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Sydney Harbour by Pleasure Boat

Home > Sydney > Beaches | Boating | Family | Outdoor | Picnic Spots
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Published September 27th 2014
A beginner's guide for families
Now that it is getting warmer, there is no better place to spend a day than Sydney Harbour. And there's no better way to explore our beautiful harbour than in the comfort of your own boat. You don't need to be a millionaire with a super yacht. I am talking about the humble family pleasure boat. Pack your life jackets, a map (or a good sense of direction), some drinks and snacks and head out to the harbour on a glorious sunny Sydney day. You can explore wherever takes your fancy or cruise past all the major attractions. If you've never done it before here are a few tips to get you started:

Where to launch - if you don't live close to the harbour, it can be a long way to travel. You don't want to spend hours putting up the river to get there so you need a good launching spot. We really like the boat ramp at Hen and Chicken Bay, on the Parramatta River, at Bayview Park Concord. The boat ramp is 3 lanes with a jetty for passengers to jump on and off. There is ample parking ( fees apply) as well as toilets, BBQs, parklands and playground equipment.

hen chicken bay concord
Hen and Chicken Bay - Concord


Places to visit - From here you travel up the river, under Gladesville Bridge and in to Sydney Harbour. It takes approximately 15 minutes from the launching ramp to the Harbour Bridge. It is such an amazing feeling cruising under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in your own boat. This is living!

sydney harbour bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge by boat


Other attractions that have a different perspective when seen from the water are Sydney Opera House, Fort Denison and Kirribilli House on the northern side of the harbour.

A nice place to stop and stretch the legs is Athol Bay ,on the northern foreshore (the opposite side of Bradleys Head to Taronga Zoo). We sometimes stop here for morning tea and to let the kids have a run around and splash in the water. It is a quiet little beach reserve with some great photographic opportunities with the harbour and city as the backdrop.

athol bay sydney harbour
Athol Bay
Athol Bay
Views across to the city from Athol Bay


If you're after family friendly beaches or picnic spots on the harbour I would recommend either Balmoral Beach or Watsons Bay.

Balmoral Beach is situated in Middle Harbour just around the corner from Taronga Zoo. There is a jetty where passengers can get off the boat before anchoring. Balmoral Beach has all the amenities you need for a picnic lunch or relaxing swim. There are toilets, showers & change rooms and take away food options close by. Swim at the beach or in the enclosed baths section. Or just enjoy the beautiful harbour views and the serenity as you walk along the beach front promenade.

Balmoral Beach Sydney
Balmoral Beach Sydney


Watsons Bay is on the eastern side of Sydney Harbour at the end of South Head peninsula. You can motor right up to the public beach next to Fisherman's Wharf. This is a really pretty spot and you can get a good idea of how the other half live by imagining you own one of the residential properties that back on to this perfect little bay. Here you can sample the famous Doyle's seafood at Doyles on the Wharf takeaway. Alternatively you can have lunch at the Watsons Bay Hotel which overlooks the beach. On the other side of the wharf is Robertson Park, where you will find public toilets and a childrens playground. The only drawback of this spot is that it can get very crowded on weekends.

Watsons Bay Sydney
Watsons Bay Sydney


Another great spot for lunch or an afternoon ice-cream is Manly Cove. It is a lot further away (around 30 - 40 minutes from the Harbour Bridge depending on the swell) but well worth the trip on a good day.

You can anchor the boat and come ashore in the shallow water of Manly Cove next to Manly Wharf. Sit on the beach or on the promenade wall or have a swim or build sandcastles. You will find everything you need within easy walking distance. Take away food, ice creams and toilets are available at Manly Wharf or across the road at Manly Corso.

Manly Cove by boat
Manly Cove
manly cove by boat


The possibilities for exploring the harbour by boat are numerous. There are so many great spots to discover without the hassles of finding a car parking spot. If you have your own boat I would recommend venturing on to the harbour for a great family day exploring our beautiful city from the water. If you don't own a boat you could considering hiring one for the day for a different perspective.
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Why? For a fun day on Sydney Harbour
When: On a sunny Sydney day
Where: Sydney Harbour
Cost: Fuel, Lunch, snacks
Your Comment
Athol Bay looks lovely.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12389) 1733 days ago
So happy to have a subscription of weekend notes, I am an avid reader not to mention, explored the places I haven't been through this site, either it is a resto, beaches, events, picnic area etc.
thanks guys, not only fun to read but fun to explore!
by o_pol (score: 0|8) 1716 days ago
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