Six of the best cruise ports near Australia


Emerald hillsides, scalloped bays and a lagoon dotted with daytrip-worthy small islands provide Noumea with a lovely setting. You'll find an unhurried town of smart French-colonial buildings behind flame trees, sophisticated seafood restaurants, and street markets where stall owners twang ukuleles. Forest Park, Aquarium des Lagons – which has fluorescent coral and rare nautilus – and Cagou Bird Sanctuary are choice sights. Don't miss Tjibaou Cultural Centre for its stunning architecture and fine collections of Melanesian art. The active can get hiking around Noumea's compact bays and peninsulas to Ouen Toro lookout, a 90-minute walk from the cruise terminal. See


Clinging to steep green hillsides above a fine harbour, Port Vila is a lovely town with meandering streets, a thriving cafe scene and enough handicraft shops and stalls to keep the souvenir hunter happy. The National Museum with its outrigger canoes and ceremonial headdresses and the more animated Ekasup Cultural Village provide an introduction to Melanesian life. But most of all, you'll want to explore Efate island's volcanic hills, waterfalls and sandy bays and get out on the water for sailing, kayaking, fishing or snorkelling. Scuba divers should take the plunge at Konanda Reef or the Twin Bommmies, riddled with grottoes. See


Sail into Tauranga and you're rewarded with leaping dolphins, wild beaches and a volcanic plug that guards the entrance to its hidden harbour. Four kilometres of walking track lead from the dock around the base of Mount Maunganui; the heart-banging but short ascent is even more scenically sumptuous. Between that and the stylish seaside town of the same name (Tauranga itself is six kilometres away) you can spend a very happy day, though New Zealand first-timers might want to book a shore excursion to Rotorua, an hour's drive away, to boggle at its geothermal wonders. See


Our near Pacific neighbours have no shortage of prettily situated ports but Madang's location on a peninsula skirted by small islands and coral gardens and woven with parkland, blossoming shade trees and waterways makes it one of the best. Volcanic peaks serrate the background. For a kickback day of swimming, snorkelling and beach-flopping head out to Kranket or Siar islands. Kau Rainforest Museum beyond town gets you into the jungle, with insight provided by the Dipida people. This is a culturally rich region of PNG, with performances showcasing tribal dance, tradition and flamboyant fashions. See


Lautoka sits amid sugarcane plantations on Vita Levu's west coast, lapped by a lagoon in peacock shades and stitched with attractive beaches. The town itself, a 20-minute walk from the cruise terminal, has only passing attractions such as lively fruit-tumbled markets, the rum-maker South Pacific Distilleries, and a Hare Krishna temple. The hinterland is however marvellous, so head out to Koroyanitu National Heritage Park for waterfalls and bird life, Tau Caves for an eerie limestone world, or Sabeto Mudpool for a thermal wallow. The Garden of the Sleeping Giant has lurid orchid displays and ponds afloat in waterlilies. See


Ambon's foreshore is clotted with unappealing concrete buildings but backed by steep green volcanic hills tumbling with lush vegetation, making for a scenic sail-in. The small city has its charms – leafy streets, busy markets, friendly people – and you might want to visit Ambon War Cemetery where Australian and Allied World War II soldiers lie beneath giant tropical trees. But really, you'll want to explore compact Ambon island, which has an eye-catching mountainous interior and rich history associated with Arab, Portuguese and Dutch spice traders. Atmospheric Amsterdam Fort on the north coast could hardly have a lovelier location. See