The best boating experiences in NSW

It’s not just NSW’s glorious coastline and hundreds of beaches that are worth exploring by boat – the state has many pristine rivers and lakes with a variety of outlooks to explore and wildlife to spot.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Oct 2023 -
min read

Learn to shuck oysters on the Hawkesbury, glide past turtles on the crystal-clear Brunswick River and visit Sydney’s islands with an Aboriginal guide.        

Shucking oysters on the Hawkesbury at Sydney Oyster Farm

Shucking oysters on the Hawkesbury at Sydney Oyster Farm - Credit: Sydney Oyster Farm

Live it up on a luxury boat, Sydney  

For a memorable day out, hire a luxury charter boat to cruise around the harbour. Sydney Harbour Luxe Charters offers 20 boats of varying capacities to choose from, you can either invite everyone you know for a spectacular four-hour cruise, or take the family on a special weekend, captain and crew included. Exploring Sydney via its harbour gives you a completely different perspective of the city – discover secret beaches, admire some of the city’s most beautiful homes and catch a glimpse of wildlife cruising by. The Alfie (pictured), sleeps seven guests, with a dining and lounging area, a sunbed at the front, a full kitchen and a small tender for boat transfers to waterfront restaurants. On sunny days, make use of the stand-up paddleboards and float in the inflatable pool as you wave to passing boats.    

Sydney Harbour Luxe Charters Boating in Elizabeth Bay - Credit: Sydney Harbour Luxe

Sydney Harbour Luxe Charters in Elizabeth Bay - Credit: Sydney Harbour Luxe Charters

Jump aboard a psychic cruise, Blue Mountains   

A plate of fluffy scones with jam and cream, a meandering river cruise down a 50-million-year-old gorge and a psychic reading? It’s unlikely you’ve attended anything like this 1.5-hour Afternoon Tea Psychic Cruise on the Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler. Departing from Jamisontown, you’ll glide through the spectacular Nepean Gorge in the Blue Mountains, the ascending sandstone peaks and largely unexplored parkland providing an appropriately dramatic background for your personal psychic reading from the onboard medium. Keep an eye out for wallabies, lizards and white breasted sea eagles as you ponder your newly illuminated future.

Note: cruises run monthly from January to October.  

Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler

Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler in Jamisontown 

Cruise the outback by boat, Menindee 

The Darling River is the lifeblood of Outback NSW and once supported a bustling network of paddlewheelers traversing the inland port towns. Be in awe of its fascinating history on a Sunset Cruise with River Lady Tours on the upper reaches of Lake Wetherell, with constantly changing scenery of incredible bird life (binoculars provided), majestic overhanging limbs of the river red gums and evidence of the early settlers. Finish by watching the lake shimmer red and gold as the sun dips below the horizon – BYO picnic and bottle of wine for a glorious sundowner.

Note: cruises are available from March to November. 

Menindee River Lady Cruise - Broken Hill - Outback NSW

Menindee River Lady Tour

Explore Sydney’s harbour through an Aboriginal perspective, Sydney 

Get closer to the living culture of the Gadigal, Guringai, Gammeraigal, Wangal, Cammeraygal and Wallumedegal people by getting on the water. On the Cultural Cruise with Tribal Warrior, you’ll head out on the Mari Nawi (big canoe) and learn about life pre-colonisation, including traditional fishing methods and food gathering techniques. You’ll alight on Be-lang-le-wool (Clark Island – Tribal Warrior is the only commercial tour operator allowed on the harbour islands) and experience a cultural performance, often including a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, traditional dance and didgeridoo playing. 

Tribal Warrior Cultural Cruise on Be-lang-le-wool (Clark Island) in Sydney Harbour

Tribal Warrior Cultural Cruise on Be-lang-le-wool (Clark Island) in Sydney Harbour

Go deep on the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere, Lake Macquarie 

With a myriad of bays, islands and inlets to explore, CoastXP’s Lake Cruise and Nature Walk Tour lets you in on Lake Macquarie’s secret spots, local geology and maritime history along its 174km of foreshore. Step aboard the eco-tourism adventure boat for a cruise before alighting at Wangi Peninsula for an informative bushwalk through Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area. Look out for kangaroos, eagles and the pied oystercatcher as well as wild orchids, wattle and coastal banksia as you learn about the original inhabitants, the Awabakal people. Following that, you’ll enjoy a grazing box with breathtaking views across the lake towards Pulbah Island (a sacred site to the Awabakal people).

Note: tours are available from November to May. 

Boating near Lake Macquarie with CoastXP - Credit CoastXP

Boating near Lake Macquarie with CoastXP - Credit CoastXP

Tour an oyster farm (& dine in the water), Mooney Mooney  

You won’t taste a better oyster than one plucked out of the water and shucked in front of you – especially after learning about the care and hard work that goes into farming them on a Sydney Oyster Farm Tour. Meet third-generation farmers and take a boat ride to visit the oyster leases in the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney. Learn to shuck on the boat – and don’t forget to bring a bottle of sparkling wine for the perfect pairing. The Immerse Yourself experience includes a dining experience that will see you in waders, standing in the river itself as you feast on fresh seafood – an experience you won’t soon forget.  

Aerial shot over Sydney Oyster Farm, Hawkesbury

View from above of the Sydney Oyster Farm in the Hawkesbury River - Credit: Sydney Oyster Farm

Kayak in crystal clear water with turtles and dolphins, Brunswick Heads  

A trip to the Byron Bay region has a calming, restorative energy – something you’ll definitely feel on a Brunswick River Nature Kayak Tour with Go Sea Kayak. You’ll be exploring the oasis that is the Brunswick Heads River, paddling with the tide (so it’s suitable for any age and ability). The local guide will help you spot kingfishers among the mangroves, green turtles, dolphins, blue spotted stingrays, and schools of mangrove jacks and flathead as you float by oyster farms, secluded beaches and volcanic mountains. Take a mid-paddle break on the riverbank for a swim and snack before you head back, feeling revitalised.  

Aerial over a guided kayak tour with Go Sea Kayak, Byron Bay

Go Sea Kayak, Byron Bay

Discover one of Sydney’s lesser-known rivers, Sydney  

The Hacking River is a pristine waterway in southern Sydney bordered by Royal National Park – with beaches, mangroves and bays dotted along the way. Cronulla Ferries runs a weekly three-hour Scenic River Cruise on Friday mornings, from Gunnamatta Bay to the open expanses of Port Hacking. Learn about the early explorers of the area and historical settlements, the state’s first fish hatchery and the names and meanings of Aboriginal sites from your passionate guide as you enjoy morning tea. 

Tonkin Street Public Wharf in Gunnamatta Bay, Cronulla

Tonkin Street Public Wharf in Gunnamatta Bay, Cronulla

Fish for Murray cod off a houseboat, Deniliquin 

At the heart of Riverina town Deniliquin is the Edward River (Kolety): a waterway lined with red gums, rich in Indigenous history (the Wamba Wamba, Perrepa Perrepa and Yorta Yorta people maintain strong connections to this country) and essential to its thriving agricultural community. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, hiring an Edward River Houseboat is a dream – with plenty of isolated fishing spots there is a high chance you’ll be eating a dinner of barbecued Murray cod – as fresh as it gets. The Gralyn houseboat sleeps up to eight people with everything you need including air conditioning and a washing machine.  

Learn to sail on the Sapphire Coast, Eden 

With smooth and safe waters, stunning surrounds and expert advice, a sailing lesson from Sailing Eden in the natural paradise of Eden Harbour is the perfect way to experience coastal life on the far South Coast. Husband-and-wife team Jackie and Noel Parry have decades of experience sailing both international and local oceans and have collectively sailed 60,000 nautical miles (that’s nearly one and half times around the world!). The personalised sessions are adaptable to both beginners and more experienced sailors, and include handling the vessel, docking and mooring, safety and, most importantly, how to relax and enjoy yourself on board. 

Sunset with Sailing Eden

Sunset with Sailing Eden - Credit: Sailing Eden

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