What makes Sydney so iconic are of course, the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, yet it is the massive expanse of water that meanders through this vibrant city that is the true jewel.
Sydney Harbour – also known as Port Jackson – is 19 km long with an area of 55 km². The spectacular natural landscape provided a perfect canvas to create a city along the water.
Prior to the European discovery of Port Jackson in 1770, a range of Indigenous tribes occupied the land around the Harbour. With the abundance of bays, inlets, beaches and islands, Sydney Harbour offered the perfect appeal to Indigenous populations and settlers alike. The beauty of the landscape and potential for development drew traders, visitors and commercial businesses that were all attracted to the endless possibilities for growth and innovation.
With the explosion of settlers in 1788, all wanting to make their mark on the landscape, Sydney’s wharves were initially privately owned, and as a result, some fairly ramshackle construction appeared. To combat this and ascertain some control over the Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Trust was formed in 1901, superseded by the Maritime Services Board in 1936 – a single authority established to control all port and navigation services for NSW. Through various changes of government over the last century, Sydney Harbour currently falls under the management of Sydney Ports Corporation, who are responsible for safety, security and emergency response functions.
Sydney Harbour is not simply a stunning showcase of pristine beaches, hidden inlets, national parks and Aboriginal history; it is a thriving port catering to both commercial shipping for trade and recreational boating. A tourism gateway, Sydney Harbour supports the cruise industry, bringing visitors from all over the world to the heart and soul of Sydney. Luxury cruises, such as Sensational Sydney Cruises, offer a fantastic way to navigate the waterways and visit places otherwise difficult to get to on land. Ferries based in Circular Quay offer transport for residents and visitors from the many bayside suburbs to the CBD.
The bustling city of Sydney operates around the Harbour, which is the epicentre of an environmentally diverse landscape. The oasis of the Royal Botanic Gardens sits on the city fringe; Taronga Zoo boasts 180 degree uninterrupted views of Sydney Harbour, while the history of The Rocks – Australia’s oldest European settlement – offers a true sense of the past with cobblestoned laneways and sandstone buildings all nestled on the shores of Sydney Cove.
Special events – such as Harbour Week, New Year’s Eve, and Australia Day – take place in the glorious setting of Sydney Harbour, and are often broadcast worldwide.
Whether it is cruising the Harbour visiting Cockatoo Island, Watson’s Bay, Fort Denison, or Nielsen Park, fishing for yellowtail and squid off Beulah St Wharf, engaging in water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, snorkelling or diving, or exploring the environment and discovering water birds in riverside wetlands, Sydney Harbour’s vastness has created a city that offers something for everyone. When it comes to building a dynamic waterside city, size really does matter!