Warning: Sydney Harbour is full of Sharks

(Psst heads up – this is mostly an exaggerated post. Many people reading this don’t get it and like to wail that I’m destroying tourism for Australia. Please click around on the site a little and see just how much we promote Australia as a destination!)

It was only during my recent stay in Sydney with fellow travel bloggers, Abigail, Megan, and Gary that I realized a rather unsettling fact.

Tourists to Sydney don’t know or understand the dangers that come with this stunning harbour of ours.

I realized it was my responsibility to WARN those wanting to travel to Australia.

Sydney Harbour is full of sharks.


And bull sharks at that. One of the most aggressive sharks you can find. There are sure to be a few tiger sharks swimming around in there as well.

Who would like to try and find out?

It was while we were going to our first activity kayaking on Middle Harbour that I expressed my slight trepidation to my comrades.

“I just hope the sharks aren’t around today?”

“What do you mean sharks? There are no sharks in the harbour is there?” Abi searched for that “just joking” grin. A grin that would never come.

“Yes, lots of them. Bull sharks- the aggressive ones.”

She wasn’t convinced and it was only while we were on the water when the instructor began talking about them,  as we kayaked over the deepest hole of Sydney Harbour near Clontarf beach, that she sat up a little straighter to pay attention.

“This is one place you don’t want to swim. As the deepest hole, sharks like to hang out in here.”

Our paddling increased at this point, only easing after she told us the last shark that was spotted by an instructor was at least 18 months ago.

I grinned and nodded “See Abi, I was not lying.”

I think our crew really needed further convincing though and lucky for them it came throughout our stay.

The warning on our surfing waiver that we had to sign agreeing to the fact that we “could get bitten by a shark.

“But we are not even in the Harbour. You mean there are sharks at Bondi too?”

“This is Australia, there are sharks everywhere.”

No more convincing was needed as we made our way to our sunset harbour cruise. Our itinerary mentioned that we could bring our swimmers.

Abi asked if I had mine.

“Are you kidding me? No way. I’m not swimming in the Harbour. There are sharks in there.”

“I wonder why they put it on the itinerary then.”

“Because they are mad.”

Something we discussed later as we saw windsurfers out in the middle of the deep and choppy waters.

And later the next day when we saw surfers in the part of Manly North Head, that is called Sharky Bay. A place where our tour guide saw a shark while kayaking.

“Why do all these people go out there if there are sharks?” our crew were baffled.

“Because they are surfers, and surfers will do anything for a wave. That is why I’ll never be a surfer.”

The last shark attack was about 3 years ago,” the owner of Sea Sydney Cruises told us on our harbour cruise. The waters were murky after about 5 days of rain, the worst time to swim in the Harbour as visibility is poor.

Our crews’ swimmers were stuffed back into their bags as they realized we had just come off about a week of rain.

It was a diver and didn’t see it coming. A bull shark.

“Okay Caz, I am convinced now. I never knew there were sharks in the harbour. And I’ve been to Oz before, oblivious to this fact, whilst enjoying the harbour. Coming form England these are things we never really have to think about.”

Trust me, when you come to Australia. You have to think about it.

Sure, it is at long odds, whether you will be attacked or not.

I’m not willing to take a shot at those odds.

I’m here to warn you travelers to Australia, sharks are everywhere, and the Sydney Harbour is one of their favourite homes.

P.S. Lucky for you there are so many ways you can experience this beautiful harbour without getting into the water.

P.P.S..I didn’t bother to tell the crew after my Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb that bull sharks have been spotted in waters below waiting for a climber to drop! I thought they were pretty convinced by this stage.

Who has beaten the odds before by swimming in Sydney Harbour and living to tell the tale?

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52 thoughts on “Warning: Sydney Harbour is full of Sharks”

  1. Is there a continent that has more animals waiting to kill me than Australia? I’d still love to visit though.

    1. No… a bit of common sense and you’ll be fine. had many encounters with snakes, stingrays, blue ringed octopi etc. just leave em alone and you’ll be fine!. the most dangerous thing you will find at the beach is a rip or a broken piece of glass.

      personally the idea if grizzlies, pumas, wolves etc. get my heart going more than a shark. (just don’t drunken night swim in murky water… still drowning is your only realistic concern)

      1. Common sense goes a long way!! Yes, I agree. This post was more in jest, but to let people know they are there and to use your common sense. And definitely the rips are something people should be aware of and know how to deal with!

  2. I guess I should count my lucky stars that I didn’t encounter one when I went stand up paddleboarding with SYDNEY SCENIC SUP back in December (especially cause we had come off of a LONG rainy period). I actually spent a lot of time in the water cause I kept falling off my board… eeek!

    1. I’ve seen those tours and they look so much fun, but I’ve always put it in the too scared of sharks to try basket.
      Although, I suprised myself with how much I didn’t really think about it when I was kayaking. I mean there are a lot of people who still swim in the harbour and are fine, but too risky for my scaredy cat brain.

      1. Well if you do decide on trying it, look up Sydney Scenic SUP (they’re on twitter @sydneyscenicsup). It’s run by a local Sydneysider, Jack Plimmer and his wife Ashleigh. They do the scenic tours as well as fitness classes. It was heaps and heaps of fun – and I was told I was in the small minority of first timers that actually fell in the water. Annie from Wayward Traveler did it and didn’t fall in once!

    2. Emily Woodhouse

      Mel you should be more careful. Tough luck comes.

      Emily typed Guitar Trainer

    3. Experience sydney for all it is, some of my best child hood memories are from swimming in around the harbour. There’s a reason why it is such a beautiful place to live, if you’re not diving for extended periods of time it should hardly be a thought. Surfers aren’t just looking for a wave, we realize the dangers and how rarely it occurs. From being in the water close to every day, I would hate for a traveller to miss those experiences purely from this post.

  3. I’ve lived in Sydney my whole life, and while I don’t swim in the middle of the harbour, I regularly swim at harbour beaches. Most of these have shark nets, but it is very rare for the sharks to come so close to shore. Probably once a Summer the shark alarm will go off at Bondi Beach, however generally the beaches are very safe (if you know how to ocean swim and swim between the flags!). Those at most risk are surfers who venture further out at dawn.

    1. YEs, dawn and dusk are bad times. REally when you think about it, compared to how many people do swim the shark attack numbers are low, although do seem to be increasing the past couple of years.
      It’s like plane travel really, low odds of it happening, but you know if it does then it is a brutal end.

  4. I went SCUBA Diving in Cairns and on our night dives, the boat was surrounded by sharks. We just jumped right in! Our instructors told us they had no interest in us divers. But I’ll tell you, my heart was pounding when we had to resurface, they were swimming right by our dive ladder!

    1. Wow! I would not have been able to dive in. What an adventure for you!! I bet that made a great blog post 🙂

    1. Ha Ha! Just don’t fall asleep on one up in Northern Australia- have heard stories of people waking up to a croc lying beside them- No joke

  5. I keep telling my boyfriend that Australia is dangerous and for some reason I can’t convince him…I shall be showing him this post ASAP! 😉

    1. Yes! It is a terrifying land- but well worth the visit. Just think of all the stories you’ll have to share 🙂

    1. The deadly creatures are everywhere! It’s a wonder that we all haven’t been killed off down here yet 🙂 I think we do have the most deadliest creatures on the planet. Lucky you don’t really see them much

    2. Seriously?? It isn’t that dangerous. Sure Sydney has one of the most deadliest spiders in the world as well as deadly snakes in the surrounding bushland but if you’re careful, you’ll be fine.

      If you do visit Sydney and want to swim safely as well as see some awesome sea-life – go to Clovelly and snorkel there. You won’t be disappointed.

    1. No way no! Most beaches are really safe to swim in, we have a lot of shark nets up and good patrolling by our life savers. But still….

  6. Man I am so glad I visited in Winter both times I was in Sydney, and therefore never tempted to swim. Although, the rest of Oz isn’t much better.. if it’s not sharks it’s crocs or jellyfish.. those waters are seriously funky places for deadly creatures 🙂

    1. There is always something lurking. There are a couple of beaches on the harbour that are netted and are quite safe for swimming. I think I would probably still be too scared.
      A lot of our beaches- especially in Sydney- have rock pools as well which make a safe option for swimming. Although a bull shark was once found in one.

  7. Great article, Caz. I grew up in Australia and I am still terrified of sharks. We have had increasing shark attacks in Western Australia and you don’t go to the beach in summer here without seeing the ‘shark patrol’ helicopters hovering above. I guess it’s just a fact of life. I think you are right about many tourists not really being aware though.

    1. They actually showed on the news last night a feeding frenzy of sharks off the coast of WA. While its an annual natural occurence they said what was so disturbing about it was that it was much closer to shore than usual!
      WA beaches are pretty scary!

  8. I so want to visit Australia, but I’m not sure if I’d ever actually want to get in the water (despite being a water nut). I’ve heard so many stories about aggressive sharks there… Kind of freaky! I’ve seen reef sharks while scuba diving and really enjoyed that experience, but bull sharks? No thanks!

    1. The bullies are the scary ones! Most beaches are fine to swim at in Australia. I would never swim in the Harbour but the beaches you can’t get me away from. There are places in the Harbour that are netted off so you can still enjoy them!

      1. Safe beaches? Ok, I’m back in 🙂 I guess you really just inform yourself about where you can go and where you really shouldn’t.

  9. I kayak all the time there, even in the dead of night (but never alone!) and have seen a few bull sharks. They are nasty creatures, very aggressive if you provoke them. But I do feel a sense of security on my kayak, I dont think they would want to bite through the plastic to get to the juicy bit. I also swim close to shore and don’t really think about it. There are sharks everywhere.

  10. Yeah apparently it happens all the time in the harbour. Last time I heard of an attack it was a navy diver carrying out maintenance work.

    And the shark alarms don’t seem to deter the swimmers in Bondi, once it stops they’re back in the water – crazy really!

  11. wow im from balmain and grew up swimming in the harbour…find your comments greatly exaggerated. Australia is not a terrifying land! Please stp trying to gain attention by making things sound worse than they are!\im not saying attacks dont happen but as Australians we understand the dangers and dont start crying and screaming that this place is hell on earth…We respect nature and learn to live along side it..

    1. I think you need to search around on the blog a little more so you can discover just how much we promote Australia as a must see destination. WE are Australian ourselves so we understand the dangers and learn to live along side them. I don’t think you quite get the article. Please don’t speak as if we don’t respect nature. You can’t determine that from one article I have written. Craig just went to Kakadu and didn’t swim in the water because of crocs up there, does that mean he doesn’t respect nature or do you want him to act like Steve Irwin just so to say he’s living alongside nature?

      Crying and screaming that this place is hell on earth?? Really? Talk about trying to get attention. What an ABSURD statement. As I said look around on the blog more and see exactly just what we do say about Australia before you make RIDICULOUS statements like that

      1. Hey, I’m searching the net to find out about sharks. And I agree with Jess’ comment, she’s not disrespecting you she’s just saying that how you describe life in Australia is greatly exaggerated.

        1. No actually I responded to how she said we didn’t respect nature- nothing about not respecting us.

          If you read through the post and the comments you can see that, while I have talked about sharks in Sydney Harbour, it is done with a small amount of jest, and there is no exaggeration about life in Australia on my behalf.

          I’m upfront and honest on this blog. I would never swim in Sydney Harbour, that is not exaggerating to get attention, that is me saying I won’t because of the sharks.

          I’m talking about Sydney Harbour, not life in Australia- that would run for hundreds of posts as you will see us write if you look around- and yes I do mention dangerous animals in Oz, because it is true, but as you will notice from my comments I have repeated several times that I think it is pretty cool but the chances of something happen are pretty low.

          My comments to Jess were mostly addressing the fact that she pitted the whole them against us thing, although it is clear I am an Aussie and she said I was trying to get attention. People who are long term readers of our blog and have read more than one post they stumbled upon will know that this is an absurd statement.

  12. I read this article and had a good chuckle to myself.

    You know why we tell so many stories about sharks? It keeps paranoid, gullible, misinformed tourists out of the water leaving more room for the rest of us.
    Contrary to my other fellow Aussies I say keep this alarmist attitude up and warn EVERYONE to not go in the water!! Thanks! 🙂

  13. You know we tell these stories to the tourists so that the gorgeous harbour and beaches aren’t overrun.
    Leaves more room for the locals! 😛

  14. There are more drownings each year and fatal car crashes then shark attacks. Everyone had better stay at home and not live a fun life. It’s just not worth the minor minor chance you may be hurt, wow you may even have fun, can’t have that. Lets scare the crap out of tourists. Instead of educating them and tell them to be careful and ask for advice, lets just scare the hell out of them. Good one Caz. Man aren’t your kids going to have a fun life!…lol. I have spent heaps of time in Sydney Harbour swimming, wow I am amazed I am still alive, I wish I had read this article years ago, I could have stayed home and watched tv instead, perhaps the jaws movie…lol. Do you know how many hours that clearance diver spends in the water under water each day? When was the last fatal attack 1963?….There is a project for you and he isn’t staying out of the water. Good on you for scaring your fellow tourists, you must be so much fun to travel with and you write travel blogs? I’ll give them a miss, thanks for the laugh though! The backup of statistics and research is just so credible. Sorry I am still laughing that this is a real blog.

    1. Thank you for your laugh Liz!! I’d go back and carefully look at our blog if I was you to see the fun life my children really do have. If you research you will see the amazing things they have done in their short 5 years and 18 months of life. And this post really wasn’t really written to scare people, shame you missed the slight humour tone to it which also was clearly outlined in the comments, Perhaps you should reread them again.
      And if you did reread my blog you would see that we are pretty good fun to travel with. Just this past month we’ve ridden in helicopters and sea planes over the most beautiful beaches in the world and to sacred spiritual places, we’ve played with sharks, dolphins and sting rays, done winery tours in the best wine regions of Australia, if not the world, and we’ve partied with amazing people, including celebrities. Talk about laugh, I kind of think there would be a lot of people who’d love to travel with us, Just means we have more room in our suitcase now that you don’t want to. LOL

  15. We Aussies just do that kind of stuff, life is short anyway! I swim there all the time, sharks are actually easily scared so if you are jumping around they will steer clear. If one does grow the balls to come up, give it a good whack on the nose! A sharks sense of smell is its most valuable sense and it won’t risk losing it. What most people don’t realise is the real problem is the harbour pollution.

    1. Gotcha! The nose it is. They actually might come up so you can punch them and they don’t have to smell the polluted waters anymore!!

  16. I’m still kinda hoping this blog is a really bad joke. For gods sake. If you’re going to freak everyone out about sharks Tell them not to go to a coffee shop; Australian light fittings are notorious for falling on people’s heads and killing them. They’re vicious too.
    Come on!!! This is ridiculous. Iv lived in Sydney my whole life. Every weekend in summer for the past 5 years my mates and I go wake boarding in the Castlecrag waters, FYI, a two minute boat ride from clontarf. Stop scaring gullible people. Sydney waters are perfectly safe from sharks. If you want to save lives. Write a blog teaching people about rips at the beach. Don’t waste their time, or indeed ruin their holidays by telling people not to go in the water.

  17. You were right to be afraid Caz – I’ve heard that pasty pom flesh is their favouruite!

    But seriously, not getting in the water because you might get done by a shark is like not crossing the road because you might get hit by a car. Except worse, chances are you may actually get hit by a car!

    1. Aha. Am I a pasty pom? I thought I was a bronzed Aussie!!

      Yes, I agree. The odds are low of getting eaten by a shark. I just can’t erase Jaws scenes from my heads. Seriously that movie should never been allowed to air.

  18. This article is so misleading. Yes, there are occasionally sharks in the harbour (tracking data shows that it’s infrequent), and Sydney Harbour is certainly not one of their favourite spots.
    Shark attacks, in general, occur infrequently. Truth – you have twenty times more chance being killed by a cow in Australia than by a shark.
    But if you wish to promote paranoia and sensationalise the situation, please be my guest. That’s less tourists to contend with when I go to my favourite beaches.
    Check facts before posting such irresponsible crap.

    1. Yeah I think you missed the point and the note I wrote at the end of the post Pop back and reread it. Thanks

  19. In the first years of European settlement there were many recorded shark attacks in Sydney Harbour. People didn’t know any better. They swam or waded at night or in overcast conditions. Worse still, they entered the waters of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers and Middle Harbour. Folk are wiser these days. They swim in the right places and most of the best beaches are netted. Sydney is a GREAT place for swimmming! Go for it!

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