Sydney is lucky enough to be situated on the world’s largest natural harbour. Fortunately, Sydneysiders love their harbour, and many are fortunate to be able to commute to work by ferry. I used to commute by ferry too, and I can assure you that it is possibly the nicest way you can travel to work anywhere in the world. All that you have to look at is a bustling harbour that is crowned by the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As if it isn’t pleasant enough going to work, the journey home is even better, as the sun sets behind the Bridge, heading home by ferry is just like leaving all your worries somewhere in that sunset as you head off on a cruise.
I grew up in the Sydney harbour side suburb of Mosman, so this is one of my favourite ferry journeys. If you want to discover just how peaceful a megapolis can be, this is a trip I recommend. Not only will you see a part of Sydney that few visitors get to enjoy, you will find the trip both charming and relaxing, but most of all, it is reasonably cheap.
The Mosman ferry departs from No. 4 Wharf at Circular Quay. It is a reasonable small ferry, and if it is a fine day, I recommend that you sit outside, up on the bow (the front end) of the top deck.
As you leave Circular Quay the ferry eases its way past the Opera House, and you will get many fine photos as you head out into the harbour proper. The ferry then heads North East, and crosses the harbour diagonally. There’s always plenty of maritime action on the harbour, and if you happen to be doing the journey on a weekend, you’ll be able to enjoy the site of hundreds of yachts racing or just indulging in leisurely cruises.
Once you stop looking at the Opera House, turn your attention to your left side and you’ll see a large Hawkesbury Stone building on a peninsular. This is called Admiralty House, and is the Sydney residence of the Governor-General, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Australia, and the ceremonial Head of Australia. Next to Admiralty House is Kirribilli House, the Sydney residence of the Prime Minister, the Head of the Australian Government.
If you look back over to your right, you will see Farm Cove, the location of Sydney Botanical Gardens, and also home to the Governor of New South Wales. The bay next to Farm Cove is called Woolloomooloo, next to that is one of Australia’s largest naval bases at Garden Island.
Round about now, also on your right, you pass a small island fort. This is called Pinchgut Island, and the building is Fort Dennison. Every day at one o’clock a cannon is fired from the island. Pinchgut used to be a prison in Sydney’s earliest days, but it is now a destination for tourists.
Look to your left again and you’ll see Neutral Bay, and on the peninsular, Kuraba Street Reserve. After a few minutes, the ferry makes its first stop at Cremorne Point Wharf. The ferry docks here for only a minute or two then heads east for a short way, before making a sharp turn north and heading into Mosman Bay.
This is a pretty little bay with some very expensive real estate in a very exclusive area. The waterfront houses that you see here are worth millions, and the yachts that you see moored in the bay are also extremely valuable.
Mosman Bay is quiet and peaceful. The next stop is at South Mosman, which has a steep climb from the wharf to Musgrave Street. The are many flats and apartments in this part of Mosman, but, despite the population density, it is still an area that is covered in many trees and which remains quite serene.
Next, the ferry stops at tiny Old Cremorne wharf. From appearances it looks like few people live on this side of the peninsular, but once you climb the stairs above the wharf, you are in the middle of suburbia.
The ferry now heads to its last stop Mosman Bay. You can stay on the ferry for the return journey, but I would recommend that you disembark, to walk back to Cremorne Point Wharf to pick up a ferry for your return journey.
If you do disembark at Mosman Bay, follow the path around to your left. Soon you’ll see, on your right, an old sandstone building that is now a scout hall, but which is one of Australia’s oldest buildings, and used to be Australia’s first whaling station. You’ll be able to recognise it by the large whale ribs around its door.
Keep following your path to the left. You’ll cross a small bridge, and then you reach the Mosman Rowing Club, a licensed club where you can get a drink or a meal if you wish. If you’re a visitor from interstate or overseas, just show some identification and someone will sign you in.
The path continues behind the club, and leads down to some boat shed, and a sea scout hall. Keep following this path, as it leads you on a lovely little coastal bush walk, allowing you to enjoy Mosman Bay at your own pace.
You’ll know that you’re on the right track when you reach Old Cremorne Wharf. If you’ve had enough, you can catch a ferry here, or continue around to Cremorne Point for a slightly longer walk. It is worthwhile continuing on to Cremorne Point as you come to a stage where you turn a corner and bang! Sydney Harbour is set out before you in all of its glory.
Just head down to the wharf for the short journey back to Circular Quay. Depending on waiting time for ferries, you should be able to complete the journey, including the full walk, in about one and a half hours.
I don’t promise much excitement, but it is enjoyable, and you will get to know why Sydney is one of the world’s most liveable cities.