The International Fleet Review On Sydney Harbour – Top Tips For Visiting With Kids

International Fleet Review for families

We went down to the Harbour to see the ships of the International Fleet Review this morning.

I’m not kidding you, it was spectacular to see all those huge ships in the sparking blue of Sydney Harbour.

SONY DSCThe helicopters with flags and the formation fly pasts took our breaths away too.

20131004 Tall Ships-007-blogAs I said to the kids, this is a once in 100 years experience.


SONY DSCIt’s not every day you get this close to a 21 gun salute… actually I’m not sure how many shots were fired, but they sure were loud.



20131004 Tall Ships-006-blog


There were huge crowds at the harbourside and on all the islands we passed too.

20131004 Tall Ships-002-blog

Top Tips For Seeing The International Fleet Review

We decided to drive the car from our house down to the Harbour and then catch a ferry into Circular Quay, then to walk round to Campbell Cove to hop onto the Southern Swan.

In fact, we ended up wishing we had taken a car or train all the way into the city. It was murder to park at McMahon’s Point, and Paul had to drop the kids and I then park miles away and run like mad for a long way to catch the ferry. Good thing he’s fit.

Then on the way home, the crowds at the ferry quays were huge, and very squeezey. It quite scared me to be caught in the midst of big crowds, no fun at all.

It’s going to be a HOT weekend, so kids need heaps of water (and adults too.) We used up a bucketload of sunscreen too. And thank goodness for the snacks we took as buying food would have taken a LONG time too.

My family don’t do well in noisy, crowded places so we were glad we’d gone on Friday not the weekend, and that we started out earlier than we thought we’d need to.


We went out on a Pirate Cruise on the gorgeous Southern Star, managed by Sydney Tall Ships.

I have a zillion photos from the cruise which I will post next. This was a super family-friendly way to get out onto the Harbour and see the ships.

For all the information on the International Fleet Review here.

See fabulous photographs on the ABC website here.

Are you planning a family trip to Sydney Harbour to see the Fleets?

Or the fireworks on Saturday night maybe?

Any top tips for other families?

Take it easy



Many thanks to Sydney Harbour Tall Ships for hosting our family – very much appreciated. 

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  1. We went today as well – like you, so glad we dodged the crowds that will probably be round tomorrow. We did rivercat into the city, so caught some of the ships on the water, then a train home, as we knew the Quay would be hellish by late afternoon.

    Have probably ruled out the fireworks, though if we do go, it will be to Woolwich, leaving the car at a bus route along the way.

    • Seana Smith says:

      Yes that’s the way to do it. I have to be careful with the family as they get really rattled. I wish I had booked ahead and got a hotel room for us all. I have never ever done that and am wondering why cos it would work really well. Next time.

  2. It’s great that you were able to experience this before the crowds arrive this weekend. Like you say, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. We’ve been finding it hard just to get around our suburb because of all the extra traffic and that’s before the weekend and before they block off our main street next Tuesday! xx

    • Seana Smith says:

      Oh yes, your suburb will be mad. Get the shopping in early. When we first came to Sydney as a family we rented a house in Cremorne and then bought one in North Sydney and lived there for a few years. That was all fab cos we could walk to see things on the Harbour. We always hover on the edge of the crowds though, but did see the 200) NY fireworks which were amazing.

  3. Jennifer Smart says:

    We’re braving the crowds and going in today, although we’re very lucky we have friends with a Macquarie St apartment, so we just have to negotiate the ferry crowds from Balmain to Circular Quay. But we’ll leave even earlier now that I
    ve read this! Also going to Garden Island on Monday for a ship tour! My 6yo daughter & my dad are very excited about that. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    • Seana Smith says:

      How was the ship tour? I would have loved to have done that but didn’t get a grip and get a ticket. I visited a big Navy ship as a wee girl and it made a big impression on me. Next time.

      • Jennifer Smart says:

        I remember visiting a ship when I was little too, andit certainly did leave a lasting impression. I’m sure it will for my little one & her friend. It was a fantastic day out. We went through about 6 ships, all different ranging from the pristine Japanese to the Indonesians who were running a party ship! We also looked through the Heritage Centre Museum which was fascinating & a good hands on experience. Hopefully the navy will open their ships up again.

  4. What fantastic weather for it this weekend! I remember the 75th Anniversary. In my misguided youth I remember distinctly partying in Kirribilli, wearing a mini-dress made of neoprene with zip from neck to hem, front and back. Dangerous really :)

  5. What an amazing event!
    The photos are awesome I bet the whole family enjoyed the event. Even my brother in law who is in a wheelchair was able to go on board the ship!

    • Seana Smith says:

      That is great to hear, hope he enjoyed himself. Must pop over to visit you, it’s been too long what with trip away etc etc

  6. We were going to try and go and take the kids. :(

  7. Looked amazing from what I could see from our neighbourhood! Unfortunately, that was as close as we were going to get as we were out of town for the rest of the weekend. Your photos are fabulous!!!

    • Seana Smith says:

      Thanks so much Grace, I took lots of the kids too and will do a general post. I had my husband there to help wrangle the kids so could take better pix!

  8. Looks like a great day. We stayed away because we absolutely don’t do crowds so knew it wasn’t for us. I do feel like I missed out though. We were invited on a boat, but couldn’t bear the hassle of fighting our way over to Rosé Bay to meet our friends.

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