Sydney Ferries is actually the name of a company with a fleet of nearly 30 modern boats that carry more than 14 million passengers across Sydney Harbour and the Paramatta River, the tributary that empties into the harbour and cuts the city in half. The company has a long and venerable history that began in 1861. Today, Sydney Ferries operates a fleet of nearly 30 vessels, and is the dominant link in water transportation for the greater metropolitan area. Although it is a nominally independent corporation, its two shareholders are members of the New South Wales government.
The company's Circular Quay ferries and Sydney Harbour ferries carry the largest percentage of tourist passengers. While these are also used heavily as commuter transportation for local residents, they are excellent sightseeing vehicles, passing by many of the iconic attractions of the city. The city's skyline is visible on most routes, and many of the routes also pass by the Sydney Opera House with its signature sails and the Harbour Bridge. There is even a ferry route from Circular Quay to the Sydney Olympic Park (built for the 2000 Olympic Games), a venue for numerous special events and a great recreational area.
The Circular Quay ferries comprise only one transportation sector of this major Sydney hub. You can hop on a ferry to see some sights while getting from one place to another, and once at Circular Quay, you can catch buses or trains. This is even a stop for the airport shuttle and the main center for deep sea fishing charters, dinner and sunset cruises, and location of a major highway route.
The North Sydney ferry is also operated by Sydney Ferries and serves the suburb that is about three miles north of the Central Business District (CBD). The coast north of the city—all the way to Newcastle and beyond—is graced with numerous smaller harbors and river outlets where ferry service is operated by other private companies.
Both the Paramatta River and the Hawkesbury River have been vital transportation routes for the city since the eighteenth century. Consequently, there are Circular Quay ferries and Sydney Harbour ferries that cross both of them and serve many small communities upriver. From the little town of Wisemans Ferry with its ferry crossing that takes only four minutes to the suburbs of Brooklyn and Woy Woy about 30 miles north of the city, there are at least six ferry crossings. This is an important commercial and recreational river, providing wonderful freshwater fishing, water skiing and similar recreational activities, as well as excellent whitewater rafting. There are at least a dozen ferry crossings on the Paramatta.
It is possible to purchase a pass for Sydney Harbour ferries as well as other ferries that provide sightseeing opportunities and even service to the harbor beaches, Taronga Zoo, and other attractions like the Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour. There are all-day hop-on, hop-off passes for routes that provide commentary and informative narrative, as well as passes valid for your entire vacation stay. At Circular Quay and other main hubs, you will find ticket vending machines for single and round-trip tickets. Many of the main ferry wharves are wheelchair accessible.