Last updated: February 17, 2024
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Sydney Harbour is by doing one of the many scenic ferry trips with Sydney Ferries.
You can go east to Cremorne Point, Rose Bay, Watsons Bay, or Manly for a refreshing swim, an exciting hike, or a nice cold beer. Or, you can go west and spend a few hours exploring Cockatoo Island or visit one of the many waterside suburbs along the Parramatta River for a nice lunch.
We have shortlisted seven of the best Sydney ferry trips that offer fantastic views of the Harbour and bring you to exciting destinations!
1. Circular Quay to Manly
The prettiest and most popular ferry ride is very much a tourist attraction in its own right. Manly is a must-visit for every tourist coming to 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 boat on the way to Manly and grab a seat on the other when returning to Circular Quay.
There are many great things to do in Manly, with several beaches, lots of cafes and restaurants, and great walking tracks to choose from. Both the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk and the Manly North Head Walk are two beautiful hikes.
|Circular Quay to Manly
2. Barangaroo 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 Sydney-siders.
Situated 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, Commonwealth naval base, and even as a convict island.
To visit Cockatoo Island, you can catch a ferry from Circular Quay or from Barangaroo. Upon arrival, grab a free map from the visitor centre and start exploring the historical precincts on the island.
|Barangaroo to Cockatoo Island
3. Circular Quay to Watsons Bay
The ferry trip from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay via the F9 Watsons Bay ferry service is a 20-minute trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
Watsons Bay is home to an exciting walking trail, lots of cafes and restaurants, several beaches, and a beautiful park to relax and have a picnic.
If you’d like to extend this ferry route, you can also jump on the ferry from Pyrmont Bay and travel to Circular Quay via Barangaroo. That way, you cover large parts of the Harbour on both sides of the bridge.
|Circular Quay to Watsons Bay
4. Barangaroo to Parramatta
The longest ferry trip on this list is the one from Barangaroo heading out to Parramatta in the west along the Parramatta River.
This ferry ride is a pleasant experience with many things to see along the way. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s time to explore Sydney’s second major residential and commercial hub, Parramatta.
With 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 has a lot to offer.
But, of course, you don’t need to travel all the way to Parramatta. There are so many nice suburbs to visit along the Parramatta River, such as Drummoyne, Abbotsford, and Meadowbank.
|Barangaroo to Parramatta
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, but the ferry wharf is also conveniently located close to the lower entrance to the zoo on Athol Wharf Road.
But you don’t need to visit Taronga Zoo to enjoy this scenic ferry ride. The ferry wharf at the zoo is also the starting point of the popular walk from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach and the shorter trail to Bradleys Head.
|Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo
6. Circular Quay to Balmain East
Situated 6 km west of the Sydney CBD and west of the Harbour Bridge, Balmain is a leafy 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.
The Balmain East Wharf is located at the eastern end of Darling Street, Balmain’s busiest street with many cafes, restaurants, and retail shops to explore.
|Circular Quay to Balmain East
7. Circular Quay to Cremorne Point
The shortest on this list of Sydney ferry trips is the one-stop ride to Cremorne Point departing from Circular Quay.
As short as this trip may be, Cremorne Point is a wonderful destination as it is home to one of the prettiest walks in Sydney Harbour National Park.
The Cremorne Point Walk is an easy 3 km foreshore circuit trail in Sydney’s lower north shore, with beautiful views of Sydney Harbour and the city skyline.
|Circular Quay to Cremorne Point
About Sydney Ferries
Why pay for an expensive Sydney Harbour cruise if you can experience the best of the Harbour by simply using public transport?
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 less than $10 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 nine lines and more than 30 vessels in use.
Not only is travelling by ferry a fantastic way to get from A to B, but 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 purchase an Opal single ticket (more expensive) or use Contactless payments with your Credit or Debit card.
A single ferry trip is less than $10, with trips shorter than 9 km slightly cheaper than those longer than that distance.
The Opal card has a daily travel cap of less than $20 on weekdays and less than $20 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This means you can travel as much as you like on metro, train, bus, ferry, and light rail services within the Opal network without paying more than the cap.
Overall, travel with Sydney Ferries is reasonably affordable and can make for a great day out and about in Sydney Harbour!