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Sydney Diaries - Parramatta River Ferry Cruise

The New Year’s Day is a holiday in Australia and New Zealand. After watching “once in a lifetime” awesome fireworks at the Sydney Harbour, it was time to relax and wake up late in the morning. Moreover being a public holiday in Australia, it was even more obvious to chill out. On waking up and seeing a perfect cloudless summer day, we thought that we should make the most out of it and explore the Sydney Harbour.
Starting from Parramatta Wharf in the ferry.
Sydney’s famous natural harbour is one of the deepest in the world. Right from its main tributary – Parramatta River to Sydney Heads, it measures almost 30 kilometres. The suburban area of Parramatta is aptly named after the river. Being densely populated Sydney has a lot of public ferry services covering almost every part of its harbour. Some plush suburbs have marinas where people park their yachts.
Plush homes on the inner harbour.
One of the ferry services on the network is Parramatta River Ferry. It runs from Parramatta Wharf to Circular Quay in the city and is the longest duration ferry service in Sydney and New South Wales. Since the river is dominated by high and low tides, the ferry service is suspended on the low tide and resumes once the tide is high. The tides are accurately predicted by the met department and the time tables are also built in that way so as to suit the appropriate high tide times.
Sydney City Center seen in distance.
We had visited Parramatta Wharf earlier in the week and came to know about the ferry service. However it had been suspended due to low tide. So today I checked if it was running and after confirming its running times, we enthusiastically prepared ourselves to take the longest ferry ride in the city.
A bridge connecting the harbour.
After quickly having breakfast, we took the train from Blacktown at mid-day to reach Parramatta train station. From there we walked almost 15 minutes to reach the Parramatta Ferry Terminal well in time to get the next available ferry. There were quite a few people including families, who had come over to enjoy the ferry on this perfect sunny day.
Approaching the majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
As the incoming ferry came and offloaded all the passengers, the ferry skipper invited us to board the ferry. We quickly boarded and sat on the window seat to enjoy the maximum views. The ferry started slowly since the river was narrow for the next 4-5 kilometres. Being a larger ferry in size, it felt very stable and cruised smoothly without any turbulence.
Cruising towards Manly from Circular Quay.
As it stopped at next stops, we came out on the deck to enjoy the views. As we got ahead into deeper waters, the mouth of the river also broadened. We could see some awesome river front mansions along with their personal yachts in the river. It reminded me of numerous movie scenes showing such places and the associated lavish characters.
Hornby Lighthouse at Watsons Bay, South Head.
We slowly entered the deeper sea and could see the Sydney City centre in the far distance. Still standing on the deck, we realised that there was no one inside the ferry, everyone was outside on the deck, enjoying the views. We cruised at a higher speed and slowly could see the harbour bridge in the distance. It took no longer to realise that we would go under the bridge.
This is the entry point into Sydney Harbour, between North Head and South Head.
As the harbour bridge came closer the number of clicking sounds and posing people exponentially increased. We also were one of those. It was amazing to see how huge the harbour bridge was, while going underneath it. As we cruised ahead and took a right turn, we could see the Sydney Opera house on the left hand side. Again those clicks and posers. J
Manly Beach Christmas Tree decorations.
Finally we got off the ferry at Circular Quay ferry terminal. We went off to the next pier where we boarded the Manly ferry. Now this was a totally new experience for us since we had never seen such a huge sized ferry in New Zealand. Appropriate to the number of people boarding, it was a huge 3 floor high ferry which by all means looked like a mini cruise ship.
Manly Beach.
The ferry started the journey towards Manly which has a beautiful beach and a relaxed suburban outlook. On the way we saw famous Sydney Harbour entry landmarks such as Watsons Bay and Hornby Lighthouse. We also got to see the North Head and the entry point to Sydney Harbour. It took us almost 30 minutes to reach Manly and disembark at the wharf.

After checking the ferry timings of the next return ferry, we walked out of the wharf to explore the surroundings. The place was busy with lots of people roaming around, enjoying their holiday. We walked across the shops to reach the beautiful Manly Beach. There were tall Christmas trees alongside the road, next to whom was the long beach. It instantly reminded me of the Marine Parade in Napier. Honestly I was surprised to see so many people relaxing and chilling on the beach.
Marine Parade, Manly Beach.
Even the busiest beaches on Auckland couldn’t match what we saw there. We also roamed around and found a place to sit down and relax. Suddenly I saw a paratrooper appear in the sky from nowhere and it instantly grabbed our attention. Within moments he landed in front of us, had a quick chat with one of his video recording crews, packed his chute into a small backpack and walked away, probably to repeat the whole adrenaline rushing routine.

I noticed that there were some high points on the nearby cliff and figured out that it was the originating point of all the paratroopers going around. After relaxing we started to roam around and check out the shops. Every shop and eatery was teeming with people. I did think of walking to Fairfax lookout to get a nice view of Pacific Ocean and Sydney city skyline, it being a 2 hours walking round trip, we dropped the idea. We did click some pictures and thought it was time to go back to the city.
A Para-glider about to land behind us.
We took the ferry from Manly and started towards Circular Quay. Awesome sunny skies and beautiful views of the harbour again greeted us. Words can’t describe the presence of the most famous landmarks of Sydney Harbour – the harbour bridge and the opera house. One has to see them to believe their majestic presence. Again there were familiar clicking sounds and posing people around. J

We reached circular quay and after getting off from the ferry, we sat on one of the nearby benches to relax. It had been an awesome excursion for the day and we were thankful that the weather also was supporting us. After taking a much needed break we started towards our friend’s place in Kogarah, where we would have a long due catch up and a sumptuous dinner.
The Sydney Opera House seen from ferry on the way back to Circular Quay.
PS: How can I forget to mention the awesome Opal card arrangement of Sydney’s public transport? This whole travel experience was made possible by the Opal cards which we had taken right from the airport when we landed in Sydney. It is an electronic ticketing card which one can top up with money and get discounts while travelling in Sydney.

Back then, if we made 8 paid journeys in a week, the rest of the journeys in the remaining week would be free. We used this facility to its best since we were travelling a lot. It did save a lot of money for us and affirmed that Sydney has one of the best public transport facilities in the world.

Lately, this free journey feature has been scrapped by the transport agency and now the free journeys are billed as half price. More here:-

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