Sydney, Australia is widely considered one of the planet’s most beautiful cities, largely because it encircles the world’s greatest natural harbor – and a visit is not complete without a ferry ride or two. An abundance of ferry routes offer close-up views of Sydney’s sparkling harbor, and easy access to its many towns, bays, and beaches.
Here’s our advice for enjoying a few of our favorite ferry rides exploring this city. First, purchase an Opal card. Sydney is well-connected by excellent ferry, train, bus, and light rail systems, and a tap of the Opal card gives you easy access to all four. Second, dress comfortably and in layers; although we love Sydney’s temperate climate, its weather is changeable and you’re going to be out over the water with a stiff sea breeze in your face.
Crossing the harbor to Manly Beach is a popular day trip for Sydneysiders, and a large ferry accommodates beachgoers and tourists looking for superb harbor views.
Dine at Manly’s 16 Foot Skiff Club along the Esplanade, near the marina. With inside and outside dining and a full bar, this private club is open to the public (only members can reserve seating). The food is well prepared, the fish fresh, and the atmosphere perfectly reflects this exclusive yet friendly yacht club. And the views of Manly Cove add to the classy ambiance.
A walk along the Manly Beach Esplanade after lunch lets you experience its vibrant café culture and stunning seaside and sandstone beauty.
Take the short ferry ride from Circular Quay to Mosman Bay Wharf, and then walk around the tranquil bay along Centenary Drive to the Mosman Rowers Club. The club lies directly across the bay from the wharf.
Founded in 1911, the Mosman Rower’s Club embraces its history with a nautical theme. The walls of the spacious dining room, one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets, are covered with pictures of past rowing teams. Sitting on the outside balcony, we sampled the club’s signature bistro-style fish and chips while yachts bobbed peacefully in the sheltered bay. Here, Southern right whales would calve before Australia was settled.
We had a taste of the friendliness that Australians are known for. It was raining when we went to leave and a club member insisted on driving us back to the wharf to catch the ferry.
On sunny days you can walk around the point and view the elegant homes built precariously above the sheer sandstone cliffs that line the drive. Then pick up a ferry either at Old Cremorne Wharf or, for a longer stroll, at Cremorne Point Wharf to get you back to Sydney.
Doyle’s Restaurant opened in the 1880s as a tiny shop front in Watson’s Bay, serving fish caught by Alice Doyle’s grandfather. Now it’s a Sydney icon, a fresh-food restaurant celebrated for its friendly service and fabulous harbor views. Accessible by ferry from multiple wharfs including Circular Quay, Doyle’s is a mecca for locals who are celebrating special occasions.
With its idyllic location right on the beach, Doyle’s has long been recognized as one of Sydney’s most romantic restaurants. We spent an afternoon there lingering over a long lunch, enjoying a seafood platter for two, champagne, and the bayside view.
If You Go
Everything you need to know about purchasing an Opal card, ferry routes, and timetables can be found at transportnsw.info. All ferries can be boarded at Circular Quay, the main ferry terminal. But the ferry to Watson’s Bay can also be boarded at numerous wharfs before Circular Quay including Pyrmont Bay and Barangaroo Wharfs, two popular tourist destinations.
Pamela and Gary Baker are freelance writers based in Northern California. They have written for regional, national and international magazines, newspapers and websites including Via Magazine, Destinations, and Australia and New Zealand Magazine. To read more of their stories, visit PamandGaryBaker.com.
Photos: Pamela and Gary Baker