New horizons: five fresh experiences waiting for you on an Aussie holiday

From reinvigorated art galleries to Australia’s newest coral colony, there’s no shortage of incredible sights to see when you next set sail.

A new study commissioned by Carnival Cruise Line reveals almost 90 per cent of Australians think discovering new things is one of the most important aspects of a holiday. Perhaps that’s why so many of us love to go cruising: not only is there an ever-changing line-up of activities and entertainment on board, there are opportunities to disembark and explore fascinating destinations.

We’ve rounded up five unforgettable experiences – either new or
little-known – in some of Carnival’s favourite Australian ports.

TANGALOOMA RESORT, MORETON ISLAND: See colourful coral blooming amid a graveyard of ships

The 15 scuttled ships known as the Tangalooma Wrecks have delighted visitors for several decades, but only in recent years has coral begun to form in and around the vessels in Moreton Bay. That coral is now attracting more than 100 species of fish, which are in turn luring dolphins, dugongs and wobbegongs. You can see this splendid sight for yourself by donning a snorkel and goggles during a Moreton Island on-shore day. For an even more immersive experience, hire a sea scooter and explore the bay floor. 

AIRLIE BEACH: Test your nerve with a close encounter of the reptilian kind

You may have seen crocs in a zoo before, but coming face to face with these fearsome creatures in the wild is an entirely different experience – and a rare one. If you’re feeling courageous during your next on-shore day at Airlie Beach, book a day tour with Whitsunday Crocodile Safari – the only such tour operator in the region – and venture deep into the reptiles’ estuarine habitat aboard a reassuringly sturdy boat. The trip will also bring you up close to a remarkable variety of birdlife and crustaceans, although you’ll probably want to keep your eyes firmly on the nearby crocs.

CAIRNS: White-water raft through a rugged gorge

Most visitors to Cairns focus on the Great Barrier Reef, but there are incredible sights to see inland. Just 20 minutes from the city, under-the-radar Barron Gorge National Park is a stunning patch of unspoiled nature, boasting lush rainforest, towering waterfalls and the dramatic gorge itself. A half-day rafting tour with Foaming Fury is the perfect way to see the park, and you don’t need any experience on the water. Kids are welcome, too.

PORT DOUGLAS: Connect with the Daintree Rainforest’s Indigenous custodians

From Port Douglas, it takes just 20 minutes to reach the Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre, considered the gateway to the Daintree. Here, members of the local Kuku Yalanji Indigenous community lead guided Dreamtime walks that reveal the forest’s ancient power. Each tour begins with a traditional smoking ceremony to ward off bad spirits, followed by an hour-long ramble through the unique landscape, accompanied by Dreamtime stories. To connect with Australia’s mighty heritage, look no further.

HOBART: Get up close to monumental artwork at MONA

Since it opened a decade ago, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has drawn thousands of interstate and international visitors to once-sleepy Hobart to see owner David Walsh’s collection of ancient and contemporary works. You may have visited, too – but unless you managed to go in 2018 or 2019 (the museum was closed in 2020), you won’t have seen the stunning new Pharos wing. Here, four over-sized installations by one of the world’s most acclaimed living artists, James Turrell, share space with other contemporary pieces that explore the use of light. There’s even a room full of rainbows.