Review: Get to know one of the world’s most famous waterways on a Sydney Harbour kayak tour inner banner

Review: Get to know one of the world’s most famous waterways on a Sydney Harbour kayak tour

Spending a day out on Sydney Harbour is high on the list of must-dos for many visitors to the city. Explore its nooks and crannies and go where the cruise boats can't on this fabulous kayak tour. Review: Samantha Wasson
Sydney Harbour kayak tour
Sydney Harbour kayak tour. Image courtesy of Life’s An Adventure
Sydney Harbour Kayak Tour with Life's An Adventure


This Sydney Harbour kayak tour includes tuition, paddling time and lunch on Shark Island. This is a fully guided tour that will give you a different perspective of one of the world’s most beautiful bodies of water. Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

Please note: Life’s An Adventure has recently discontinued this tour. You can browse all our available Sydney tours here.

‘Just look at my office,’ tour guide Ian says, gesturing casually towards majestic Sydney Harbour.

‘The roof leaks, you can’t control the air conditioning and people wander in and out at will.’ Ian has been guiding Sydney Harbour kayak tours since 2003, so it’s safe to assume he’s being ironic.

I meet up with Ian and Lola (our second guide) on the beachfront at Point Piper between Double Bay and Rose Bay for a kayaking tour of the majestic harbour with Life’s An Adventure. We’ll be paddling for four hours and taking in the Sydney harbourside sights. Rounding out our group is a young couple, Mandy and Arpit, who are here to celebrate Mandy’s 30th birthday.

Given that I haven’t been in a kayak since Year 5 school camp, I’m grateful for three things: 1) My fellow kayakers are also beginners; 2) There is a practical and clear safety briefing; and 3) I get to be in a kayak with Ian.

Ian’s two main aims for this tour are for us to ‘have fun’ and come back ‘tired but not shattered’. I can get on board with both of these things.

Sydney Harbour kayak tour
Sydney Harbour kayak tour. Image courtesy of Life’s An Adventure

All participants on this Sydney Harbour kayak tour are given basic instruction in kayaking: never stand up in the boat; keep your hands equidistant from the blades with knuckles facing up; put the paddle as far as possible into the water; and aim for long strokes to minimise energy expenditure.

Oh, and make sure your PFD (personal flotation device) is on tightly. As Ian says, ‘the last thing you want is to be on the ocean floor looking up at your PFD as it floats to the top’. Indeed.

Duly briefed, and with PFDs anchored in place, we paddle out towards our first stop — Milk Beach. At first my paddling is awkward and the wake of every boat sends me bobbing up and down in a stomach-churning fashion. I ask Ian if he has ever had anyone get seasick in a kayak and am surprised to learn that it is relatively common.

I quickly find though that as I get into a rhythm and improve my stroke I also start to enjoy the peaks and troughs. They’re like a mini-rollercoaster and soon I’m grinning from ear to ear.

Sydney Harbour kayak tour
Sydney Harbour kayak tour. Image: Samantha Wasson

As we paddle, Ian points out the lavish properties of the Singleton, Fairfax and Hemmes’ clans. It’s safe to say that this is as close as I’ll ever get to such opulence.

On arrival at Milk Beach, there’s time to stretch our legs and check out Strickland House — a magnificent, gleaming historic home that appeared in the film Australia.

Back on the water, we witness seaplanes taking off and landing, and take in views of Bradleys Head, the Harbour Bridge and our lunch stop — Shark Island. Yes, Shark Island. Ian says that he has heard two explanations for the name, both focusing on the island’s topography. My relief is palpable.

The wind picks up as we make our way towards the island and paddling becomes trickier. Once the wind hits 15 knots kayak tours are cancelled. I cross my fingers that this won’t happen to us.

As the going gets tougher Mandy and Arpit fall behind a little and humorously begin to bicker — Arpit comically claiming that he is doing all the work and Mandy cheekily threatening to leave him. It’s at this moment that Ian tells me that kayaks aren’t called ‘divorce boats’ for nothing. Thankfully we arrive at our lunch destination with all partnerships intact.

Sydney Harbour kayak tour
Sydney Harbour kayak tour. Image: Samantha Wasson

We feast on an entrée of brie and crackers, before tackling the main course of bread rolls, salads, and smoked salmon. Everyone is in good spirits. Well, it’s hard not to be when you have panoramic views of Sydney Harbour on a glorious winter’s day.

When our return to the mainland is briefly postponed due to the start of a yacht race I’m fondly reminded of Ian’s earlier comment about the inconveniences of his ‘office’.

After a good seven kilometres of paddling my arms are beginning to ache. Happily it’s at this moment that three dolphins choose to make an appearance, and we stop to watch them arcing in and out of the water. It only happens a few times a year we’re told, so seeing them is undeniably magical. For me, it’s the icing on the cake on a great day out in Sydney.

Samantha travelled as a guest of Life’s An Adventure.

Additional images: Bigstock

Samantha Wasson

About the writer

Samantha Wasson is a Sydney-based freelance writer and former educator. She lived in Vietnam for three years and has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Travel highlights to date have included studying German in Freiburg, volunteering at an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai, and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. A lover of literature and travel, Samantha subscribes to Augustine of Hippo’s observation that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.


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