Sydney Harbour by Ferry: the Opera House to Darling Harbour


  1. Introduction
  2. Circular Quay
  3. Opera House and Bridge
  4. Darling Harbour
  5. More travel
  6. Author


Circular Quay

Circular Quay

An inexpensive and relaxing way to see Sydney is by ferry. The ferries are integrated with the public bus service and reasonably cheap. The main terminal for ferries is at Circular Quay, in the city. The best-known trip with tourists is 30 minutes to Manly. But there are also several shorter interesting trips around the inner harbour. One is under the Harbour Bridge to Darling Harbour.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Circular Quay

The place to start your trip is from Circular Quay. For here you get glimpses of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, from between the floating ferry wharves. Just behind the ferry terminal is the Circular Quay railway station, and bus interchange.

Sydney Ferry Ticket Machine

Ticket Machine

Sydney ferries have those daunting automatic ticket vending machines. But you can buy one from a human teller at the counter. If boarding from a smaller wharf, you can buy a ticket from the conductor on board the ferry.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Bridge Pylon

Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon

If you don't have ahead for heights, or the money and time for a BridgeClimb, there is a viewing platform and museum in the South East pylon of the bride (closest to the Quay). Follow the signs to the Bridge Climb office, via the Bridge Stairs in Cumberland Street, continue onto the bridge and through the door in the Pylon and up the stairs to the Pylon Lookout.

Tram Tunnel Under Sydney

Tram Tunnel

On the way look out for a tunnel entrance under the bridge. This extends under the city to Wynyard Railway Station. The trams would cross the bridge on the eastern side (now road lanes), then down a ramp into the tunnel. One of the tunnel entrances is now an office for the Railway Institute.

Sydney Harbor Bridge from Pylon

Bridge from Pylon

There is a 260 degree view of Sydney from the top of the Pylon. You can look down on the bridge climbers as they start their assent and watch them go up. There are great views of the Sydney Opera House, the city and the Blue Mountains to the west. The lookout feels safe and secure, being a former World War II concrete blockhouse, built as part of anti-aircraft defences to protect the bridge.

On the way down there is a modest museum and an okay short documentary about the building of the bridge, screening in a huge chamber inside the Pylon.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Don't miss the view of the Sydney Opera House on the right side as the ferry pulls out of the quay. On the left you may see a ship at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, opposite the Rocks.

The ferry goes under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can look up and see trains on the track above. Every few minutes a group of walkers roped together go up the arch of the bridge, on the bridge climb, to the observation platform at the very top.

The first stop is Milson's Point, in North Sydney. This is a short walk from Sydney's Luna Park, an amusement park on the shore near the bridge. Some ferries go on to Balmain, where there are markets in the St Andrews church grounds, on Saturdays. Some ferries skip Balmain, and go on to Balmain East, so check the timetable.

The ferry then heads south across to Darling Harbour. On the way you can see the working cargo wharves and often a water taxi passing. Some of the water taxis are yellow, like a New York cab, and can be booked like a regular taxi (but cost a lot more than a ferry ride). You will also see several high speed boat rides on the harbour, such as the Thunder Jet Boat "down under". You may also see a high speed Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) on the harbour, this could be full of tourists or the Special Air Service Counter-Terrorism Unit, who train on the Harbour.

Darling Harbour

Australian National Maritime Museum

Australian National Maritime Museum

The Darling Harbour terminal is just outside the Sydney Aquarium. It is a scenic walk across Pyrmont Bridge to the shops. The Sydney Monorail runs over the bridge and keeps operating even when the bridge is swung open to let ships through. If you are visiting the Australian National Maritime Museum, you can stay on the ferry for its last stop, just across Darling Harbour at Prymont Bay. This is also the place to get off for the Star City Casino.

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