On a skinny stretch of land on the fringe of the southern headlands at the gates of Sydney Harbor is Watsons Bay.
Look in one direction and the view showcases Sydney’s CBD skyline, look in the other and you will be greeted by the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.
With such impressive water views in both directions, you will not be surprised to learn that this is one of the more affluent areas in Sydney.
But, the surrounding areas are tourist friendly and great for a day trip.
Why take a day trip to Watsons Bay
This is an area that I have always loved coming to ever since I was a kid. The combination of sea, sunshine, good food and great views is what keeps me coming back after all these years.
Fun fact – my sister also got married here.
It is a small area and one that is rich in history. There are layers of discovery on offer for those who are interested, and for those who are not there is still a long list of activities to fill your day and enjoy!
Even if you are only in town for a couple of days then Watsons Bay will make a great addition to your Sydney travel Itinerary.
11 things to do in Watsons Bay
1. Ferry from Watsons Bay
I had to put this one in first as there is no better way to arrive than by water.
The journey from Circular Quay past the opera house, Sydney Cove, and Rose Bay is a trip worth taking regardless of the destination.
For just a few bucks you can enjoy the magnificent sights of Sydney harbor, and roll into Watsons Bay 20 minutes later.
More transport details below.
2. Walk up to The Gap Lookout
There is no better introduction to Watsons Bay than the view from the Gap.
This is where you get the best vantage point for the views on both sides of this narrow stretch of land.
On the ocean side you are overlooking a rocky, and treacherous stretch of sea where the swell of the ocean crashes into the base of the cliffs with tremendous force.
The noise is constant – but strangely soothing – and the spray will also get you on a windy day.
It can become crowded here later in the day so we recommend that you visit here first.
At the southern end you will find an anchor that was retrieved from a ship named the Dunbar. This is displayed as a memorial to the 121 people who died when the ship crashed into the rocky cliffs below back in 1857. A horrific accident from which there was just one survivor.
Another sad undertone of this beautiful spot is that it is also known as one of Sydney’s suicide hot spots.
You will see a number of reminders of this around the location with large fences in place to prevent access to the ledge, and multiple Lifeline phones installed.
The story of the late Don Ritchie is worth noting here. He was a long time resident of the area that is credited with saving over 160 people through his friendly intervention when someone was contemplating suicide.
Keep an eye out for Don Ritchie Grove if you walk as far as Gap Park, which was set up to commemorate his efforts over so many decades.
3. Hike one of the popular trails
All of the walking tracks around Watsons Bay are among the best waterfront walking tracks in Sydney. They are also are beginner-friendly with the terrain mostly flat, and on sealed paths & walkways.
You can find tracks that head out of the area towards Bondi Beach on the east coast, or towards Rose Bay on the west harborside.
Both walks offer great coastal views on the way, but I wanted to focus on the Watsons Bay Coastal walk up to South Head.
This heads north up that skinny neck of land towards Hornby Lighthouse at South Head. The space between this point and North Head off in the distance marks the entrance to Sydney Harbor.
The walk is about 4kms (2.5 miles) for the round trip and will take approximately two hours.
If you take the coastal route you will pass by Camp Cove. This is where the first fleet of settlers from the UK first landed back in 1788.
During the winter months you may be lucky enough to spot some whales in the harbor area. They frequently move through here during their annual migration to the north.
4. Lunch at Doyles on the Wharf
You will have walked right past this when jumping off the ferry earlier.
Doyles is known as a prestigious seafood restaurant (which is located just a few meters away) but they also have this take away option located right on the wharf.
The meals are excellent and affordable.
It is hard to go past the standard fish ‘n’ chips – you won’t be disappointed.
From there you can walk over to the park or beach and pick a spot to enjoy it.
Just be careful of the seagulls. They will swarm in if you give away a chip!
5. Ice Cream in Robertson Park
Right next to Doyles is a small ice cream stand that offers the perfect encore to your seaside lunch.
A good time to find a shady tree and sit in the park to digest and relax.
We had the <insert flavour> – outstanding!!
6. Swim at Watsons Bay Beach
Once you are satisfied that your food baby is no more then it is time for a dip at the beach.
There are beaches on either side of the wharf, with the northern side appearing more friendly to swimmers – I base this solely on the fact that there were more of them.
The beaches are facing the harbor so you will not encounter any large waves. Only small currents lapping against the sandy shores.
Sit, swim or float for a nice relaxing cool down.
7. Take a walk down Marine Parade
From the wharf head north along the pathway in between the beaches and the houses to get a better look at some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
Some of these places are spectacular!
You also have the charming line of boats on the pathway just in front of the beach.
There are some outstanding photo opportunities from the northern end looking back at the bay area. You can capture the wharf and the skyline way off in the distance.
8. Grab a beer at the Beach Club
By now you have earned a cold beer!
The Beach Club at the Watsons Bay Hotel has a large outdoor area with a great atmosphere.
They also have some very nice cocktails, mocktails and a classy wine menu.
If you wanted to settle in for the night and skip No. 10 then you will get a nice dinner here. With both seafood and non seafood options available.
9. Or a Coffee at Bay Cafe
If you are game enough to walk back up the hill through the park then the Bay Cafe offers a more relaxed alternative to the lively bar atmosphere.
The coffee is ok, but not outstanding. But, its coffee…
10. Dinner at Doyles on the Beach Restaurant
Ok, you may not hang around long enough for this one if you are planning on taking the ferry back to the city. But a dinner at the Doyles Restaurant is the perfect way to round out your day trip.
I did mention earlier that it is an upmarket restaurant though and a decent meal for two will set you back at least $200-$300.
Bonus Activity (If you have kids)
11. Wear the Kids out at the playground
In Robertson Park there is also a playground that will keep the kids busy for hours.
It is designed well with sun protection and gates so they can go crazy in there while you relax on the grass.
Perhaps tearing through that ice cream post lunch….
How to get to Watsons Bay
Ferry from Circular Quay
The direct ferry will take 20 minutes, and 27 if you make a stop at Rose Bay.
I couldn’t recommend this option enough!
The trip will cost you about $6 and is the equivalent of a very cheap harbor cruise.
Bus from Bondi Junction
The 380 bus will get you there in just over 30 minutes and will cost you about $4.
You will stop by Bondi Beach on the way, and if you wanted to take advantage of the Bondi to Watsons Bay hike that we mentioned earlier you could get off the bus at the northern end of the beach at the Campbell Parade stop and walk from there.
Parking is limited but I have always managed to find something. Just depends how far you are prepared to walk.
If you can fit all of this into a single day then my hat goes off to you!
I know that we will continue to visit this spot regularly, and with a new appreciation for some of the history of the area that I have only learned through writing this article.
Plus we want to see some whales!!