Review: Sydney Harbour kayak tours explore one of the world’s most majestic waterways

Spending a day on Sydney Harbour is high on the list of must-dos for many visitors to the city, but there are few activities that allow you to get as up close and personal with the famous waterway than this awesome kayak tour. Review: Samantha Wasson

Sydney Harbour kayak tours

Sydney Harbour kayak tours

4 stars

Sydney Harbour kayak tours with Life's an Adventure

These Sydney Harbour kayak tours include kayak 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.)

Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.

‘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 these Sydney Harbour kayak tours 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 tours

Sydney Harbour kayak tours. Image: Samantha Wasson

All participants on these Sydney Harbour kayak tours 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.

Sydney Harbour kayak tours

Sydney Harbour kayak tours. Image: Samantha Wasson

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.

As we paddle, Ian points out the lavish properties of the Singleton, Fairfax and Hemmes’ clans. It’s safe to say this is as close as I’ll ever get to such opulence. At Milk Beach we sit at Strickland House, a magnificent, gleaming historic house that appeared in the film Australia.

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 topography of the island. My relief is palpable.

Sydney Harbour kayak tours

Sydney Harbour kayak tours. Image: Samantha Wasson

The wind picks up as we make our way to 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 people and partnerships intact.

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.

Sydney Harbour kayak tours

Sydney Harbour kayak tours

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 begin to feel the ache. Happily it’s at this moment that three dolphins choose to make an appearance. It only happens a few times a year on these Sydney Harbour kayak tours we’re told, so seeing the sleek, grey figures arcing in and out of the water is undeniably magical. 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 freelance writer and former educator who lives in Sydney but whose heart remains in Vietnam, where she lived for three years. She has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Highlights from Samantha’s international escapades include: studying German in Freiburg, volunteering with an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. Lowlights include: ‘climbing’ Mount Kinabalu, nearly dying on the Great Barrier Reef and being ripped off in Beijing. She has worked for MSN/Officeworks, Swinburne University, Deakin Business School, Aussie Home Loans, Seek, TAFE Queensland, ARI Registry Services, SocietyOne, Acquire, School Places, Ivanhoe Grammar, Australian Teacher Magazine, Lead Generation and 2SER. 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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