Sydney is a veritable cruise hub, a hive of activity that sees big vessels coming and going year-round. It’s also a sophisticated and exciting city, one that receives millions of visitors each year both domestic and international.
Arriving from the Tasman Sea is a fantastic way to enter Sydney: you’ll sail into its famous harbour, passing the iconic bridge and Opera House. Many ships dock right in the centre of the city, giving passengers access to all the sights and sounds.
If you’re set to arrive in Sydney for a visit soon and are unsure where to start, read on! This is our guide for cruisers in Australia’s biggest city.
When: While the cruise traffic in Sydney picks up a bit in the summer months (or approximately October to March), ships visit and depart throughout the year.
Where: Sydney has two cruise docks. The Overseas Passenger Terminal is centrally located in Circular Quay and is the primary cruise terminal. Any ship that can’t fit under the harbour bridge must dock here! The secondary terminal is the White Bay Cruise Terminal, located near Balmain which is around 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre.
Who: Almost every major cruise line visits Sydney. There is, of course, a strong P&O Australia presence, but any line with international reach will likely have a ship docked in Sydney at some point. Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and more have ships homeported in Sydney, whether seasonally or year-round.
Sights of Sydney
Sydney has many attractions - the trick will be deciding where to spend your time. The most well-known eye candy for tourists is, of course, the striking Harbour Bridge and Opera House, an iconic duo. The Royal Botanical Gardens are also within a short walk of the cruise dock, along with Hyde Park and its beautiful War Memorial, the Town Hall, the trendy The Rocks district and much more.
Venture further from the city centre and Sydney has more to offer: Taronga Zoo, for example, which is a must-do for families. Bondi Beach is a famously beautiful spot, but it’s far from the only beach in the city. The shorelines to the north and south of the entrance to Sydney Harbour are indented with beaches and bays, including the surf-loving Manly which is a short ferry ride from Circular Quay.
Experience the city
Different types of visitors can enjoy Sydney in varied ways. Here are just a few of the experiences you can have in this fast-paced, cosmopolitan city.
- Family fun: Taking the ferry across to the Taronga Zoo is a perfect way for those travelling with kids to see some of Sydney. A picnic at the beach or in the Royal Botanic Gardens is another fantastic low-key and low-cost option for families.
- A little adventure: Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an adrenaline-inducing way to achieve great views of the city and a very memorable experience. Kayaking in Sydney Harbour or parasailing in Manly are also great options for adventure-seekers, and if you’re up for a challenge, tackle an urban hike like the Hermitage Foreshore Track.
- Shopping and dining: If you’re up for a relaxed day of enjoying Sydney’s urban delights (peppered with some retail therapy), head to the City Centre and wander the streets near the Town Hall. That’s where you’ll find a concentration of shops and restaurants, including the famous Pitt Street Mall. Nearby Darling Harbour is an entertainment district with many things to do, buy and eat.
- Historical happenings: If you’d like to know some of the story behind Sydney, you can visit the many museums and historic sites in the city. Susannah Place Museum in The Rocks is one of the best, offering insight into life when Sydney was a penal colony. Fort Denison on a harbour island is another fascinating attraction, along with the Hyde Park Barracks. If you’d like to contemplate history over a beer, there’s nowhere better to go than the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, Sydney’s oldest continually-licensed establishment.
Sydney shore tours
If you’d like a smooth transition from ship to shore to sights, a pre-booked shore tour arranged by your cruise line is a good way to go. The packages available will vary significantly between lines, but the following options are common across the major cruise operators.
You could embark on a Sydney Harbour cruise (in a much smaller boat) and see the sights that way, or drive around the streets and visit a few of the highlights including Bondi, with narration by a tour guide. Cruise lines can pre-arrange tickets and transfers to places like Taronga Zoo or the SEA Life Sydney Aquarium, or put on pub tours in The Rocks district.
If you’re willing to take a bit of a drive, you could even disembark from your ship and head straight off into the Blue Mountains to experience the incredible natural beauty of that region. It’s worth the drive, and a line-organised tour comes with the guarantee that the boat won’t leave without you.
There are so many ways to enjoy what Sydney has to offer, so plan your day before you arrive and squeeze as much as you can out of this incredible and world-famous city. If you’re cruising in the South Pacific, the chances are high that you’ll pass through Sydney at some point in the journey. Book your next cruising adventure and start dreaming of Aussie’s big smoke!