Sydney Ferries is a one part of an integrated transport system in Sydney which includes ferries, trains, buses and light rail.
There are almost 30 ferries in the fleet ranging from the traditional green and yellow ones to a more modern, though not as atmospheric, catamaran fleet of RiverCats, HarbourCats and SuperCats.
From a tourist perspective the ferries provide a means of transport but equally importantly a cheap way to get out and enjoy Sydney’s world famed, and justly so, harbour. I thoroughly recommend you use them in lieu of (or at least in addition to) a harbour cruise.
Ferries all go to/from from Circular Quay and do loop trips (see map attached). They run from around 6.30am to midnight (varies route to route) at about half hourly, or less, intervals. Given this, you should work from a timetable (or better still use the fantastic iphone/ipad app NextThere – see separate review) to ensure you do not unnecessarily waste time, especially if you want to go to some of the smaller stops, which you should. Note other apps are available for other devices and the Opal Card App is also excellent.
The ferries are much faster than taking buses, etc to the points they service and while not luxurious are more than acceptable and indeed comfortable for the short trips. All ferries (and jetties) have excellent pram and wheelchair access, and allow bicycles on board. There is a small cafe on the Manly route – otherwise grab a coffee/snack before you board. Then sit back and enjoy it while also enjoying some of the best views in the world!
The following destinations (mostly on different ferry routes) are the most popular tourist destinations and in getting to each one you have a mini harbour cruise thrown in for free.
• Taronga Zoo
• Cockatoo Island
• Balmain (jetty pictured above)
• Double Bay
All Sydney transport requires you to have an Opal Card (recommended) or to pay an Opal Single Trip fare (not recommended).
Ferry fares are based on distance travelled.
0-9kms – Opal Card $5.88 : Opal Single Trip fare $7.10
9 plus kms – Opal Card $7.35 : Opal Single Trip fare $8.90
Opal card fares above relate to full adult fares pre any caps/discounts earned. Opal single trip fares attract no discounts, give you no transfer rights, etc.
While officially paper tickets no longer exist for use on Sydney Transport the Opal Single Trip Fare is the (more expensive and restrictive) equivalent. For ferries they are available from machines at certain wharves only with some machines only accepting credit cards. In short forget about Opal Single Trip fares and buy an Opal Card.
See my separate review on the OPAL Card.
Departing anywhere other than Circular Quay, there is only one wharf and working out how to use the system is simple. Just one hint, the OPAL Card ‘tap on/tap off’ points tend to be on dry land before you go out onto the wharf itself, to board the ferry. If you board the ferry without tapping on you will be fined.
Departing Circular Quay there are six wharfs so you will need to check the monitors for departure details.
Please note that Manly Fast Ferry, which operates from Circular Quay (Wharf 6), is not part of Sydney Ferries and does not accept the OPAL Card.