By David Barclay | May 3, 2023
Ah, the Land Down Under and the home of the Kiwi, two of my favorite countries to visit. My first trip to Australia and New Zealand was for my honeymoon. After falling in love with both countries, my wife and I made a pact to visit every 10 years to celebrate our milestone anniversaries. While I haven’t seen every nook and cranny in these two travel gems, I have visited most of the popular cities and regions and none have disappointed.
Since my trips to visit these countries have been overland trips, you may wonder why I’m recommending a cruise as a great way to explore the unique geography and cultures of Australia and New Zealand. There are several reasons. The first is the travel distances. Australia is huge, as big as the lower 48 states of the U.S. or all of Europe. Travel between the main cities/regions popular with tourists requires flights, many long travel days, and a meaningful portion of a trip devoted to traveling around the country. New Zealand is much smaller, but that means travel is more often by vehicles, traveling on winding two lane roads. Traveling from Queenstown to Christchurch can be a full day activity (8+ hrs). And travel between the North & South islands utilizing ferries can also take much longer than the distances would suggest. While the New Zealand countryside is beautiful, you can see as much from the combination of cruising the shoreline and excursions onto land. A second reason is that most of the places travelers want to visit are conveniently located on the coasts. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, Perth, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch are all on the coasts and many are lovely cruise ports. Cruise ships are able to sail into Milford Sound, eliminating the need to drive 4+ hrs from Queenstown or charter a helicopter to get there. A third reason is the ability to explore parts of these countries you might not otherwise. While I’ve seen a lot of Australia, I have not traveled to Western Australia. Why? Because it is very far away from the eastern Australia regions that I wanted to visit and I couldn’t justify the travel time. But several cruise itineraries travel to the West and Northwest Australia coast, with the ships traversing the distances overnight or through a relaxing sea day. In New Zealand, many visitors only explore the North Island or the South Island unless on an extended vacation, while many cruise itineraries include both islands and frequently a few ports outside of New Zealand.
The best time to visit these two countries is during the spring/summer/fall (October – March). If you have never visited either of these countries I would highly recommend adding them to your travel bucket list, whether through an overland trip or a cruise. And if you are considering a trip, I recommend considering a cruise as a great way to sample all these countries have to offer.
There are many options for cruising the coastlines of Australia & New Zealand. For those with limited time, picking a cruise focused on one of these countries is probably the best option. For those with more time that can be devoted to travel, a longer itinerary or back-to-back itineraries can enable exploration of both countries in a single trip. Australia and New Zealand are also typically included on Grand Cruises focused on the Pacific and/or SE Asia.
Below I’ve provided a selection of cruise itineraries, but they are by no means the full spectrum of available sailings.
Auckland to Sydney
Silversea Silver Muse
14-days, Dec 7-21, 2023
During the upcoming cruising season, Silversea has two ships sailing around Australia and New Zealand. This cruise is focused on New Zealand, but rather than returning to Auckland so guests fly both into & out of ALK, the itinerary adds a few sea days and takes guests to Sydney. I love this itinerary as guests with extra time can plan a post-cruise stay in Sydney, or those with even more time could plan an overland experience through eastern and southeastern Australia. Silversea offers several variations to this itinerary including options to reverse the trip by starting in Sydney, shortening the time in NZ to add a stop or two in Tasmania, or starting/ending in Melbourne instead of Sydney.
Auckland to Sydney
30-days, Jan 22 – Feb 21, 2024
An extended exploration of Australia and New Zealand, this 30-day cruise visits the major cities & sites in New Zealand and then continues on to explore southeastern Australia. For those not able to travel for 30+ days, this itinerary is the combination of two 15-day cruises on the Odyssey, allowing guests to select either an exploration of New Zealand or of Southeastern Australia.
Sydney to Bali
Regent Seven Seas Mariner
15-days, Mar 27 – Apr 10, 2024
A very common itinerary, whether as a separate cruise or part of a larger Grand cruise, is to combine Australia with other ports in SE Asia. For this cruise, the Mariner will depart Sydney, sailing up the eastern coast of Australia, past the Great Barrier Reef and then along the northern coast to Darwin before traveling on to Indonesia.
Perth to Melbourne
15-days, Dec 21, 2023 – Jan 4, 2024
Over the holiday season, the Azamara Journey will travel from Perth along the southern coast of Australia. Guests can visit the famous Barossa Valley wine region while docked in Adelaide, see the harbor bridge and opera house in Sydney, and travel the great ocean road after arrival in Melbourne. As a bonus, this cruise stops at less visited port cities including Albany, Esperance, and Eden, providing unique opportunities to see more local Australian life. Finally, likely a highlight for guests, the Journey also stops at Kangaroo Island, with the opportunity to see many of Australia’s unique native animals.
Sydney to Sydney
35-days, Dec 21, 2023 – Jan 25, 2024
For those wanting a complete Australian experience and able to devote over a month to their exploration, there is the 35-day Sydney to Sydney cruise on Oceania Cruises. Guests will visit 23 ports (including overnights on Bali and Berth) and have the option to spend extra time in Sydney either pre or post cruise. A full immersion into Australia that’s likely to leave guests with lifelong memories.
Owner, Barclay & Company Travel
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