Must-try water activities in Sydney

With its incredible harbour, long coastline and numerous creeks, rivers and waterways, Sydney is an aquatic playground. From surfing to snorkelling, kayaking to white-water rafting, here are the water sports and activities to look forward to.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Apr 2024 -
min read


To explore the harbour at a leisurely pace, rent a kayak and go your own way, or sign up for a guided kayaking tour. Sydney Harbour Kayaks at Spit Bridge in Mosman offers tours around Middle Harbour, past dramatic sea cliffs and enviable mansions. Your guide will regale you with the harbour’s military history, shipwrecks and notable characters. Want to get up close to the Sydney Opera House and  Sydney Harbour Bridge? Join an Ozpaddle Sydney tour to take in the sights from water level. 

Men kayaking on Sydney Harbour in summer, Sydney

Kayaking, Sydney Harbour

On the lower north shore at Milsons Point, Natural Wanders offers the Billy Blue Paddle for beginners, a 5.5km trip from Lavender Bay to Blues Point – an excellent location for a photo opportunity or to simply marvel at the views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. For watery pursuits in Western Sydney, the Nepean River is great for paddling. Kayaks and SUPs are available for hire from Horizon Line, or take a guided tour on the river, which flows into the Hawkesbury River near Yarramundi.  

Read more: A guide to kayaking in Sydney

Kayaking down the Nepean River, Penrith - Sydney West

Kayaking, Nepean River

Whitewater rafting  

Whitewater rafting in Sydney? It’s a thing in the west at Penrith Whitewater Stadium. Jump into the natural rollercoaster of a rushing watercourse, initially built for the Olympic Games in 2000. Today, it’s the only human-made river of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere with 14,000 litres per second of raging whitewater, roughly guiding you through a course filled with obstacles.   


Another place to get wet is Cables Wake Park, also in Penrith and replete with facilities for cable skiing, wakeboarding and knee-boarding across two main cable lakes. The on-site Aqua Park is the perfect place for the young (and the young at heart) to cool off when the weather warms up, featuring inflatable slides, trampolines and obstacles.  

Air tricks with Jetpack Adventures - Penrith

Air tricks with Jetpack Adventures, Penrith


Nearby, Jetpack Adventures Penrith blasts hundreds of litres of water through specially designed thrust nozzles to enable you to fly as high as 10 metres above the water. And then try the fly-board craze: with a water-jet-powered board attached to your feet you can soar above the water and dive under it like a dolphin.  

Stand-up paddleboarding 

If you're keen to give stand-up paddleboarding a go in Sydney, there are several SUP schools situated along the city's spectacular coastline that will teach you the basics, including  Manly Kayak Centre and Let’s Go SUPin La Perouse, and Cronulla SUP in the south. It’s not hard to get the hang of it and once you feel confident, you can explore the water and bays on your own.  

Stand-up paddleboards are available for hire at various locations across Sydney. In the east, try Rose Bay Aquatic Hire and Point Piper Kayaks; in the north, drop in on Manly Kayak Centre, Balmoral Paddle Surf and Paddlecraft in Pittwater; in the south, Bundeena Kayaks and the Audley Boatshed in the Royal National Park; and in the west, Horizon Line near the Nepean River. For something a little different, why not try yoga on a paddleboard? Flow mOcean in Manly offers ocean-based yoga on a paddleboard. 

Man enjoying a morning of stand up paddleboarding in Port Hacking near Bundeena Wharf, Bundeena

Stand-up paddleboarding, Bundeena


The clarity of the water along the Sydney coastline makes it perfect for snorkelling expeditions. In the north, Dive Centre Manly and Ecotreasures offer snorkelling tours, and you can also explore the wonderous underwater world at Palm BeachChowder Bay and Shelly Beach.  In the south, ClovellyGordons BayBare Island and Wattamolla all offer spectacular snorkelling conditions.  

Read more: A guide to all the sea creatures you'll see at the best snorkelling spots in Sydney

Snorkelling with Ecotreasures, Manly

Ecotreasures, Manly


From the biodiversity at Shelly Beach to shipwrecks off the Northern Beaches coastline, there is plenty to explore with a tank strapped on underwater in Sydney.  Dive Centre Manly offers dive courses and guided dives. Sydney Underwater Scooter Tours has a guided tour of Gordons Bay. Chowder Bay, Bare Island, Long Reef Beach and Palm Beach all offer sensational dive sites.   

Read more: The best scuba diving spots in Sydney

A scuba diver exploring soft coral reefs, Kurnell

Coral reefs, Kurnell


There are surf beaches all along the coast, including National Surfing Reserves at Bondi, Cronulla, Maroubra, Manly and North Narrabeen. If you want to learn to surf or hone your skills, lessons are available at a number of beaches, such as Lets Go Surfing  Bondi Surf School, Manly Surf School and Chix Surf School. 

Read more: Where to find your nearest surf break 

Surfer, Bondi Beach

Surfer, Bondi Beach in Sydney East - Credit: James Horan - Destination NSW


Climb aboard for a day of harbour sailing and cruise past the city's most famous icons beneath a billowing sail. Or, hire a skipper and a yacht from EastSail in Rushcutters Bay, and explore one of the world’s finest natural harbours before dropping anchor in a secluded bay for lunch. Learn how to sail with Sydney by Sail, which offers IYT-accredited training from beginners through to skippers. For an indulgent experience, take a cruise with Champagne Sailing or Sydney Luxury Cruise. 

Read more: A guide to boating on Sydney Harbour

Jet boating

While most of  Sydney Harbour’s water traffic goes at a leisurely pace, there are some boats that reach speeds of 75km/h. Welcome to Thunder Jet Boat, which offers thrilling rides that take you out to the extremes of Sydney Heads where you encounter the ocean swells at full throttle – rock out to an Aussie music soundtrack while you zip about. Oz Jet Boating and Harbour Jet offer similar rides, whisking you under the Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House, getting you wet with 270-degree turns.   

High speed jet boat with Oz Jet Boating, Sydney Harbour

Oz Jet Boating, Sydney Harbour

Jet skiing  

Ride your own jet ski, without the need for a license, while exploring the stunning Hawkesbury River on the northern edge of Sydney. With Jet Ski Safaris NSW you whizz past islands and under towering sandstone cliffs, cruise under the railway and freeway bridges, snake along isolated mangrove sections of the meandering river and learn about the history of this majestic river. Stop off at Spencer for a break where you can have something delicious to eat and a nice cold beverage. It’s a ride that you’ll never forget. 

Sun rising over the Hawkesbury River, Wisemans Ferry

Hawkesbury River, Wisemans Ferry

Whale watching 

Each year from May to November, more than 40,000 humpback and southern right whales make their way along Sydney’s coastline in their annual migration from Antarctica to the warmer waters of the Pacific. There are excellent vantage points where you can see these giants of the deep at play. From mid-May, humpback whales begin passing Sydney on their northern migration. The peak months to see them are towards the end of June and the beginning of July. Be ready to see lots of breaching and males showing off their dominance. In October and November, you will see mothers and calves swimming down the coast. They usually swim a little slower and stick to the shoreline on their migration back south. 

Spot a whale, Sydney Harbour

Whale watching, Sydney Harbour

Whales often cruise close to shore, so they are easy to spot, and have even been known to pop up inside Sydney Harbour. Cape Solander  in Kamay Botany Bay National Park is one of the best vantage points with a covered viewing platform and information boards. There's also accessible access and disabled parking right by the platform. The cliff-top walking trails Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk and The Federation Cliff Walk from Dover Heights to Watsons Bay also offer fantastic viewing opportunities. 

If you want to get even closer to these majestic creatures, hop aboard a whale-watching cruise. During the season, cruises depart every day from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Manly. Book a cruise with Whale Watching Sydney,  Oz Whale Watching,  Ocean Extreme,  Manly Ocean Adventures or  Captain Cook Cruises, which can take you to some of the best vantage points on their small, fast vessels. 

Family enjoying a day of whale watching off-shore Sydney

On tour with Whale Watching Sydney, Sydney Harbour

Ocean pools 

Make a splash in one of Sydney’s beautiful ocean and outdoor pools. Dotted along the coastline and harbour’s edge, they are a spectacular place to swim, and many are more than 100 years old. Arguably the most famous ocean pool in Australia is Bondi’s Icebergs, named after its winter swimming club and with a bright-white lap pool that dates back to 1929. But there are dozens of others, whether you’re in the south or the north of the city.  

Read more: The most incredible ocean pools in Sydney

People enjoying a morning swim at Bondi Icebergs, Bondi Beach

Bondi Icebergs, Bondi Beach


Relax at a range of beautiful beaches in Sydney, from tranquil bays in Sydney Harbour to some of Australia’s best surf beaches. There are world-famous Bondi and Manly; well-kept secret beaches; a plethora of family-friendly beaches for those with little ones in tow; and lovely secluded beaches in Australia’s oldest national park, the Royal National Park.

Crowds enjoying a summer's day at Manly Beach, Manly

Manly Beach, Manly


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