How Long Did It Take to Sail From England to Australia in the 1700s?

In the 1700s, the journey from England to Australia was a daunting and treacherous one. The vast distance between the two continents meant that sailors had to endure months at sea, facing numerous challenges along the way. Let’s explore how long it took to sail from England to Australia during this era, and the factors that influenced the duration of the journey.

The Route

The journey from England to Australia in the 1700s followed a route that took sailors around the southern tip of Africa, known as the Cape of Good Hope. This route was chosen due to prevailing winds and ocean currents which made it more favorable for sailing.

The Ships

The ships used for these long voyages were typically large sailing vessels known as “East Indiamen.” These ships were built for endurance and capable of carrying a substantial amount of cargo. However, they were not designed for speed and could only travel at an average speed of around 5-6 knots.

Duration of the Journey

The journey from England to Australia in the 1700s took anywhere between 3 to 6 months on average, depending on various factors:

  • Weather Conditions: Unpredictable weather conditions could significantly impact the duration of the voyage. Storms, calms, and adverse winds could slow down or even halt progress altogether.
  • Season: The time of year also played a role in determining how long it took to sail from England to Australia. For example, sailing during winter months would often result in longer journeys due to harsher conditions.
  • Crew Skills: The skills and experience of the crew members onboard also influenced the speed at which they could navigate through different weather patterns and make necessary adjustments to the sails.

Challenges Faced

The journey from England to Australia in the 1700s was not without its challenges. Sailors had to contend with the risk of scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. To combat this, ships were stocked with preserved fruits and vegetables like lemons and sauerkraut.

Another challenge was maintaining good hygiene on board. The close quarters and lack of proper sanitation often led to the spread of diseases such as dysentery and typhoid fever.


In summary, sailing from England to Australia in the 1700s was a lengthy and hazardous undertaking. With an average duration of 3 to 6 months, sailors had to navigate challenging weather conditions, rely on their skills, and overcome various health risks along the way. The journey required resilience, determination, and careful planning to ensure a successful voyage.

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Emma Gibson