Surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of coastlines, national parks and iconic landmarks such as the Opera House, Luna Park and Harbour Bridge, Sydney Harbour is a picturesque water playground for tourists and locals alike. Experience all the waterscape has to offer via these land, sky and water activities, and take advantage of the many scenic vantage points.
1. Sydney Harbour Cruise
Get out on the water and see the views that make Sydney one of the greatest cities in the world. There are many tour companies offering cruises; Captain Cook Cruises offers morning, day and night ventures with personalised commentary and a licensed bar, while most boats will take you past famous landmarks including the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Government House and Royal Botanic Gardens.
2. Harbour Bridge Climb
Not for the faint-hearted, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb experience is one of the most exciting ways to see the harbour. Ascending 134m above sea level to the summit will reward you with panoramic vistas of the city, Harbour and surrounds, and once at the top, you’ll get your photo taken for proof of your courage. Try a twilight climb for stunning sunset and nightlight views.
3. Manly Ferry
For spectacular harbour and ocean views at a fraction of the cost, take a ferry to Manly. The Manly Fast Ferry is a purely functional 20 minute trip, still allowing for stunning views, while the traditional ferry takes about double the time and is an older, slower boat with an abundance of charm. Once you’re in Manly there are picturesque beaches, waterfront restaurants and a cosmopolitan-holiday vibe to enjoy.
4. Hermitage Foreshore Walk
Strap on your walking shoes and take a trek along the Hermitage Foreshore track, finishing with a picnic at the small and tranquil Milk Beach. For those seeking respite from the crowds, this Sydney coastal walk offers lookouts to Shark Island, heritage-listed Strickland House and the Harbour Bridge from the native bushland environment, while Milk Beach is an isolated, scenic bay with fishing and snorkelling opportunities.
5. Kayak and 'glamping' at Cockatoo Island
Hire a kayak and paddle across the water to the largest island in Sydney Harbour. This leisurely hour-long adventure, depending on how long you linger over the views, passes under the Iron Cove Bridge and along the shoreline past Birkenhead Point and around Snapper Island. Once you reach Cockatoo Island there are plenty of options for food and leisure, as well as overnight ‘glamping’ and camping opportunities along the waterfront.
6. Sydney Harbour Tall Ships
Climb onboard a traditional tall ship and enjoy the thrill of hoisting sails, steering the giant vessel or an exhilarating ‘mast climb’. The Sydney Harbour Tall Ships tour company offers a Champagne Brunch Cruise sailing past some of Sydney’s biggest attractions, while on deck you can be as involved or relaxed as you like. For the more adventurous, the height, ocean swell and open elements on the 15m mast climb make for a memorable experience.
7. Seaplane and Lunch at Cottage Point Inn
Take flight in a seaplane over the Harbour and northern beaches to the award-winning Cottage Point Inn, perched on the edge of the water at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. After a leisurely 3-course lunch, the return seaplane trip will take you past the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House for some picturesque photo-ops, before landing in the stunning Rose Bay.
8. Dinner in a Waterfront Restaurant
There are an abundance of quality restaurants dotted along the coastline with vistas encompassing all the icons. Aria at Circular Quay offers pre and post-theatre dinners and an outlook over the water; Catalina in Rose Bay features fresh seafood and striking scenery; or try one of the revolving restaurants. With an uninterrupted view over the city, Harbour and beyond, 360 Bar and Dining, Sydney Tower Buffet and O Bar and Dining are popular tourist spots for both their food and vistas.
9. Ferry Ride and Tour of Fort Denison
Located in the middle of Sydney Harbour, Fort Denison, once also known as ‘Pinchgut’ has a rich history as an island for convicts who had committed secondary crimes and features the Martello Tower, made from 8000 tonnes of sandstone. Enjoy a ferry ride across the water to the island, take a heritage tour and have a meal or snack at the island’s only restaurant, which features panoramic Sydney views.
10. Ballast Point Park
This 2.6ha park with an outlook to Sydney Harbour Bridge offers visitors cycling and walking paths, barbecue areas and sprawling green grassed spots ideal for picnics with a view. This urban oasis is set on Birchgrove’s scenic peninsula and offers a welcome respite from the city for locals. Dotted throughout the park are numerous installations and relics – a nod to the area’s industrial past.