Australia Overview

Australia Cruises

Australia

Why Visit

Visit the Great Barrier Reef’s 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching over 1600 miles. Spot your share of 37 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, 1,500 fish species and six species of sea turtles. Visible from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s biggest single ecological structure and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. CNN labeled it as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Hardy Reef, one of the most vibrant areas, features a floating pontoon with an underwater viewing chamber moored to a snorkeling and diving hotspot. Indigenous people have lived and hunted in this area for centuries and still regard it as their “sea country.”

Above water, enjoy spectacular sunsets and white sandy beaches on Percy Island or Hamilton Island. Sample regional food and wine after a day of kayaking, fishing, or bushwalking. Birders will enjoy Dunk Island’s 100 species of birds, including rare seabirds, terns and noddies. Tasmania is a favorite vacation island with unique scenery and fascinating history—including convict heritage sites like Port Arthur.

Throughout your adventure, look for Australian animals like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, echidnas, kookaburras, platypuses, wombats, dingo and Tasmanian devils. Also be on the hunt for pythons, tree snakes, geckos and skinks.

In Sydney Harbor, enjoy sights like the iconic Opera House. In cosmopolitan Darwin, you can explore museums, markets and a wide array of restaurants. Just to Darwin’s east lies Kakadu National Park, famous for its waterfalls, rugged landscapes, abundant wildlife and Aboriginal rock paintings.

Kimberly will satisfy your craving for open spaces. Accessible only by sea, this immense landscape encompasses spectacular gorges, waterfalls, caves, rainforests and diverse wildlife. Here the incredible Boab tree vies for your attention along with crocodiles, soaring red cliffs and the incomparable Bungle Bungle Range.

Lose yourself in the famous Outback. Journey deep into Australia’s Red Center, where Uluru (also known as Ayer’s Rock) rises over 1100 feet out of the desert. Watch it turn spectacular colors at sunset and you’ll understand why this rock is sacred to the Aborigines.

Australia presents visitors with stunning landscapes, unmatched open spaces, incredible outdoor activities, and pristine white beaches. For the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation, you won’t find a better destination than Australia.

History

Although Australia is geologically the oldest continent, it was the last to be explored by the West. Europeans long theorized that a large landmass called Terra Australis existed in the Southern Hemisphere to “balance” the landmasses of the north, but the continent went unexplored until the 17th century. Although expeditions came close in the 16th century, many ceased to move southward after encountering the rich Spice Islands of Southeast Asia.

The Dutch were the first to make land in Australia in the 1600s, but they found little of value for European trade and did not attempt to colonize the region. Shortly after, Britain made two expeditions to the area and drew similar conclusions. With the Age of Reason in the 18th century came a renewed interest in global discovery. In 1768, Captain James Cook reached Australia as part of a three-year expedition to explore and map the South Pacific. His discoveries led to the continent being claimed by Britain. It would be another 100 years, however, before Australia’s coast was fully explored.

Reports of mysterious indigenous peoples and a desert-like landscape made Australia less than attractive for European settlement. As a result, the first British settlement in Australia was a penal colony—known today as Sydney— established to dispose of the increasing number of convicts in Britain.

Unfortunately, the arrival of Europeans signaled disaster for Australia’s aboriginal peoples, nomadic hunter-gatherers who had inhabited the country for over 60,000 years. Since the first colony was established in 1788, the native population dwindled from 300,000 to 160,000 by the 1970s. The aborigines suffered from diseases introduced by the Europeans, discrimination by governments, and a general disruption in their traditional ways of life. Today most aborigines live in cities and towns, with a few remaining pockets of nomadic tribes found throughout Australia.

In 1901, the constitution of Australia as an independent and self-governing state went into effect. The document was modeled after the British parliamentary system and included elements of the United States government. Australia is governed by a Prime Minster and the Australian Parliament. The head of state, even if in name only, is still the British monarch. Despite the initial assumptions that Australia was a land that held little value, the country thrives on gold and opal mining along with the export of other minerals. Wool is a major export. Australia is also recognized as one of the world’s great wine-producing regions.

As Australia grew and developed, its unique natural wonders began to be threatened. The Great Barrier Reef fell victim to poaching and other human-induced threats. Public outcry resulted in the creation of the 133,000-square-mile Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. By 1981, the area had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Still, fertilizer runoff from the mainland as well as visitors touching the coral continue to threaten the reef. Efforts are on going to minimize the effects of both, including sustainable tourism operated by high-quality charter services.