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Two people on a boat in front of Sydney Opera House and Bridge
Photograph: Captain Cook Cruises

Sydney Harbour cruises

Choose your own adventure with these daytime voyages on Sydney's famous waterways

By Kei Wa Lee

Cruising around the harbour is a tried-and-tested tourist activity that's popular for a reason – you can wine and dine with friends on a boat as you watch world-famous icons pass you by on the foreshore. In summer, you can go island hopping or simply soak up the sun with an everchanging view. In winter it's the perfect time to go on a tour to the Fish Markets for a seafood feast. And throughout the year you can learn more about our First Nations history with Indigenous-led tours around key sites and landmarks along the waterfront. Visiting the city? Here are our picks of tourist attractions that don't suck.

Prefer to dine after dark? Here are six dinner cruises with a difference

Sydney Harbour cruises

Women with their hands in the air, looking at Sydney Harbour Bridge
Photograph: Supplied

Harbour Beaches Cruise

Pack your swimmers, thongs and SPF for this one. The six-hour cruise sets off from Man O War Steps (next to the Opera House) at 10.30am and tours around harbour beaches and islands including Athol Bay, Shark Island, Chowder Bay or Watsons Bay. You’ll be spending the day catching rays aboard a sun-drenched deck and lolling about on expansive patches of sand. For the adrenaline junkies, test your balance on a stand-up paddle board or pitch in for a group beach volleyball session.

Woman buying prawns at the fish market
Photograph: James Horan

Sydney Fish Markets Tour and Lunch

Embark on a half-day tour aboard an open-deck motor boat. The vessel will depart from Darling Harbour and cruise alongside a bunch of renowned harbourside landmarks. Feast your eyes on Point Piper’s multi-million dollar estates; catch glimpses of the serene Rose Bay and Double Bay beaches; and pry into the Australian prime minister’s official Sydney abode at Kirribilli Point. After a packed morning of sightseeing, fill your belly with fresh catches at the Sydney Fish Market over lunch.

Clark Island
Photograph: David Finnegan

Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Cultural Cruise

Experience Sydney from a different perspective aboard Mari Nawi (big canoe). Hosted by the friendly Tribal Warrior crew, the tour is led by experienced guides who will share with you stories of the Aboriginal names and meanings behind important Sydney landmarks. Hop ashore on Clark Island for a guided tour around the wonderfully tranquil landmark, learn about traditional fishing and food gathering methods, and watch an interactive cultural performance.

Ferry in Sydney Harbour with Opera House and Bridge in the background
Photograph: Captain Cook Cruises

Hop-on hop-off Ferry

This sleek high-speed craft is your ultimate ticket to hit up 11 waterfront attractions on a time crunch. With an unlimited two-day pass, you can board (and reboard) the jet at any of its designated stops throughout the day. The 60- to 90-minute ride floats around the harbour servicing major tourist haunts like Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Manly. You can get off at Watsons Bay for a laidback stroll to the red-and-white striped Hornby Lighthouse or exit across the harbour at Luna Park, where you can find a grinning clown face guarding the entrance.

Cockatoo Island
Photograph: Supplied

Convicts, Castles and Champagne Cruise

Climb aboard an ancient timber vessel and take a plunge into Sydney’s long and varied convict past. These tall sails will sweep you back in time to the historic foreshores of Goat Island, home to former gunpowder magazines, maritime camps and some of Australia’s most intact convict-built structures. Explore the island’s impressive colonial architecture on a guided walking tour before settling back on the cruise. Leaving the 19th century monuments behind, the vessel will voyage through a coveted strip of homes along the coastline.

Get a perfect sunrise shot before your adventure

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