Research Guides

Passenger Ships to Australia

A Comparison of Vessels and Journey Times to Australia Between 1788 and 1900

This guide shows the duration of passage voyages to Australia according to the era. We've selected a 'typical' vessel from each period and provided the following details for each:

  • Speed (knots)
  • Voyage (days)
  • Length (feet)
  • Displacement (tons)
  • Number of Passengers
The periods covered are listed below.
  • 1788: First Fleet ship
  • 1852: Early Steamship
  • 1862: The Gold Rushes
  • 1883: Clipper ships
  • 1888: Age of Steam
  • Passenger Liners 1909
  • Passenger Liners 1931
  • Passenger Liners 1960

1788 First Fleet ship

Borrowdale

Route: Portsmouth Teneriffe, Rio de Janiero, Cape Verde Islands, Cape of Good Hope, Botany Bay
Speed: 6 knots
Voyage: 109 days
Length: 113 feet (34.4m)
Passengers: 216
Tons: 492

1852 Early Steamship

Chusan
Route: Southampton Saint Vincent, The Cape, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney
Speed: 8 knots
Voyage: 80 days
Length: 190 feet (57.9 m)
Passengers: 40
Tons: 690


1862 The Gold Rushes

George Marshall
Route: London to Sydney direct (NB vessel wrecked on Flinders Island, Bass Strait en route to Sydney)
Speed: 10 knots
Voyage: 92 days
Length: 179 feet (54.5m)
Passengers: 300
Tons: 1206


1883 Clipper ships

Samuel Plimsoll
Route: London to Sydney direct
Speed: 15 knots
Voyage: 72 days
Length: 241 feet
Passengers: 427
Tons: 1459


1888 Age of Steam

SS Australasian
Speed: 17 knots
Voyage: 50 days
Length: 360 feet (109.7m)
Passengers: 640
Tons: 3662


1909 (Passenger liner)

SS Osterley
Route: London to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane via Suez
Speed: 18 knots
Voyage: 45 days
Length: 553 feet (168.5m)
Passengers: 270 first class, 120 second, 700 third
Tons: 12,129


1931 (Passenger liner)

SS Strathnaver
Route: London, Bombay, Colombo, Melbourne, Sydney
Speed: 20 knots
Voyage: 42 days
Length: 664 feet (202.4m)
Passengers: 500 first class, 608 tourist
Tons: 22,547


1960 (Passenger liner)

SS Oriana
Route: Southampton, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney via Suez
Speed: 27.5 knots
Voyage: 28 days
Length: 804 feet (245.1m)
Passengers: 638 first class, 1496 tourist
Tons: 41,915


To find out more information about the history and construction of types of vessels or particular ships, browse through the other topics in our research guides.