Top Queensland cruise holidays to add to your bucket list
Holidays afloat are a great way to take a break, with today’s cruise ships welcoming everyone from younger families to mature-age travellers. And the good news for Australians is that our own backyard is ideally suited to cruising, with Queensland rating high on many a cruise fan’s bucket list for many reasons.
Year-round cruising is just one, thanks to the enviable climate, and there are plenty of itineraries to choose from, whether you can cruise for a few days or for a week or more.
There’s also a lineup of fun-filled destinations waiting to be explored, along with a diverse list of experiences from snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef to relaxing on our pristine beaches.
The Outer Great Barrier Reef Expedition
Coral Expeditions are a pioneer of cruising Australia’s favourite natural wonder, and there are several departures each week depending on how much time you have on hand.
One is a three-night Southern Reef roundtrip cruise from Cairns to Hinchinbrook Island, with highlights including an exploration of the underwater worlds of Coates and Nathan Reefs, cruising through the stunning Hinchinbrook Channel by glass-bottom boat, and sunset drinks on private Sudbury Cay.
There’s also a four-night Northern Reef return cruise from Cairns to Lizard Island, offering a full day to discover two different sections of the little visited Ribbon Reefs, as well exploring historic Cooktown and spectacular Lizard Island.
If you have more time, however, consider the seven-night Immersive Reef itinerary, which combines both cruises.
The Great Barrier Reef
P&O Cruises has a popular seven-night roundtrip Barrier Reef Discovery cruise departing from Brisbane, with departure dates during the year, visiting three or four ports of call including Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas, or Willis Island.
In Airlie Beach you can go snorkelling or relax by the lagoon; off-shore, you can discover stunning Whitehaven Beach, go sea-kayaking, or take a scenic helicopter flight. And in Port Douglas, one to tick off the bucket list is a cooling swim at the beautiful Four Mile Beach.
Princess Cruises also offers several Great Barrier Reef-focussed holidays departing from Brisbane, from seven to 10 nights in duration. The shorter cruises head for the Whitsundays, Cairns, Port Douglas and Willis Island, while the longer ones include a visit to Sydney to its lineup of ports.
One of P&O’s regular and popular Sea Breaks is a short hop from Brisbane to Fraser Island, also with various departures during the year.
This stunning World Heritage-listed haven has it all, from towering rainforests and cliffs to over 100 freshwater lakes, huge sand blows, and the famous Maheno shipwreck, and on this mini-cruise you’ll have a full day to get out on foot, or on the water, to go hiking, kayaking or canoeing to experience the natural environment.
You’ll also enjoy a leisurely sea day onboard the ship before and after Fraser Island to kick back, enjoy the salt air, and have some high seas fun.
You can head to the Whitsundays from Brisbane several times a year with either P&O or Princess Cruises on a choice of four-night cruises with a single destination – Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.
In Airlie Beach you can enjoy a full day ashore strolling through the local boutiques, cafes and shops of the main street, relaxing by the Airlie Beach Lagoon, or heading to the local market if you’re there on a Saturday morning.
There’s also the option of venturing further afield to Whitehaven Beach or nearby Hamilton Island. If Hamilton Island is your destination, however, you’ll be spoilt for choice: sea-kayaking, game fishing, scenic helicopter flights, ‘Breakfast with the Koalas’ at the Koala Gallery or simply relaxing on the beach are just a few pastimes to whet the appetite.
Besides locally-based ships, a number of international cruise lines head Down Under each summer to explore the Australian backyard, including Queensland.
These floating palaces offer Australian and overseas cruise fans the opportunity to explore the Sunshine State in five-star style, as well as adding a few more unusual ports of call to their lineups.
In February 2018, the newly launched Seabourn Encore will cruise for 18 nights between Sydney and Bali, with a lineup of Queensland ports of call including Moreton Island, Mooloolaba, Hamilton Island and Townsville. A bonus for guests on this cruise is an overnight stop in Cairns, allowing guests to get out and enjoy the local nightlife.
In March 2018, the French cruise ship L’Austral from the Ponant cruise line embarks on a 10-day cruise from Sydney to Cairns, with highlights including Fraser Island, Lizard Island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, and Hardy Reef in the north-east of the Whitsunday Islands.
In the same month, Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Journey sets off on an epic 21-night voyage from Sydney to Singapore, with a focus on Queensland ports. Among them are Brisbane, Hardy Reef, several islands in the Whitsundays, Townsville, Townsville and Thursday Island, before crossing the Top End to Darwin and on through Indonesia.
Moreton Island from Sydney
Although it’s been a popular getaway for southeastern Queenslanders for years, Moreton Island is now firmly on the cruise map and another popular P&O Sea Break.
These cruises from Sydney offer a full day of fun on the island playground, arriving early in the morning and leaving mid-evening, with the bonus of a relaxing day at sea each side to catch your breath.
Moreton Island sits in the midst of the picturesque Moreton Bay and its marine park, and it is famous for many things including spectacular marine life and impressive sand dunes.
This cruise is ideal for people with a sense of adventure, as well as a love of the great outdoors. Besides lazing on pristine beaches, things to tick off your list here range from snorkelling and swimming with dolphins, to quad-biking and taking a scenic heli-flight.
Best of South East Queensland from Sydney or Melbourne
These P&O Cruises are usually a week long, combining a day at Moreton Island with stops at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast, and Gladstone in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. You’ll also have around three days at sea in between ports to enjoy the ship and plan your activities ashore.
Meanwhile, in Mooloolaba, take the opportunity to stretch your sea legs with a leisurely fresh local seafood lunch ashore, go whale watching, kayaking or paddle boarding, or head north to kick back in Noosa.