Sydney is the hub of cruising in the South Pacific. The numbers of ship visits to the city has tripled since 2010, and in 2013 a second facility was opened at White Bay to meet demand. Many, many thousands of cruisers depart from Sydney each year, and it's not just those in New South Wales - passengers come from all over Australia and New Zealand to take advantage of the myriad cruise ships departing the iconic harbour.
If you're a keen Aussie cruiser, chances are you'll be sailing away from Sydney at some point - if you haven't already. You might also have the city listed as a port of call on your next cruise. To make your departure a little more exciting, we have put together a list of the best things things to do within a short walk of the cruise terminals.
The Overseas Passenger Terminal is the original Sydney cruise terminal, and plays host to the biggest cruise ships as fitting under the Harbour Bridge is not a requirement for docking there. It's a fantastic place to embark or disembark, right in the heart of downtown Sydney Cove and with great views of the Opera House. Here's what you could do or see with just a short time to spare:
Museum of Contemporary Art
The MCA is less than five minutes on foot from the Overseas Passenger Terminal, making it the perfect place to soak in a little culture before you cast off. It has collections of the best modern art across Australia, in all forms: painting, sculpture, installations, performance art and more.
The Rocks Market
Unfortunately this one is only available over the weekend - but if you're lucky enough to be docked in or departing Sydney on a Saturday or Sunday, this is a must-visit spot and just a few hundred metres' walk from the terminal. You'll find a great range of handmade jewellery, fun textile and homewares, beauty products and more, all in an open-air marketplace. If you're there on a Friday, you can also catch the Friday Foodie Market for some fresh and locally produced sauces, sweets, snacks and street-food style meals.
Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour
You don't have to go into the outback to get a taste of the amazing Aboriginal Australia culture. Dreamtime Southern X offers, among other things, a walking tour of the Rocks precinct which tells the tale of the native peoples' heritage in and around the harbour. What a fantastic way to get to know Sydney's history - and they depart from Cadman's Cottage, directly across the road from the terminal. The tour starts at 10:30am each day and lasts ninety minutes - you can book on the Dreamtime Southern X website.
Sydney Opera House
It will take you fifteen minutes to walk to the Opera House from the passenger terminal, but it's a very scenic waterfront walk. Once there, you can get up close and personal with this famous building which took sixteen years to build, starting in the late 1950s. It's possible to take a tour, enjoy a coffee in one of the cafes, or just wander and appreciate the unique architecture and views over the harbour.
Royal Botanic Garden
If you want to get your fill of greenery before embarking on an ocean voyage, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain can be found near the Opera House, a pleasant 15 minutes' walk from the Overseas Passenger Terminal. There you can enjoy a stroll through the grounds or a free visit to Government House, the Gothic Revival-style building which contains some fabulous examples of 19th and 20th century furnishings and decorations. Dawes Point Park is even closer, just a few hundred metres north of the dock.
The Rocks precinct, all within an easy walking distance of the terminal, is full of awesome restaurants where you begin preparing yourself for the onslaught of eating to take place onboard and get a taste of Sydney. Highlights include the upmarket Quay, intimate Pony Dining, hearty pub classics at Claude's Kitchen and sweet treats at Pancakes on the Rocks.
Located across the bay from Darling Harbour at Balmain, White Bay Cruise Terminal is not as convenient to the sights as its counterpart in Sydney Cove, accessible only by car, taxi or ferry from the CBD. To get anywhere might require a short taxi ride, but here are your best options if you have a few hours to kill in the area.
Bars and restaurants
This is Sydney, after all; you'll have no trouble finding a nice place to eat or drink in Balmain. Grab a quick taxi to Lodge Wine Bar, Adriano Zumbo Patissier, The Cottage, Rosso Pomodoro or anywhere that takes your fancy for a leisurely pre-departure lunch or cocktail hour.
Balmain Saturday Markets
Obviously these only take place on Saturday - but if you happen to be there then, the Balmain Markets are a great place to visit. They are located at the corner of Darling Street and Curtis Road, and are a delightful hodgepodge of independent stalls with plenty of food and handcrafted products. You can pick up secondhand books, jewelry, antiques and more.
Balmain is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to retail therapy - and what better way to pass the time? Independent fashion boutique "duckeggBLUE" is a great place to start, offering a very upmarket range of labels, and from there you'll be spoilt for choice. Grab a taxi to Darling Street where the shops are clustered, and pick up some things to wear to the sailaway party.
Darling Harbour Ferry
If the suburbs really aren't doing it for you, there's a quick 7-minute ferry trip across the bay to the bright lights and bustle of Sydney's popular harbourside entertainment precinct. Get a taxi to the Balmain East ferry terminal, hop on one of the ferries which depart regularly and you'll soon be amongst the high-rises, restaurants, and hotels of Darling Harbour, very close by the Sydney Aquarium and Madame Tussauds.
Have a look at Cruise Sale Finder to book your next cruise from Sydney.