Cruising to Sydney – everything you need to know

Sydney is one of the world’s great harbour cities and an essential stop for any cruise to Australia. Whether arriving or departing, you’ll cruise past the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge and through the dramatic sandstone cliffs of The Heads at the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. 

A key cruise destination

Sydney offers a spectacular blend of art, culture, dining, events, outdoor activities and grand colonial architecture. It’s the ideal destination to start or finish your cruise, and it’s compact enough to explore on a day in port. It’s also the only Australian city to have two dedicated cruise terminals – the Overseas Passenger Terminal and White Bay Cruise Terminal. View the cruise schedule for more information on domestic and international cruises to and from Sydney. 

Dining at Cafe Sydney in Circular Quay - Sydney Harbour

Cafe Sydney, Circular Quay

Overseas Passenger Terminal

Located at Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney, the Overseas Passenger Terminal has uninterrupted views of Sydney Harbour and the city. It’s beside the historic Rocks neighbourhood, with its cobbled laneways, artisan markets and some of the oldest pubs in Australia. Just outside your cabin door, find attractions like zoos, aquariums, restaurants, bars, theatres and world-class shopping. 

The terminal can accommodate some of the largest cruise ships in the world. It’s just a few minutes’ walk to Circular Quay station for trains, buses and ferries. Taxis and cars can also drop off or pick up passengers right in front of the terminal. Parking is not permitted in the terminal precinct, however passengers may be set down or picked up. 

To get from Sydney Airport to the Overseas Passenger Terminal you can take the train to Circular Quay (17 minutes) or catch a taxi, which takes about 30 minutes depending on traffic. 

Family in front of cruise ship at Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay

Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay

White Bay Cruise Terminal

White Bay Cruise Terminal sits further into the harbour in the suburb of Rozelle, so passengers will have the thrill of sailing right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s close to the Balmain area, a trendy neighbourhood with relaxed pubs, top restaurants and boutique stores. The Sydney Lyric Theatre and The Star Sydney are also nearby. 

White Bay is mostly used by smaller ships and many of Sydney’s home-ported ships are based here. The terminal is only five minutes by car or taxi to the city and there are large car parks for passengers embarking. Most cruise lines offer the option to book transfers from Sydney Airport to White Bay Cruise Terminal or to and from Central Station. 

Aerial view of cruise ship arriving at White Bay Cruise Terminal, Sydney

White Bay Cruise Terminal, Sydney

Customs and immigration 

If you’re departing on a domestic cruise you’ll need to complete a health questionnaire, while international cruise passengers must complete a health questionnaire as well as an outbound passenger card. Both documents are available inside the terminal upon arrival. 

Bring a passport with at least six months’ validity for international voyages and a government-issued photo ID for domestic trips. Your booking itinerary is required for all cruises. Most cruise ships will not allow you to board with alcohol. You can surrender the alcohol and collect it at the trip’s end. 

Person holding US passports

Person holding passports - Credit: Unsplash

Tourist Refund Scheme

A Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) desk is available at both cruise ship terminals for international cruises. TRS enables you to claim a refund for the Good and Services Tax (GST) and the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) that you paid on goods purchased in Australia, after you’ve checked in.