Exploring the Wonderful Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour is one of the largest of its kind in the world.  The beauty of Sydney Harbour lies in the fact it is completely natural, and is consequently ideal for both commercial shipping and also recreational enjoyment.  Waterside features include the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.  North and South heads bound the water body at the ocean side and the upper reaches extend almost 20km inland which takes about 2 hours by boat.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Unlike the majority of ocean adjacent water bodies, Sydney Harbour contains a number small islands, ranging in size from only an acre to several square kilometres in size.  During World War 2 a number of the islands had military uses, they have all since been converted into tourist attractions.

Shark Island, Sydney

Fort Denison, is constructed from over 8000 sandstone blocks, extracted from the shores of the harbour Sydney.  Once a gunnery used to protect the city from water based attacks, the island is now a navigational aid for ships entering and leaving the harbour at night.  The island can be visited by tourists for day trips, Monday through Saturday, however is only accessible via boat.   Visitors are asked to contact the national parks service for more info.

Shark Island is very much a family friendly island, covered in shady trees and picnic tables it’s the perfect place for families to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon around a BBQ.  The island has public amenities and informational booths so is a great option for the less adventurous tourists.  Thankfully, the islands name does not refer to its local inhabitants, rather the long shape of the island.  The Island is surrounded by shallow, sandy beaches which makes it ideal for tourists to take a quick, stress free dip and remain safe from the large surf and strong rips that plague many of the cities popular beaches.

Cockatoo Island  is the largest of the islands within the bounds of Sydney Harbour.  Originally it was an element of Sydney’s penal colony.  The prison was used to house the ‘worst of the worst’, typically repeat offenders who were not put to death.  The jail was used principally for solitary confinement, and a number of cells still remain for tourists to spend a couple of minutes in the shoes of those gone long before us.  Alongside the prison was one of New South Wales oldest ship yards.  In operation for over a centaury the land was used for the Naval shipyards within Sydney.  The land was transferred to the Commonwealth Government in 1913 and was used as the principal shipyard for the Royal Australian Navy until 1991 when the facility was finally closed and the island featured on the world heritage list.

Manly Ferries, Sydney Harbour

For those not quite so keen to put boots on the ground, the Manly ferries provide an opportunity to see the beauty of the harbour in relative comfort and in a fairly quick timeframe.  The current Manly Ferries are the “Freshwater Class” ferries and were built between 1982 and 1988.  The distinctive yellow and green paintjob makes them some of the most distinctive ferries in the world.  Anyone who has spent some time living in Sydney would be able to instantly recognise a manly ferry.

The ferries travel from Cirular Quay in the Sydney CBD to the northern beaches about every 30 minutes from dawn til dusk.  The ferries, while very robust, are held back from operation on extremely rough days, principally to avoid sea sickness of their passengers.  Each ferry has a capacity of about 1200 people and travel at a speed of 16 knots, making the trip from Manly to the City in about 40 minutes.  During the working week, residents of the northern beaches will use the Manly Ferry as a source of transportation to the CBD, then loading onto trains that will distribute them through the Eastern Suburbs.


Rich is a Sydney resident and a keen boater, he runs the boat sales site The Boat Bay in his spare time, helping people buy and sell their watercraft with ease.

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