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Everything you need to know before you go on a Sydney Harbour cruise!

Sydney Harbour cruises - A glimpse into Sydney’s beauty

Sydney Harbour is a beautiful natural harbour situated on the East Coast of Australia. It is famous for its stunning waterfront that cradles the city of Sydney and its multiple islands, like Shark Island, Clark Island, Fort Denison, Cockatoo Island and others. Sydney Harbour cruises are also widely known around the world and if you’re an enthusiast, you should definitely put a trip to the city on your bucket list. You’ll get a number of cruise options — sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, whale-watching cruises and so much more!

What is Sydney Harbour?

A working harbor and Australia’s busiest waterway, the Sydney harbor not only has sparkling, jewel-toned waters and miles and miles of iconic shoreline, but it is also a major maritime industry hub. It provides the backdrop for world-famous landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it is a center for recreational, passenger as well as working vessels. 

Ask any cruise lover and you’ll find that the Sydney Harbour cruises will be on their radar. It is one of the best places to set sail in the world. Apart from that, you can also go on pub walks, enjoy shopping and listen to live music and performances, all close to the harbour area. A major tourist magnet, your tour is incomplete without a pitstop at this stunning natural treasure of Australia.

History of Sydney Harbour

Pre-colonial

Sydney and its surrounding areas were inhabited by the aboriginal tribes of Australia before it became a penal colony for Europeans. It was home to members of the Gadigal, Eora, Cammeraygal, and Wanegal tribes. Aboriginal stone tools have been found near Penrith, west of Sydney, that date as far back as 50,000–45,000 BP.

1788

Captain Arthur Phillip arrived from England with 732 convicts and a few soldiers to make a penal colony settlement. This was the First Fleet. They landed at the Sydney Cove, a small inlet that they named after the contemporary British Home Secretary, Lord Sydney.

1816

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, opened. It is now the oldest scientific institution in Australia. The garden was crucial for research purposes and helped in the acclimatization and cultivation of various botanical species in the colony.

1840

Eden, the last convict ship, arrived in Sydney. This was a momentous turn since the city was founded as a penal colony.

1901

The Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated at Centennial Park after the federation of the six separate British self-governing colonies — Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia. This started a process of gaining greater autonomic power from the United Kingdom and Australia became a Dominion of the British Empire.

1932

Sydney Harbour Bridge opened. It was crucial because it opened up the northern side of the Sydney Harbour so that people and goods could be transported faster and allowed the city to expand northward. It also became a symbol of national achievement.

1942

Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 was adopted by Prime Minister John Curtin. This  act formally adopted sections 2–6 of the Statute of Westminster 1931, which was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This gave total legislative independence to the Commonwealth of Australia as a self-governing Dominions of the British Empire.

1973

Sydney Opera House opened. It completely transformed the waterway of the Sydney Harbour, turning the waterfront into expensive real estate and a tourism hub. Over the years, the view changed completely, with less of cargo ships and tankers and more of yachts, passenger ships and cruises, making Sydney the major international destination that it is today.

Sydney Harbour cruises

Sydney Harbour cruises are one of the most luxurious in the world. The sights, the sounds and the food all come together to make a memorable experience, beautifully framed by the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And when it comes to options, you’ll be spoilt for choice. 

If you’re into wildlife, you can get tickets for whale-watching and dolphin-watching cruises. At Sydney for the Vivid Festival? Sydney Harbour cruises will give you some spectacular views. You can even welcome the new year in style on board the New Year’s Eve cruises that give you a great vantage point for the fireworks. Apart from these, you also have regular sightseeing cruises and even a wide range of meal cruises that will have you sorted for breakfast, lunch or dinner! You can also get Hop-on Hop-off Pass cruises to explore the city.

FAQs about Sydney Harbour

What activities are suitable for children in the Sydney Harbour?

The Sydney Harbour area offers a ton of activities for kids all year round. The Blues Point Reserve has a fun nautical-themed playground. Luna Park, a heritage amusement park, has many rides and activities specially made for children. You can also go on a picnic at one of the harbor islands or even at one of the gardens that surround the harbor.

What Sydney Harbour cruises are best suited for children?

Most of the sightseeing and meal cruises are suitable for children, but some may not allow children under 4 years of age. Please check the details of your tickets thoroughly to figure out any age restrictions. If your child has motion sickness, do consult a doctor before getting tickets to the experience. Children under 18 need to be accompanied by adults at all times. Tall ships and jet boats may have certain age restrictions.

What are some wheelchair friendly activities around the Sydney Harbour?

There are many cruises on the Sydney Harbour that are wheelchair accessible, although some may only have access to the entry level deck. The Sydney Harbour Bridge has lifts to give wheelchair-bound guests level access to the walkway. The Sydney Opera House, too, has accessible tours. It has limited wheelchair-accessible seating. Most parks and gardens are also wheelchair accessible.

Where can I go shopping near the harbor?

Sydney is a shopping enthusiast’s treasure trove. Head to the Darling Harbour area for its various markets and high end fashion shops. For little gifts and handicrafts, you can go to the Rocks, especially the Clock Tower Shopping Centre. A little further away is the Queen Victoria Building and The Strand Arcade, a vintage shopping center.

What are some good places to eat close to the Sydney Harbour?

Quay, Aria and Bennelong are some of the best fine-dining restaurants in Sydney and they all sit near the harbor. Café Sydney, a rooftop cafe at the Customs House has spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. The Darling Harbour is also a great place to grab a bite, especially if you’re on a budget.

What is the best time to visit the Sydney Harbour?

The best time to visit the Harbour is during the summer months — December to February. May-June is also a good time due to the Vivid Festival, Sydney.

How can I get to know the history of the Sydney Harbour area better?

Most cruises will have audio commentary regarding the landmarks and the history of the area. Besides, you can always visit the various museums and galleries that dot the waterfront for even more information.

What are some adventure activities I can do at the Sydney Harbour?

There are a ton of adventure activities that you can try out near the Harbour. One of the most popular is climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Apart from that, you can also opt for tall ship boat rides, that will give you a taste for the nautical adventures of a bygone area. Jet Boating, Scuba diving and surfing are also great options.