Sydney Harbour is known for being home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but there's so much more to discover. Spend some time here and you'll be awed by its natural beauty, from hidden beaches to pristine bushland and charming islands that are made for exploring.
Things to do
If you want to explore the harbour on water, hop on a ferry at Circular Quay and glide past the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Taronga Zoo. Choose from a myriad of harbour cruises, including lunch cruises, tall ships and an Aboriginal cultural heritage cruise or go boating if you know how to steer a ship.
Did you know the harbour is also known as Port Jackson? Discover more about the area on one of the various walks that take in stunning Sydney landmarks. One of the world's best city walks is from Woolloomooloo to Barangaroo, stopping at Mrs Macquaries Chair for a perfect postcard selfie.
Spot native wildlife at Sydney Harbour National Park, such as rainbow lorikeets and crimson rosellas. It's also home to The Heads, the dramatic sandstone cliffs at the entrance of the harbour, which protect the surrounding harbour islands.
Islands that should be on your bucket list include Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Australian convict site. Fort Denison’s sandstone Martello Tower is the only one of its kind in Australia. Garden Island is home to a naval museum, the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre, and Shark Island is a lovely spot for a picnic.
For a bird’s-eye view of the harbour as it spans out, plus a little history, scale the heights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb. Or you can climb aboard a seaplane with Sydney Seaplanes or Sydney by Seaplane, taking off from Rose Bay and loops the harbour so you can see it from all angles.
The harbour is also used as an awe-inspiring backdrop to huge events, such as the electrifying Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks. Opera Australia stages an annual opera on the harbour in March and April, the Vivid Sydney festival illuminates harbour icons in May and June, and it’s the starting point of the thrilling on Boxing Day.
Eat & drink
Four of Sydney's best fine dining restaurants sit on the water’s edge. Quay, Aria and Bennelong, which is set inside the sails of the Sydney Opera House, are all right on the harbour. Café Sydney is on the rooftop of Customs House and the view takes in the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
The vista is just as magical, and the prices more budget-friendly, at more casual venues along the edge of the water. Opera Bar has a prime position underneath the Sydney Opera House, then there’s Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, Hyde Hacienda, Bar Patron, Graze MCA, Cruise Bar, The Glenmore and The Squire’s Landing.
Altitude Restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney takes things to new heights, featuring what has to be the best indoor view of the harbour in the city. At Milsons Point, Ripples practically sits directly underneath the Harbour Bridge and has outdoor seating to best enjoy the scenery, while in Pyrmont, LuMi Dining matches its enviable outlooks with delicious degustations.
In the Barangaroo precinct, a number of venues offer dining with a water view, including Zushi, Cirrus, Lotus, Bea and Smoke. Heading east, Catalina enjoys panoramas over Rose Bay, and at Woolloomooloo’s Finger Wharf, Otto, China Lane, Kingleys and Alibi make the most of their alfresco harbour-side setting.