Sydney Harbour Cruises

Top attractions to spot on your Sydney Harbour cruise

Sydney Harbour CruisesTop Attractions

Marvel at these Sydney Harbour attractions on your cruise

Sydney is a beautiful city and one of the best ways of exploring the Sydney Harbour has to be simply cruising alongside. The waterfront views of the Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and other attractions along the harbor are absolutely stunning, making Sydney Harbour cruises an extremely sought-after activity amongst tourists. 

Read on to learn more about what you’ll spot along the harbor on your Sydney cruise.

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Top attractions along the Sydney Harbour

Sydney Opera House

This iconic performance arts venue is famous all over the world and has come to become the iconic symbol of Australia. The landmark, designed in a modern expressionist style, has many resident companies — Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra are some of the famous ones. It is visited by more than 1.2 million people annually.

Fun Fact: The Sydney Opera House has a cooling system that uses seawater from the harbor.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Another major Sydney Harbour attraction, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel through-arch bridge that runs from the Central Business District (CBD) to the North Shore. This striking bridge, along with the Sydney Opera House, is one of the most coveted frames in all of Australia. It is an integral part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney.

Fun Fact: The arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge have earned it the nickname "The Coathanger" for their shape.

Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanic Garden sits at the eastern fringe of the Sydney CBD. This heritage-listed landmark is the oldest scientific institution in Australia and was opened in 1816. Apart from being a botanical garden, it is also an event venue and public recreation area with stunning views of the harbor.

Fun Fact: Some of the oldest trees here were planted as early as 1820.

Taronga Zoo

The Taronga Zoo is over a hundred years old and has more than 5000 animals and about 350 different species within its premises. It is a government-run establishment on the Sydney Harbour shore and is a beloved tourist site. Apart from the zoological attractions, a key spot inside is the Rustic Bridge, a historic landscape feature from 1915.

Fun Fact: Taronga is an Aboriginal word which means "beautiful view".

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is well-known for its recreational offerings. This harbor area is home to many attractions like Cockle Bay Wharf, Paddy's Markets, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and others. It is also an ideal stop for history buffs, with a number of museums like Australian National Maritime Museum, Powerhouse Museum and Madame Tussauds.

Fun Fact: The Eora people would call this harbor “Tumbalong”, meaning a place where seafood is found.

The Rocks

Located at the southern shore of the Sydney Harbour, this is a major Sydney Harbour attraction, filled with souvenir shops, handicraft stalls, historic pubs and themed restaurants. The Rocks is a popular spot for street performances as well, and houses The Museum of Contemporary Art. Church Hill is also an important historical attraction, with some of the earliest churches in the country.

Fun Fact: The earliest buildings here were traditional vernacular houses but later local sandstone houses started coming up, giving the area its name.

Blues Point Reserve

The Blues Point Reserve is a popular park with amazing views of the harbor, especially the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is a great family spot with a nautical-themed playground and large Port Jackson and Moreton Bay figs, which provide the ideal shade for a little picnic by the sea. It is named after Billy Blue, a convict who arrived in Sydney in 1801 and became a local legend.

Fun Fact: The Blues Point Reserve is used as a center point for Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Circular Quay

This public piazza and heritage area in the city is a former working port and one of the must-see Sydney Harbour attractions. It is also the place where the First Fleet initially landed in 1788 and is a major landmark of Australian colonial history. Warrung or “Little Child” is the Aboriginal name for the Circular Quay. 

Fun Fact: A series of plaques commemorating writers who are connected to Sydney, known as the Sydney Writers Walk, were installed in Circular Quay in 1991.

Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island Wareamah, the largest of the Sydney Harbour islands, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Between 1839 and 1869, the island was used to house convicts who had re-offended in the colonies. Cockatoo Island has Australia’s most extensive and varied record of shipbuilding, making it invaluable for Australian Maritime history.

Fun Fact: The Cockatoo Island gets its name from the sulfur-crested cockatoos that once were abundantly seen on the island.

Hidden gems along the Sydney Harbour

Mrs Macquarie's Chair

Mrs Macquarie's Chair is an exposed sandstone rock that was carved into the shape of a bench by convicts in 1810. The chair was made in honor of Elizabeth Macquarie, the wife of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie. Legend has it that she would sit at the spot and enjoy the panoramic views of the harbor. Part of The Domain near the Royal Botanic Gardens, it is a lesser-known nugget of history along the Sydney Harbour.

Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden

This beautiful garden is an artist’s dreamscape and is full of aesthetic landscaping and exquisite views of the harbor. Artist Wendy Whiteley and her late artist husband, Brett Whiteley, had their family home in Lavender Bay. When he died, Wendy started working on this garden as a tribute. Now, it is a public park that is great for small picnics and leisurely strolls through meandering trails.

Luna Park Sydney Face and Towers

Although one of the most famous Sydney Harbour attractions, Luna Park can still be considered a hidden gem because we seldom consider going to an amusement park when on vacation. However, if you don’t catch a glimpse of the iconic entrance face and Art-Deco towers at Luna Park, you will surely be missing out on a spectacular view. This heritage-listed amusement park was opened in 1935 and remains a symbol of Sydney tourism.

Visitor tips

  • Vivid Sydney will be held from 24th May to 15th June 2024. The best way to experience is to take a Vivid Sydney cruise to get the best waterfront views of the festival. 
  • If you have the budget, we suggest that you go the distance and get a meal cruise to enjoy great food along with breathtaking views.
  • If you’re short on time but still want some historical insights into Sydney’s landmarks, take a guided Sydney Harbour cruise. Some sightseeing cruises last just 90 minutes. 
  • Mention any dietary restrictions while booking your meal cruise tickets itself to make sure the necessary arrangements can be made. 
  • While most cruises are wheelchair accessible, not all of them are. Confirm the accessibility of your cruise while booking your tickets. 
  • Whale-watching cruises are the best way to get a glimpse of the migrating Humpback whales. 
  • The cancelation policy for Sydney Harbour cruises varies from experience to experience. Make sure to check out the cancelation policy of your cruise while making the bookings.

Frequently asked questions about Sydney Harbour attractions

What are some top attractions that I can spot on my Sydney Harbour cruise?

The Sydney Harbour area is teeming with sightseeing spots. But here are some of the attractions that you can’t miss on your cruise — Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Royal Botanic Gardens, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour.

What are some dining options along Sydney Harbour?

When cruising along the Sydney Harbour, it is a great idea to get tickets that include a meal, just for its unique experience. But, apart from that, you’ll get plenty of great places to eat in the area. Quay, Aria and Bennelong, some of Australia’s best fine-dining restaurants, sit right alongside the waterfront. If you’re bar hopping, definitely check out the Opera Bar, Cruise Bar, Hyde Hacienda and others. For great budget friendly options, go to The Rocks and the Darling Harbour areas.

What are some other attractions I can visit along the Sydney Harbour?

The Sydney Harbour area has a lot to offer in terms of attractions. There are a number of pub walks that you can take around the area. Apart from that, many historical sites, like the Government House, the Sydney Writers Walk and museums like Madame Tussauds also welcome thousands annually. There are also cruises dedicated to whale and dolphin-watching that you can get tickets to.

What entertainment activities are available along the Sydney Harbour?

There is no shortage of entertainment activities along the Sydney Harbour. The most iconic of them is, of course, catching a show at the Sydney Opera House. Apart from that, there are many street performances, especially at The Rocks and the Cutaway. The Cockle Bay Wharf also houses one of Australia's largest nightclubs — Home.

What adventure activities are available along the Sydney Harbour?

There are a number of adventure activities that you can do in the area. Speed boating and kayaking are very popular! Rope climbing at the Taronga Zoo is also a great offbeat activity.

What are some of the events that I can take part in along the Sydney Harbour?

One of the biggest celebrations in the area is the New Year’s Eve fireworks display. There are many vantage points to experience this like Blues Point Reserve, Circular Quay or any point with a good view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Apart from that, there are other events like the Vivid Sydney festival and Boxing Day yacht races.

I’m a history buff. How can I get to know more about the history of the Sydney Harbour area?

The Sydney Harbour cruises usually come with audio commentary that will let you know all about the history and notable facts of the landmarks you visit. If you want to explore even more, Darling Harbour has many museums that you can check out.

Where can I shop near Sydney Harbour?

The Sydney Harbour area is ideal for your shopping needs and it is surrounded by tourist precincts. The Rocks and Darling Harbour areas are especially great for souvenir shopping.

Can I cancel my Sydney Harbour cruise tickets?

You can usually cancel your Sydney Harbour cruise tickets up to 24 hours before the experience begins. However, some event-based tickets cannot be canceled, like the Vivid Festival cruises. Check your tickets well before booking in case you’re unsure.