Port Jackson

This natural inlet was the first site of European colonisation in Australia.

TravelCurious Tip

If you’re on a budget and don’t feel like you can splash out on a cruise, Sydney Ferries is the public harbour transportation service – a no-frills harbour experience!

When the first British colonist party arrived in Port Jackson in 1788, its leader Arthur Phillip wrote in his journal that they had discovered “the finest harbour in the world”. With a perimeter measuring an astonishing 317km, it is certainly the largest natural harbour in the world, and its relatively narrow mouth provided excellent shelter from the large storms that would otherwise have destroyed the little fleet. The land was fertile, the harbour was deep, and Phillip knew that this was the site on which to found his new settlement, which he named Sydney shortly thereafter.

A World-Renowned Skyline

Port Jackson has lost none of its charm in the ensuing two centuries. The tiny colonial town has now become a major world city, but, far from spoiling the harbour, Sydney’s magnificent skyline effortlessly complements the grandeur of its natural surroundings. In the course of a single boat ride you can cruise by the Sydney Opera House, pass under the Harbour Bridge and stop off for lunch at Darling Harbour. Heading back east you can pass by Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, a beautiful panoramic spot where Governor Macquarie’s wife used to spend hours watching the ferries come and go in the port. Slightly further on you will find the pretty Double Bay, with its understated little cafes and tree-lined boulevards.

Vantage Points

If you’re looking to enjoy views of Port Jackson from land, the best lookout besides Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair is probably Kirribilli, on the North Shore and only a few hundred metres east of the Harbour Bridge. From here you can get great views of the bridge and the opera house, as well as an uninterrupted vista eastwards towards the mouth of the estuary.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Sydney
Sydney Opera House
One of the most iconic buildings of the modern era, designed by Jorn Utzon and opened in 1973.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
A stunning arch over the harbour, the bridge is over 1km long and was built in 1932.
The Rocks
Established shortly after Sydney's formation and now in the shadow of the harbour bridge, this neighbourhood has character in spades - and the city's oldest pubs.
The Rocks Discovery Museum
A museum charting the history of The Rocks from pre-European times to the modern day.
Cadmans Cottage
Sydney's oldest surviving residential building, one of the last remaining of the original colony.
Harbour Cruise
Getting out on the water is the best way to see Sydney in all its glory.

Related Tours

Private Half Day Highlights of Sydney with local guide
You will start your tour at Circular Quay, famed as the main departure point for the city’s many ferries and also for the didgeridoo players close-by.  

Sydney Opera House

Your guide will lead you on a short walk to what is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the city: the iconic Sydney Opera House.  Set on a spit of land jutting out into Sydney Harbour, and opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II, this centre for performing arts has won international acclaim for its style and beauty.  You will visit the outside the Sydney Opera House and take a look out at the magnificent panoramic view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Downtown Sydney

Now heading inland, your guide will take you up Macquarie Street, stopping briefly to admire the State Library of New South Wales - the oldest public library in Australia.  At the end of Macquarie you’ll be faced by the lush greenery of Hyde Park, Sydney’s equivalent to Central Park in New York or the original Hyde Park in London.  Flanking one side of park is the imposing St. Mary’s Cathedral that is the current seat of the Archbishop of Sydney.

After a quick stop in the park, you’ll move across town through one of Sydney’s oldest shopping arcades, The Strand, before heading back to circular quay down high-rise George St.  This will be the perfect opportunity for your guide tell you the story of modern Sydney and how it has grown into the metropolis you see today.

The Rocks: Convicts and Rebellion private tour
Hidden to some degree under the shadow of the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks neighbourhood is as old as Sydney itself.  Although gentrified these days, The Rocks retains the old architecture, historic pubs and mazy streets of its turbulent and fascinating past.

History of Convicts and Rebellion

You will start your tour at The Rocks Discovery Museum which chronicles the remarkable history of the area all the way from pre-European times to the modern day.  This will serve as a light overview for the tour to come, moving from the British landing in 1788, to the convict struggles in the 19th century, to the transformations that have shaped The Rocks we see today.

The chief of these changes is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which looms over the historic Rocks as a constant reminder of modernisation.  Your guide will walk you and talk you through the ins and outs of this world-famous bridge that was at the cutting-edge of architectural design when it opened in 1932.

Pubs and Eateries

With its rough, working-class, convict roots, it is no surprise that the oldest, most-atmospheric pubs can be found in The Rocks.  Your guide will take you past three of the oldest: Fortune of War, the Lord Nelson Brewery and the Hero of Waterloo, and there’ll certainly be time to have a quick taste.  On their sandstone facades, be sure to look closely for the fine etchings made by generations of convicts.

Finally, you will be taken through more alleyways to Cadman’s Cottage, one of the oldest and best preserved buildings in Sydney.


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