A popular pleasure for Sydney visitors and residents alike is the Zoo ferry. This was my regular commuter ferry for years, long ago. We rode it over to the Zoo wharf and back, just for fun. You can see by the colours it is one of the green and yellow Sydney Ferries.
A Manly ferry is passing as the Lady Northcott pulls out of Circular Quay. I love the juddering of the ferry as it makes way, the cheery words for the captain greeting us as he enters his cabin, the familiar sights all around.
In a minute or so we are level with the Sydney Opera House, tourists lining the rails to take photos. I remember watching it during the years of construction and furor, when the Danish architect Joern Utzon eventually felt compelled to leave as his design for the interior was severely compromised by the NSW government.
Looking back towards Circular Quay I remember when the latest skyscraper was the one on the left across from the the ferry wharves, the AMP building. Built in 1962, it was Australia’s tallest building until 1965. Now it is dwarfed by more recent and spectacular constructions.
There is lovely view west to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with the leading yacht of a Saturday afternoon race adding interest.
Now heading across the harbour, we pass the old stone Fort Denison, which has had a varied history since white settlement. After the First Fleet arrived in 1788, Governor Phillip named the land Rock Island, but it was informally known to locals as Pinchgut, as it was believed convicts were sentenced to weeks at a time isolated on the island with little bread and water. Later it was a defensive structure, and had a cannon which was fired each day to help ships set their time. Now of course it has a social and tourist life! You can see a Hop-on Hop-off boat at the Fort, a recent tourist innovation.
The trip to the Zoo wharf only takes about 15 minutes, leading not only to the Zoo, but to Bradley’s Head, part of Sydney Harbour National Park and well worth a visit. As a teenager this was my favourite bushland walk, a way to escape into nature far from houses and cars. I would run through the bush, feeling wild and free.
At the Zoo Wharf a great crowd came onto the ferry, many young people, who I later discovered were the whole of Year Seven (age12-13) from a Queensland country high school who were having a week in Sydney. What a huge adventure for those youngsters!
The ride back to the Quay was busy and noisy, the ferry full of excitement and action. I talked to a boy leaning on the rail as we approached the dock, his face beaming as he told me about his Sydney holiday, and his eyes shining as he surveyed the busy harbour.
Another favourite part of the trip is the arrival at the wharf, when the engines go into reverse, water swirls around the ferry, it lifts on the swell, the deckhand throws his thick hawser around the bollard, loops it deftly and in moments the ferry is neatly alongside. He leaps off, pulls the gangplank into position, and as the engines subside people are already steaming off. More Sydney adventures tomorrow, as we go on to the Botanic Gardens and the Art Gallery of NSW.