One of the worlds great natural harbors, see where you’ll dock, local attractions, transportation and history of this fantastic port of call.
If the world has a perfect port of call, this is it. Besides being the worlds greatest natural harbor, the harbor is surrounded by a truly remarkable city. The center of the Sydney harbor area is Circular Quay with ferries leaving regularly for dozens of destinations like Manley Beach, Watson’s Bay and Luna Park. In addition the Circular Quay is located near the Sydney Opera House, the harbor bridge, the Rocks and metro transportation hubs (links to more info below). The great news is that cruise ships dock just across from Circular Quay.
Where Your Ship Docked
One of the great things about Sydney as a port of call is the pier location. It docks right next to The Rocks, a great historic neighborhood with restaurants, shops and a museum. Less than a half mile walk behind The Rocks is Darling Harbor which is a modern centerpiece to the area with more fantastic attractions and great restaurants. A short walk in the opposite direction is Circular Quay where you can catch any number of ferries to destinations all around this huge harbor.
Getting into the central city is just a short walk from the pier and the mass transit options are really good. If you are going to be in Sydney for a while or if you want to spend your day traveling on your own, be sure and get an Opal Card (links to more info below). Because ships dock very near Circular Quay you can also catch a ferry to any number of locations around the harbor (Opal Card works on the ferries too).
You should get some currency exchanged even if you plan on relying on credit cards just just to buy incidentals. Currently the Australian dollar is equal to 76¢ U.S. Most credit cards are welcome and ATM machines are plentiful.
Also it’s important to know that Australians DON’T tip. If you go to a restaurant and the menu says $10.00 that is exactly what you should expect to pay. Most listed prices include all taxes and gratuities.
Sailing westward from New Zealand across open sea in April 1770 Capt. Cook became the first known European to reach the east coast of Australia, making landfall near present-day Point Hicks. He then proceeding north and landed at Botany Bay.
Australia became an English colony in 1788 when the first prisoners assigned to the new penal colony of Australia arrived at Botany Bay inside the area of todays Sydney Harbor. When America won its freedom, England lost the ability to assign criminals to their American colonies and switched to Australia to deposit people they thought unfit to live in England. While thousands of criminals were banished to Australia on 16 January 1793 a ship arrived at Sydney Cove carrying the first few hundred free settlers looking for opportunity and they were soon followed by thousands more.
Within a couple of blocks of the pier are two museums, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Discovery Museum, both worthy of a visit.
The Rocks – As you leave the ship and begin walking you have two choices; off to the left you are heading toward Circular Quay and the downtown district and the Opera House on the other side of the Quay. If you go straight ahead and up some large stairs you will find yourself in the middle of The Rocks. The Rocks became established shortly after the English colony’s formation in 1788. The original buildings were timber with thatched roofs, and later many were replaced with local sandstone block, this limestone is where the area derives its name. This neighborhood is the original foundation of the city of Sydney. From the earliest history of the Rocks, the area had a reputation as a slum and the convicts’ side of town and was often frequented by visiting sailors because of the numerous rum bars and prostitutes.
The Sydney Opera House – It dominates the harbor right across from where cruise ships dock. Even if there are no productions scheduled there are still guided tours ($) of this architectural masterpiece.
The Harbour Bridge – This structure dominates the harbor and there are actually tours that will walk you up the suspension cables to the very top if you feel brave enough.
Luna Park – This is an amusement park located across the harbor from Circular Quay with a stop on two ferry routes. It is mostly an evening and night destination if you are spending a couple of days in the harbor area.
Darling Harbor – Less than a half mile west of the pier through The Rocks is Darling Harbor with with a number of very good restaurants, shops and Sea Life the Sydney Aquarium.
Royal Botanic Gardens – Just to the east of Circular Quay is a large park that includes The Gardens along with The Rose Garden and Pavilion.
Catch a Ferry – Don’t miss an opportunity to grab a ferry at the Quay and see Sydney from the water. Visit Manley Beach, a popular surfing beach and Watson’s Bay for good fish n’ chips.
If you are spending a few days in Sydney we’d recommend getting an Opal Card for public transportation. You can catch a metro and bus out to Bondi Beach which is one of the worlds more famous surfing beaches and has a remarkable walking trail along the cliffs. You can also take a train on the Opal Card out to the Blue Mountains which is about an hour and a half out of Sydney.