Welcome to Sydney cruise port, Australia!
Home to the world-famous Opera House and the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney is the capital of Australia’s southeastern state of New South Wales and the busiest Australian seaport. It is the major homeport in Australia which means that the majority of cruises to Australia and New Zealand start and end in Sydney.
Often nicknamed the “Emerald City” and the “Harbour City”, Sydney is a multicultural and bustling place known for its magnificent harbor filled with yachts, beautiful beaches, amazing shopping and attractions including the famous Opera House.
In this article, I share with you insider information on:
- Sydney cruise port (Sydney cruise ship terminal, getting around the port)
- Top 10 things to do in the port of Sydney, the best shore excursions, useful tips
Sydney Cruise Terminal
Sydney cruise terminal consists of two major docking locations: Overseas Passenger Terminal and White Bay Cruise Terminal.
Overseas Passenger Terminal
Overseas Passenger Terminal is the most popular cruise passenger terminal that offers outstanding, direct views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is situated in the Circular Quay, a major Sydney harbour, transportation hub and neighborhood packed with eateries, cafes, bars, museums, parks and other tourist attractions.
Officially known as Sydney Cove Passenger Terminal, this terminal accommodates the majority of the large cruise ships and those that cannot fit under the Harbour Bridge. It is located close to the heart of the city known as CBD (Central Business District), the main historical and commercial center of Sydney where the majority of the attractions are located.
Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) has one berth and can accommodate one cruise vessel of any size. It boasts a modernly designed terminal building equipped with all necessary facilities for cruise passengers including luggage storage areas, security screening, a tourist information center, and a great number of eateries and shops nearby. Wheelchair assistance is available upon request. Embarkation and disembarkation are handled smoothly and efficiently, with a minimum waiting time.
The Circular Quay train station and Circular Quay ferry terminal are located nearby, only 450 meters away from the terminal building.
A large taxi rank and a passenger pick-up/drop-off area are available on George Street, right outside the terminal area.
There is no parking available at the terminal, however, there are private parking areas nearby such as the Wilson Parking lot on Harrington St.
Within a Walking Distance from OPT
Bridge Climb Sydney, one of the greatest attractions of the city, is situated only a 3-minute walk from the Overseas Passenger Terminal building. From here, guided tours are organized to climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge for breathtaking city views.
Near this terminal, you can visit the city’s historic streets, The Rocks Discovery Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Opera House, Government House, Sydney Observatory, Museum of Sydney, Royal Botanic Garden, the city’s beautiful parks, numerous restaurants, pubs, cafes, shops and so much more!
Queen Victoria Building, the famous shopping mall, and the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium are both located within a 25-minute walking distance from Sydney port (Overseas Passenger Terminal).
White Bay Cruise Terminal
This terminal opened in 2013, replacing the former wharves of Darling Harbour. White Bay Cruise Terminal (WBCT) can accommodate two small/medium size vessels (that can pass under Sydney Harbour Bridge) at the same time – at pier 4 and pier 5.
White Bay Cruise Terminal is located around 6 km/3.7 miles from Sydney Opera House and the city center. There is no public transport from the terminal to the center and cruise lines often offer shuttle transfers to the main Sydney train station (Circular Quay Station).
The terminal building features some basic facilities for the cruise passengers, including check-in counters, a tourist information desk, security screening, escalators, passenger lifts, a cafe and lots of seating. Embarkation and disembarkation are handled smoothly and efficiently, with a minimum waiting time.
There is no luggage storage area at this terminal. Wheelchair assistance is available upon request.
Captain Cook Cruises operates ferries between White Bay terminal and King Street Wharf, Barangaroo, near the city center. The ride takes less than 15 minutes and there is free wi-fi onboard. See the ferry timetables here
A taxi rank, a large short-term parking lot and pick-up/drop-off areas are right outside the cruise terminal.
Besides these two main cruise terminals, ships sometimes dock at the navy pier located east of the Sydney Botanic Garden.
- The currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). 1 AUD equals approximately 0.70 USD. See the currency converter
- Only local currency or credit cards are accepted in stores and other public places.
- If your ship docks at Overseas Passenger Terminal, everything is pretty much within a walking distance from the pier. However, if you want to use public transport, keep in mind that Sydney has an excellent public transport network with ferries, buses and suburban rail. White Bay Cruise Terminal has no access to public transport.
- Check out public transport timetables (metro/train/ferry/bus) on https://transportnsw.info/routes/
- Paper tickets are not available in Sydney; the city uses the contactless smart card “Opal” instead, for all transport networks. You can read about how Opal works on https://transportnsw.info/
- Sydney Hop on Hop off bus tours are available close to the Overseas Passenger Terminal. You can hop off at any of the 34 designated stops and then hop on the next bus that comes along.
- The Circular Quay train station and the Circular Quay ferry station are located a 3-minute walking distance from the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Ferries offer transfers to Bondy Beach, Manly Beach and other popular spots.
- Sydney International Airport is located around 14 km / 8.7 miles (25 minutes) from both Sydney cruise terminals.
- Suggested article: What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials
- Check out the best hotels in Sydney
Top 10 Things to Do in Sydney Cruise Port
1. Sydney Opera House
A masterpiece of 20th-century architecture and the most iconic building in Sydney, the world-famous Sydney Opera House lies on the banks of the Sydney Harbour and dominates the city landscape.
This multi-venue performing arts center for opera, music, theater and dance has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can join one of the guided tours through the building’s halls and foyer spaces, get creative with an art tour, or enjoy one of the foodie tours with a spectacular view of the Opera House.
- Sydney Opera House is partially wheelchair friendly; it involves a moderate level of walking including some steps. Facilities are available.
- You may face some crowds, so make sure to travel light and watch your belongings.
- Discover more on the Sydney Opera House official webpage
2. Sydney Harbour Bridge
Also known as “The Coathanger” because of its arch-based design, Sydney’s world-recognized bridge opened in 1932 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive steel construction spans Sydney Harbour from the Central business district to the North Shore and offers unmatched views of the city.
This iconic 1.149 meters (3.770 ft) long bridge is not only the largest steel arch bridge on the planet, but it also spans one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbours. Besides the regular rail and vehicular traffic, the bridge features walking and cycling paths, and the two major attractions – the BridgeClimb and Pylon Lookout, are incredible experiences that allow visitors to fully enjoy this special place.
- Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.
- No photos are permitted. During the climb, visitors are not allowed to carry anything with them.
- It can be very windy, so it’s not recommended to wear light clothes or hats.
- Get more information on https://www.bridgeclimb.com/
3. Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is a very famous and popular harbour adjacent to Sydney’s city center, located southwest of the Central business district. This waterfront destination is home to some of Sydney’s major attractions including Wildlife Sydney Zoo, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds wax museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, Pyrmont Bridge, and others.
This vast area has been designed to host indoor and outdoor large-scale events such as festivals and live concerts, exhibitions, celebrations, sporting events, and boasts a very busy calendar throughout the entire year.
Darling Harbour has also been officially recognized as Sydney’s best precinct for its great variety of dining, shopping and entertainment options.
On the Kind Street Wharf, you’ll find numerous nightclubs, wine bars and bistros serving delicious fine food and amazing cocktails. One of the biggest Darling Harbour attractions is the world’s largest screen cinema at IMAX Theater Sydney, a movie theater chain known for presenting 3D films on giant screens.
Darling Harbour is reachable within a 35-minute (2.6 km/1.6 miles) walking distance from the dock at Circular Quay, or 10-20 minutes driving, depending on the traffic. From the White Bay terminal, it takes only a 5-10 minutes drive to get to Darling Harbour.
4. Australian National Maritime Museum
On the western side of Darlin Harbour is located the Australian National Maritime Museum, a waterfront attraction featuring naval vessels, a replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour, various events, and temporary and permanent exhibitions.
Check out the opening hours and tickets on the museum’s official webpage https://www.sea.museum/
Located in the Haymarket district that lies at the southern end of the Central business district and a 10-minute walk from Darling Harbour, Sydney’s Chinatown is a bustling zone featuring lively markets, late-night karaoke shows, shopping malls, countless street shops, restaurants and so much more.
Chinatown is open 365 days a year and here you can find everything, from small specialist stores and Asian grocers to noodle bars and fine dining restaurants (among the best ones are Eating World Cantonese restaurant, Sussex Centre and Dixon House on Dixon street).
Visit Market City shopping complex where you can find an Asian supermarket, factory outlets and a large food court, browse for authentic souvenirs at Paddy’s Market and check out the World’s Square with high street shops and restaurants!
The buzzing Dixon Street is a popular venue for Lunar New Year celebrations for the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Mongolian lunisolar calendars, and everyone is welcome as the celebrations are going on for weeks.
Within a short walking distance from Chinatown, you’ll come across the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a beautiful walled garden filled with waterfalls, ponds, lakes, and exotic plants.
- Your kids will be entertained for hours in the garden because of the multiple water games, climbing ropes, slides and swings.
- Chinatown is located a 10-20-minute drive from Sydney cruise port (from both terminals) each way depending on the traffic. If you decide to walk, it will take you 40 min to 1 hour to get there.
6. Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium boasts the world’s largest collection of Australian aquatic life displaying more than 700 species including sharks, dugongs, stingrays, seahorses, penguins, tropical fish and so much more! The Aquarium opened in 1988 and is considered one of Sydney’s premier tourist attractions.
This fascinating Aquarium features 9 interactive themed zones including exhibits Day and Night on the Reef, Penguin Expedition, Shark Valley, Dugong Island, Discovery Rockpool, South Coast Shipwreck, Sydney Harbour and Jurassic Seas.
Experience the wonders of the underwater world in this interactive, family-friendly place ideal for people of all ages.
- Bring local currency/credit card.
- Walking shoes are recommended.
- Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is partially wheelchair-friendly.
- Discover more at https://www.visitsealife.com/sydney/
7. Wildlife Sydney Zoo
Located in the Darling Harbour precinct on the western edge of the Central business district, Wild Life Sydney Zoo is the only wildlife park in Sydney. The park features 10 interactive zones where you can discover the “Aussie Big 5” including Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombat, Platypus and Saltwater Crocodile, and get up close with the most endangered creatures in the world including Tasmanian Devils, tiny Quokka and an adorable Numbat.
These zones are Tricky Tongues and Treetops, Devil’s Den, Gumtree Valley, Wallaby Cliffs, Daintree Rainforest, Kangaroo Walkabout, Kakadu Gorge, Platypus Pool, Nightfall, Koala Rooftop.
The largest exhibit is the 800-square-meter (8.600 sq ft) semi-desert habitat of the kangaroo walkabout, featuring 250 tonnes of red sand from central Australia and full-sized bottle trees. This incredible habitat is home to Kangaroo Island kangaroos, echidnas, a quokka and koalas.
The wildlife park offers experiences such as breakfast with the koalas, behind-the-scenes guided tours or private dining.
- Closed-toe shoes are recommended.
- The park is partially wheelchair-friendly.
- Bring local currency/credit card.
- Find out more on the Wild Life Sydney official webpage
8. Bondi Beach
Bondi beach is one of the most popular beaches in Australia and a very visited place among tourists. This wide sandy piece of paradise is known as a popular surf spot and features a long waterfront commercial area along Campbell Parade filled with hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops.
Nearby, there is a weekly open-air market where visitors can browse for clothing, jewelry, craft and furniture.
Bondi Beach is located around 10 km/6.2 miles (a 25-30 minute ride) from Sydney cruise port. You can also get there by boat.
9. Manly Beach
Located north of Sydney, Manly Beach is the most famous surfing beach in Australia and the place where the first world surfing championship took place in 1964. This beautiful golden sandy beach is surrounded by tall trees and boasts a bustling beachfront packed with eateries, cafes and shops.
Manly beach is situated around 17 km/10.5 miles from the port of Sydney and it takes approximately 30 minutes’ drive one way to get there. You can get there by ferry as well.
- Manly beach is partially wheelchair-friendly.
- Facilities and shopping options are available along the beach.
- It’s a windy beach and short showers may appear even on sunny days.
- Walking shoes are recommended.
- Bring local currency.
10. Hunter Valley Wine Tour
Situated north of Sydney, Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s major wine regions, with a wine-making tradition dating back to the early 1800s. This region is home to a large number of wineries, including world-renowned brands and family-run wine cellars, offering vineyard and wine tasting tours.
One of the most exclusive places is the award-winning Esca Bimbadgen winery, set in the beautiful Australian countryside and known for its outstanding high-class service and exquisite food and wine pairing experience.
This VIP experience is absolutely memorable as the whole place is scenic and offers wonderful service, with venues for weddings, honeymoon getaways and high-class dinners.
- In most cases, the exploration of Hunter Valley is done by flight. The base of the heliport is located around a 1-hour drive from the dock and the flight itself can be up to 1 hour.
- The flights are not wheelchair-friendly and there are no facilities available. You should be able to handle a minimum of 3 to 5 steps to board the helicopter.
- If you decide to visit Esca Bimbadgen winery by car, the distance from the Sydney port is 165 km/102 miles (a 2-hour drive each way).
To Wrap Up
To get the most out of your day in Sydney’s port of call, make sure you plan your day ahead. If your cruise starts/ends in Sydney, it would be great to stay a couple more days to explore the city and the surrounding area as there’s so much to see and do.
Top 10 Things to Do in Sydney Cruise Port
- Sydney Opera House
- Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Darling Harbour
- Australian National Maritime Museum
- SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
- WILDLIFE Sydney Zoo
- Bondi Beach
- Manly Beach
- Hunter Valley Wine Tasting
You May Also Like:
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.