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Best Places to Watch the Sydney to Hobart Race

Are you looking for the best place to watch the Sydney to Hobart race?  I have three favourite ways to see all the action unfold that I would like to share with you so let’s go… 

Over the years watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart has become a Sydney holiday tradition. Thankfully the race has a lunchtime start, so there is no need to crawl out of bed at dawn to be part of the action.

The yachts race from Sydney Harbour 630 nautical miles south to Constitution Dock in Hobart with the race attracts all level of sailor from weekend warriors to professionals. This year sees the biggest field ever taking part with 119 boats registered. That many boats, along with all the spectator craft is a pretty impressive site.

Not being much of a sailor I had been content to watch it on TV for years however a couple of years ago I had a cousin visiting from Canada, and she was keen to see the race up close, so I was finally convinced to leave the comfort of the sofa and check it out. Even for a non-sailing enthusiast, it was damn impressive. I can see why it’s a favourite way to spend Boxing Day.

So where is the best place to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart? That’s a good question and one with more than one correct answer, here are my three favourites.

Updated: 21 December 2019

Some Race Basics

What time does the Sydney to Hobart race start?

The starter’s gun will sound at 1 pm with a warning shot ten minutes earlier. However, boats will start getting into a position from much earlier and the harbour is a pretty incredible site with all the competitor and spectator vessels filling the usually relatively spacious harbour.

Where does the race actually start?

The official starting line is just off Nielsen Park making this one of the most popular spots on the eastern shore to watch the action. Read more about how they manage the start of the race on the official Sydney to Hobart website.

Best places to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart race 

From the water – on a harbour cruise

Sydney Harbour Tour on a tallship

I don’t think you can go past watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart from the water. Being out amongst the action as the boats head down the harbour and out of the heads is fantastic. You can watch the sailors working furiously to get into position for the start and see all the little boats jostle for the best spots. It can feel a bit more choppy with all the boats moving about so if you are partial to seasickness, it might be an idea to grab some tablets.

Lots of boats on offer with a variety of price points and luxury. Some of my favourites are:

Sydney Harbour Tallships – 4 hour Boxing Day BBQ sail will be out on the water near the starting line for the big race.  Along with a delicious lunch and beverage package, this cruise offers the chance to pitch in and help hoist the sails. You can also just sit back and watch all the action. Lots of fun and energy on this boat. I loved it!

Fantasea CruisesBeer and Burger cruise might be all you fancy after a day of dining on all the Christmas favourites! The three hr cruise departs from Darling Harbour and will be out among the boats at the start of the race.

Race the boats – This cruise follows the yachts out Sydney Heads and as far down as Bondi!  Might need your seasick pills on this one!

Harbour city ferries also offer the option to buy tickets to one of their special cruises however these are BYO and at $90 per person with no alcohol and or comfy seating they are not really worth the price in my view.

From the North – Mosman and Middle Head

Watching the Sydney to Hobart race from the shoreline at Mosman
We scored this spot on the rocks near Middle head at about noon

A harbourside picnic is a great way to use up some of the Christmas day leftovers and relax at the same time. Depending on how energetic you feel, you could combine a bit of a bushwalk to your chosen spot.

One of my favourites is Georges Heights Lookout at Mosman. If Christmas festivities have you worn out, you might want to make the trip by bus. Parking is at a premium so leave the car behind if you can.

Where: Georges Heights lookout along the Taronga to Balmoral Beach walk
When: Front row positions fill quickly – I suggest being in your spot by noon.
How: M30 or 178 buses from Wynyard
Cost: Free

From the South – The Gap and South Head

South Head from the Harbour

Many suggest that the trek up to the lighthouse is THE best Sydney to Hobart view. You can watch the yachts race up the harbour and view them as they move out of the heads and along the coast.

It certainly is popular here so pack your picnic basket and nab your position early. I would say by 10 am to be safe. If you are coming from Circular Quay ferries will stop running at about 11.40am and start again at about 1.45pm. Do not attempt to drive here. There is no parking by just after sunrise!

With three great dining options, Watson’s bay is also my favourite choice if you prefer not to pack a picnic. Choose from a fish and chip take away from the wharf, a pub lunch from the Watson’s Bay hotel or fine dining at Doyle’s on the beachfront. All will be busy and require patience 🙂

Where: Hornby Lighthouse  (beautiful photos here too) 
When: Early – say 10 am to allow time to grab something to eat and walk up to the lighthouse 
How: Early ferry from Circular Quay (they have stopped by 11 am in previous years)  or bus 324, 325 or 380 from either Circular Quay or Edgecliff stations. Parking here is terrible on a good day so try to avoid bringing your car if you can. 
Cost: Meals from $10 takeaway to $$$ at Doyles

Looking for somewhere to stay near all the action? Check out the Watson’s Bay Hotel or Hotel Bondi

Where do you think is the best place to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race?  Do you have any insider tips to share?

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4 thoughts on “Best Places to Watch the Sydney to Hobart Race”

  1. The Sydney to Hobart race seems amazing. When I visited Sydney earlier this year, I remember seeing all of the stunning boats. I can barely imagine how exciting this will be.

  2. Looks like a really fun event! Have never been to Sydney but we will be there in 2016 for a few months. Will try to catch this if possible, thanks for the tips on best places to watch it from!

  3. Wow, it must be some sight to see all the yachts making their way from the start. I’d love to take part, but I know that conditions can be really hairy on the Sydney-Hobart, so watching from the clifftops might be the best place to be.


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