Updated June 19, 2019
Whether you are seeking fine food and wine, cultural immersion, action and adventure, weird animals or natural beauty, Australia will float your boat. With enthusiastic tour guides and shore excursions ranging from wine-tasting on horseback to underground caving adventures and a multi-night extravaganza that includes Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), there is never a dull moment Down Under. The following tours offer a quintessential slice of Australia with a twist.
Oceans to Outback
Hold onto your hats (and your wallet) as this high-end shore tour takes you deep into the heart of Australia and beyond in four nights with multiple flights and multiple sights you will never forget.
After a day touring the Great Barrier Reef you'll spend the night in Cairns, you'll board an early morning flight to Uluru and take a tour of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), a group of 36 domed rocks that are sacred to the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land. Most visitors tend to focus on Uluru but Mt Olga, the largest of the rocks, is nearly 200 metres higher. Finish the day watching that famous Uluru sunset with a glass of bubbles in hand, followed by an evening under the stars at the famous Sounds of Silence dinner.
One of the most important Anangu creation stories comes alive the next morning as a guide shares the legend of Liru (the snake) and Kuniya (the python). After lunch you'll return to the hotel for some free time before dinner and a trip to the the critically-acclaimed Field of Light art installation. Day 4 is spent with a member of an Uluru family on their homelands exploring the incredible landscape from a 4x4 vehicle. The next morning you are up early for a flight to Darwin where you'll tour the city before rejoining the cruise and enjoying a well-earned rest.
Exclusive Frankland Islands
If you want to explore the Great Barrier Reef, this is the equivalent of being let through an exclusive back door. A snorkelling excursion to the Frankland Islands skips the long boat ride to an open water pontoon in favour of a picturesque drive past rainforest-clad mountains and a scenic cruise up the Mulgrave River. A 20-minute ocean crossing to Normanby Island follows the cruise. (Normanby Island is one of five islands that make up the Frankland Islands group.)
On Normanby, you can spend the day with a marine biologist exploring the island's forests, beaches and surrounding reef and snorkelling with turtles, coral and tropical fish. If you want to see the reef but would prefer to stay dry, there is a semi-submersible tour available at no extra charge. Squeeze in another swim after a buffet lunch on the beach before the return trip to Cairns.
Darwin Sights and Crocodylus Park
You get crocodiles with a side order of culture on this Darwin tour, which offers a fascinating blend of Aboriginal art, local history and snapping jaws.
First stop is the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, which is best known for two things: an extensive indigenous art collection and Sweetheart, a 5-metre crocodile with a story to tell. The museum also pays homage to Cyclone Tracy, which devastated much of the original city on Christmas Eve 1974. An original audio recording of the tortured screech of tearing metal and banshee-like screams of the wind plays on a continuous loop in a pitch-black room. This will make your toes curl and is the closest you want to get to actually experiencing a cyclone.
After exploring the museum, there is a 10-minute drive to Crocodylus Park where, unlike Sweetheart, the crocodiles are very much alive. Seeing a huge croc launch itself high above the water to grab a piece of meat during the feeding presentation will leave you in awe. Pay close attention to those 'No Swimming: Crocodiles' signs you see around the Darwin foreshore.
An Evening with the Devils
Under the cover of darkness you’ll get to meet some of Australia’s most amazing nocturnal species on this ultimate Tasmanian wildlife experience. Your devilish night begins with a glass of Tasmanian sparkling wine and the chance to observe native wildlife during their natural waking hours.
Whether you are an experienced rider or a complete novice, there is a horse to suit and plenty of encouragement for those who need it. You will get to experience an excellent network of equestrian trails, along with a few jaunts through pretty private farmland. All up, you spend about three hours in the saddle, but there is a delicious break for wine tasting and lunch at T'Gallant, one of Australia's best-known wineries.
After lunch, it's time to ride back to the stables where everyone hugs their horse (trust me, you'll do it, too) and boards a coach for another picturesque wine tasting on the way back to the ship in Hobart.
Aboriginal Culture and Ngili Cave
In the Western Australian port of Busselton, set out on a bushwalk with an Indigenous guide to learn about the flora and fauna used in medicines and meals and how to forage for native bush food. Soon, you’ll reach the entrance to Ngili Cave, and make your way more than 35 metres below the ground.
Be serenaded by a didgeridoo as you listen to Dreamtime stories surrounded by the underground wonderland of stalactite, stalagmite and shawl formations of Ngili Cave. The cave’s unique acoustics fill the space with the rich sound of this ancient Aboriginal instrument. After leaving the cave, see traditional fire making and learn how Aboriginal tools are crafted from materials gathered from the surrounding area.