For travellers who yearn to see the far-flung corners of the world, an Australia to Antarctica cruise is the ultimate adventure. We reveal all in our handy travel guide for explorers from Australia to Antarctica, like when to go, how to get there, and what to pack.

The importance of planning & preparation

An Antarctic expedition promises unforgettable experiences, a profound connection with nature, and unparalleled opportunities to witness the stark, pristine beauty of the world’s last great wilderness.

Antarctica is not a flop-and-drop destination (unless you’re a seal) like Fiji nor a last-minute holiday spot like Bali. You’ll gain a lot from our expertise – we’ve been touring the polar regions for over 30 years now – but given the remote and challenging nature of travel to Antarctica from Australia, it helps if you plan, too.

Knowing what months see what wildlife, what activities are available, and what to pack ensures your Antarctica voyage is that once-in-a-lifetime expedition you’ve long been dreaming about.

Planning your Australia to Antarctica journey

Booking early is crucial whether travelling to Antarctica solo, with your family or as a group. We recommend 12-18 months in advance, especially if you want to travel over our most popular months (January and February) or over the Christmas or New Year period when both staterooms and flights sell out.

When are you planning to go?

The Antarctic travel season runs from November to March during the Southern Hemisphere’s warmer months. The thickness of the sea ice, weather conditions, longer daylight hours, and mesmerising wildlife activity ensure you’re spoilt with the best of the White Continent’s treasures.

What do you want to see?

November and March are fabulous months for those wanting to experience the quintessential Antarctica landscape. As the sea ice melts in November and begins to reform in March, large ice floes and pack ice fill the landscape. Sunsets during these months are also spectacular.

December and January represent the most popular months for Antarctica’s breeding season. With almost 24/7 sunshine, there’s ample time to watch penguin chicks hatch, whales arrive on their migratory path, and Weddell seals moulting.

February and March are excellent months for whale watching and seeing penguin adolescents prepping for life on their own.

For a month-by-month guide to Antarctica seasons, read this.

Are there activities you want to do? 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of touring Antarctica with a small-ship expedition company is there’s ample time to enjoy polar life both on and off ship. Our expert Expedition Team, convenient Zodiac boats, and flexible itinerary ensure we’re best set to deliver a trip you’ll talk about for decades. Plus, we offer a range of activities – most included – during your voyage.

  • Photography: Capture the essence of your Antarctica adventure as on every sailing, our onboard photographer will share tips to maximise your snaps.
  • Zodiac cruises: Navigate closer to the shore for more intimate wildlife encounters with our small inflatable Zodiac boats.
  • The Polar Plunge: Talking of plunging right in, we cannot forget our epic Polar Plunge! This is your chance to take the ultimate Antarctica rite of passage by dipping into the frigid Southern Ocean waters. The bravery required can be transformative for some!
  • Informative Lectures: Whether you’re enjoying a guided hike, Zodiac cruise, or joining the team in the lecture theatre, our Expedition Team offers enriching, educational and entertaining presentations about our incredible destinations. With specialists in biology, geology, birding, local culture, history, and photography, you’ll always have someone to enrich your experience!
  • Citizen Science: Contribute to scientific research projects while exploring some of the most remote corners of our planet! Depending on the location, participate in studies on whales, seabirds, microplastics, pollution, weather patterns, phytoplankton, polar fjordlands, and marine biodiversity.
  • Sea Kayaking: Paddle through icy waters for an up-close view of icebergs and wildlife. It’s a serene and unique way to experience Antarctica’s beauty. Additional costs apply.

Considering travel insurance options

Given Antarctica’s remoteness and the adventurous opportunities travelling with AE Expeditions affords you, comprehensive travel insurance is a necessity and condition of travel with us. Your policy must be from a reputable travel insurance provider with medical, accident, and evacuation cover, along with baggage loss, cancellation, and holiday curtailment cover.

If you’ll want to join our adventure activities, ensure they are covered, too. Some may incur an additional fee.

How to get to Antarctica from Australia

While Tasmanians and Victorians may be very familiar with that brr-inducing Antarctic chill, most of our expeditions sail from South America, from either Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile. That said, we’ve recently announced we’re returning to the Ross Sea and East Antarctica after 13 years, departing from Australia and New Zealand.

Choosing the right route

Deciding between departing from Australia/New Zealand or South America is a matter of selecting the best itinerary, alongside your vacation length, and prioritising what you’d most like to see on your expedition.

Whichever route you choose, the journey itself is spectacular. From Australia & New Zealand, you’ll traverse the Southern Ocean, pass the Subantarctic Islands, witness the vastness of the open seas, and meet the avian and marine life residents who call this area of the world home.

For departures from South America, the Drake Passage offers the thrill of crossing one of the most notorious bodies of water. Will you get the Drake Lake or Drake Shake? It’s followed by the breathtaking approach to the Antarctic Peninsula where towering icebergs, jaw-dropping scenery, and wildlife wonders await.

Where cruises depart from in Australia

Starting from our 2025/26 season, you can explore new frontiers as we visit Antarctica from Australia and New Zealand aboard our new ship, the Douglas Mawson.

One of our new cruises is our Ross Sea Odyssey, a 25-day adventure departing Dunedin, New Zealand. Discover the unique flora and fauna across the subantarctic islands, cross the Antarctic Circle and on to the Victoria Land Coast and Ross Sea, where the world’s largest floating ice shelf awaits.

For Antarctica cruises from Australia, Mawson’s Antarctica is a 24-day odyssey retracing Australian polar legend Sir Douglas Mawson’s historic voyage to remote East Antarctica. Alongside wildlife spotting and witnessing the awe-inspiring landscape, we’ll make landfall to explore what remains of Mawson’s main base (weather permitting).

For the ultimate cruise to Antarctica from Australia, join our 34-day Epic Antarctica: Crossing the 7th Continent. Journeying from Dunedin to Ushuaia, this combines the best of all Antarctica voyages, taking in the Australian and New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, crossing the Ross Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula and Drake Passage. What a journey!

Duration & distance of the journey

Wondering how to get to Antarctica from Australia? Or even how far from Australia to Antarctica the journey is?

  • Travelling by ship from Hobart or Dunedin to the Ross Sea and East Antarctica takes longer than from South America. You’ll travel through the amazing Australian & New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, stopping to experience their highlights and wildlife. From the Subantarctic Islands, it’s another two to four days before reaching the Antarctic continent.
  • From Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula, we sail the infamous Drake Passage for around two days, making it a more popular option. If time is an issue, there is also an option to Fly the Drake, bypassing the Drake Passage altogether.

Things to consider before departure

Prepping for Antarctica isn’t just about booking early. There are other helpful considerations to know in advance.

Packing essentials for Antarctic exploration

With no Macpac or Chemist Warehouse to grab last-minute supplies, packing for Antarctica requires a decent amount of forethought.

In our handy polar packing guide, you’ll learn about the layer principle, including a thermal base, insulation, and wind and waterproof items. A thick hat and gloves are equally essential, as are sunscreen and sunglasses with quality UV protection.

Given the beauty of the scenery, pack your best camera and lens or quality smartphone, plus portable chargers to ensure you capture it all.

Health & safety precautions

Ensuring you’re in good health before embarkation for any Antarctica voyage is crucial as medical facilities are limited. You’ll want to be confident on your feet for shore excursions, be able to get in and out of a Zodiac boat, and walk across wet, snowy, and possibly rocky terrain.

As mentioned in the packing section, there’s nowhere in Antarctica to find medication – including seasickness tablets – so ensure you pack an adequate amount and always travel with your medication in your hand luggage.

Before travel, you’ll complete a medical form, signed by your GP. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, ensure they are covered by your travel insurance policy.

Environmental considerations

Antarctica is a pristine environment, and as a certified B-Corporation™ company, we seek to minimise our impact as we explore the world’s most remote regions. Since Greg Mortimer founded AE Expeditions in 1991 we’ve been committed to sustainability. As we’ve grown, so has our ability to do more.

From becoming carbon neutral to offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing food waste, we continuously look for ways to improve our business operations in alignment with our core values. We also engage in clean-up actions, support community initiatives, and value education as part of our guest experience.

Onboard experiences 

Life aboard an AE Expeditions voyage is never dull! Not only because we travel to some of the world’s last frontiers, but because you’ll be travelling on our purpose-built expedition ships with our legendary crew. Here’s what else you’ll enjoy on board.

Amenities & accommodation 

Our purpose-built small expedition ships set the stage for a journey of comfort and cosiness. It’s not only our stylish staterooms and onboard amenities, including our education centre, sauna, and two Jacuzzis that offer comfort but our ship’s ULSTEIN X-BOW® technology.

Thanks to this state-of-the-art tech, our ships – the Greg Mortimer, Sylvia Earle and new Douglas Mawson – are designed for more rugged environments, cut through swell-reducing motion sickness, and plough through thicker sea ice getting us further into regions than other vessels.

There’s also faster disembarkation for Zodiac trips and kayaking excursions, as well as a mudroom to dry your gear between excursions. And let’s not forget the 270-360-degree views on our multiple open decks, plus floor-to-ceiling indoor lounge areas, ensuring you have a prime spot to watch the majestic views.

Dining options & cuisine 

Being fuelled and ready for adventures is as imperative as wearing the right gear and packing your camera! Aboard each ship, you’ll find two dining areas, one for buffet-style meals, the other a reservations-required restaurant. We serve delicious, hearty meals alongside morning and afternoon teas. Coffee, tea, and snacks are available 24/7, and house wine, beers, and soft drinks are served with dinner.

We can cater to most dietary requirements; please advise your specific needs when booking.

Exploring Antarctica

Landings & shore excursions 

Daily shore excursions play a big role in how much of Antarctica you get to see. As Antarctica is nearly twice as big compared to Australia, there’s plenty of space to find something exciting to do. We aim for 2-3 excursions per day, weather permitting.

Whether that’s to land on a beach to watch penguins doing penguin-y things (read: being hilarious), visiting a research station, hiking to the most scenic vantage point, or a surprise and delight moment our experienced Expedition Leaders have discovered is all part of the joy in travelling with a company dedicated to providing every expeditioner with the best experience possible.

Geographic & scientific highlights 

Antarctica has long been a place of intrigue. From the polar explorers who wanted to reach it to the scientists who want to study it to the travellers ready to sail its frosty shores, the White Continent has always held allure.

Geographically, there are plenty of significant sites of note, including the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in Antarctica, the Transantarctic Mountains dividing east and west, and Mount Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano.

The historic Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, stand as a testament to the enduring legacy of Mawson’s pioneering expeditions. These Baltic Pine shelters, managed by the Mawson’s Hut Foundation, withstood severe conditions to serve as vital bases for scientific inquiry during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-14, offering a glimpse into the Heroic Era of Antarctic exploration. As part of our Mawson’s Antarctica voyage, we will attempt to make a rare and much-coveted landing at Cape Denison to explore these historic huts.

Our expert Expedition Team will impart the region’s impressive geography and fascinating wildlife to deepen your connection to the continent. We also encourage participation in our Citizen Science Program.

Antarctica’s 66 research stations provide additional insights. Marine biologists, glaciologists, and climate change scientists are some of the 5,000 people who reside here in summer. In winter, it’s around 1,000 residents.

Local wildlife interactions

From the first steps of a penguin chick to the grace of a breaching whale, Antarctica wildlife encounters are a major draw for travellers to the region.

Across the White Continent, there are eight species of whales, six seal breeds, and 62 bird species, including 18 penguin breeds. In the Subantarctic Islands alone, there are 15 bird species you won’t find anywhere else in the world, including – remarkably – parakeets!

Ready to Explore Antarctica?

As you now understand, planning your Australia to Antarctica cruise is best done well in advance to get your ducks (or penguins) in a row. With the right gear, travel insurance, and health and fitness preparations, you’ll maximise your enjoyment of travel to the White Continent with the expedition experts.

If you’re ready for a transformative travel experience to one of the world’s most impressive, pristine destinations, check out our range of Antarctic voyages or book now with our expert team.


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