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On Walkabout: Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

During a recent business trip to Sydney a colleague of mine that works in Sydney took me on a tour of Sydney Harbor on his sailboat. I have never sailed before until I came to Australia and have since done it a few times since being here including now Sydney Harbor. The day we went sailing it was rainy out, which in a way was good because that meant there was few other boats out on the harbor that day.

Sydney Harbor is quite large and has many little coves littered all around the Sydney area as you can see in the Google Earth image below:

sydney harbor 1

The below is a blow up image of Sydney Harbor with the outline of my sailing trip around the harbor outlined in red:

sydney harbor 2

From the marina we started from we had to sail around a large peninsula that is home to the large Australian naval base HMAS Kuttabul:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

The HMAS Kuttabul has been in use since 1856 by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and was a critical naval base during World War II for the allied forces including the US Navy. The base was so critical because it had the only dry dock big enough to repair aircraft carriers and battleships. This dry dock is still in use today and it is considered the biggest dry dock in the southern hemisphere.


Helicopter view of HMAS Kuttabul

Realizing the criticality of Sydney Harbor to the allied war effort during World War II, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched an attack on the harbor on June 1, 1942. The attack ended with two Japanese mini-subs sunk and one RAN naval vessel destroyed with 21 sailors dead.

As we sailed around the naval base the Sydney skyline came into view:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

Adjacent to the Sydney skyline is the busy transportation port of Circular Quay and the historic district known as The Rocks:

The Rocks from Sydney Harbor

Circular Quay is the hub for all the transportation ferries and cruise boats that shuttle around Sydney Harbor. It is a very busy place that is a must see attraction in Sydney. The Rocks is located in the shadow of the Harbor Bridge and is filled with old, historic buildings that have been converted into restaurants, pubs, boutiques, hotels, and other miscellaneous stores.

The Sydney skyline is quite spectacular and is definitely one of the most beautiful in the whole world, but the skyline would not be as famous as it is today if it wasn’t for the Sydney Harbor Bridge:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

The discussion for building a bridge across the harbor had been discussed for many decades prior to it being built, but construction of the bridge did not begin until 1923. Construction of the bridge took nine years with 16 people total being killed while working on the bridge. The Sydney Harbor Bridge officially opened for traffic until March 19, 1932 and charged a toll in order to pay for the construction of the bridge. The bridge was officially paid off in the mid-1980s, but a $3.00 toll remains to this day to fund further Australian highway projects.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is an awesome sight, but not as awesome as seeing the Sydney Opera House:

Sydney's Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most recognizable icons with quite an interesting history. The idea to build an opera house in Sydney actually began in the 1940s. After years of lobbying for the building of an opera house, the New South Wales government finally agreed to have one built and held a contest in 1955 for designs for the building. 233 designs from 32 countries were submitted to the competition. The winning design was awarded to Danish architect Jorn Utzon in 1957.

Construction began on the building in 1958 and was quickly plagued with problems and delays due to design flaws and weather problems. Due to disputes with the government Utzon resigned from construction of the building in 1965. The construction of the opera house had become a mess due to the delays, cost over runs, and now the resignation of the designer. Two new architects were hired to complete the building, Peter Hall and E.H. Farmer. These two architects made some design changes and pushed on with the construction of the building.

The building was finally completed in 1973 at the staggering cost of $102 million dollars. The opera house was originally supposed to be completed in 1963 at the cost of $7 million dollars. Despite the problems and cost no one can argue about the results of this beautiful building:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

As we sailed passed the Sydney Opera House we began to pass underneath the Harbor Bridge:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

As we neared the bridge we could make out people taking the climbing tour up the bridge that Sydneysiders like to call the Big Coat Hanger:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

The idea to allow climbing tours up the bridge is actually a fairly recent one with tours first beginning in 1998. Since then millions of visitors have climbed the bridge at the cost of $179-$220 bucks a person. Somebody is definitely making some huge profits.

As we passed underneath the bridge the Luna Amusement Park came into view:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

Luna Park first opened in 1935 only three years after the construction of the Harbor Bridge. The park was the premier amusement park in Australia at the time and continues to be at least the premier amusement park in Sydney to this day. Luna Park was closed temporarily in 1979 after a ride caught fire and six children and an adult were killed due to inadequate safety procedures and equipment. The park was sold, renovated and reopened in 1982, but over the years has continued to have financial difficulties that forced the park to close again over the years. The park today is open and is the largest amusement park in New South Wales.

After passing Luna Park we turned the sailboat around and sailed below the bridge again and eventually came along side of Prime Minister John Howard’s home:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

I found it quite amazing how easily anyone could just sail up to the Prime Minister’s house if they wanted to, compared to the heavy security at the White House in Washington, DC.

We concluded our tour around the harbor by sailing by Taronga Zoo, but the rain started coming down quite heavily so I didn’t take any pictures.  Here is a picture I did get of downtown Sydney:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

With the rain coming down quite steadily now, we decided to head back to the marina from where we started:

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

Picture From Sailing Around Sydney Harbor

As luck would have it, as soon as we pulled into the marina and started tying up the boat, the clouds started to break up and the sun came out. As it turned out we could have spent more time out on the harbor, but the time we did spend was incredible and is one of the most memorable experiences I have had in Australia. I highly recommend to anyone who has the chance, to not miss out on sailing around Sydney Harbor; it is an experience you will never forget.

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