Tourism AustraliaBy Marc Llewellyn
For tens of thousands of years Aboriginal people travelled across Australia’s waterways and out to sea in dugout canoes, rafts, and canoes made from tree bark.
Now, Australia’s rivers and oceans are more likely to host tour boats, ferries, kayaks, and yachts, but travelling by water is still one of the best ways to get around.
Take Sydney Harbour, for example. It’s one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, and plenty of cruise boats drift slowly past the white sails of the Sydney Opera House and underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
For the chance to see Sydney Harbour from a new perspective, climb aboard the Deerubbun. On this Aboriginal-operated cruise you get to learn about local Aboriginal traditions and place names. You also step off on a harbour island to experience some traditional dancing.
Harbour cruises can also be inexpensive. State-operated Sydney Ferries offer inexpensive tours on regular passenger ferries. You can also see a large slice of the harbour by simply travelling to the beach on the Manly passenger ferry.
Some companies offering day trips to the Blue Mountains add on a public ferry trip down the Parramatta River to Sydney Harbour. It gives you a chance to look at suburban Sydney, from the comfort of a high-speed vessel.
Further south is Port Hacking, which edges onto the mangrove swamps and forests of the Royal National Park. Cronulla Cruises operate eco cruises from the southern Sydney beach suburb of Cronulla. Cronulla Cruises also run boat tours of Port Hacking, in a small wooden ferry called the Tom Thumb III. It’s named after the rowboat in which the explorers Bass and Flinders charted the area in 1796.
Tourism AustraliaYou can explore beautiful Port Hacking and the fringes of the Royal National Park from a kayak, too.
All around Australia you can find cruise boats that can bring you closer to the creatures that inhabit, or pass through, Australian waters. Australia is one of the best places in the world to see migrating whales. Whale-watching boats operate along the east, west, and southern coasts of the continent.
You can travel by boat to dive with seals, and to spot dolphins, dugongs, and the biggest fish in the world – the whale shark on Ningaloo Reef.
Popular dolphin cruise areas include Port Stephens, north of Sydney, and Jervis Bay, to Sydney’s south. Dolphin-watch cruises also operate from many other places, including the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Glenelg in South Australia, and Rockingham and Bunbury in Western Australia.
Melbourne offers popular cruises, along the calm waters of the Yarra River and out into Port Phillip Bay. Further north in Victoria there are plenty of paddleboats plying the mighty Murray River.
Paddle steamers travel along the Murray from several ports, including Echuca and Mildura in Victoria, and Mannum and Murray Bridge in South Australia.
SATCYou can also explore the Coorong area of South Australia on a cruise boat. The Murray River flows into the ocean here, and the area is known for its sand dunes, wetlands, and an incredible variety of waterbirds.
Further south, the island state of Tasmania has a lot to offer when it comes to making use of waterways. You can travel for several days through rainforest wilderness along the wild Franklin River on a raft.
There are cruises through World Heritage wilderness along the remote Gordon River, too, while you can search for platypus along the pristine Arthur River.
Out of Hobart, cruise boats cruise the crystal waters of the Derwent River. Some pass seal colonies and salmon farms on their way to Bruny Island and beyond. You can also experience an eco-cruise along the Tasman Peninsula from the historic former convict prison of Port Arthur.
River cruises also run from Tasmania’s second largest city, Launceston. Travel up the serene Tamar River past historic buildings, vineyards and farms, thousands of waterbirds, and through beautiful Cataract Gorge.
In Western Australia you can cruise up the Swan River from Perth, and paddle along the Margaret River in between stops for wine tasting.
Cruise boats also explore the wild coastline of the Kimberley region, sailing among remote archipelagos, into remote inlets and estuaries, and across tropical reefs. The Kimberley is an outback frontier known for its wilderness, rugged mountain ranges, spectacular gorges, dramatic waterfalls, and strong Aboriginal connections.
Several cruise boat operators also offer trips across the coast from Darwin and other ports. Some of these take in the coastal fringe of remote and mysterious Arnhem Land.
Cruise boats in the Northern Territory also ply the waterways of the Adelaide River and Kakadu National Park, on the lookout for giant saltwater crocodiles. Others take visitors around inland Katherine Gorge, with its steep red sandstone cliffs. You can also explore in kayaks.
In Queensland, the most popular areas for cruising are the Great Barrier Reef and the associated Whitsunday Islands.
The Great Barrier Reef is, of course, one of the world’s most famous natural attractions. Boats operate from several towns along the coast, including Cairns, Port Douglas and Townsville.
Meanwhile, the Whitsunday Islands offer one of the most idyllic tropical destinations anywhere. There are 74 tropical islands in the chain. Come here for resorts and spas, azure seas, coral cays, coral reefs, gorgeous beaches, water sports and wildlife.
For more information on Australia, visit www.australia.com.