Last updated: December 11, 2020
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Sydney Harbour is by doing one of the many scenic and practical ferry trips with Sydney Ferries.
We have selected 7 of the best Sydney Harbour ferry rides, that not only offer fantastic views of the Harbour, but also bring you to exciting destinations.
Why pay for an expensive Harbour cruise if you can see the best of Sydney Harbour by simply using public transport?
7 Best Sydney Ferry Rides
In no particular order, here are the 7 best Sydney ferry trips to various exciting destinations with great Harbour views to enjoy along the way.
1. Circular Quay to Manly
Let’s kick off with the most scenic and most popular ferry ride that is very much a tourist attraction in itself. Manly is a must visit for every tourist that visits Sydney, but the ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly is half the fun.
This ferry trip passes all the sights that make Sydney Harbour so unique, such as the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Bradleys Head, South Head, Manly North Head, Dobroyd Head, and of course Manly Cove.
If weather permits, try to get a seat outside at the front of the vessel for the best views. Otherwise, pick one side of the vessel on the trip to Manly, and grab a seat on the other side when returning to Circular Quay.
There are lots of things to do in Manly, with several beaches, tons of cafes and restaurants, and great walking tracks to enjoy. Both the Manly to Spit Bridge walk and the Manly North Head walk are two beautiful hikes.
|Circular Quay to Manly|
|Ferry Service:||F1 Manly|
2. Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island
Visiting Cockatoo Island may not be on top of everyone’s wish list, but we think it’s a must visit for tourists as well as for local Sydney-siders.
Situated right in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World-Heritage and National Heritage Listed island. This unique island has a rich history as a shipbuilding yard and Commonwealth naval base and even as a convict island.
At arrival, score a free map from the visitor centre and enjoy a wonderful day out exploring the historical precincts on the island.
Or, if you’d like to enjoy two days on Cockatoo Island, book yourself a luxury tent on the camping site for a relaxing weekend away.
|Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island|
|Ferry Service:||F8 Cockatoo Island|
3. Pyrmont Bay to Watsons Bay
The ferry trip from Pyrmont Bay to Watsons Bay via Circular Quay is a combination of two ferry services; the F4 Pyrmont Bay ferry service and the F9 Watsons Bay ferry service, with a change-over at Circular Quay.
The F4 service also stops at the brand new and modern ferry wharf at the Barangaroo foreshore, which means you can also alight there to have a look around.
You can of course also catch this ferry at Circular Quay, but it’s much more fun to complete the whole trip between Pyrmont Bay and Watsons Bay, as it covers most of Sydney Harbour.
Watsons Bay is one of Sydney’s most popular tourist and weekend destinations, home to an exciting circuit walking track, lots of cafes and restaurants, several beaches, and a beautiful park to relax and have a picnic.
|Pyrmont Bay to Watsons Bay|
|Ferry Service:||F4 Pyrmont Bay and F9 Watsons Bay|
4. Circular Quay to Parramatta (Via Olympic Park)
The longest ferry trip in this list is the one from Circular Quay heading out to Parramatta in the west along the Parramatta River.
The ferry trip itself is a pleasant experience with lots of things to see along the way, but Sydney’s second major residential and commercial hub is also worth exploring.
The Westfield Parramatta shopping mall, Church Street’s trendy bars and eateries, riverside cycle paths and historic colonial sites like the 18th-century Old Government House, Parramatta does indeed have lots to offer.
|Circular Quay to Parramatta|
|Ferry Service:||F3 Parramatta River|
5. Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo
While Taronga Zoo certainly has car parking areas available, the best and most convenient way to visit Taronga Zoo is actually by ferry.
Not only is the ferry trip a great warmup for what’s to come, the ferry wharf is also right at the entrance to the cable car, which takes you directly up to the entrance to the zoo.
This is the only cable car in Sydney and offers excellent views of Sydney Harbour, while flying above the zoo animals.
But you don’t need to visit Taronga Zoo in order to enjoy this scenic ferry ride. The ferry wharf at the zoo is also the starting point of the popular walking track from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach.
|Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo|
|Ferry Service:||F2 Taronga Zoo|
6. Circular Quay to Balmain
Situated 6 km west of the Sydney CBD on the other side of the Harbour Bridge, Balmain is a friendly inner-west suburb with a vibrant cafe, restaurant and pub scene.
Old sandstone workers’ cottages and impressive Victorian-style mansions line the leafy streets of Balmain, revealing the rich history of this once important, working-class industrial hub.
Saturday is a great day to visit Balmain, as you get to enjoy the Balmain Markets, one of Sydney’s oldest markets located at the historic St Andrews Congregational Church grounds.
Handmade arts and crafts, beautiful jewellery and giftware, trend-setting fashion and homewares, Balmain Markets has something for everyone.
|Circular Quay to Balmain|
|Ferry Service:||F8 Cockatoo Island|
7. Circular Quay to Cremorne Point
The shortest trip in this list of Sydney ferry trips is the one-stop ride to Cremorne Point departing from Circular Quay.
This short trip deserves a mention because Cremorne Point is home to one of the prettiest and most unpretentious bay walks in Sydney Harbour National Park.
The Cremorne Point circuit walk is an easy 3km foreshore circuit trail in the lower north shore, with beautiful views of Mosman Bay, Sydney Harbour, and the city skyline.
Discover Robertsons Point Lighthouse, Cremorne Reserve and the MacCallum swimming pool as you wander past picturesque gardens and impressive old mansions, only a short ferry trip away from Circular Quay.
|Circular Quay to Cremorne Point|
|Ferry Service:||F6 Mosman Bay|
About Sydney Ferries
Sydney’s iconic green-and-gold ferries bring local commuters and tourists to all corners of the Harbour, with most services starting and ending at Circular Quay, Sydney’s major ferry transport hub.
Circular Quay also has a train station that connects with all other Sydney CBD train stations, including Sydney Central.
This makes the weekend travel cap on the Opal card even more appealing, allowing Opal card holders to use all public transport services for as little as $8.05 for the whole day.
Owned by Transport for NSW, Sydney Ferries is the public transport ferry network with services operating on Sydney Harbour and the connecting Parramatta River. Established in 2004, the network now has 9 lines and more than 30 vessels in use.
Not only is traveling by ferry a fantastic way to get from A to B, it’s also surprisingly affordable. The most convenient way to pay for any Sydney Ferries service, is with an Opal card.
If you don’t have an Opal card, you can either purchase an Opal single ticket (more expensive), or use Contactless payments with your Credit or Debit card.
Opal Card ferry fares are based on distance, with ferry trips up to 9km currently costing $6.12 for an adult, and trips longer than 9km costing $7.65. For example, the popular Circular Quay to Manly ferry trip would cost $7.65 for an adult.
The Opal card has a daily travel cap of $16.10, which means you can travel as much as you would like on metro, train, bus, ferry and light rail services within the Opal network without paying more than the cap.
And as mentioned above, with the Opal card weekend travel cap you can travel with Sydney Ferries the whole day for only a small fee, which makes for a great day out and about in Sydney Harbour.