Updated September 6, 2018
The Captain Cook White Bay Ferry now departs from King Street Wharf at Barangaroo (starting 4 November 2016) -- a change from its former route to and from Sydney Harbour’s Circular Quay.
When the news was first announced, some local cruisers were not impressed, saying it would be more difficult to drag suitcases from Wynyard Station to King Street Wharf. We admit we had our doubts, too. But the opening of the brand new Wynyard Walk -- a tunnel between Wynyard and Barangaroo -- has made it much simpler to get from the train station to the wharf.
But what about switching trains with your luggage? According to NSW Transport, more trains go to Wynyard than Circular Quay (and yes, the airport train stops at Wynyard). It all seemed too easy.
Cruise Critic was invited by Captain Cook Cruises to take a sneak preview of the new route, which starts next Friday. Here's what we thought.
What It Is
Sydney’s White Bay ferry is dedicated to cruise passengers. It takes you from the city (King Street Wharf No.1 at Barangaroo) to White Bay Cruise Terminal. The ferry operates only on days that a cruise ship is docked at White Bay. It also takes passengers in the reverse direction, from White Bay to King St Wharf. From there, people can explore Barangaroo and Darling Harbour or take the train (one stop to Circular Quay) or walk to the city centre.
We got off the train at Wynyard Station and took Exit 4 Barangaroo. It was clearly signposted -- so far, so good. The new Wynyard Walk was right in front of us after we came through the Opal Card turnstile. It's actually a tunnel -- wide, spacious, covered, and well lit.
The walk is flat except for two escalators -- one near the start and one at the end. There are also lifts next to the escalators if you have lots of luggage or mobility issues.
At the end of the Wynyard Walk tunnel, you emerge outdoors at a plaza of office buildings, cafes, shops and the big, red-brick Sussex Hotel. Keep walking straight (veering slightly left) to the pedestrian bridge. This isn't signposted but Captain Cook tells us they are looking into it.
Walk across the bridge to King St Wharf. You will come down another escalator (or use the lift) and pass the new David Jones and a few cafes. Then you will see the water, and on your left is a sign and a big, blue flag displaying the ferry destination: ‘White Bay Cruise Terminal’. You have arrived!
The whole walk, from train to ferry, took six minutes (including all the times we stopped to take quick iPhone photos for this article). Slow walkers and families with kids should allow eight minutes.
We arrived three minutes before the 10:30 a.m ferry and simply walked down the pier to the gangway and boarded the vessel. The large ferry has two levels of indoor seating and an open-air top deck, so we headed upstairs to enjoy the views of Darling Harbour as we sailed to White Bay in 10 minutes -- a remarkably shorter journey than the old Circular Quay route, which used to take 25 minutes.
Worth a Try?
Definitely. You will be surprised by how easy it is to walk from Wynyard Station to Barangaroo via the new Wynyard Walk. Most people will use the escalators -- but if you have a lot of luggage or mobility issues, use the lifts.
The downside is the six-minute walk is five minutes longer than it used to take to walk from Circular Quay train station to the Circular Quay ferry wharf, but then you save 15 minutes on the faster ferry ride. You will also wait less time for the next ferry if you miss it, because the new service is more regular (every 15 to 20 minutes) and uses two vessels.
Things to Note
Tickets cost AU$9 one-way (infants 0-3 years are free) and can be bought in advance from Captain Cook Cruises or from its ticket booth at King St Wharf. (Tickets are also sold at Captain Cook's ticket booth at Circular Quay, but let's not confuse things!)
If you’re arriving by ship at White Bay, tickets can be purchased at a kiosk in the terminal. Opal cards and Transport NSW tickets are not valid for the ferry.
For People Coming from Sydney Airport
The Sydney Airport Link train goes directly to Wynyard Station. You do not have to change trains. The fare is the same price. Wynyard is one stop after Circular Quay.
For People Travelling By Train or Bus in NSW
According to Captain Cook Cruises, more trains and buses go to Wynyard than Circular Quay. If your train or bus used to go to Circular Quay, it’s likely it also goes to Wynyard so you don’t have to get off and change trains or buses.
(Editor’s Note: If public transport to Wynyard is less convenient from your home, please let us know in the comments below.)
For Manly/Northern Beaches Residents
Locals (like me!) who live in or near Manly are the most inconvenienced. If you planned to catch the Manly Ferry to Circular Quay and then the White Bay Ferry, you will now have to add an extra step and get from Circular Quay to Wynyard (by train is recommended as it’s at least a 10-minute walk, partly uphill, to King St Wharf with luggage).
For Arriving Passengers
If you are a passenger arriving by ship at White Bay Cruise Terminal and you would like to explore Sydney, take the ferry to King St Wharf. From there, you can explore Barangaroo and Darling Harbour or walk to the city centre. King St Wharf is a couple of minutes’ walk uphill to the city or a 10-minute walk (uphill for the first two minutes) to Sydney Harbour. Alternatively, walk to Wynyard Station via the six-minute Wynyard Walk tunnel and take the train one stop to Circular Quay to see Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.