Sydney Harbour


Sydney Harbour is one of the most beautiful places to visit when boating. You can cruise across crystal blue waters as you visit one marina after another. Sydney Harbour is also a busy commercial, so unsurprisingly, there’s a diverse range of recreational and commercial boats in the area. As a boater, you need to abide by several regulations to ensure your well-being as well as the safety of other vessels. Here are some important rules to remember when boating on Sydney Harbour.


As a recreational boater, you need to steer clear of large commercial vessels and ships. You must maintain a 30-metre distance from other boats as well as people in the water.

Boats mustn’t interfere with the safe navigation of another vessel. This includes not passing in between an escort vessel and a seagoing ship. High-speed vessels will be no match for recreational boats. Also, don’t anchor in or obstruct a fairway or channel in any way.


Check the daily vessel movements when you’re boating on Sydney Harbour. You should have sufficient knowledge about the shipping channels and fairways. All the information you need are available online, and you can also stay tuned to or Sydney Ports VTS on VHF Channel 13.

To navigate the waters safely, you also have to look out for buoys, beacons and marks and be familiar with their meanings. These will identify safe waters as well as potential hazards in the area.

Aside from knowing about the rules of the road at sea, boaters must also be aware of special conditions. For example, some ferries have a ‘priority over sail’ signal — displayed as an orange diamond shape. This means that sailing vessels must keep out of their way. This is a deviation from the usual rule where power vessels must give way to sailing vessels.


Look for speed signs and abide by speed restrictions set by maritime authorities. This includes a 15-knot maximum speed when in the Bridge Transit Zone. There is also no anchoring or drifting in this area. Also, reduce speed when boating in low visibility and bad weather as well as when there’s boat traffic in the area.


Boaters must not throw waste materials into Sydney Harbour. Black and grey water, as well as bilge water and galley waste, must be placed in holding tanks and only disposed of once you’re on land. You should also make sure that harsh chemicals from beauty or cleaning products don’t come into contact with the water.


Sydney Harbour is home to a vast number of mammals, birds and reptiles. You should keep an active lookout to avoid jeopardising their safety. Animals like whales, seals, dolphins, turtles and penguins are protected, so go slow if they are in the vicinity. Regulations for whale watching states that there should only be three vessels at a given time, so you should wait for your turn. Slow down, make no movement and minimise noise when a whale approaches your boat.


PWCs are not allowed in Sydney Harbour. You cannot jet ski or kiteboard in the area. Meanwhile, sail boating is only allowed in certain areas. Keep a lookout for signages that inform you of particular no-go areas.

Sydney is home to one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. It’s a privilege to be able to boat on Sydney Harbour and visit iconic destinations around its 310 km foreshore perimeter. In return, it’s your responsibility to follow the rules and regulations of the area. This is paramount if you want to ensure the safety of everyone boating on Sydney Harbour.



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John Steele

John loves cooking at home and outdoors, travelling, fishing and discovering a new life. He's got loads of experience he wants to share while he adventures through retirement.