Australia is far from the rest of the world, so for most visitors the only practical way to enter Australia is by air.
About half of all travellers arrive in Australia for the first time at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney (IATA: SYD). A significant number of travellers also arrive in Australia at Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international connections to Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island.
Sydney is a 3-hour flight from Auckland, New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from many Asian countries, a 14-hour flight from the Western United States and Canada, a 14-hour flight from Johannesburg, a 13-16 hour flight from South America and up to 24+ hours flight from Western Europe. Due to the length of the journey from some destinations, travellers from Europe have to make a stopover, usually in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
If you need to transfer to a domestic flight within a gateway city, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have separate domestic terminals that require some time and complexity for transit: consult the guidebooks. Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and the Gold Coast all have boarding gates in the same terminal or within walking distance of each other.
Australia’s national airline is Qantas, which, together with its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, offers numerous flights to Australia from all six inhabited continents of the world. Virgin Australia and its low-cost subsidiary Tigerair operate several routes to Australia from North America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. For those coming from Europe, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong are good alternatives to Qantas, British Airways or Gulf Airlines for flights to Australia. Some routes to Australia are operated by low-cost airlines such as AirAsia X, AirAsia Indonesia, Scoot, Tiger Airways and Jetstar Airways.
Cruise ships are mainly available during the cruise season from November to February, and around 10 ships from other countries usually arrive in Australia during this time. You can take a cruise in Australia and then fly home. Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean all offer cruises to Australia via the Pacific.
You can also travel to Australia with your own boat, but be aware of customs regulations. For more details, visit the Australian Customs website.
There are no international ferry connections.
By overland transport
There was a time when two tour operators offered an overland trip from London to Sydney, with a short hop by plane from South East Asia to North West Australia. Currently, the only such tour operator is Madventure, which offers four different itineraries: 26 weeks in Iran, Pakistan and India; 26 weeks in the Caucasus and Central Asia; and 64 weeks in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
For those determined to travel overland from Europe as much as possible, there is the option of travelling independently from Europe by train and/or bus on regular services to Singapore and flying from there to Perth (3,500 kilometres by air). For travellers who are keen to travel overland, you can take a ferry from Singapore to Indonesia and travel to Bali, from where you can fly to Darwin (2,000 kilometres by air). For the intrepid, ferries to West Timor, a bus to Dili and a flight to Darwin mean only 700 kilometres in the air.
Despite what you may read on the forum, travel to Darwin by cargo/barge through ANL and Swire (the only two routine cargo carriers between Dili and Darwin) is not permitted under any circumstances (as of June 2016). For certain travellers, it may be possible to obtain passage from Singapore by cargo barge, organised by a travel agent.