Book the Best Kid-Friendly Sydney Harbour Cruises

Sydney Harbour is one of the wonders of the world, and Sydney Harbour Cruises are or am I just biased?  No I am not!  It is a gorgeous and glorious natural splendour and it is best seen on a Sydney Harbour cruise. 

If you are travelling with children, how do you choose the best Sydney Harbour boat tour, the one that will suit your specific family? You definitely need to find the most kid-friendly cruises. Read on and let me give you some thoughts, gleaned from 20 years of exploring Sydney Harbour with my four children.

family-friendly Sydney Harbour Cruises


Sydney Harbour Fast Facts

Now you already know that Sydney has one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world.

From North and South Heads in the east to the head of Parramatta River, Sydney Harbour is 19km long and has an area of  55 km². The shoreline of Sydney Harbour has many bays, beaches and inlets, stretching a staggering 317 kilometres. 

Harbour Cruises Sydney: What To Look For

A day out on the water is a joy, if you ask me. Except when it isn’t.

We have had a few low moments when taking our kids out on Sydney Harbour cruises. A Middle Harbour cruise with a completely hyperactive two-and-a-half-year-old with an urge to climb and no fear of heights was just a touch stressful. That was a Sydney harbour boat tour never to be repeated, we should have just waited until that son was older and calmer.

We’ve had some fab times too though. Here are some things to look out for:

  • What age are your children, will they stay still as you cruise?
  • Where does the cruise leave from, is it easy for you to get to (most leave from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay.)
  • Do you need to eat on the cruise? There are family dinner cruise options and even more lunch cruise options. Most cruises do serve food of some sort however I always pack extra snacks too
  • Do you know Sydney well? If not, a cruise with commentary will give you lots of interesting information
  • Check the Sydney weather forecast. Book close to the day if you can to make sure you get good weather, or make sure your booking can be cancelled or the date changed.

Sydney Harbour Tall Ships Cruises

A Tall Ship Family Pirate Cruise on Sydney Harbour
The rigging on a Tall Ships Cruise!
A Tall Ship Family Pirate Cruise on Sydney Harbour
Hopping aboard at Campbells Cove

Setting off from Campbell Cove, The Rocks, just a short walk from Circular Quay, a tall ships cruise will take your family right back in time. Sailing ships set off from here over the centuries and the spirit of many salty sea dogs sails with you. I think these tall ships make the best Sydney Harbour Cruise for families – my kids adored them.

The captains tend to be very amusing and there is always a good commentary about both the ships and the Sydney Harbour sights you pass. 

The Twilight Dinner Cruise is one of the bestsellers, check availability here,

But with younger children, an Afternoon Cruise or a Lunch Cruise might be best.  You will often find extra options in the school holidays too.

Compare tall ships cruises to other family-friendly Sydney Harbour cruises on Get Your Guide here.

 Cruising on Sydney Harbour tall ship
One of my sons up the rigging on a tall ship!!!

jey boating thunder jet
360° spins, slides and speed with Thunder Jet jet boats

Jet Boating On Sydney Harbour

Jet boating on Sydney Harbour with kids really is a thrill and it is our second fave Sydney Harbour cruise option. But it is not cheap. Prices range from about $70 to around $90. You will find some special offers and discounts at times too.

Check our prices and availability on Get Your Guide here:

30 minute Thunder Thrill Rides

45 minute Extreme Adrenalin Rush Ride

Check out this Get Your Guide widget to see some other options and to check out combining various jet boat opens with other activities.

jet boat leaves circular quay
The jet boat sets off!

The kids absolutely loved the ride though, and they weren’t totally hysterical with fear either. The jet boats leave from Circular Quay on the Opera House side.

jet boat leaves circular quay
The jet boat sets off!
20121029 093738
Thunder Jet gets the thumbs up
jet boat ride around Sydney Harbour
I couldn’t take a photo on the jet boat ride, too wet. Glasses got hard to see through.

2 Day Hop On Hop Off Harbour Cruise Ferry Ticket

I really recommend this as a great way of exploring Sydney and its Harbour, at a low cost and with a great variety of places to get on and off.  This ticket costs $50 for adults and $29 for children.

You can hop on and off at:

• Darling Harbour: so much to see and do!
• Watsons Bay: beautiful walks, beaches and great fish and chips
• Luna Park: Enjoy the rides or have a swim at the cool pool
• Circular Quay: Stop to eat or explore the shops, museums and art galleries
• Taronga Zoo: meet Australian fauna and some other exotic animals too
• Shark Island: A wonderful island for a BYO picnic and a swim

Buy tickets for the 2 Day Hop On Hop Off Cruise here.

tour img 2374515 145

Small Group Harbour Cruise, With Secret Beaches

This is a 3 hour tour and will take you to places other tours don’t. You also get a chance to get out and explore two beaches. The group is small and you have your own tour guide so can ask lots of questions and will learn a lot about Sydney’s history, the massive houses you will pass and the natural environment and wildlife.

The cost of $129 for adults and $99 for children, so it’s a bit more expensive, but much more personal.  There are short walks at Watson Bay and a visit to North Head’s Quarantine Station which is a truly amazing and unique place to visit. My children have loved their trips to the Quarantine Station.

Check dates and book ticket for this Small Group Harbour Cruise here.

whale watching NSW 4
See whales off Sydney Harbour on a cruise!

Whale Watching Cruises

These cruises usually take you out beyond Sydney Harbour into the open sea. Whilst seeing breaching whales can never be guaranteed, there is a good chance you will see them in the right season.

Check out this Whale Watching Tour with Breakfast or Lunch availability and prices here.

Find an amazing variety of Sydney Harbour Cruises by searching this Get Your Guide widget below.

sydney harbour 2 hour cruise

Captain Cook 2 Hour Cruise

Jump about one of the best known ships for classic Sydney Harbour cruises, operated by Captain Cook Cruises.  

These trips are good value and you will see a remarkable amount and hear a lot of interesting stories during your cruise.  Included in the cost is morning or afternoon tea. These cruises depart from 

sydney harbour cheap cruise

Cheaper Harbour Cruises Sydney 

At just $29 per person, the Captain Cook Cruises 90-Minute Harbour Cruise with Live Music and Tapas is the most economical cruise that I could find to tell readers about. 

Of course, it’s even cheaper to just ride around Sydney Harbour by ferry, it is really good fun to explore by yourself, but there’s no expert commentary of course. But if a Sydney Harbour day cruise like this one still feels too costly (it all adds up when you have a big family) then rides on the ferries do the job well too.

Pin this post for later!

Harbour Cruises sydney pinnable image

Read Our More Detailed Posts About Sydney Harbour Cruises for Families

Tall Ship Family Pirate Cruise

Ucruise Sydney – the Floating Lounge

The Parramatta Rivercat: a Sydney river cruise to Parramatta

Do you have any questions about Sydney Harbour boat tours?

If you’ve been on a Sydney Harbour cruise, would you recommend it to other families?

Keep cruisin.’

Sydney Harbour Cruises Ucruise_10
Watsons Bay! This was taken on a private boat trip, Sydney has many options for this and they can be cost effective of booked in a large group, look at UCruise Sydney.

PS This post contains some affiliate links meaning that, if you buy an item using the link, a small commission is paid to support Hello Sydney Kids, at no cost to you. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Share with a friend

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *