Sydney Harbour is considered one of the world’s most beautiful and almost everyone who comes to Sydney spends, at least, a couple of hours visiting it. Most commonly they take a standard harbour cruise highlighted in their guidebooks without really knowing what else is available. Sure these cruises are ok but there are also quite a few other ways to explore Sydney Harbour so today I am going to show you my top 5.
Below I explore some of the alternatives you could consider on your visit Sydney. If you will be here on New Years Eve and are considering spending the night on the harbour, you might like to visit my post on the Vital ingredients for a successful NYE cruise.
You may also like to check out my views on Sydney Harbour Cruise or a public ferry
1. Take a Ride on a Sydney Harbour Ferry – Great budget way to see Sydney Harbour
- Manly Ferry – The iconic harbour ride, a 30 minute trip past the heads to beautiful Manly – also the beginning of the Manly to Spit Bridge walk.
- Watson’s Bay – a short harbour trip past the homes of the rich and famous – Watson’s Bay is also the home of the famous Doyles Seafood restaurant and another great walk out to South Head and the Hornby Lighthouse.
- Parramatta Rivercat – a 55 min ride that heads under the Harbour Bridge and up the Parramatta River to Parramatta, site of Sydney’s second settlement and worth a visit on an extended trip to Sydney.
- Taronga Zoo – if you are short of time in Sydney this covers two bases, the zoo and some time on the harbour
- The ride between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour takes you out under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and past Barangaroo, giving you lots of opportunities for some great photos.
2. Jet Boat Tours of Sydney Harbour – If you feel the need for speed
If thrills and spills are more, your thing a jet boat ride on the harbour is just the thing. Operators leave from both Darling Harbour and both sides of Circular Quay. The jet boat ride covers the main attractions in the harbour but at a mighty pace so are more about the ride rather than an a sightseeing trip. That said they were great fun and a good idea if travelling with teens. Be warned you will get wet.
A few tips
If you want to get wet sit at the back of the boat, if you want to be scared sit at the front! Most rides are between 30-60 minutes long.
- Harbour Jet – Darling Harbour
- Thunder Jet- East Circular Quay
- Oz Jet- East Circular Quay
I cannot recommend one of these over the other as I have not been on them all.. but they are great fun and a different way to see the harbour.
3.Tall Ship Sailing on Sydney Harbour – Sail on Sydney Harbour like the early arrivals
There are two main operators on Sydney Harbour
James Craig – If you want to spend a whole day at sea this is probably the boat for you. Built in 1874 this beautiful old ship takes 200 on the harbour or 90 passengers if they go out to sea. You can book full days sail a couple of weekends each month (but you need to book in advance).
Svanen – Sydney Harbour Tallships operates the Svanen. They have a variety of cruises to choose from. Most are 2 hours which is probably long enough for the average “sailor” My pick of their cruises would be the Twilight BBQ cruise, all you can eat buffet, champagne and a Sydney sunset!
I did a sunset cruise with Sydney Harbour Tallships on the Svanen that included drinks and finger food and some fun sing-along time. I enjoyed it and it was a lovely way to spend 2 hours on the harbour.
4. Kayaking on Sydney Harbour – for the more adventurous traveller
If you are an outdoors type you might like to try kayaking on the harbour. Some operators offer trips suited to those who have little or no experience but you do need a reasonable level of fitness. You can also just hire a kayak and take off on your own if you know what you are doing with a paddle 🙂
For beginners, I would recommend Sydney Harbour Kayak Tours. These leave from the Andrew Boy Charlton Pool near the Botanic Gardens and after some instruction, you paddle around the front of the gardens and past the Opera House for a perfect photo op. The pool has great facilities for changing when you get back.
For more experienced or the super fit – There are also tours that will take you under the bridge and around the Sydney Opera House but I would not suggest these for the faint hearted. The ferries use this part of the harbour a lot and it can get a bit scary. I have heard and read good things about Natural Wanders
5. Hop On Hop Off Boats
Operating just like the HOHO bus services these boats are good if you want to visit some of the main sites in one day. Of course, they are more expensive than the public ferries but some of them stop at a couple of places that the ferries don’t including Fort Denison and Shark Island, Rose Bay and Q Station.
Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper – 24-hour pass 9 stops + a beaches ticket with 3 stops worth considering
Fantasea – 24-hour pass – 4 stops but half the price of the other two services.
Matilda Cruises – 24-hour pass – 8 stops
With any of these hop on hop off services, I recommend you study the timetable carefully and plan your stops according to the schedule or you could find yourself stuck somewhere for much longer than you would like.