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Best 7 Sydney Harbour cruises
Whether on a ferry or an 1850s tall ship, a harbor cruise is Sydney's best tour
Sydney Harbour is the jewel in Sydney's crown. A city lives around it and sprawls from it. And the best way to enjoy it is a harbor cruise.
From the land, Emerald City locals are always dreaming of harbor views from their homes.
But better than looking at, you can be on the harbor. On a sunny day when taking a cruise on Sydney Harbour, there's arguably no better place in the world.
There's all kinds of harbor cruises: on tall ships, ferries, yachts and catamarans. You can stoke up with a barbecue or an à la carte lunch.
Here are seven magical cruises.
1. Sydney Harbour Tall Ships
If swashbuckling adventures are more your thing, jump on board an 1850s-style tall ship and take to the high seas -- or Sydney Harbor in this case.
More than just a cruise, the tall ships offer a fun laser-clay shooting display during your lunch cruise. You split into teams and shoot lasers at targets while a barbecue lunch is being prepared.
Take your pick depending on your gang: family pirate lunch cruises where the kids can live out their buccaneering fantasies, or the regular cruises and charters where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience aboard your unique vessel.
Sydney Harbor Tall Ships, depart Campbell Cove, The Rocks (adjacent to the Park Hyatt hotel); various cruises depart on selected Saturdays and prices start at $32 for adults and $15 for children; +61 (0)2 9247 3782, www.sydneytallships.com.au
2. Magistic Cruises
The extensive indoor and outdoor areas on these catamarans make them ideal for taking in the views, but also for pre-dinner cocktails or sun-soaking lunches.
Buffets are prepared freshly on board: Thai fish curry, beef stroganoff and peri-peri chicken are among the hot dishes in a four-hour lunch and dinner cruise.
If you just want to cruise, the one-hour sightseeing tour takes you through the harbor and its waterfront landmarks. A GPS commentary system provides accurate and informative commentary throughout.
Magistic Cruises, 32 The Promenade, King Street Wharf; +61 (0)2 8296 7222; daily cruises depart from King Street Wharf and prices start from $20, www.magisticcruises.com.au
3. Sydney by Sail
If you want to get amongst the action of Sydney harbor, you can take a weekend course and learn to sail aboard one of the yachts at Sydney By Sail. With courses for every skill level, from beginner through to skipper, spend your weekend getting hands-on with Sydney’s harbor as you enjoy a unique experience and coaching.
Pull up the sail, steer the yacht, and discover what it takes while soaking in the harbor views from a front row seat.
If you already have a skipper's license, you can charter one of their yachts and plot your own course around the harbor, or let one of their skippers take you on a three-hour sail. No machines, no big cruise liners, just sailing.
Sydney By Sail Festival Pontoon, National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbor; courses and charters available all year round. Prices start from $495 for a two-day course, and $570 for a skippered charter, +61 (0)2 9280 1111, www.sydneybysail.com.au
4. Sydney Ferries
Who says you have to board a lunch or dinner cruise to see the best of what Sydney has to offer from the water? If that’s not your thing, you can still get great views on Sydney Ferries. And it’ll only cost a fraction of the price.
A 30-minute ride to Manly will cover many of the same bases as the chartered cruise ships; or head in the opposite direction by catching a Rivercat along the Parramatta River to Parramatta and you’ll pass plenty of beautiful waterfront homes, as well as the usual suspects of Darling Harbor, Opera House and Harbor Bridge. You’re not being cheap, you’re being smart.
Sydney Ferries, 131 500, www.sydneyferries.info
5. Captain Cook
Lunch and dinner cruises aboard Captain Cook's fleet of vessels operate daily, but on the top deck of many of their vessels you can dine on a premium à la carte menu accompanied by ambient music. You can even book a private dining room.
Panoramic windows ensure you can ogle the foreshore from all over the boat.
Got a bit of time on the weekend? Take in the views with a breakfast or high tea cruise, or a hop-on, hop-off day pass so you don’t feel confined to the vessel.
There’s also an informative heritage tour, as well as a weekend retreat, which includes regular shore visits that take you off the beaten track to historical inlets. Or just enjoy the sunset cruise.
Captain Cook, Pier 26, Aquarium Wharf, Darling Harbor, +61 (0)2 9206 1111; cruises depart daily from King Street Wharf, Darling Harbor and Circular Quay, and prices start from $20, www.captaincook.com.au
6. Prestige Harbor Cruises
Want something extra special when you’re gliding across the waters of Sydney Harbour? Want to see the beautiful surroundings of this city in your own beautiful surroundings?
Alongside offering regular cruises around the harbor (lunch, dinner, sunset, for example), you can cruise like the rich and famous on one of Prestige's stylish craft. The Monte Fino might set you back a cool $6550 for a four-hour cruise of the harbor, but this sort of luxury doesn’t come cheap. Maybe if you win the lottery ...
Prestige Harbor Cruises, +61 (0)2 8765 1225, www.prestigeharbourcruises.com.au
7. Whale Watching Sydney
To get out to the vast expanse of the ocean where the whales migrate from May to December, whale-watching boats depart Sydney Harbour and make their way through The Heads and it’s here that you’ll get the most unique view back to Sydney that no other cruise ship offers.
Then, there are whales to see. Claiming a 99 percent success rate in 18 years of running such cruises, Whale Watching Sydney will deliver on great Sydney views and whale spotting, thanks to the abundance of viewing decks to ensure you don’t miss a moment of the action. After seeing whales you’ll then head back towards Sydney for more of those unique views as the skyline draws closer. Cruises depart from Darling Harbour, Circular Quay and Sans Souci. Prices start from $60 for adults, $25 for children.
Whale Watching Sydney, Sans Souci Wharf, Sans Souci, +61 (0)2 9583 1199, www.whalewatchingsydney.net