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The Best Things to Do On, By or Near the Water in Sydney

From visiting seaside bars to sailing a picnic boat along the river, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Sydney from the water.
By Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
February 02, 2022
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By Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
February 02, 2022
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With one of the most picturesque coastlines in the country right on our doorstep and a set of expansive rivers winding in and out of the city, Sydney's got plenty of options when it comes to hanging out by the water.

Whether you're opting for a leg of the Georges River, or you're out on the coast, there's plenty to keep you occupied while you're there. Perhaps you're a wanderer who enjoys meandering at your own pace with a scenic view. Maybe you're certain that any beverage or bite to eat goes down better when you can feel the river or sea breeze against your skin. Or, you could like getting active on the water itself, but in a creative fashion.

Whichever category you fall into, we've picked the best ways to make the most of your chosen body of H20 in Sydney.

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HEAD TO A WATERSIDE CAFE, RESTAURANT OR BAR

When it comes to waterside drinks and dining, Sydney's got it in spades. There are options for just about every time of the day, from luxe brunch spots where you can start your day through to late-night oceanfront haunts like Ravesis or Manly Wine. And it's not just these stalwarts offering up dinner and drinks with a view. There are plenty of fresh faces popping up by the harbour.

Take Bay Nine, for example, which has just opened in The Rocks and is offering six-, eight- and 11-course omakase menus right by the water. If you're in need of some inspiration, just make your way through our list of all the beachfront bars, restaurants and cafes you can find across this city.

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HIRE A PICNIC BOAT FOR YOU, YOUR DATE, MATES AND DOG

Picnicking by the water in Sydney is a tried-and-tested way to spend an afternoon — and it's featured on this list a bit further down. But you can now also picnic on top of the water, all thanks to Denmark-born company GoBoat, which is sailing its 18-feet-long, dog-friendly vessels up Parramatta River.

The company is all about making the whole boating caper more accessible for everyday folk, and its Scandinavian-designed vessels are slow-moving, a breeze to operate and don't require a boating licence — making for some fun, fuss-free sailing sessions.

Each GoBoat boasts a central picnic table with room for eight people (and all the necessary snacks and booze). And despite what you might be thinking, they're even affordable enough to fit your budget — simply BYO food and drinks, find enough eager sailors to jump aboard and a GoBoat session will you less than $17 per person, per hour. That's $129 hourly in total.

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Bondi to Manly Walk by Destination NSW

PAIR A STROLL OR CYCLE WITH A WATERY VIEW

Some folks prefer putting one foot in front of the other and seeing just where that takes them. Others like to sit on top of two wheels and start pedalling. Whichever one suits you best, if you live in Sydney, you won't be lacking in options — but we all know that the oceanside options sit at the top of the list.

For walkers, you can pick from one of the many coastal strolls on offer ranging from the wild pathways of the Royal National Park to the sparkling new Barangaroo foreshore walk. Cyclists may find the ins and outs of the National Park a little tricky, but never fear. There are still countless bike rides to tackle from the bay run to the Manly Beach foreshore.

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TAKE A KAYAK TOUR

You've seen Sydney and its surrounds from rooftop barsstrategically positioned restaurants and mountaintops. But jump in a kayak, where you can watch at human-powered pace, from sea level, and you'll discover a whole new perspective. Plan a day on the water leaving from one of Sydney's many choice kayak rental spots found everywhere from deep in the Hawkesbury to right in the hustle and bustle of the city.

If you're looking to feel like you achieved something other than just an enjoyable day adventuring on the water, you can also add the option of helping the environment on your kayaking journey. Sydney by Kayak's Sydney Harbour clean-up tours means you can remove rubbish from the ocean while you float along Sydney Harbour. The sustainability-focused tours generally hit the harbour from 9.30–11am at $65 per person.

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Brooke Zotti

PICNIC IN A WATERSIDE PARK

The weather is glorious. Your basket is packed with homemade salads, a big stack of cheese or the finest sandwiches your local deli can make. The lawn games are at the ready. A relaxing picnic is just moments away — and yes, because this is Sydney, it's easy to add a glistening view to your outdoor meal. While we may have been all picnicked out at one point, enough time has passed since the end of 2021's lockdown that the simple act of putting down a rug and having a snack can feel thrilling again.

Sydney is home to quite an array of places that fit the bill. Whether you're keen to recline with views of the iconic skyline or rolling sand dunes, there are plenty of picnic spots that you can check off your list. For the ultimate inspiration, check out this huge guide to all the best picnic spots, as well as what to bring.

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Destination NSW

TAKE A DIP IN A MAN-MADE OCEAN POOL

There are over 100 ocean pools scattered around NSW, and Sydney is home to some of the most dramatic and fun among them. These idyllic and mostly free swimming holes can be found at some of the city's most beloved beaches and have become as much a part of Sydney's seaside culture as the sand has.

These human-made wonders allow you to splash around in the saltwater or get in some laps without the risk of rips (or sharks). Highlights include Bronte Baths which was built all the way back in 1887, the iconic Bondi Icebergs and the newly renovated Dawn Fraser Baths which finally reopened to the public last year after two years.

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BOOK A STAY ON THIS FLOATING VILLA

If you're looking to really immerse yourself in the deep blue areas of this city, what better way than to book a night's stay floating atop the ocean. Lilypad, the northern beaches' lavish floating accommodation is tipped to reopen later this month, following a series of upgrades and refurbishments. The villa, which first opened in 2019, has been fitted out with a whole new design that pulls from Spanish and Mediterranean coastal villas as well as an on-board sauna.

The floating paradise has been built with respect for its natural environment, running entirely off of solar power. Inside you'll find all the comforts of a luxe home-stay from a full modern kitchen and king bedroom, to a wine cellar. The living space opens onto a deck on which you can sit and look out over the surrounding ocean while you eat or with a drink in hand. And if this is all a bit out of your price bracket, the northern beaches has plenty of other waterfront stays you can book.

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Top image: DNSW

Published on February 02, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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