Sailing the Sydney Tall Ships in Sydney Harbour + Climbing the Mast

This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich maritime history of Sydney Harbour on an afternoon Sydney Tall Ships cruise that promises to be an unforgettable adventure.

As you sail aboard a majestic vessel, feeling the wind in your hair and the unforgettable thrill of being part of a bygone era, you’ll be greeted with a unique perspective of Sydney Harbour, allowing you to see iconic landmarks from a different angle.

caz and craig behind the wheel of thesydney harbour tall ship
Ready to sail

The Tall Ships in Sydney are traditional rigged ships that were once used for long-day voyages, such as the journey from Plymouth, England to Sydney all those years ago.

But are now used to transport tourists around the harbour whilst also providing an immersive experience.

Not only do you get to enjoy the thrill of riding on a historic ship, but you get to climb the mast, a truly unforgetable experience – if you have the stomach for heights!

If you’re thinking of doing a Tall Ship Tour in Sydney but not sure what to expect, keep reading to find out.

Disclaimer: We were guests on the Tall Ship but all opinions and ideas in this guide are of our own.

Our Experience on The Sydney Harbour Tall Ships

Vessel entering Circular Quay as part of the Tall Ship Festival for Australia Day 2019.
Credit: Destination NSW

The vision of the Tall Ship Cruises was to restore history to the harbour and give a unique experience to tourists and locals alike.

It is now listed as one of the top 10 Experiences in Sydney and promises to be an unforgetable experience for the whole family.

The 1850s-style wooden heroic ships billowing sails will cruise past iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Fort Denison, Luna Park and Taronga Zoo.

The passion and enthusiasm of the crew was really catching and shone, especially our Captain Dave, who shone through with the way he told us his story and spoke to every passenger on board. Here as someone who truly loves what he does.

And those people have infectious energy that you can’t help but want to experience more of.

Not only was it an enjoyable Tall Ship, pirate adventure but one that inspired me to keep believing in my dream and loving what I do. Only great things can come from it.

Additional Information

  • Where: Departs from Campbell’s Cove Sydney Harbour
  • When: 11-1pm on weekends 1:30-3:30pm every day but Tuesday
  • How long: 90 minutes with BBQ seafood lunch
  • Suitable for: Families with children
  • Website:
  • Suitable for food allergies! You can get a chocolate hazelnut brownie – gluten free, and for vegetarians options and vegan options, there are green leaf salads.
  • Bring wet weather gear, sun hat, sunglasses, and wear sturdy footwear. Sharp-heeled shoes are not allowed.
  • The ships won’t sail during bad weather conditions, but you will receive a full refund if this happens.

My Experience Climbing the Mast

Passengers about the Sydney Harbour Tall Ship enjoying a day of sun and sailing in Sydney.
Credit: Destination NSW

Fresh oysters with a lemony tang, barbecued prawns, crab rolls, spinach and feta triangles, the platters of food kept on coming around.

Except I could barely eat it. I was too nervous about the mast climb challenge, which is a secret travel fear of mine.

I had to also limit my intake of champagne on this bright and sunny spring day on Sydney Harbour to just one. Of course, they also serve soft drinks as well.

I was going to climb up a 15 meter ladder, otherwise known as a mast, on the historic Tall Ship on Sydney Harbour.

A mast that sways in the breeze. Did I mention that there are lots of breezes in the springtime in Australia?

And a mast that sits above shark infested waters.

Well, I needed the pirate in me to kick the fear out of me so I could climb that mast, admire the views, take the photos and get back on deck so I could eat more of yummy food, without the sickening dread upsetting its taste, and down some more champagne in celebration.

“Geez Caz. You’ve bungyed before, you can climb up the mast,” Craig started on his pep talk that he has had to give me many times before in front of ladders.

I’ll remember that call when it’s time to do bungy Craig – “geez you’ve sky dived before, you can bungy!”

Views of Sydney Opera House from a tall ship on Australia Day 2019, Sydney Harbour.
Credit: destination NSW

Usually, I have Craig in front of me or behind lending a hand. But this time he was on the mast opposite me and he scaled up like Spiderman while I was still down the bottom getting my harness clipped on, asking for the safety instructions once again.

“Come on Caz, you can do it. You’ve got a harness on.”

“Just take your time. You’ve got it.”

Rung by rung I slowly edged my way up, keeping three points of contact the whole time. My legs wobbled, my breath came out long and drawn, trying to gain courage with each one.

“I hate this. Why am I doing this?” my mind kept repeating as the mast got narrower and narrower the higher up I got.

I look up and Craig was shoving the camera in my face expecting me to smile. Didn’t he know a smile might just top my wobble over the edge and down to the shark pit below?

“The harness will grab you if you fall and you won’t go anywhere,” Jo the pirate instructor told me. No one had tested that theory out yet and I didn’t want to be the first.

“Now how the hell do I get on the pirate viewing deck?”

“Just grab the rope and slowly climb up.”

A twist of the body one way, the other way, a slight pull up, a knee on the deck and before you knew it, I reached the pinnacle and could admire the most gorgeous view of one of the most spectacular harbours in the world.

caz at the top of the mast on a  tall ships Sydney Harbour
At the top of the mast!

Craig, who is meant to be afraid of heights, was snapping away and enjoying himself, the fear suddenly gone, and mine started to slide away as the true pirate in me came out and I was left in awe of the views.

That really was fun and the reward was worth the swallowing of the fear. It was the ultimate exhilaration.

The ship was really packed of eager would-be pirates waiting to climb the mast, and Jo quickly came scurrying up the mast without any harness to hurry us back down. I was slightly disappointed.

Not just because I wanted to keep admiring the view, but because now I had to get back down the ladder.

It was much easier, although my legs still shook and my breath was still heavy which prompted Jo to call up, “Are you okay up there?”

“Um yeah.. but I am stuck.”

My harness had gotten caught on the ladder rung and up he came scurrying again to help release it.

“Better that they sometimes get a bit stuck like that then are loose and send you tumbling into the sea.”

“I hear ya Joe!”

The Tall Ship Sailing Experience

View over Sydney Harbour from Kirribilli
Andrew Gregory; Destination NSW

I soon hit the deck, unharnessed myself, gave my inner Blackbeard a pat on the back, and headed to the bow of the ship where I thoroughly enjoyed some more prawns, chilled wine, the view and time with my pirate husband.

The pirate workers ran around running the ship and serving us with whatever we needed to make our two hour cruise a pleasurable experience.

A band played traditional Australian folk music from the first settler era giving us the full 18th century sailing experience.

I sat back to enjoy the sun’s rays chatting to my fellow pirate passengers and the skipper of the boat, who injected the word “ripper” into almost every sentence, really adding to the Australian authenticity to the Tall Ship experience.

The Southern Swan was the timber sailing ship we were sailing on. A replica of those that came over on the First Fleet, and rescued by David Warne and Marty Woods five years ago as it sat rotting on the wharves of Sydney Harbour.

Don’t miss these other popular Sydney Harbour experiences:

Would you climb the mast? Let us know in the comments!

33 thoughts on “Sailing the Sydney Tall Ships in Sydney Harbour + Climbing the Mast”

  1. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    Ladders are scary! And not only are they scary, but they’re also really freaking hard to use… but then again, this is coming from someone who regularly injures herself falling on stairs. 😛 This harbor cruise looks like a ton of fun, though, and I like the pirate-y theme.

    1. The food and drink was very enticing. If you ever go on this one, do the mast climb straight away so you can then enjoy the champers. You have to be sober to climb it.

    1. Sydney Harbour has to be one of the best in teh world and the tall ship goes with the history of the harbour. My inner blackbeard was very proud!

    1. The swaying was horrible and my legs were shaking just as much. I swore I was going to topple backwards. It really is a cool Aussie adventure and you just can’t beat those Harbour views

  2. The Tall Ships sail by my work all the time and I remember the first time I saw it I thought it was so funny! A pirate ship in the middle of Sydney! But then my workmate said it was some kind of tour and I didn’t think much about it after that. Now I think I might have to try it, I really hate ladders too but it seems like it would be worth it.

    Love that shot of you climbing the ladder before you looked up, you look so determined! I’m glad you two enjoyed it and got to enjoy the food and drinks after your accomplishment!

    1. You’ll have to try and get on the ship Annie and climb the mast. It would be such a great experience for you. Where are you working exactly? We’ll have to pop in next time we are in town

      1. I just got a Groupon offer for a Tall Ship adventure so I might just have to book that!

        I’m working at the Sebel Pier One in Walsh Bay. Just off the harbour! Come by for a drink/bite anytime! 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Powerful Ways to Travel More & Create Better Memories
Want to know how we've made a lifetime of travel for 25 years? In
This is what gives us incredible memories to share around the campfire. Join our community for insider tips and updates!
Scroll to Top