Kayaking on Sydney Harbour: There’s More to See Than You Think

When you think of a trip to Sydney Harbour you think of walking around the edges of it, walking over it on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or spending the day pottering along on a ferry or water taxi; but there’s a way to see Sydney Harbour which you may not have considered before – why not see it by Sea Kayak Explorer?


Walking down the hill towards Lavender Bay jetty looking over Sydney Harbour and the landscape of the CBD was beautiful – the morning rush had just commenced and there was barely a boat on the water which was crashing gently into the shore. Morning running grounds pounded the pavement as I was in search for Patrick, my guide of the morning, who was already at work preparing the best kayaks for beginners.
With only two of us going out onto the water – Patrick was kindly using the morning of his first day of holidays to show me around the harbour – he prepared a two person kayak and ran me through the safety instructions.

I thought it’d be much akin to rowing or canoeing – how wrong was I – with different ways of sitting and the very sexy spray skirt! Thankfully Patrick spared me from the capsize drill.

After a few bleary eyed photos of me looking nervous we were off a tiny kayak amongst hundreds of boats and ferries which crossed the harbour each day. Found a bunch of places to rent boats near me.


If it’s your first time in a kayak don’t be put off; Patrick has a range of paddles that suit everyone from complete beginners to those who are more confident, and can vary in length depending your fitness level.

Heading East from Lavender Bay I was treated to being able to stop and watch the sun rise over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It never ceases to amaze me just how beautiful both of these structures are, especially when being able to see them from a different point of view.


Rounding the point into the first cove, we were going to explore Patrick asked me if I knew the name of the house on the corner. “Kirribilli House – it’s where the Prime Minister lives,” I confidently stated. Turns out I was half correct. The house I thought was Kirribilli House was its neighbour, Admiralty House, the home of Australia’s Governor-General – the Australian representative to the Queen and the Commander-in-Chief to the Australian Defence Force.

Kirribilli House – pictured above – was built 1855 and is the Sydney home to the Prime Minister, currently Julia Gillard.


If being home to the Prime Minister and Governor-General didn’t leave you thinking Kirribili – also the name of the suburb – was home to some of the cities rich and famous then paddling past the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron may change your mind. Rows upon rows of perfectly maintained boats ready for their owners to cast of in, a looming clubhouse and the jaw of a whale – wait a minute, what?! (Can you see the white arch to the right of the tree? Yep, that’s the lower jaw of a whale!)

Don’t expect to be able to turn up and apply for membership though, to join the exclusive club you need to be invited by someone who is already a member.

Sydney-Kayak-Nerida-Sydney-Hobart-WinnerAs we paddled past hundreds of boats moored, Patrick seemed to know the story behind every one of them. Like this one, the “Nerida” built 1933 and the handicap winner Sydney-Hobart in 1950.


…or “IMALIZARD” sailed by Ian Thomson who set the record for solo circumnavigating of Australia in 42 days in 2010.


It isn’t just the boats which have an interesting story to tell. This house, called “Once Upon A Time“, was built in 1936 in Potts Point, but was relocated here by barge in WWI.


…or this old tram shed at Robertson Point which is now a private residence – now that would be a house with a view!


If houses or boats don’t interest you the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House can always be found peeking at you, like this picture from Cremorne.


…or from Robertson Point.


There are many sailing clubs dotted around the harbour, most with different styles of boats. This one is the S.A.S.C. (Sydney Amateur Sailing Club) and was founded in 1872, and a little further around there is one which specialises in wooden sailing boats.

Unlike the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, there were people here who gave us a friendly wave as we paddled past, zigzagging between boats trying to find the ones which had a story to tell.


For the most part of your paddle you’ll encounter near perfect waters – like this photo from in Mosman Bay. If you do encounter any choppy water I found it to be in the main harbour, not in the coves, particularly near the bridge and Luna Park. Don’t be nervous, after a few bumps the worst will have subsided and you’ll be able to paddle on through to somewhere a little calmer.
If you’re still nervous just speak to Patrick and he’ll tailor the paddle to suit your nerves.


Rather than swim directly in the harbour, many of the houses have their own plunge pools which are filled by the harbour – either private or shared with the residents of the block.


or there are public pools, like the one behind the swimming pool change house at Curraghbeena Point.


Many of the houses that line Sydney Harbour are multi-million dollar houses with CEOs and celebrities who call them home and Patrick again seems to know all the facts and figures. The secret? A lot of time spent researching.


If houses or boats don’t interest you – or get tiring after an hour or so – perhaps the views will revive you, like this one as we looked towards the Cremorne Peninsula.


And to get back to Lavender Bay you have to go under the bridge again, definitely a highlight!




As the sun gets higher more boats will be competing with you for space on the water ways. Huge ferries, water police jet boats, and if it’s a nice day then regular Sydney-siders will be taking their boats for a spin.


There is quite a bit of wildlife that calls Sydney Harbour and its many coves and islands home. If you’re lucky you could see penguins and in the warm weather stingrays in the coves, as well as dozens of different bird species.

Patrick was keen to show me a Sea Eagle that he’d found resting so we were off this time towards Goat Island which is the Water Police station, built 1839 by convict labour.

Sydney-Kayak-Rock-ClimbingWhilst we couldn’t find the Sea Eagle he did point out this made rock climb at Balls Head. The big rock is a grade 22 climb called “Clocks” – now that’s a hard climb!


Blues Point Tower, the building on the left, also has an interesting history and is often criticised and called one of the ugliest buildings in Sydney. The local government was hoping to build a series of high-rise houses around here, all with views of the harbour, but this plan was quickly rejected.


Arriving back in Lavender Bay I was pooped and ready for brunch. Patrick later sent me an email saying we’d covered around 17km, and here I was just frolicking and enjoying my time exploring the harbour.

With dozens of intimate coves to explore each with a different story or site to see, as well as hundreds of boats moored – some which have sailed around the world, others which have won the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race or the America’s Cup – there is plenty to see if you choose to spend a morning kayaking on the world’s largest natural harbour.

So what do you think

Would you kayak on Sydney Harbour?

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Kayak Sydney Harbour

Tours leave from Lavender Bay – on the Luna Park side of the Harbour, a short walk from North Sydney station or Milson’s Point station.
Alternatively, it’s a $15-20 cab ride from the CBD.

Phone: +61 (0) 427 225 072 – Patrick

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Not sure if you’re ready to kayak on Sydney Harbour? Perhaps surfing at Bondi is more your forte or cycling through Manly – you can do it from the comfort of your home.

Get a sneak peek of 5 of Sydney’s top experiences by using  the new 360˚ video developed by Visit Sydney, and you can even put your head in the game!

Create your own  360˚ video on Visit Sydney’s website.

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 This trip was made possible with thanks to Destination NSW and Visit Sydney.
A huge thank you must also go to Patrick from Kayak Sydney Harbour for taking me on the tour.
All photography is courtesy of Patrick.

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  • Reply
    April 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I would soooooo love to kayak on Sidney harbor!
    Looks like an amazing area. great also how you get to see things from another perspective – from on the water!
    The Blues Point Tower looks totally crooked, but I’m guessing that’s the angle of the picture:)

    • Reply
      April 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      I hope you manage to get to Sydney soon! Kayaking was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve done and I’d love to hear your opinion if you do manage to go. 🙂

      I think you’re right about the Blues Point Tower being crooked in my picture. It’s hard to take a straight photo when you’re bumping around on the water!

  • Reply
    April 27, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Hello there,

    Good to see you enjoyed yourself, a perfect day on the harbour!

    Best regards,

    • Reply
      July 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      It was an amazing experience, Andrew!
      It’s so relaxing paddling around the bays and then you get that little thrill of adrenalin as a ferry or other boat jostles you around on the harbour. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 27, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Great pics! Looks like you got out there on a stunning day! I have been kayaking on the harbour too. It was so much fun and I’m going to do it again with my friend from NZ when she comes to visit.

    • Reply
      July 16, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks, Sean! Great to hear from someone who has also kayaked on the harbour!

      I was really lucky that the weather held up – the other days I was in Sydney it poured! – and I could get on the water on such a beautiful day.

      Have fun kayaking with your NZ friend. =)

  • Reply
    Sam D
    April 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Hey! That looks terrifying and fun at the same time! I say terrifying because there are some large boats and ships on the harbour and they create some big waves! Definitely on my to do when we head to Sydney, whenever that may be.

    It would be a lot of fun though and i would imagine fairly relaxing at times!

    • Reply
      July 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      The large boats do make for a bumpy ride but kayaks are pretty stable so you’ll be fine… just jostled around a little.

      Hope you can take a paddle when you get to Sydney – let me know how it goes!

  • Reply
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    May 23, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    What a fantastic way to explore Sydney harbour. Must give you a totally different perspective… and you get to exercise at the same time – must have been hard work on the arms! 🙂

    • Reply
      July 16, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      Very hard work on the arms but worth it for the experience and to see Sydney from a different point of view!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Paul!

  • Reply
    June 1, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Seems like something I would love to try! Was the ‘guide’ an employee of the kayak company or a friend?

    • Reply
      June 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Danny,

      It’s a great experience and I highly recommend it.

      The guide was the owner of the company – from memory, he is currently the sole employee – but also a very nice guy with great knowledge of the area. =) Not a friend, but I’d love to sit down with him over a beer and talk Sydney, the harbour and the amazing things he’s seen there.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!
      – Nicole

  • Reply
    July 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Everyone talks about the Harbour Bridge Climb but kayaking is also such a brilliant thing to do.
    Thanks for the detailed insight.
    I’m visiting Sydney next month for the first time and although I read your other blog, I would still want to get my hands on more things to do when in Sydney.
    I was also considering to go for a car rental. Public transport don’t cover all places.
    Your take?

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