Ports of Call
Port of Sydney (Australia): An Overview
Sydney is a definite stop on just about any cruise that travels Down Under and often serves as a starting or ending point for ships that also travel to New Zealand. Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also one of the world’s most intriguing ports of call, with its appeal extending from a sophisticated and vibrant urban metropolis to stunning natural wonders. Although it is a modern city strongly influenced by British roots and current American popular culture, Sydney’s real character is derived from its exotic location and brash beauty.
Walking through the glass and concrete downtown, known as the Central Business District, you could be in any other Western-culture metropolis — until a fluorescent red and green lorikeet parrot swoops overhead or an unexpected flash of the brilliant blue harbor appears between the skyscrapers. Any proper visit to Sydney must begin in the harbor, which is both the birthplace of the city and its current iconic centerpiece. The area is called Circular Quay (pronounced “key” by locals). It is hard to imagine a more picturesque setting for a city’s heart than this, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge displayed against the inlet’s bright water.
Sydney spreads across a massive geographic area, but the majority of its most interesting areas can be found near the ocean coast in the area known as the Eastern suburbs, as well as in its delightful inner-city neighborhoods, which each possess a distinct vibe. Oxford Street, the main thoroughfare running east from downtown to the ocean beaches, hosts Sydney’s famous gay and lesbian Mardi Gras parade each February and is popular year-round because of its upscale shops and cafes. Sydney is a well-balanced blend of a big city lifestyle and the laid-back Australian mentality. Although Aussies who hail from other towns often disparage Sydney for its flashiness and hectic pace, urban inconveniences seem minor here compared to places like New York and London. Tourism is a huge industry around Sydney, and locals are accustomed and happy to providing visitors with service, helpful directions and a rousing welcome to the stunning city that they call home.
Port of Brisbane (Australia): An Overview
Brisbane has become increasingly sophisticated over the years yet the Queensland capital still retains its laidback charm. Bustling ferries ply the waters of the Brisbane River and the weather lends itself to outdoor pursuits. If you love the beach, this is the ideal jumping-off point for the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise which are just an hour away, and the Sunshine Coast, which is two hours to the north. However, the extreme south end of the Great Barrier Reef begins 370kms (about 230 miles) north of the city, so this is not an option for a day out.
The city makes good use of its river as a travel artery and visitors will find the CityCat ferries and other local boat services an ideal and affordable way to reach the most popular museums, botanical gardens, wildlife parks, historic neighbourhoods, lively shopping precincts and riverfront plazas with their variety of restaurants and cafes. Both riverbanks have picturesque walkways that venture far beyond the city limits.
For those who would like to spend the day exploring the city centre, nearly everything is within walking distance, and conveniently placed bridges and small cross-river ferries link both sides. Jaunty red ferries plying the city reaches of the river are free to ride. If you get lost, ask one of the friendly locals for directions.
Port of Airlie Beach, Queensland (Australia): An Overview
The Whitsundays is a world renowned holiday destination, with icons like the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach at the top of millions of bucket lists the world around. Airlie Beach is the hub of the Whitsundays region, being the largest town on the Whitsunday Coast, almost entirely focused on tourism. The Whitsundays region is made up of the 74 Whitsundays islands and the Whitsunday Coast. The Whitsunday Coast is a cosmopolitan and inviting peninsula with beaches along the coastline, framed by national park and picturesque hinterland.
Airlie Beach provides the ideal mainland base for holiday fun and adventure in the Whitsundays, where accommodation styles are as varied as the accents that can be heard in the main street. Basing a holiday in Airlie Beach has several distinct advantages. There is a large range of options for all budgets, from self contained apartments to full service hotels, family focused to adults only. You can choose to stay right in the thick of things in central Airlie Beach, just out of town on scenic Cannonvale Beach or leafy Jubilee Pocket, or further afield at secluded beach townships, inland country towns and the northern beaches of Bowen. The vast majority of tour operators in the Whitsundays use Airlie Beach as their base, so you will find the greatest variety of day tours and overnight boats in Airlie Beach.
Port of Newcastle (Australia): An Overview
Newcastle is New South Wales’ second-largest city after Sydney and is becoming a regular fixture on several major cruise lines’ itineraries. Set at the mouth of the Hunter River, a 162-kilometre drive north of Sydney, it offers the attractions of a big city while retaining the laidback ambience of a regional town.
Its history as a working port goes back to the early 19th century, when steamships carried coal to Sydney. And while today it is the largest coal exporting port in the world, Newcastle is also known as the gateway to the Hunter Valley vineyards and has plenty to offer in the way of cool bars, exciting restaurants, cultural activities and spectacular surf beaches.
The city was closely linked to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England — where many of the coalminers migrated from in the late 1800s and nearby towns such as Morpeth, Jesmond, Wallsend and Gateshead are named after their English counterparts. Its convict past is evident in sites such as the Bogey Hole, an ocean rock pool that was hand-carved out of the cliff. For an insight into some of the city’s historic buildings, the three-kilometre Newcastle East Heritage Walk takes in the Customs House, Convict Lumber Yard, Fort Scratchley, Christchurch Cathedral and various convict-era buildings. The Newcastle Museum is also well worth a visit.
Ever since the steelworks closed in 1999, Newcastle has been reinventing itself. Honeysuckle Wharf is now a lively promenade of waterfront bars and restaurants; Darby Street in Cooks Hill is becoming the hip and happening place for small galleries, cafes and curio shops; and wine bars and clubs are popping up in converted banks in the commercial district.
Not many ports in the world display a giant welcome sign for visiting vessels and none other than Newcastle marks their departure with a gun salute.