How to get to Australia without flying? Despite its remote location, it is possible to travel to Australia by ship.
In this guide, I’m going through different ways of traveling to Australia without flying. The guide covers flightless routes to Australia from four different continents:
In these sections, I’ll explain how to get to Australia without flying on freighters, sailboats, and cruise ships.
1. How to Get from America to Australia without flying
How can I get to Australia without flying from America?
To travel from the United States – or other parts of America – to Australia, you need to cross the Pacific. There are many ways to do that.
How long does it take to travel from America to Australia on a ship?
Freighter trips and other cruises from the US West Coast to Australia take around three weeks. A journey from Vancouver, Canada, takes a week longer.
I have answered this question more thoroughly in my article “How Long Does It Take a Cargo Ship to Cross the Pacific“.
And what about sailing?
According to Life of Sailing, sailing from California to Australia takes around 45-60 days. You can expect a similar duration if you start your trip in Central America.
Direct sailing from South America to Australia is far less common. As the world spins, the trade winds around the equator – where Central America is located – blow west. If you head further south, you can expect harsher weather and an opposing wind.
Can I travel from America to Australia on a cargo ship?
Yes, you can! Freighter travel is an interesting and nearly CO2 neutral way of travel. Traveling on a cargo ship usually costs around 100-150 US dollars or euros per day. The price includes all meals and accommodation.
To book a freighter cruise, you can contact a freighter travel agency such as Cargo Ship Voyages, FreighterCruises.com, Freighter Travel (NZ), or Slowtravel.
However, note that the global COVID pandemic has affected freighter travel. At the time of writing (early 2023), many cargo ships were not taking passengers, and I was unable to find available freighter voyages between the two continents.
In the past, though, passengers were able to travel from Oakland, California, to Sydney, Australia, with a stop in New Zealand on the way. The journey took around 25 days and cost ~2600 US dollars or euros.
I know about the route because I’ve used it myself.
I traveled from New Zealand to the United States on a freighter during my mostly flightless 2-year trip around the world. You can read more about that voyage in the blog post “Crossing the Pacific – My Cargo Ship Travel Experience“.
How can I sail from America to Australia?
I am not a sailor, so I’m relying on information from other sources. For more details, check out the following guides:
- How Long Does it Take to Sail Across the Pacific? (Improvesailing.com)
- How to Sail from California to Australia (Lifeofsailing.com)
- Trans Pacific (World Cruising Wiki)
According to experts, the best time to sail from America to Australia is from February to June. This will help you avoid the cyclone season that runs in the South Pacific from November to April.
Popular starting points in America include the Panama Canal, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and San Francisco or Los Angeles in California. Parts of the most popular passage are also known as Coconut Milk Run or Pacific Puddle Jump. Crossing the Pacific on a sailboat takes around 10-20 weeks.
Common stops along the way include Hawaii, Fiji, and different island countries of the South Pacific.
I don’t own a sailboat. What can I do?
Even if you don’t own a sailboat, you can join someone else’s boat to cross the Pacific. Websites such as Find a Crew and CrewSeekers connect captains with crewmates who are willing to work in exchange for the passage.
Especially on such a long journey, many captains prefer people with experience. If you want, you can take a sailing course or try a shorter trip before the larger undertaking. You can also try splitting your journey into multiple parts.
Can I travel from America to Australia on a cruise ship?
Yes, you can travel from America to Australia on a cruise ship. At the time of writing, the website Seascanner listed 22 cruises from the Americas to Australia. However, some of those cruises depart from Hawaii or take a detour in Asia.
A vast majority of the cruises departed from the United States. Three cruises start their voyage in Vancouver, Canada. Only one of the available cruises departs from South America. The MSC Magnifica cruise ship begins its journey from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the east coast of South America.
That journey takes 51 days and costs over 12,000 dollars. If possible, you could save time and money by joining the cruise later in South America. The most direct cruises from America to Australia take 21-26 days.
Is going on a cruise better than flying?
If you avoid flying for environmental reasons, you should know that cruises tend to cause more emissions than flights. If you’re worried about the carbon footprint of your travels, you may consider compensating the damage.
To do that, pay an organization such as Atmosfair to offset your CO2 emissions. I’ve been offsetting my trips for many years, and I was originally surprised by the inexpensiveness of it.
Carbon offsetting isn’t foolproof, but it is better than nothing.
2. How to Travel from Asia to Australia by Ship
Can I get to Australia on a ship from Asia?
Yes, you can. If you want to get to Australia from another continent without flying, Asia is the closest point of departure for ships and boats. Still, traveling from Asia to Australia on a ship is not as simple as one might hope.
Are there any direct ferries from Asia to Australia?
If you look at the map, you’ll notice that parts of Indonesia, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea are fairly close from the northern coast of Australia.
Darwin, the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, lies only 600 kilometers (~400 miles) away from Timor Leste. The distance between Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, and the northernmost point of mainland Australia is 500 kilometers (~300 miles).
But despite some short distances, there are no regular ferries from Asia to Australia. There are many logical reasons for this.
First of all, Australia’s Northern Territory and the closest parts of Southeast Asia are not very densely populated or popular with tourists. With little interaction, there is no reason for ferries in the area. Australia’s tight border control may have an impact, too.
Can I travel from Bali to Australia on a boat?
The island of Bali, Indonesia, is popular with Australian tourists and other travelers. Still, there are no direct ferries between Bali and Australia.
Here’s an example of an online thread where someone asks about flightless connections between Indonesia and Australia. As an answer, they got over 60 replies with tons of trolling and ridicule but very little help. You can take that as a no.
However, some cruises from Asia to Australia make a stop in Bali. I’ve written more about these cruises at the end of this section.
If you’re very lucky, you might be able to find a sailboat on Findacrew.net that you could join. Armin from easybackpacker.com did this in 2012. According to him, the journey takes around two weeks.
If you’re not strictly flightless but want to minimize flying, you can catch a plane from Bali or to Darwin. This is what I did during my trip around the world. For an even shorter flight, take a direct 700 kilometer flight from Dili in Timor Leste to Darwin.
How can I travel from Darwin to other parts of Australia?
From Darwin, you can continue your journey on Greyhound long-distance coaches or The Ghan train service. Just note that the distances from Darwin are very, very long.
A coach trip from Darwin to Alice Springs in Central Australia – and close to Uluru – takes 18 hours. If you continue your journey to Adelaide in South Australia, the ride takes twice as long.
The touristy Ghan train offers a more comfortable yet slower and more expensive journey: it takes three days and two nights to travel from Darwin to Adelaide on rails.
Traveling from Indonesia to Australia by sea is very difficult. Luckily there are other ways to reach Australia without flying.
Som how can I get to Australia without flying from Asia?
To travel from Asia to Australia without flying, you have three basic options: cargo ships, cruises, and boats. All methods work, but don’t be surprised by the long travel times – most ships arrive in the big cities in the east of Australia, increasing the distance.
Traveling from Asia to Australia on a cargo ship
If you want to leave Asia on a freighter, Singapore is one of the best starting points. Still, it is not the only one, and you can hop on a freighter to Australia in my ports on the Pacific coast of Asia. Here are a few possible routes:
- Singapore to Fremantle (Western Australia), 9 days, ~1100 euros
- Singapore to Brisbane, 13 days, ~1700 euros
- Osaka (Japan) to Melbourne, 23 days, ~3000 euros
The fastest freighters from Asia to Australia take around 9-12 days. Most freighters make several stops in Asia and Australia, allowing you to extend your trip on both ends. On average, freighter trips cost 100-150 US dollars or euros per day, including meals and your own cabin.
Cruises from Asia to Australia
And of course, cruise ships also venture from Asia to Australia. Out of the 16 cruises that I found, 15 leave from Singapore. The last one leaves from the Philippines. The fastest cruises from Singapore to Australia take a bit more than a week with prices starting from 2,000 euros.
However, some of these cruises stop in Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia, along the way. If hopping on board in the middle of the cruise is possible, One could travel from Bali to Perth, Western Australia, in as little as four days.
Sailing from Asia to Australia
Joining a sailboat to travel from Asia to Australia is an option too. However, it is not the most common route. Popular ports of departure might include Singapore and Bali.
At the time of writing, only one crew on Findacrew.net was looking for crewmembers to sail from Asia to Australia. In that case, they were traveling from Phuket, Thailand, to Australia as a part of their world tour.
In 2011, Armin from Easybackpacker.com wrote a short guide about traveling from Asia to Australia on a boat. He was finally able to do it himself, although he makes it clear that finding such boats isn’t as easy as one might hope.
3. How to Get from Europe to Australia without Flying
Can I take a ship from Europe to Australia?
Yes, you can – though it is a long journey. A freighter journey from London to Melbourne takes 45 days and costs 4,500-6,000 euros. For a shorter journey, you can hop aboard in Italy or somewhere else around the Mediterranean. Such change can save over two weeks of travel time – and cut the costs by over 30 %.
What about sailing from Europe to Australia?
That’s an option, too, though it’s a long way. In that case, you’d most likely sail across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, cross the Panama Canal and finally sail across the Pacific. Here’s one story about such a journey. Sailing from Europe to Australia this way would require a minimum of two months.
And are there any cruises from Europe to Australia?
Yes, there are! At the time of writing, Seascanner lists 11 cruises from Europe to Australia. These cruises leave from England, Germany, and Spain. The shortest journeys take about a month and cost around 8,000 euros or US dollars per cabin.
Can I go from Europe to Australia through Asia or America?
Yes, of course. In that case, you can start with one of my two other flightless travel guides:
- How to Get from Europe to America by Ship
- How to Get from Europe to Asia by Train (+ More Flightless Routes)
Those two guides offer ideas for the first leg of the trip. After reaching your continent of choice, you can continue your journey as described in the first parts of this travel guide.
4. How to Get to Australia without Flying from Africa
How to get to Australia without flying from Africa
It is possible to get from Africa to Australia on a boat or a ship. However, such journeys are not very popular. In most cases, it’s better to start your journey in South Africa.
Here’s more information about sailing routes, cruises and freighter routes from Africa to Australia.
How to sail from Africa to Australia
To sail from Africa to Australia, you need to cross the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately the trade winds near the equator work against you as they push from east to west. Because of this, it’s best to start in southern Africa and sail a southern – and colder – route.
The World Cruising Wiki has some more information about sailing from South Africa to Australia.
Are there any cruises from Africa to Australia?
There are not many cruises from Africa to Australia. Website Seascanner lists two cruises from Africa to the Land Down Under. The cruises start in Cape Town and reach Perth in Western Australia in seven days. Cabins start at around 4,700 euros.
Traveling from Africa on a freighter
It might be possible to take a cargo ship voyage from Africa to Australia. However, there’s little information available about such journeys. If any voyages are available, they would most likely leave from Cape Town or Durban in South Africa.
The container ship I mentioned in the European section above makes stops in Egypt, Mauritius, and Réunion. However, no embarking is allowed on Egypt, and the island nations of Mauritius and Réunion are far away from continental Africa.
You can, however, reach Australia with a combination of a cruise and a freighter. According to some sources, a cruise from Cape Town to Mauritius takes four days if available. From Mauritius, you can take a freighter to Australia and reach Sydney in 15 days.
How to Get to Australia without flying
In this guide, I have explained how to get to Australia without flying from different parts of the world. The ocean travel guide is not comprehensive, and it’s based on multiple online sources. Some of the information might be outdated or wrong, so check the facts before you go.
I haven’t listed all possible routes to Australia. Most importantly, I didn’t write full sections about departing from New Zealand and Oceania. Here are short summaries about these routes:
Traveling from New Zealand and Oceania to Australia by Boat
There haven’t been frequent passenger ferries between Australia and New Zealand since the 1960s. Luckily cruises, sailboats and freighters travel between the nations.
In the case of Oceania, you might be able to hitch a ride on a sailboat if you place a message on the notice board of a local sailing club. I did this in the Royal Suva Yacht Club in Fiji, and I was offered a journey to Australia.
(Unfortunately I was heading to New Zealand, so I had to pass the offer.)
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I hope the article has given you a sufficient overview of flightless travel to Australia. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section below!