Aerial view of the Rock of Gibraltar

Gibraltar Cruise Port Guide: Explore Rock of Gibraltar on Your Own

Before visiting Gibraltar, I thought it was just a big rock. Boy, was I wrong! This fascinating territory is steeped in history, boasts incredible natural wonders, and yes, it’s home to those famously playful monkeys. Let me share what I discovered on my cruise stop in Gibraltar, with tips to get from cruise port to the Cable Car Station, and what to see & do once you get to the Rock of Gibraltar.

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Gibraltar Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Straightforward)

My DIY Shore Excursion Rating for Gibraltar is 4 ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Straightforward); see what my DIY Shore Excursion Rating mean here.

There are multiple ways to get up to the Nature Reserve (aka the Rock of Gibraltar) – the main tourist destination. Once you’re up the Rock, there are lots of things to see and do. The main ways of getting to the top of the Rock is either the cable car or via taxis.

My “straightforward” rating is based on:

  • Public bus route within a few minutes walk of the Gibraltar cruise port to the cable car station. It is also possible to walk but it did take me 35 minutes!
  • Lots of options to book an ad hoc taxi tour or small group tour at Gibraltar cruise port itself (without pre-booking).

I’ll mainly focus on a DIY excursion via the cable car option on this cruise port, in keeping up with the DIY spirit of this blog!

When I visited Gibraltar cruise port, there are many websites selling the ad hoc taxi tours or small group tours, so I’ll only cover these briefly here.

Gibraltar Cruise Port Essentials: What Your Need to Know

View of Gibraltar cruise port from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar
View of Gibraltar cruise port from the top of the Rock
  • Gibraltar Cruise Port Schedule: Gibraltar Cruise Authority – the official website
  • Gibraltar Cruise Port Address: 4JXM+3MQ, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar – see it marked on my map below ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • Currency: Gibraltar pound, which is pegged to the British Pound (GBP) 1 to 1. Most shops and even buses will take Euros notes and coins.
    • Special note about Gibraltar Pounds (GIP): British Pound Sterling (GBP) notes and coins are accepted in Gibraltar. Note Scottish or Northern Ireland notes and coins are not accepted in Gibraltar.
    • Gibraltar pounds are only accepted in Gibraltar and not accepted in United Kingdom. This means that if you withdraw or exchange any home currency into Gibraltar Pounds, you won’t be able to use them even if your cruise is, let’s say, heading off to Southampton or another British Isles port.
  • Language: English. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory.
  • Official Tourism Websites: Visit Gibraltar
  • Transport App: I used Google Maps to check directions. Gibraltar is so small that there’s only 1 or 2 bus routes that most tourists will use anyway and I’ll explain those below.
  • eSIM for roaming in Gibraltar: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout

Gibraltar Cruise Port Map

  • On Desktop | Laptop? Use buttons on bottom left to zoom in/out. Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version.
  • On Tablet | Mobile? Pinch your screen to zoom in/out and use two fingers to move map around. If you have Google Maps installed on your tablet/mobile, my map will open in your Google Maps app if you click on the upper right hand corner.
  • If map is not loading correctly, click here to see it directly on Google Maps.

Getting from Gibraltar Cruise Port to Cable Car Station: Your Options

Gibraltar cable car, on its way up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar
Gibraltar Cable Car

Due to local taxi association restrictions, your cruise line will not operate a cruise shuttle bus, whether that be a complimentary or paid shuttle bus. Your cruise line will, of course, still operate tours, just not a shuttle bus that effectively competes with the local taxis.

You can also purchase a private tour up to the Nature Reserve (aka the Rock of Gibraltar) directly from the taxis and other tour companies at the cruise port. The shortest tour is less than two hours, up to the top of the Rock with full day tours also available. If you want to spend your port day in Gibraltar with a flexible schedule or spend time on what you want to see & do, then a DIY excursion is for you!

Here are your options to get to the cable car station:

1. Bus 5&10 from Gibraltar cruise port

The Bus No. 5&10 (yes, five and ten, not a typo!), operated by Citibus will take you to the cable car station. (Citibus is a different company to the government-run company running the other local buses.)

  • Bus Stop: The bus stop closest to the port is called “North Mole Road“, a 8-10 minute from the cruise terminal on flat ground. Just exit the cruise terminal gates and keep walking straight till the first big roundabout and you should see the bus stop. Get off at the last stop called “Boyd Street Terminus (Cable Car)“.
  • Tickets: A return bus ticket is ยฃ2.40 or โ‚ฌ3.60 for adults and ยฃ2 or โ‚ฌ3 for kids. If you want to see the rest of the island, a day “hopper ticket” is ยฃ6 or โ‚ฌ9 for adults and ยฃ4 or โ‚ฌ6 for kids.
  • Day Hopper sold online: If you don’t have any ยฃ or โ‚ฌ cash with you, then you can purchase the day hopper ticket online on your phones. Note that one-way or return tickets are not sold online.

2. Local taxi shuttle bus to city centre, then walk

Local taxis in Gibraltar operate a 6 – 8 people mini-van type shuttle bus to the city centre. From the city centre, you can then walk to the cable car station in about 15 minutes. Tickets can be purchased directly with the local taxis with no pre-booking required. Both ยฃ and โ‚ฌ are accepted. Shuttle tickets are ยฃ5 return.

3. Walk for around 30 minutes

On my last visit to Gibraltar in April 2023, I did do the walk from the cruise port to the cable car station, with some of my fellow cruisers who wanted to do the same. We did it in 35 minutes! Most of the walk was on flat ground but the last 5-10 minutes have some uphill sections. Believe it or not, even with the walk, we arrived before the crowds from our ship attending group excursions got there. We also got on to the second cable car, after about a 5 minute wait.

Start early! I would, however, recommend this early in the day, or at other times, as a last resort. Gibraltar’s average temperature is around 28ยฐC – 30ยฐC (82ยฐF – 86ยฐF) in July and August. I arrived on a particularly warm day in April and fortunately did the walk early in the morning when it was still relatively cool. By noon, it would certainly have been too hot to do the walk.

If you’re a keen hiker, walking up the Rock is also possible without taking the cable car. But make sure you’re prepared if you choose to hike up and carry water with you.

4. Taxi to cable car station

There are also taxis available to take you to wherever you like – you’ll find them outside the port gates. Walk past the taxis acting as shuttle buses. Note that the taxis also sell private tours up to the Rock and to other attractions, so they may prefer to sell you a tour rather than just a ride to the cable car station. As always, my DIY guide list options besides taxis because they can be hard to secure when there’s a shipload full of cruisers who all want one! ๐Ÿ˜…

DIY excursion or join in a group taxi tour?

It depends on how long you want to tour Gibraltar for.

  • Short and sweet option: If you want to get to the top of the Rock, take a few snaps and be back to the ship in two hours, a group taxi tour is a good way to go. They follow a standard itinerary and will include the tickets to the Nature Reserve, making it a highly efficient way to tour Gibraltar. Longer tours are also available. There are also other tour companies operating half/full day tours. Pre-booking them will usually require you to form a group of 8, so it involves a bit of work in joining a “roll-call” forum, finding and organising the booking. (The roads up to the Rock are narrow, so all these tours are in mini-vans, not in big coaches.)
  • Flexible, stay however long option: I chose to do an DIY excursion because I wanted a flexible schedule to see a number of attractions below. I was especially interested in Gibraltar’s history and wanted to spend more time in a few attractions. (Read what I learnt about Gibraltar’s history here). In a group tour, that would have been difficult to do.

Should you pre-book cable car tickets?

You may have seen the horror stories on blogs and forums about the long queue length at the cable car station. Some reported queues of up to two hours long during peak times. So should you pre-book the cable tickets? What happens if the queues are too long?

  • Pre-booking means joining the ticketed line: There are two queues at the cable car station, one for those with tickets and one for those without. Online tickets are valid on any day for the next 3 months. Since the tickets are not dated, there’s no need to pre-book weeks in advance. Pre-booking them weeks in advance won’t necessarily get you through the queues any faster. If you purchase so called “skip-the-line” tickets, you join the ticketed line.
  • Pre-booking means no queueing twice! If you don’t pre-book, you’ll have to queue to buy tickets and then queue again for the cable car. So my recommendation is to buy the cable car tickets on your phones when you’re on your way to the cable car station.

As with any attraction with a limited capacity, aim to get there as early in the day as possible. If you’re not a morning person, you may indeed find those monster queues!

Is a DIY Shore Excursion Cheaper?

A DIY shore excursion is not necessarily the cheapest way to see Gibraltar. I’ve seen the short taxi tours (less than 2 hours) being advertised for less than the cost of a return cable car trip and the entrance fee to the Nature Reserve. If you want the cheapest option to get to the top of the Rock, I would recommend doing a short taxi tour (which you can purchase locally at the Gibraltar cruise port).

Rock of Gibraltar (aka Nature Reserve): Your Ticket Options

  • Return Cable Car & Nature Reserve Combo: 2024 prices: ยฃ38 for adults, ยฃ22 for kids under 12, ยฃ36 for seniors 65+ and students. Without a ticket to the Nature Reserve, you won’t be able to see any of the attractions below. You’ll only be able to enjoy the views from the cafe and restaurant at the cable car station.
  • One-way Cable Car & Nature Reserve Combo: 2024 prices: ยฃ35.50 adults, ยฃ22 kids under 12 (that’s right, same price as return cable car!), ยฃ34 for seniors 65+ and students. If you intend to see most of the attractions in the Nature reserve, you can walk down to each of them, then walk back to the town centre. This way, you’ll only need the cable car up. I found that walking back up to the cable car station was the most difficult option! ๐Ÿ˜…
  • Return Cable Car only: 2024 prices: ยฃ19 for adults, ยฃ9 for kids under 12 and ยฃ17 for seniors 65+ and students. No access to Nature Reserve.

Top Attractions on the Rock of Gibraltar

Map showing the Gibraltar Nature Reserve Walking Trails

What Nature Reserve Ticket includes: All the attractions I listed below. All the routes are well sign-posted along the way. There are more to do than just the attractions listed below but I’ve picked the ones I enjoyed to share with you here.

Once you’re up at the top of the Rock, whether by cable car, taxi or your sheer human strength hiking up, it is relatively easy to walk from one attraction to another and most of them are downhill! There’s also plenty of potential rest stops along the way.

1. See the Barbary macaques at the Apes’ Den

Gibraltar barbary macaque sitting down, with Gibraltar cruise terminal in the background
A barbary macaque with Oasis of the Seas docked at the cruise terminal

The Barbary Macaques are Europe’s only free roaming monkeys. Because they are free roaming, you may indeed start to encounter them as soon as you hop off the cable car at the top of the Rock.

Legend has it that if the macaques even disappear, the British will leave Gibraltar. So Sir Winston Churchill imported additional macaques from Morocco. Today, about 300 of them live on the upper part of the Nature Reserve.

It is illegal to touch and/or feed the Macaques.

2. Walk the Skywalk

Skywalk at dusk, Gibraltar Nature Reserve
Skywalk at Gibraltar Nature Reserve, courtesy of Visit Gibraltar

The Skywalk is a glass platform at the top of the Nature Reserve. It is glass on the side as well as the bottom. I’m scared of heights and that’s probably why I have no photos to show for it! ๐Ÿ˜…

I remembered the 360 degree view was well worth the weak legs and racing heart it took to walk onto the glass platform. This is not to be missed!

3. Cross the Windsor Suspension Bridge

Sideview of the Windsor Suspension Bridge, at the top of the Rock in Gibraltar
Image courtesy of Gibraltar Nature Reserve

This suspension bridge is 71 metres (233 feet) long. There are great views of the 50 metre deep gorge below and of the harbour.

4. Visit St. Michael’s Cave

St. Michael’s Cave is a natural limestone cavern located within the Rock of Gibraltar. There’s an immersive light and sound installation, making it a truly stunning display.

There are auditorium style seats from which you can watch the show, so this is a great place to rest and cool down if it’s a very hot day!

5. Walk the Great Siege Tunnels

Not to be confused with the WWII Tunnels (see below), the Great Siege Tunnels were constructed mostly by hand, using rudimentary tools, during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783).

Now, the tunnels house an exhibition about the Great Siege of Gibraltar. There are also vantage points where you can view the harbour below.

6. Explore the World War II Tunnels

Gibraltar has always been a place of strategic importance due to its location, nestled between Europe and Africa. These tunnels were constructed during WWII and turned the Rock into an underground city.

The tunnels span an impressive 55 kms or 34 miles. There are food stores, hospitals and even a bakery. The tunnels could have housed the entire 16,000 strong garrison who stayed in Gibraltar during WWII.

You can only tour a small portion of these tunnels today but I spent over an hour here. There’s also a complimentary audio guide; don’t forget to grab yours if you’re interested in history!

Interested in Gibraltar’s History?

Check out my blog post: Uncover the Strategic Rockโ€™s history at the Mediterranean Gateway with a bonus tip on how to cross the airport’s runway! It’s once of those “only possible in Gibraltar” list of things to do!

If you have Gibraltar in your upcoming cruise itinerary, I hope that this has been a helpful guide to your planning! Drop me a comment below, if you’d like to see a blog post on what there is to see & do in Gibraltar outside of the Nature Reserve.

Have a wonderful day at port in Gibraltar! Zana

Featured Image with thanks to lutz from Pixabay

6 thoughts on “Gibraltar Cruise Port Guide: Explore Rock of Gibraltar on Your Own”

  1. Thank you for this report. Our cruise ship is in port from 4pm-10pm. The cable car closes at 7:15 and St Michaels cave closes at 5:45. If you only had an evening to visit -what would you recommend?

    1. Hi Patty,

      Thanks for your comment! Here’s a few suggestions:

      – Catch a bus (#2) to Europa Point and watch the sunset – it’s the southernmost point in Gibraltar and wave to Africa (Morocco). It’s that close!
      – Catch a bus to some of the beaches and chill – if you’re visiting during the summer, there’s light until at least 8-9pm. Buses #4 or #8 will get you to Sandy Bay, Catalan Bay or Eastern Bay
      – Do a walk in the Botanic Gardens – it’s usually open till 9pm in the summer
      – Walk into Casemates Square – the main square in Gibraltar and soak up the atmosphere. It will be busy at night too in the summer
      – Do a free gin tasting at the Gibraltar Distillery – the only distillery on the island but you need to book. They’re at Casemates Square
      – And of course watch a plane land on the street! Gibraltar Airport is so close to the city (and the port), that the runway is an actual road going into Spain. It’s the only airport in the world where you can walk across the runway between take-offs and landings. So it’s a fun memory. You can read more about this in my other Gibraltar post – just scroll to the bottom –

      I hope you have a most wonderful cruise stop in Gibraltar! Zana

  2. Hi, thank you for providing this nice dyi report! Our cruise will be at Gibraltar from noon to 6pm. We are planning to do the cable + nature & reserve tail (visit Ape’s Den, Skywalk, St Michael’s Cave and Windosor Bridge). Do you think this is too much in 5 hours (we plan on back to the ship no later than 5:15) Thank you.

    1. Hi Chiu,

      Thanks for your question! Your itinerary definitely seems straightforward but I would suggest:

      – Have you checked whether there’s another cruise ship arriving before yours? Gibraltar’s cruise terminal is big enough to dock at least two ships, I think. Use the link in my “Essentials” section for the official cruise port website.

      – If another ship arrives before yours, then it’s possible there’s a big queue at the cable car station already, even if you’re diligent and queuing to disembark as quickly as possible. Also, on weekends, a lot of tourists arrive across the Spanish border. But it’s another ship-load of tourists that makes the queues so long typically!

      – Have your phone ready and buy the cable car tickets on your way to the cable car station. This means you can go straight to the “online tickets queue” as opposed to queue twice to buy your ticket and then join the cable car queue. I purchased mine as soon as the captain announced we’re definitely able to dock the night before (weather-wise).

      – Have a backup plan for a very hot day! You didn’t mention whether you’re walking, taking the bus or planning to grabbing a cab to the cable car station. If you’re walking, doing that 35 minute walk in humid heat at noon is hard, especially the last bit being slightly uphill! So check the bus stops on my map, in case you don’t feel like walking.

      I would say that just the Ape’s Den, Skywalk, St Michael’s Cave and Windsor Bridge is a good 2 to 2.5 hours to really enjoy the experience. So the rest is “slack” for cable car queuing time and transit time to/fro cruise port. Hope this helps! All the best for a great port day in Gibraltar!

      1. Hi Zana,

        Thank you so much for your reply. It is very helpful! Our ship will be the only one that day but it is a Saturday. We will be traveling with my 70 years old parents, so we are trying to avoid a long walk. Most likely we will be taking a cab to the cable car station.

        Do you know what options I have to get back to the ship after we finish those 4 attractions in nature & reserve tail? Also how long will it take to get back. We haven’t purchase the tickets but we are thinking of buying the Cable Car 1 way + Nature & Reserve Trail. Thank you for your help!

        1. Hi Chiu, it’s the same options going down as it is going up – walk down or cable car down. Because the roads are so narrow, there are no taxi stands up the Rock. So if the objective is to avoid a long walk, then consider taking a group taxi tour. Tickets at the cruise terminal gates – you’ll be ushered to the next available taxi “van”. I have only ever walked down, because I wanted to see all the other attractions further down the Rock. So I would estimate the walk down to be about 30-45 minutes, with the last stretch being quite a lot of stairs if I remember correctly. Have a great time!

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