands with snorkelling and swimming and a gourmet lunch onboard, or a scenic flight that takes passengers over famous Whitehaven Beach and out to photogenic Heart Reef. Silversea includes a catamaran trip to Whitehaven Beach, with its pristine sand lined with tropical vegetation; while Scenic’s 2024 voyage will host a decadent barbecue at Whitehaven, including time to swim, hike or just relax in paradise!

South Australia

south australia

Some of Australia’s best wine regions are found around Adelaide and they make for excellent day trips from the city. Celebrity offers an excursion to the Barossa Valley for lunch at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop and Restaurant, the home of the famed Australian cook, with an interactive cooking demonstration that is then served as the meal with matching wine. For those who want to avoid the long drive, another Celebrity excursion heads to the Penfolds Magill Estate on Adelaide’s fringes for a guided tour of the vineyard and vintage cellar, with a three-course lunch complemented by fine wines.

Coffin Bay on the tip of the Eyre Peninsula is another popular South Australian destination, and here APT takes its passengers on a purpose-built boat to glide through the oyster leases to taste the shellfish direct from the ocean, before travelling to the stunning Almonta Beach where sand dunes roll down to the clear water. Coral Expeditions also has a trip from Coffin Bay that includes the remote Flinders Island, where guests can taste fresh Eyerwoold abalone straight from the source, served in a polished shell as part of an intimate beachside cooking experience.



In Hobart, Celebrity can take guests up close to Tasmania’s famed nature with a unique after-hours tour of the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary after the public has left for the day. As the nocturnal animals become more active, you’ll be able to see (and sometimes feed) the kangaroos, wallabies, and the iconic Tasmanian devils. An intimate small-group tour also takes Celebrity passengers down to beautiful Bruny Island to taste a range of locally produced food and wine, from fresh oysters and fish to decadent local cheeses. With whiskey tasting, chocolate and truffles, and a gourmet lunch at the southernmost vineyard in Australia, it’s bound to satisfy any gourmand.

In the north of the state, a morning at the former gold-mining town of Beaconsfield with APT is complemented by a spectacular afternoon journey into the Tamar Valley, where rolling green vineyards blanket the riverbanks, with stops for tastings at two of Australia’s leading sparkling-wine producers, Pipers Brook and Jansz. Or there’s Cunard’s five-night Great Australian Culinary Voyage in January that will call into Burnie on the state’s north coast. As well as celebrity chef Matt Moran creating meals on board, there will be bespoke food activities on shore, continuing the evolution of the cruise industry’s commitment to luxury at every point of the journey.


victoria australia | australian destinations

Between the fine dining, single-origin coffee and boutique shopping, Melbourne is one of the most stylish ports of call for any Australian cruise. But beyond the city, there are some wonderful luxury experiences available that showcase even more of the region.

Join Regent Seven Seas for a mineral-bathing excursion at the 19th-century Hepburn Springs Bathhouse in Daylesford, where a spa coach will help select the best treatment for you before you soak in the mineral-rich waters and take advantage of the detoxifying Moroccan hammam. Or perhaps you’ll find replenishment on the Regent Seven Seas trip to the unspoiled You Yangs Regional Park near Geelong, where a nature guide leads guests through a eucalyptus forest that’s home to wild koalas, before drinks and snacks at sunset in bushland teeming with eastern grey kangaroos.

Taking to the air, Princess has an optional helicopter ride around Phillip Island for epic views of the Cowes township, Seal Rocks and the Grand Prix circuit (and possibly even some penguins for the eagle-eyed). For an alternative aviation experience, Azamara has a chopper flight along the dramatic cliffs of the Shipwreck Coast that lands near the Twelve Apostles for a premium three-course meal before the return flight to Melbourne over the Great Ocean Road.


Western Australia

western australia | australian destinations

Along the northern coast of Western Australia, where dramatic red land meets turquoise waters, some of the most remote parts of the country are accessible only by boat. At Bigge Island, about six kilometres from the mainland, APT brings in its Le Laperouse expedition ship so guests can head onshore for a guided tour of the incredible Indigenous rock art, with the detailed paintings of Wunambal people seeming to stare into your soul.

Sunsets in this part of WA are as vibrantly red as its rocks, and Coral Expeditions pulls its 120-guest ship into a deserted Kimberley beach so guests can enjoy an exclusive barbeque on the sand as the sky turns to flames. To experience the region from the air during the day, Silversea offers a scenic flight over the expansive Lake Argyle to Purnululu National Park, with the iconic orange and black domes of the Bungle Bungles rising from the earth. And some of Ponant’s Kimberley Coast Sailing expeditions include a flight over Kuri Bay onboard a Paspaley Grumman Mallard seaplane, while a helicopter flight to the rugged and remote landscapes of Mitchell Falls is also an option.

In the south-west of the state, Coral Expeditions takes guests to a private dinner at the charming Leeuwin Estate vineyards in Margaret River, where the winemakers and chef introduce a four-course degustation meal with matching wines. For even more variety, APT’s tasting tour of this iconic Australian wine region begins at a local chocolatier before visiting several wineries to try a range of exquisite chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.