Explore amazing Sydney Harbour and enjoy a tasty BBQ buffet lunch on this great value afternoon cruise, which stops at one of the harbour’s most picturesque islands. There you’ll have the option to go snorkelling or just cool off with a refreshing dip. This cruise is a relaxed way to experience the magic of Sydney’s famous waterway. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
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You can relax on its sublime sandy coves, scale its soaring cliffs or hike along its beautiful foreshores.
Once you lay eyes on it, you fall in love with it. Sydney Harbour is possibly the most beautiful natural harbour in the world, and there’s no better way to get to know it than from the water on a harbour cruise. You’ll discover secret spots and enjoy amazing views at every turn. It’s also a chance to see the city of Sydney from an entirely different perspective (without the crowds and traffic!).
Today I’m joining Sydney Princess Cruises on their three-hour Sydney Harbour Discovery Lunch Cruise, which includes a BBQ buffet lunch. There are lots of harbour cruises on offer, but this option gives you free time to explore one of the 13 islands dotted throughout the famous waterway.
I board my spacious catamaran at Circular Quay. The vessel has two levels, giving the 70 passengers on board plenty of room to spread out. Leaving the city hustle and bustle behind, Captain Sean begins his entertaining commentary about the harbour. It’s a warm February day and Sydney is turning on the weather in the best possible way. Fluffy clouds drift overhead and the deep blue water shimmers in the sunshine.
The city’s most famous landmarks — the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House — come into view. Out come the phones, marking the beginning of a day of selfie snapping. Our gentle cruising speed allows plenty of time for photo opportunities and the chance to spot Sammy the seal — a regular visitor to the Opera House steps.
I take a break from taking happy-snaps to grab some lunch from the buffet of grilled meats and salads. There’s a licensed bar on board, and drinks are available for purchase. The indoor tables are surrounded by large picture windows, so diners can continue to enjoy the passing scenery.
We pass the Royal Botanic Garden, and Garden Island and the imposing vessels of the Royal Australian Navy. Our view then becomes more voyeuristic as we cruise close by the multi-million-dollar homes of Rose Bay and Vaucluse.
One of the highlights of this Sydney Harbour BBQ lunch cruise is the opportunity to explore Shark Island. We have an hour of playtime on this slice of paradise, which is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. The island was named by the first inhabitants because of its shape (not because of what might be found in the surrounding waters). The island served as an animal quarantine station and naval depot until 1975.
Measuring just 250 metres long and 100 metres wide, the island is easily circumnavigated along a well-maintained path. Helpful crew-member Caine joins us on this relaxing stroll. The more adventurous of our group have brought snorkelling gear (also available for hire on the cruise). A couple of small sandy beaches on the protected side of the island are suitable for swimming, but I stay dry and explore every nook and cranny of the island’s historic buttresses and granite boulders.
Finding a peaceful hilltop spot under a palm tree, my 360-degree views of the harbour are punctuated only by the occasional ferry or private yacht gliding by. There are no shops or development to spoil the ambience.
Our vessel returns after an hour to collect us for the trip along the northern harbour shoreline. We pass gun placements at Bradley’s Head, catch glimpses of Taronga Zoo’s enclosures, and spy the idyllic small coves of Cremorne and Kirribilli.
Sliding back into our berth at Circular Quay, my sensation of having been on an overseas trip stays with me for the rest of the day.
Susan Hinchey is a freelance travel writer who, even as a teenager growing up in country New South Wales, knew she wanted to see the world. A couple of years out of high school Susan embarked on an eight-week European Contiki tour. Since then she has visited Alaska, Canada, Thailand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Greece, parts of North America, and Britain several times. Susan’s go-to getaway is a camping trip anywhere along the Australian coast. Her favourite travel moments have included sailing the Mediterranean and visiting Denali National Park in Alaska.