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Sydney Harbour has some of the best views seen from the water. A visit isn’t complete without seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the stunning Sydney Opera House, its city skyline and the surrounding areas from a different angle, that you just can’t get from land.
As one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, it buzzes with boats, cruise ships, kayaks and yachts of all sizes, all day, every day. As the sun shines on the sparkling blue waters during the day, the lights both on and off the water continue to shine throughout the night.
With so many cruises, tours and activities available from Circular Quay, it will be hard to find an excuse not to go! Most cruises have licensed bars available, open and top decks to take in the sensational views and different options to enjoy the best cruise that suits you.
Looking to hire your own boat? Find the best cheap boat hire in Sydney or head north to the panoramic, calm waters for the boat hire in Pittwater.
Here are the best ways to enjoy Sydney Harbour, from a relaxing cruise to a thrill-seeker experience, and everything in between:
Sydney Harbour Cruises
1. Captain Cook Cruises
Captain Cook Cruises are one of the biggest operators in Sydney Harbour. They offer some of the best ways to see Sydney from a range of cruises including:
- Dining Cruises – including a range of breakfast, high tea, lunch, dinner and luxury dinner cruises
- Sightseeing Cruises – including Harbour Story, Harbour Story Premium, Cocktail Cruise and Harbour Highlights
- Whale Watching Cruises – from May to October, go exploring with morning and afternoon cruises and see Humpback whales and occasionally Southern Right whales
- Ferries – a number of private ferries across the ‘harbour highway’ for public use
- Private Charters – with 12 charter cruise vessels in their fleet, you’ll be spoilt for choice where to hold your next big occasion
Captain Cook Cruises also offer a wide range of celebrating cruises including Vivid, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year, Mothers and Fathers Days, Melbourne Cup, Australian Day and many more.
Check availability, wharf departure locations, including Circular Quay and Darling Harbour and more information on their website.
2. Sea Sydney Harbour
Sea Sydney Harbour offers memorable experiences onboard their catamarans. Their harbour boat tours, showing off the highlights of the iconic Sydney Harbour, include:
- Harbour Beaches
- Sunset & Sparkle
- Historical Gems
They also offer private charters, as well as Vivid packages and New Year’s Eve events.
Check out their website for availability and more information.
3. Sensational Sydney Cruises
Sensational Sydney Cruises offer scheduled departures from Circular Quay, offering smaller, personalised services. The following tours are available:
Vivid cruises are also available during the festival and private cruises can easily be booked for the above tours.
Find their website here for more information and availability.
4. Fantasea Cruising
Fantasea Cruising is a well-loved brand within the Harbour and offers several experiences onboard their modern, stylish vessels, including:
- Harbour Night Lights Cruise
- Sydney Harbour Snapshot Cruises
- Whale Watching Cruises plus a Cruise and Dine option (May – Oct)
- Personalised Picnic on the Harbour Cruise
Fantasea Cruising is also a part of Yellow Water Taxis that offers Sunset Cruises, Shopper Hopper, Taronga Zoo Packages and Water Limousines for the ultimate VIP experience.
Find out their latest cruises, departure locations including Darling Harbour and how to book at their Fantasea Cruising website.
5. Sydney Harbour Ferries
Sydney’s public transport ferries are the perfect way to get some picture-perfect moments on Sydney Harbour. Whether you jump on a round trip or use the service to get to where you are going, it’s a perfect way to travel for a day out.
Some of the most scenic routes are Manly, Watson’s Bay, and Darling Harbour to take you under the Harbour Bridge then along the Parramatta River. Read this great review on Awesome Day Trips on Sydney Harbour Ferries.
If you can travel around on a Sunday, make the most of super cheap capped prices which will leave money to spend on other cruises!
Find the latest information, timetables and fare at Transport for NSW website.
Water Taxis are a great way to get to your next destination quickly and in style! Both comfortable and private, they are a unique way to enjoy the views in all weather conditions. With over 100 wharves in Sydney, you’ll be sure to get close to wherever you are going!
6. Yellow Water Taxis
A popular option in Sydney Harbour, with its iconic brand. Operating day and night, as well as for different events during the year.
7. Water Taxis Combined
This is a great way to tailor the experience to your needs. Get a quick quote online for you taxi, and include any additional minutes you want to cruise around the Harbour
This map of Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas is a great guide to the taxis locations available – courtesy of Water Taxis Combined:
Hop On Hop Off Services
Hopper services offer a great value for money way of experiencing more of Sydney. They are also a great way of taking in some stunning Harbour views at the same time!
8. Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper
With vessels darting around all over Sydney Harbour, Eco Hopper will be sure to be going where you are. With destinations including Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Manly, Quarantine Station, Watsons Bay, Rose Bay, Taronga Zoo and Fort Denison, a 24 hour Hop On Hop Off Ticket is great for exploring.
9. Captain Cook Cruise Hop On Hop Off
Make it easier to see Sydney Harbour with the Captain Cook fleet of ferries that are cruising the waters all day. 2-day passes are available to make the most of your visit, and these passes can be combined with many Sydney attractions to save even more money.
10. Sydney Tall Ships
Experience how it used to be done and feel an appreciation for how much work Tall Ships can be!
With such character and charm, this is one of the best ways to explore Sydney Harbour, be a part of the crew, and most importantly, look out for pirates!
Sydney Tall Ships haven’t just stuck with the traditional sails, instead they offer a wide range of cruises and activities including:
Adventure Cruises –
Harbour Cruises –
Charters and group bookings are also available for an even more memorable experience to share with friends and families.
Event cruises are also held throughout the year.
For more information or to check availability, see their website for details.
These jet boats love whizzing in and out of other boats as it takes you on a massive lap of Sydney Harbour. As stunt machines, they spin, slide, fish-tail and speed for a unique thrilling ride you’ll be sure to remember.
Most experiences last around 30 minutes with photos and videos often available to purchase. Group bookings and charters are also available.
Be prepared to get wet and hold on!! (Jackets are provided!)
14. Ocean Extreme
Take a ride on Sydney Harbour’s fastest commercially operated vessel. This is a 21 seater Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) that offers a great offshore adventure.
From May to October, enjoy 360-degree views during their 90-minute Whale Watching Tour. With a high-speed blast towards the Harbour Heads, you’ll be out in the open ocean spotting Humpback whales in no time. In a smaller vessel, this really is the ultimate, unique experience.
Private bookings for each tour are available all year.
Check out their website for more information and availability.
Fishing Charters are plentiful around Sydney, but only a couple leave from Circular Quay. For all the fisher people out there, you’ll be glad to know that both local and offshore charters are available. Both charters offer fishing licences, quality fishing gear, bait for the trip duration, fishing instruction, professional crew, keep your own catch (subject to bag limits and size) and a great day out!
The crew will even gut and scale your fish in preparation for your dinner!
Morning and afternoon charters and offshore reef and bottom fishing (morning and twilight charters).
***No longer in operation***
A range of different charters on offer with half and full days, including Sports Fishing, Reef Fishing, Combine Game, Sports & Reef Fishing as well as Night Estuary Fishing.
Both charters are able to pick up from Circular Quay or Star Casino Wharf, just round the corner. These pickup points will need to be organised with the charters.
Check when booking your cruise where your departure wharf is.
With a few different locations of wharves at Circular Quay, see the map below for a better understanding of which side of the Quay you may need to head towards:
Whichever cruise you decide to go exploring, we bet you’ll have an amazing time with great memories to cherish forever.
Let us know what your favourite cruise is and share it with others!
Inspirational content to spend more time outdoors, in blue spaces and experiencing Water Wellness.