Sydney Harbour Cruises

Sydney Harbour cruise schedules - Operating hours, boarding times

Plan your cruise with this guide to Sydney Harbour cruise schedules

Taking a trip down under is incomplete if you don’t visit Sydney, and what better way to explore the historic city than sailing along the waterfront on a Sydney Harbour cruise? Not only do these cruises offer breathtaking frames for your Insta but you can also listen to audio commentary and learn about the city’s rich heritage!

Choose among a number of offerings like sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, whale or dolphin watching cruises or cruises dedicated to special events like Vivid Sydney. Read on to find out more about the Sydney cruise schedules and other details!

Sydney Harbour cruise schedules

Sydney Harbour cruises are very popular with tourists from all over the world, so there is something that suits everyone’s needs. Here’s what you need to know about the variety that’s on offer and the Sydney cruise schedule:

Lunch cruises
Dinner cruises
Sightseeing cruises
Whale-watching cruises
Vivid Sydney cruises

Lunch cruises at the Sydney Harbour are very popular, mainly because it is a great way to sail along some of the most iconic landmarks of Sydney while tucking into some amazing culinary fare! 

  • General timings: Lunchtime cruises usually set sail around 12pm and go on till 5pm.
  • Average duration: 2-4 hours
  • Available days: You’ll find lunch and high tea cruises almost every day of the week but there may be fewer cruises on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Boarding time: 15-20 mins before the scheduled time of the cruise.

If you’re looking for a unique dinner experience, how about having a bite aboard a cruise on the Sydney Harbour? Many cruises offer great food packages, with 2-6 courses and a range of drinks on offer. 

  • General timings: Usually, the slots for dinner cruises start at 5pm and 7pm and go on till 10pm.
  • Average duration: 2-3 hours
  • Available days: You’ll find dinner cruises almost every day of the week but there may be fewer cruises on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Boarding time: 30 mins before the scheduled time of the cruise.

Spot Sydney’s iconic landmarks along the harbor and learn about the city’s history. There are also Hop-on Hop-off cruises that let you embark or get off at different spots, spanning 1-2 days. 

  • General timings: Sightseeing cruises have slots from the morning through the evening, depending on the kind of cruise. Slots usually start around 9am and go on till about 7pm.
  • Average duration: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Available days: Tickets are usually available every day of the week.
  • Boarding time: 15-20 mins before the scheduled time of the cruise.

Watch how magnificent humpback whales behave in their natural habitat and learn all about their migratory patterns through expert commentary.

  • General timings: Whale-watching cruises are usually held during the day. The slots for whale-watching cruises usually are available between 11:15am and 1:30pm and the cruises go on till 4-5pm. 
  • Average duration: 2-4 hours
  • Available days: Tickets are usually available every day of the week.
  • Boarding time: 15-30 mins before the scheduled time of the cruise.

Get the best views of Sydney's Vivid Festival from the waterfront on a Vivid Sydney cruise. Avoid the crowds and grab your tickets to a cruise to enjoy the light installations, the 3D projections and all the lively displays!

  • General timings: Usually, the slots for Vivid Sydney cruises are at 5:30pm and 7:30pm. Those with meals included are from 5pm or 7pm.
  • Average duration: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Available days: 24th May to 16th June
  • Boarding time: 30 mins before the scheduled time of the cruise.

Best time to go on a Sydney Harbour cruise

Peak season vs Low season

The peak season for Sydney Harbour cruises is during the summer, which falls between December to February. September to November is the springtime when the weather starts to get better as summer approaches. 

March and April are good as well, but it starts getting cold and wet in April and may not be pleasant for a waterfront activity. April to August is usually wet, cold and windy, and it gets especially cold in the harbor.  

Mid-May to mid-June is usually when the Vivid Festival is held, so that is a prime time for cruises, even if a little chilly over the waters. Carry a few extra layers to keep yourself warm during the festival.

Weekdays vs Weekends

You can find a Sydney cruise schedule for any day of the week, but the weekend rush is substantial. You may be able to avoid the crowds a little if you pick for a weekday cruise, especially in the peak tourist season during the summer. 

Morning and afternoon cruises, like sightseeing or whale-watching cruises, are better for families and kids, but it may get quite sunny and hot during the summers, so sun protection is ideal. Evening cruises are especially pleasant during the summer, so we suggest making your bookings a few days in advance to secure your seats.

Frequently asked questions about Sydney cruise schedules

What is the duration of a Sydney Harbour cruise?

Sydney Harbour cruises can last anywhere from 1 to 5 hours, depending on the activities on board. While sightseeing cruises last from 30-90 minutes, cruises that offer meals, whale sightings or luxury cruises may last much longer from 1.5 hours up to 5 hours There are Hop-on Hop-off cruises as well that you can get a pass for a day or two.

Are there any long-duration Sydney Harbour cruises?

The cruises with meals included usually take about 2-3 hours and so do the whale-watching cruises. You can also book the Hop-on Hop-off cruises that give you the flexibility of embarking or getting off at various stops along the harbor for 1 or 2 days, depending on your pass.

What Sydney Harbour cruise should I pick if I’m short on time?

If you’re short on time, you should probably get a sightseeing cruise because, on average, they last about 90 minutes. A dolphin-watching cruise is also a good option. If you’re in the city during the Vivid Festival, you can also opt for one of the special festival cruises.

Do I have to get a meal on board a Sydney Harbour cruise?

No, there are many cruises that are only for sightseeing. You can choose these if you have plans to eat elsewhere.

What happens if we can’t spot a whale during a whale-watching cruise?

If you can’t spot a whale on your whale-watching cruise, you will most likely be given a chance to board another whale-watching cruise without any extra charges. However, we suggest you check for this facility while booking your tickets.

What should I look out for when choosing my cruise?

There are many parameters when choosing a cruise that suits your needs. If you want to avoid the crowds, you should book a weekday cruise. It is best to get morning or afternoon cruises for families. For special events cruises, make sure that you book them early because they get sold out very quickly. Also, getting a cruise with the meal included is a great way to get a unique experience and save money! Take a look at this guide to booking your Sydney Harbour cruise to pick the best cruise for you.

What should I wear during my Sydney Harbour cruise?

Smart casuals are recommended when you go for a cruise on the harbor, but you can also dress up if you feel like it, especially during the evening and special occasion cruises. Avoid beachwear and swimwear when you’re onboard as it may raise some eyebrows. During the daytime, carry sun and rain protection. For evening cruises, carry a jacket or scarf to protect yourself from the cold wind.