Sydney Harbour Boating

From the iconic Darling Harbour, through to lesser-known gems, there are plenty of stunning destinations for boaters to visit on Sydney Harbour. Not every wharf or marina is open to recreational boaters, so it’s important to brush up on the rules and restrictions before you head out on the water. In this guest blog, Aaron O’Donoghue from BoatBuy will explain where you can go, including highlighting a few personal favourites.

The three main categories of access points for recreational vessels to be aware of are: 

  1. Commuter wharves
  2. Destination marinas 
  3. Other Public access points.

 It’s important to understand the differences between the three types to understand what is and isn’t allowed.

Riviera Cruiser – Photo credit Aaron O’Donoghue

Public Wharves Sydney harbour

If you want to drop off or pick-up passengers, there are commuter wharves dotted along Sydney Harbour which allow you to do this. A commuter wharf can be used by recreational boaters, however they must give way to ferries and charter vessel operators and are not allowed to tie up at the wharf.

Destination marinas welcome boaters to use their facilities and amenities. They each have their own house rules and limits on the size of vessels that they can accommodate. Before you head to a destination marina, you need to ring ahead to make sure you are able to dock, and make a booking.

When you arrive, look out for the blue Destination berth banner to see where you can tie up. Some smaller marinas may not have berths available, but do have destination moorings, which can be booked by contacting the marina operator.

Other public access points recreational boaters can use public moorings and ferry wharves that are no longer part of the public transport network or are only used by ferries during commuter peaks. 

Boat moorings Sydney Harbour

There are four types of moorings, but the pink buoys are the ones to look out for. These are courtesy moorings and are free for the boating public to use on a 24-hour basis. See a Mooring Locator Map here. Please be aware there are a number of club mooring that looks similar, although membership to the yacht club is required depending on which mooring is used. These moorings are typically marked with the name of the yacht club.

Marinas in Sydney Harbour

 These are a few of my favourite marinas in Sydney Harbour:

D’Albora Marinas Cabarita:

Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for this one as it’s where it all started for me as an apprentice Marine Mechanic. Surrounded by stunning parklands, this inner west marina offers a centrally located access point to Sydney Harbour. There’s an onsite café and fine dining seafood venue, Vela Dining and Bar. The surrounding parklands can be very busy on the weekends, but this makes for a vibrant hub with plenty of families on the shoreline enjoying the waterways and marina life. The old fuel wharf extends around the northern end, providing a useful area to pickup and drop off.

Darling Harbour Marina/Cockle Bay Wharf (Paid): I can’t think of anything more exciting than spending the night in the heart of the city, on your own boat! Booking a casual berth at Darling Harbour Marina, Cockle Bay Wharf will allow you to dock just steps from top attractions and restaurants. The marina is perched in the heart of the Sydney CBD and berths can be booked online or over the phone. It closes for special events such as New Year’s Eve and the Sydney International Boat Show, so it’s important to contact the marina for bookings. Always call ahead and the Marina staff will assist with throwing a line. There is shore power and water facilities on the Marina. My only suggestion is that if you’re a light sleeper be sure to bring ear plugs, as the parties and surrounding venues continue late into the night.

D’Albora Marinas The Spit: The Spit is the gateway to Sydney’s stunning Northern Beaches and a hub for water activities on Middle Harbour. With a whole array of boat brokerages and used boats onsite, it’s also a great place to go searching for your next boat. Book ahead to secure a seat at the two-hatted Italian seafood restaurant, Ormeggio at the Spit, or explore the range of other waterfront restaurants nearby. If you arrive at an off-peak time and the coffee shop is closed, be sure to check out the one down the road at Grumpy’s Wharf. You can also make arrangements with the Middle Harbour Yacht Club to be picked up off of one of the local public moorings nearby and dine in.

D’Albora Marina, The Spit – Photo credit Aaron O’Donoghue

Roseville Bridge Marina: Tucked away on the Upper North Shore, Roseville Bridge Marina offers a tranquil boating destination. The marina is home to Echo on the Marina, which is open for breakfast and lunch and boasts stunning water views. The destination berth at the marina can be used free of charge to collect take away orders, and there are casual berthing spots for café guests. The outdoor area of the café is dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry shipmates along too. Well worth a visit if you’re down that end of the river!

Balmain East (Darling St): Positioned just outside the city centre, Balmain is a great spot to meet, load or unload passengers before zipping into the city. Because it’s a commuter wharf you can’t tie up, but the location of it makes it very useful – drop your passengers here and they can continue up the hill to the vast array of pubs and venues in Balmain.

Taronga Zoo (Athol Wharf Rd, Mosman): There’s no better way to arrive at Taronga Zoo than via the harbour. The wharf is a short stroll from Sydney’s only cable car, the Sky Safari, which connects with the zoo entry. Although you can’t tie up at Athol Wharf, there are a number of courtesy moorings nearby. Drop the family at the wharf for a day at the Zoo while you relax on your boat in-front of the iconic harbour bridge. 

Private Marinas in Sydney Harbour

Whilst the commuter and other public access points are all the free options, there are plenty of paid options from private Marinas around the harbour. Most marinas will offer casual berthing, although they will have stringent rules regarding vessel insurances. Private Marinas will not allow vessels to visit that do not have a current insurance policy, so it’s important to keep that up to date and easily accessible.

List of Destination Marinas in Sydney Harbour:

1.     Gladesville Bridge Marina

2.     Birkenhead Point Marina

3.     Camerons Marina (5A Phoebe St, Balmain)

4.     Balmain Marina (1 Phoebe St, Balmain)

5.     Kirribilli Marina

6.     Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

7.     Point Piper Marina

8.     Rose Bay Marina

9.     Balmoral Boatshed

10.  Cammeray Marina

11.  Middle Harbour Yacht Club

12.  Clontarf Marina

13.  Ferguson’s Boatshed Marina

List of Commuter or Public Wharves Sydney Harbour:

1.     Abbotsford (Great North Road)

2.     Aquarium (Darling Harbour): The Aquarium is directly next to the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. Due to its central location, the wharf gets very busy during peak period, so you will need to keep a keen eye out for ferries and commercial vessels, which have right of way. Although you might spot plenty of other berths in Darling Harbour, most are reserved for charter, public transport and other special arrangements. You need to be very careful with this one, as it’s easy to get confused with other nearby wharfs.

3.     Balmain (Thames St)

4.     Balmain West (Elliot St)

5.     Beulah Street (Kirribilli)

6.     Birchgrove (Louisa Rd)

7.     Cabarita (Cabarita Point)

8.     Chiswick (Bortfield Dr)

9.     Cremorne Point (Milson Rd)

10.  Darling Point (McKell Park)

11.  Double Bay (Bay St)

12.  Drummoyne (Wolseley St)

13.  Greenwich (Bay St)

14.  Greenwich Point (Mitchell St)

15.  Hunters Hill (Alexandra St)

16.  Huntleys Point (Huntleys Point Rd)

17.  Jeffrey Street (Kirribilli)

18.  Kirribilli (Holbrook Ave)

19.  Kissing Point (Kissing Pt Park, Putney)

20.  Kurraba Point (Kurraba Rd, Neutral Bay)

21.  Longueville (Stuart St)

22.  McMahons Point (Henry Lawson Ave)

23.  Meadowbank (Bowden St)

24.  Milsons Point (Luna Park)

25.  Mosman Bay (Avenue Rd)

26.  Neutral Bay (Hayes St)

27.  North Sydney (High St)

28.  Northwood (Northwood Rd)

29.  Old Cremorne (Green St)

30.  Pyrmont Bay (Maritime Museum)

31.  Rose Bay (Lyne Park)

32.  South Mosman (Musgrave St)

33.  Sydney Olympic Park (Hill Rd, Homebush Bay)

34.  Watsons Bay (Military Rd)

35.  Woolwich (Valentia St)

Manly Wharf, Sydney – Photo credit Aaron O’Donoghue

Ferry wharves (Other public access points) available to recreational boaters include:

1.     Bayview Park Wharf

2.     Birkenhead Wharf

3.     Hunters Hill Wharf

4.     Northwood Wharf

5.     Greenwich Wharf

Other public access points recreational boaters can use public moorings and ferry wharves that are no longer part of the public transport network or are only used by ferries during commuter peaks. 

About the Author

Aaron O’Donoghue is the founder of BoatBuy, a leading Marine Consultancy specialising in Pre-Purchase Boat Inspections. Growing up close to the water, he discovered his passion for being out on the water at age 12, when he started zipping around the Lane Cove River on a small De Havilland tinny. BoatBuy provides unbiased advice to help buyers make an informed decision when purchasing a boat, offering pre-purchase marine surveys and insurance surveys. Further to this there is a collection of boating related articles that can be viewed here.

Sam Davis

Growing up on the Cornish Coast, sailing family yachts, I have always been surrounded with boating life. Based at the Spit Marina in Mosman, Sydney, I have sold hundreds of boats in the luxury cruiser market. I love to help people to find the right boat. Whether you are a buyer or seller, looking for new or used, I can help you with the whole process from search right through to survey.