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Kayaking On Sydney Harbour

Kayaking on Sydney Harbour



The idea of Kayaking on Sydney Harbour is very appealing and the first thing that comes to many people’s mind is paddling past the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.Of course, these are a must on any paddlers bucket list but in fact there is far more to Sydney Harbour than just the Circular Key area.

Kayaking on Sydney Harbour 


Great Places to go Kayaking on Sydney Harbour

Below are just some of the many places to Kayak on Sydney Harbour. I would suggest that you try some of these trips and then get your hands on a good map of Sydney Harbour and start to explore new places for yourself, the options are countless.

Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House

So, let’s get this one out the way first since it’s probably what you had in mind when you searched for Kayaking on Sydney Harbour.

A great place to put in is at Lavender Bay boat ramp. Lavender bay is relatively tranquil and free of big boat traffic. A short paddle to Lunar Park will give you excellent vantage point for taking some pictures with Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Opera House in the background.

From there you can paddle East to observe waterfront living of Kirribilli and beyond, or West towards Blues Point and then Waverton. Either way I strongly suggest that you check out the Ferry routes first and be sure to hug the northern shoreline, keeping clear of large vessels at all times.

Don’t forget to take your camera.

Manly Wharf

Cabbage Tree Bay is a great place to put in, travel South hugging the shoreline to find a series of beautiful sandy beaches.

Best not to go past Cannae Point unless you are an experienced paddler because the swell can be quite big past that point.

Alternatively travel West past Federation Point and on to North Harbour Reserve. Watch out for ferries when passing Manly Wharf.

Whichever direction you decide to go, keep an eye out for the incredibly cute fairy penguins, pack a picnic and make a day of it.

Middle Harbour

Put in at the Southern end of Spit Bridge. Park either side of the road but best place to put in is on the small beach on the Eastern side of the road.

From there you have countless options depending on your fitness and level of experience. Travel North and then West under the Spit Bridge, then hug the Eastern and Southern shorelines taking you to Beauty Point and Beyond. Alternatively, head West after crossing under Spit Bridge and hug the shore on towards the affluent suburb of Seaforth and then on to Bantry Bay.


If you prefer the more remote side of kayaking, put in at Davidson Park Boat Ramp and head North West under Roseville Bridge.

This route will take you deep into the beautiful Garigal National Park where you may be lucky enough to see a variety of local birdlife.

Rozelle Bay

For an Urban kayaking adventure, put in at Rozelle Bay and paddle on to Blackwattle Bay and then under Anzac Bridge (known fondly as Madonna’s Bra)

If you’re up to a longer paddle then head on to Balmain peninsula, stopping at Cockatoo and Rodd Islands on the way.

Rose Bay

Here you have the option of staying in the calm, shallow waters near the shore, travelling either northeast towards Vaucluse or west towards Point Piper.

Alternatively head out to Shark Island but you will need a permit to land. These can be obtained for a few dollars, Ph 9253 0888

From Shark island you will also be able to see Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Opera House.

Lane Cove

I have thrown this one in even though it is not strictly speaking Sydney Harbour, the Lane Cove River leads into Sydney Harbour so it is essentially part of the same waterway.

For something completely different, put in above the Lane Cove Weir (access from Max Allen Road). Travelling West up the Lane Cover River you will enjoy a fresh water paddle through tropical Lane Cove National Park.

If you are up to it you may decide to paddle all the way to spectacular De Burgh’s Bridge and hopefully be rewarded with plenty of exotic bird sightings

Paddling Lane Cove River - Sydney Harbour

Picture courtesy of Lane Cove National Park


Once upon a time Sydney Harbour was a typical filthy polluted harbour, but more recently efforts to clean the harbour have paid off and you will now find a variety of bird, animal and marine life.

Because of its low-noise, low impact on the environment, kayaking gives you a unique opportunity to get up close and personal to some of Sydney Harbours’ beautiful wildlife.

Please do your bit by leaving nothing manmade behind when you explore these magnigicent waterways, especially plastics, fish hooks, fishing line etc.These items can have a devastating impact on local wildlife.

Here is just a short list of some of the many species found in and around Sydney Harbour:

Marine Life

Grey Nurse Shark, Spotted Wobbegong Shark, Weedy Seadragon (Seahorse), Eastern Blue Devilfish, Little Penguin, Australian Fur Seal, Bottlenose Dolphin, Giant Cuttlefish, Green Sea Turtle, Blue Grouper, Angler Fish, Red Indian Fish, Moray Eel, Pineapple Fish, Eastern Long-necked Turtle, Platypus

Prawns, Crabs, Bream, Flounder, Kingfish, Luderick, Sand Whiting, Sea Mullet, Silver Biddle, Silver Trevally, Tailor, Trumpeter Whiting, Yellowtail Scad, Squid, Dusky Flathead, Fanbellied Leatherjacket.

Shoreline Wildlife

Bandicoots, Blue-Tongue Lizard, Brown Antechinus, Bush Rat, Brushtailed Possum, Eastern Froglet, Ringtail Possum, Dwarf Tree Frog, Eastern Water Dragon, Sun-skink, Green Tree Snake, Koalas, Lace Monitor, Southern Leaf-tailed Gecko, Swamp Wallaby, Echidnas, Flying-foxes, Gliding possums, Wombats, Spotted-tailed quoll

Bird Life – Water Birds

Albatrosses, Petrels, Shearwaters, Silver gull, Australasian Gannets, Crested Tern, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Osprey, Black-shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Australasian Shoveler, Black Swan, Australian Pelican, White-faced Heron, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Darter, Egrets, Wood Duck, Eurasian Coot, Musk Duck, Hardhead, Masked Lapwing, Great Cormorant, Black Cormorant, Black Cormorant, Grebe,

Bird Life - Other

Australian Magpie, Brush Turkeys, Eastern Rosella, Grey Butcherbird, King Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red Wattlebird, Spotted Pardalote, Superb Fairy-wren, Willie Wagtail, Nankeen kestrel, Red wattlebird, Eastern koel, Australasian figbird, Eastern whipbird, Superb lyrebird, Rockwarbler, Regent honeyeater, Australian white ibis, Sulphur-crested cockatoo, Pied currawong, Australian raven, Straw-necked Ibis


Kayak Hire

If you don’t yet have your own kayak then don’t panic, there are several professional kayak hire businesses on Sydney Harbour that will provide you with not only kayaks and paddling gear but also advice and safety tips on how to best enjoy your kayaking on Sydney Harbour safely and responsibly.

Below is a list of recommended kayak hire businesses on Sydney Harbour:

  • Sydney Harbour Kayaks, Spit Bridge, Mosman Ph 9969 4590
  • Point Piper Kayak Centre, Rose Bay Ph 0418 400080
  • Manly Kayak Centre, Manly Ph 0412 622 662
  • Annadale Boat Hire, Annadale Ph 0414 260078
  • OzPaddle, The Domain, Sydney Ph 430 950 333
  • Life’sanadventure, Sydney Ph 9975 4553


Kayak Tours

Want to enjoy a kayak trip on Sydney Harbour with a group, under the watchful eye of an experienced guide, who will also give you an interesting run-down on local facts and history, then booking yourself onto a kayak tour is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to this amazing sport.

Most of the above-listed businesses provide both Kayak Hire and Guided Kayak Tours.I can personally vouch for going on a Guided Kayak Tour as a great way to experience Kayaking on sydney Harbour in a safe and fun environment.


Paddle Smart

Sydney Harbour is one of the busiest waterways in Australia so special caution needs to be taken especially in heavy traffic areas.

Never go paddling without a life jacket (Personal Floatation Device).Wearing an Australian Standards certified PFD is as Australian Standardsimportant as having a good quality seat belt in your car.Beware of cheap life jackets that don’t carry the Australian Standards Certificate, your life may depend on it.

Popular choices are PFD’s specifically designed for kayaking, such as Ultra Gorge and Ultra Pinnacle, which are less restrictive and more comfortable than Life Jackets designed for boating.

Other options are Inflatable Life Jackets or Inflatable Waist Belts but you will need to keep a check on the expiry date of the gas cylinder.

Whatever your preference, best to wear a high visibility PFD rather than one of the darker colours.


Navigation Lights

You are required by law to carry a light on your kayak on Sydney Harbour between sunset and sunrise but if you are going to be paddling on Sydney Harbour in the dark then you should seriously consider getting yourself a set of navigation lights fore and aft as well as an all-round white light or at least reflector tape to ensure that larger vessels can see you in the dark.

Get Experience

Because Sydney Harbour is such a busy waterway, with many obstacles and hazards, it is highly recommended that you not embark upon attempting Sydney Harbour as your maiden voyage.There are countless waterways in and around Sydney which are less congested than Sydney Harbour, where you can learn to paddle and become confident on the water in your kayak.

Even better if you take the time to get professional training from an Australian Canoeing Certified instructor.There are several organizations which offer such courses, where you will be trained to become a proficient paddler.They will also go through safety instruction and teach you how to get back into your kayak in the event of a capsize.Here is a link to a map and listing of National Training Providers.

Other Safety Precautions

A lot of this is common sense but in the excitement of going on an adventure you might forget something important so here is a checklist that you could use before going on your Kayak trip on Sydney Harbour:

  • Always check the weather before heading out, if it’s going to be blowing more than 30 knots then rather don’t go paddling that day.
  • Wear bright clothing
  • Preferably attach a bright flag to your kayak
  • If in a group, keep together
  • Best to keep near the shore line, right hand (starboard) side
  • Be aware of which are the high traffic areas and especially the no-go zones
  • Plan your route before starting out
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back
  • Take a mobile phone (in a waterproof bag)
  • Take enough drinking water and wear sun protection
  • Dress according to the conditions, if it’s going to be cold wear layers
  • Wear suitable footwear as Sydney Harbour has oysters and other nasties
  • Best to take with you the minimum safety gear (first-aid kit, paddle float, hand pump, epirb for longer trips)
  • Take a spare paddle in case yours breaks (a two-piece paddle can stow easily on your kayak)

For more information on Kayak Safety while Kayaking on Sydney Harbour and a full map of the shipping routes and no-go zones, do check out Roads & Maritime Services Website.


What Kayak to Paddle on Sydney Harbour

Deciding on what kayak to paddle will depend a lot on what kind of paddling you have in mind.If you plan to potter along the Manly shoreline or any of Sydney Harbour’s many beautiful bays and tributaries then you can just about paddle any kayak you like, including small recreational kayaks.

If on the other hand you plan to paddle longer distances including crossing some of the busy areas of Sydney Harbour, then you are very much advised to use a craft suitable for such conditions.Sydney Harbour can be as flat as a lake but at times it can be like the high seas, due to wind, swell coming through the heads or wash from larger vessels.As a rule of thumb, if you plan to travel anywhere where the water may become choppy then rather don’t paddle any kayak under 4m long.

Your level of experience will also play a part in deciding what craft is best suited for your Sydney Harbour paddle trip.If you are fairly new to kayaking, then you are advised to rather paddle a sit on top kayak with a fair amount of stability (ie not too narrow).

If you have a reasonable amount of experience, then a decent sea kayak (sit in) would be a good option to explore Sydney Harbour more efficiently.Ensure that the kayak is around 5m in length or more, has all-round deck-lines (to grab onto if you capsize), has front and back buoyancy (bulkheads), a decent bow that can handle choppy conditions, facilitates the use of a paddle-float, day hatch would be a bonus.


Where to Buy

Here I have to admit that I am biased because I am one of the founders of C-Kayak Australia, but let’s face it, C-Kayak has been selling quality watercraft in Australia since 2001 and the owners of C-Kayak started out as kayak tour guides and then became certified National Training Providers, so I do feel qualified to give advice.

C-Kayak Australia is the National Distributor of Prijon Kayaks, one of the worlds top sea kayak manufacturers, made in Germany to exceptional quality standards.

Besides that, C-Kayak stocks over 70 different models of kayak including some of the world’s best brands at guaranteed best price:

In a nutshell, C-Kayak has you covered, whether you are looking for a sea kayak, SOT kayak, touring kayak, recreational kayak or fishing kayak.

Here is a link providing you with contact details and opening hours for our various kayak stores.


Summary – Kayaking on Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour is one of the most spectacular waterways in the world, from iconic landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House to beautiful remote National Parks offering an abundance of wildlife.

Wherever you decide to go paddling, always put safety first, and please leave the places you visit in at least as beautiful a condition as when you visited.