The Parramatta Ferry – Budget Travel in Sydney

Taking the ferry from Parramatta to Circular Quay in the city is an hour of sun, spray and scenery. I love the ride and always take a tonne of photos.

parramatta ferry

The Parramatta ferry service runs daily. While you can take the ferry from the city out to Parramatta, I really prefer to do it the other way around and take a train to Parramatta and then the boat back to the city.

In that way, you can watch the sun lower in the sky from the water, and once you dock at Circular Quay you can head straight over to the Rocks for drinks after – if that’s your thing.

How To Get To The Ferry in Parramatta

The easiest way to get to Parramatta from the city is via train. If you haven’t been to Parramatta before you might consider exploring this city a little before heading to the ferry. There is a large Westfield Shopping Centre, the historic Parramatta Park, and a few interesting restaurants.

parramatta river ferry
Walking paths beside the river

If you are pressed for time, jump on the Free Shuttle Bus. It leaves every ten minutes from outside the Parramatta Train Station. It does a loop of Parramatta that will get you just near the ferry terminal. If you have a little time before the ferry, take a wander along the banks of the river and read up on the history of the area on the informative plaques that line the pathways.

parramatta river ferry
Learn about local history

Taking the Ferry

You will need an Opal card to board the ferry and you should also use it for your train ride so just get it while in the city at Central station or at various newsagents. To use it, simply touch your card to the Opal Card readers. If you are unsure what to do just watch what the other customers are doing and follow suit.

parramatta river ferry wharf
The Parramatta Ferry wharf

You will need to board pretty quickly as the ferry doesn’t linger very long. I usually prefer to head inside the ferry and take a seat until the boat actually starts moving. That helps prevent crowding the boarding area.

Then later I move to the bow of the boat to take in the scenery.

In different parts of the world you can often buy food or drinks on a ferry, but here you won’t be able to buy snacks, so make sure you at least have plenty of water on you for the ride.

So What Will You See?

It is hard for even locals to identify what suburbs they are passing from the water – everything looks so different from that vantage point. But you can expect to see lots of mangroves, riverside parks, and other river traffic.

parramatta river ferry
Riverside greenery

In case you are wondering, here are some of the areas you will pass beside on your journey: the riverside walk beside the Newington Armory, glimpses of Homebush and the Sydney Olympic Park Ferry jetty,  the waterfront areas of the Inner West like Cabarita and Drummoyne, and of course Sydney Harbour and a great view passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and approaching the Sydney Opera House.

parramatta river ferry
Approach 2 icons of Sydney from the water

Check out my trip on the Parramatta Ferry:

Scenes From The Ride

parramatta river ferry


parramatta river ferry


parramatta river


parramatta river ferry


parramatta ferry
Arriving at Circular Quay

A Few More Tips

  • Get yourself an Express train service from Central Station to Parramatta Station.
  • Set off on your journey outside of peak times, for a better experience. As mentioned before, once you reach Parramatta jump on the Free Shuttle that takes you to to the ferry wharf.
  • When you get to the ferry jetty, aim for the Express service back to the city. It is much more fun than taking the ferry that stop at most of the jetties – that just gets tiresome after the first few stops.
  • Head straight into the boat and grab a seat. This is the best way to ensure everyone can get on the ferry and prevents crowding. But once the trip is underway, get up and head out onto the deck for some primo photo and video opportunties!
  • Obviously aim to do this trip during good weather. The views from inside the ferry aren’t as good as from on deck.
parramatta river ferry
A cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour

Protip: If you get an Opal card and do this trip on a Sunday, the whole day of travel on trains and ferry will only amount to $2.50 AUD. If you can’t do it on a Sunday, you are looking to pay closer to $10 AUD – but that’s still not a bad price to see a large area of Sydney from the water.


Do you love ferry trips? What is the best ferry ride you have taken? Please share in the comments below.

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