Humpback whales, spectacular fireworks, an internationally renowned yacht race and a world famous opera house.
Discover our iconic waterways
SYDNEY’S ICONIC HARBOUR HAS pretty much seen it all since then Lieutenant James Cook arrived aboard the Endeavour in 1770 and named it Port Jackson. It was here that the first settlers set up camp in 1788 and the harbour has been an important part of city life ever since, used for transportation and recreation.
Little wonder it is widely regarded as the greatest leisure harbour in the world. On any given day, the harbour is alive with boats of all shapes and sizes, be it passenger ferries, state-of-the-art yachts or kayakers. This is particularly true during the traditional Boxing Day launch of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race, when hundreds of craft follow the racers out of the harbour. And on New Year’s Eve, there’s no better spot to be than on a boat beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the breathtaking fireworks display takes place in the skies above.
While the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are its two most famous landmarks, the harbour has plenty more sights up its sleeve. Circular Quay, Luna Park and Anzac Bridge are all accessible and visible from the water along with hundreds of bays, coves, beaches and waterways. Several islands can also be found in the harbour, the most notable being Fort Denison, Shark Island and Cockatoo Island.
With so much to see and do, it pays to plan ahead and the good news is that there are plenty of ways to get out on the water, designed to suit all budgets, time frames and interests.
Multi-award winning Captain Cook Cruises offers premium dining, sightseeing, ferry and whale watching cruises. The Harbour Story cruise combines premium sightseeing with the stories of Sydney’s most fascinating characters every day at 10am and 2.15pm from Circular Quay. Upgrade to the premium package including a glass of sparkling wine, morning afternoon tea selection and coffee to order.
Sydney’s official Hop On Hop Off Harbour Explorer pass now includes up to 12 stops and up to two days to visit them. These red rocket ferries zoom between Circular Quay, Taronga Zoo, Watson’s Bay, Fort Denison, Fish Markets, Shark Island, Garden Island, Luna Park, Manly, Barangaroo, ICC Sydney and Darling Harbour with commentary. Start your journey from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour or Manly and save up to 75% on attraction entry with a Captain Cook cruise and attraction combo ticket including entry to Sydney’s most popular waterfront attractions. The company’s flagships Sydney 2000 and John Cadman 2 take Sydney Harbour dining to an impressive level. A comprehensive range of breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner options operate daily with a choice of contemporary Australian buffet, à la carte, and six-course degustation menus.
For the more adventurous, book a Whale Watching cruise online and save up to 35% aboard Captain Cook Cruises’ spacious ocean catamaran. Cruises operate daily with a whale guarantee and expert commentary. For a great-value, full-day, adventure try the Taronga Zoo and Whale Watching combo prices at only $99.
Barangaroo Fast Ferry is the new direct service between Manly and Sydney’s newest and most exciting city precinct—barangaroo. From the calm headland reserve to the urban energy of the retail centre, Barangaroo is a place to meet, work, dine or relax. Ferry transport specialists, Sealink, operate two fast vessels daily, seating up to 400 passengers.
Whale watching season is now in full swing with hundreds of whales passing Sydney every day until the end of November. Don’t miss out on this experience of a lifetime and jump onboard one of Whale Watching Sydney’s cruises departing daily from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. Whale Watching Sydney are the obvious choice with more than 25 years of experience watching whales and the best fleet of custom built, modern and fast whale watching vessels.
The three-hour Discovery Cruise will take you on Sydney’s largest and best purposebuilt whale watching boat, ensuring a smooth and comfortable ride over three levels with 360-degree wrap around spacious decks.
The two-hour Adventure Cruise takes you on a purpose-built, 27-seat high speed craft, perfect for thrill seekers wanting an adrenalin rush. Both cruises reach the whales in lightning speed, and with a 99% success rate or your next cruise free.
If you want the ultimate whale watching and Sydney Harbour experience go with the Discovery Cruise Combo. It includes the three-hour Discovery Cruise, professional photos taken during your cruise and a My Fast Ferry 24-hour Hop On Hop Off Pass that gives you access to all that Sydney Harbour has to offer. Book online at whalewatchingsydney.com.au
When it comes to Sydney Harbour sightseeing the My Fast Ferry 24-hour Hop On Hop Off Pass offers great value with five different ferry services included in one pass so you can visit all the popular harbour locations: Manly, Darling Harbour, Watsons Bay, Taronga Zoo, Fort Denison, Quarantine Station, Circular Quay, Rose Bay, Pyrmont Bay and Milsons Point.
This versatile ticket has the most inclusions, highest service frequency and longest operating hours and is the only ticket which includes unlimited travel on Manly Fast Ferry, so there’s no need to rush back from Manly in the evening.
If you don’t have time to do it all, but still want to experience Sydney from the water, one-hour and two-hour cruises are also available daily with regular departures from Wharf 6 Circular Quay and Darling Harbour.
If you are just after a fast ferry ride than a trip to Manly is a must do, it only takes 18 minutes and services depart every 20 minutes from Wharf 2.
My Fast Ferry and Whale Watching Sydney ticket offices are located on wharves 2 and 6 at Circular Quay, Manly Wharf and Darling Harbour, Pier 26 shop 2B. Speak with the friendly and knowledgeable staff and they will advise you on the best ways to get the most out of your time on Sydney Harbour.
Opal Cards are accepted on most My Fast Ferry services. Book online at myfastferry.com.au
Fantasea Cruising offers a wide variety of harbour cruise experiences, from hop-on hop-off cruises, to morning tea cruises to water taxis. Enjoy a variety of classic Aussie touches on the Sydney Harbour Snapshot Cruise. Get up close and personal with various iconic sites in the Sydney Harbour, while experiencing a sense of real Australian culture. Try their fantastic Sydney Harbour Sunset Cruise (Thu–sat), aboard their newest vessel, the Joy Bar.
This month go on a wildlife adventure with Fantasea’s whale watching cruises. They have multiple departure times daily, and there’s an experienced marine biologist on board, giving expert explanations about the whales and their behaviour. There’s plenty of room for viewing so everyone gets front row views to the whale show. Don’t miss the chance to watch these ocean giants frolic in Sydney’s waters.
WHALES & SAILS: (Opposite page from top): Fantasea Cruising; Captain Cook Cruises. (This page and above): Whale Watching Sydney.