Sydney is very much a city on the water, as the archetypal image of the Opera House reminds us. That means enjoying time on the water is one of the best ways to enjoy this beautiful city and see the local sites, not to mention enjoy our hospitality.
Here are some of the very best boat tours of and around Sydney Harbour:
Sydney Harbour Coffee Cruise
Addicted to the bean? Captain Cook Cruises sightseeing tours are sometimes called coffee cruises because each one comes with unlimited self-serve coffee, tea, and biscuits. Or, with the premium course, more food. This is a two-hour cruise which sails twice a day and includes personalised commentary about the harbour. If you want something stronger than coffee (or maybe to improve your coffee) there is also a full bar on board.
Sydney Harbour is a great place to go whale watching at the right time of year. Captain Cook offers cruises from mid-May until the end of October, which go out into the open ocean in search of humpbacks and, at certain times, Southern Right whales.
If you don’t see a whale, don’t worry, you’ll get a second chance. The cruise is on an ocean-going catamaran (better for those who might not have the strongest stomach) and lasts two hours and 45 minutes.
Another operator, Whale Watching Sydney offers two and three-hour cruises. The shorter cruise is a small boat that mimics an offshore rescue vessel and will give you unprecedented closeness to the great animals.
Photo : sydney.com
If you don’t have as much time, Captain Cook Cruises also offer a one hour 15 minute Harbour Highlights cruise that will give you the best value for money to see all the important sights. (A cheaper alternative is to take a ride on the public ferry, but the views won’t be as good and you’ll have less time to get those all-important photos).
Photo : ozwhalewatching.rezdy.com
Of course, if you want to eat on the water, you have a number of options. Captain Cook offers dinner, lunch, and high tea cruises at prices that range from affordable to “vacation-of-a-lifetime.” All their cruises give you fantastic views of the harbour while you enjoy contemporary Australian dining and beverages. Some cruises also come with live music and dancing.
Lunch cruises include a buffet with seafood and vegetarian dishes. You could also choose Sydney Showboats and cruise on an authentic paddlewheeler with a great dinner and a live show. These are three-hour specialty cruises with an amazing local cast of talent.
Sydney Harbour Tall Ships offer a range of cruises on a real sailing ship. They also offer lunch and dinner cruises, or if you prefer something lighter after enjoying a meal on land, they do an evening cruise with wine and canapes. Oh, and you can go whale watching too – some people find it is better because the ship is quieter and less likely to disturb the whales.
Their whale watching cruise is an all-day affair and they will teach you the basics of sailing or even let you go up to the crow’s nest to look for whales. Their other specialist tours include a tour of Goat Island with champagne. Bringing the kids? They do family pirate cruises — with costumes, of course — complete with sailing instruction for kids (of all ages).
You know those bus tours where you can get off at a destination, check it out, then get back on? Because Sydney is such a water city, it’s one of the few places where you can also do this on a boat.
You can get a two-day pass, allowing you unlimited access to the hop-on-hop-off rocket ferries. If you know what other attractions you want to see, you can add discounted attraction tickets including both Sydney zoos, Madame Tussauds, the Maritime Museum, and the Sydney Eye. Or, if you are addicted to this kind of thing, get a combined pass that covers both the ferries and the buses.
Photo : tribalwarrior.org
Discover the Original Locals
If you are interested in aboriginal culture and stories, and finding out about Sydney’s pre-colonial history, the Tribal Warrior two hour cruise comes with a tour of Clark Island National Park, a cultural performance and, yes, tea and coffee.
The tour reveals the lifestyle of coastal Aborigines. The boat also does karaoke tours (with a buffet dinner), but the cultural cruise is a unique experience that will teach you more about the history of this land.
Small Group Cruises
If a traditional cruise is just too many people for you, check out Sensational Sydney Cruises. They do small group and charter cruises on a 52-foot motor yacht, which includes morning tea and lunch cruises, as well as full day ‘land and sea’ tours. You can also charter the entire boat for lunch and dinner cruises.
Sydney Harbour Boat Tours also does small boat tours, and are the only operator to do landings on nearby beaches. They do a half day tour which shows off the harbour followed by some brief shore stops, including a waterside cafe with cakes or ice-cream. They also do private tours and charters.
If you want to celebrate New Years’ Eve in the southern hemisphere, Sydney is a great place to do it. Most Sydney operators offer New Years’ Eve cruises, with a variety of styles and genres to fit your preferences. In the middle of southern winter, Sydney lights up for the Vivid Sydney Light, Music & Ideas Festival. Many of the installations are visible from the water, and a harbour dinner cruise is a great way to see exactly what they did to the Opera House this year.
The harbour is central to Sydney’s identity as a city, and coming here without spending time on the water is missing out. Of course, this also means you’ll need a great place to stay that is comfortable and near the harbour. Zara Tower is an amazing base of operations to explore this wonderful city and its environs. To find out more about an amazing stay in the heart of Sydney, contact us today.