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Bucket list experience:

6 People kayaking in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House on the side. Taken by someone in a kayak.

Last updated: 25 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield

Recognised as one of the world’s most beautiful waterways, Sydney Harbour offers plenty of hidden coves, islands and secret beaches to visit – perfect for kayaking. It’s also a great way to get out and appreciate Circular Quay and the major landmarks from a different perspective – the Opera House, for one, looks very different from the water side.

Guided tours leave from several locations, but Rose Bay and Balmoral Beach are particularly scenic, with sandy beaches, flash waterfront property and plenty of luxury boats. If you want to see some of the city’s famous landmarks, then book a small group tour from the Domain.

Price from: £70
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 2 hours

Getting there & doing it

For safety reasons, it’s best to join an organised tour rather than kayak independently. Sydney Harbour is a commercial waterway and weather conditions can change abruptly. There are several companies operating from bases on the lower North Shore, Middle Harbour and the Eastern Suburbs.

If you are staying in the city centre the obvious choice is OzPaddle, which is based at Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool in the Domain. They offer a two-hour excursion, taking in Woolloomooloo, Fort Denison and the Sydney Opera House, as well as to other picturesque sites like Rose Bay. Open to all ages.

If you prefer to go independently, you’ll find several places to hire kayaks, including Manly, Rose Bay, Rozelle Bay, Balmoral Beach, The Domain and the Spit Bridge.

Rose Bay is accessible by bus or ferry, but you may need an Uber or cab to reach the best kayaking locations on the Lower North Shore and Middle Harbour; the Spit Bridge is a particular favourite among kayakers.

Since you are likely to get wet, if not soaked, wear shorts and a tee-shirt or swimwear and a tee-shirt. Take a dry change of clothes. A hat and sunblock are absolutely essential

When to do it

Kayaking is a year-round activity on the harbour, but the water is obviously pretty chilly in the southern winter (June to August). Mornings are best for kayaking, before the strong easterlies kick in.

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Ovolo Woolloomooloo

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.4 miles]

A glamourous, stylish hotel in a restored heritage pier, that’s also now a buzzing wharf, with excellent restaurants. Conveniently located just 15 minutes’ walk from downtown.

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Spicers of Potts Point

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.9 miles]

A character-filled boutique hotel set in three grand Victorian terrace houses. A convenient location for sightseeing, in one of Sydney’s nicest residential suburbs.

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Establishment Hotel

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[1.2 miles]

A glamorous boutique for the sexy and stylish crowd, conveniently located in the heart of the city, close to a lot of the major sights and attractions.

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Larmont Sydney

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[1.3 miles]

A contemporary hotel with affordable rooms in the heart of trendy Kings Cross, close to the city centre and good transport links. An ideal base for sightseeing away from the crowds.

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


New South Wales, Australia

One of the world’s most dynamic and glamorous cities, with golden beaches, world-class eating and dining and effervescent, friendly people.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[1 miles]

Magnetic, enchanting and still remarkably modern, this iconic Opera House is a must-see. Walk around the outside or book in for a guided tour or performance.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

The Rocks

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[1.4 miles]

The Rocks – the birthplace of European settlement in Australia – is atmospheric, quaint, vibrant and packed with great things to taste, see, buy and explore.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

An outdoor pool on the edge of the harbour in front of Sydney's skyline.

Boy Charlton Pool

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.1 miles]

Sydney is famed for its ocean and harbourside pools and this stunning harbourside pool is a stand-out. The Botanic Gardens are on one side, harbour views on the other. Great swim and sunbathing; there’s a fine cafe on site too.

Best for ages: 4+ | £12

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Four cardboard cut outs on display in the justice museum sydney

Justice and Police Museum

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.9 miles]

This small museum, set in two former police courts and a former police station, was the original legal hub at the time of the settlers. Today it preserves the history of crime and punishment in the city, with exhibits on famous criminals, collections of weapons and restored prison cells.

Best for ages: 6+ | £7

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Fort Denison

Fort Denison

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[1.1 miles]

Built during the Crimean War, this little historic gem sits in the middle of Sydney harbour. It’s now a museum, with fascinating exhibits like a canon gun powder store and a tidal gauge room. Daily ferries go from Circular Quay.

Best for ages: 6+ | £5

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