Darling Harbour ferry services

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Darling Harbour
TfNSW F4.svg
Scarborough Sydney ferry 2014-08-22.jpg
Scarborough pulling into Pyrmont Bay in August 2014
OwnerTransport for New South Wales
OperatorHarbour City Ferries
Began operation1980s
Ended operation25 November 2017
System length6 wharves, 4.0km
(Circular Quay to Barangaroo)
No. of vessels
No. of terminals2

The Darling Harbour ferry service, officially known as F4 Darling Harbour, was a commuter ferry service in Sydney, New South Wales. Part of the Sydney Ferries network, it was operated by the State Transit Authority from its commencement in the 1980s, the Sydney Ferries Corporation from 2004, and Harbour City Ferries from 2013 to its decommissioning in 2017. It serviced the Lavender Bay and Darling Harbour areas. First Fleet and HarbourCat ferries usually operated the service, which was replaced with the F4 Cross Harbour service on 26 November 2017.

Originally created to promote tourist and traveller pilgrimage to the Darling Harbour precinct after its redevelopment in the 1980s, the route first consisted of stops at McMahons Point, Balmain East and Sydney Aquarium. Additional stops at Milsons Point, Balmain and Pyrmont were included on the route in the early 2000s, however, Balmain was later removed from the route and an inquiry into Sydney Ferries in 2007 advised the creation of a new terminal at Darling Harbour be built, which would become Barangaroo. King Street Wharf served as the route's terminus during the majority of its later lifespan.


Animation depicting Darling Harbour ferry services from the 1992 Sydney Ferries timetable onwards. (Click to enlarge)

After the redevelopment of the Darling Harbour precinct in the 1980s until the late 1990s, the area was serviced by public transport with only one wharf, the Aquarium ferry wharf; adjacent to the Sydney Aquarium.[nb 1] The wharf was opened as part of an initiative to promote pilgrimage to the new Darling Harbour precinct and its new attractions, such as the Aquarium. It also coincided with the opening of the Sydney Monorail loop from Town Hall to Darling Harbour. Routes from Circular Quay to Aquarium and vice versa usually included stops at Darling Street Balmain / Balmain East and McMahons Point.[nb 2] Following the opening of the Milsons Point and Pyrmont Bay wharves in the late 90s, Darling Harbour ferries also included these stops, with Pyrmont Bay being the terminus of the route. Balmain was also included on the route after timetable changes in April 2002, as a stop between Balmain East and Aquarium.[nb 3] After July 2008 timetable changes, the route was briefly split into two terminuses, with Balmain East serving as a junction between a route to Balmain and a Route to Pyrmont Bay.[nb 4]

View of the Darling Harbour wharf, the former terminus of the F4 Darling Harbour service from 2010 to June 2017.

After a publicised fatal collision of the Sydney Ferries HarbourCat Pam Burridge and the private vessel Merinda in March 2007, resulting in the death of four people and injury of two others,[1] a report on the Sydney Ferries Corporation, the previous operator of the Sydney Ferries system, conducted and written by Bret Walker, was commissioned by then-Premier of New South Wales Morris Iemma and released in November 2007.[2] One of the many recommendations of the "Walker Report" was to create a new ferry terminal at Darling Harbour, to ease congestion on the network, especially at Circular Quay.[nb 5] The plan for the Darling Harbour service was to decommission the Aquarium wharf, leaving it for use by commercial vessels, and rerouting services from Aquarium to Darling Harbour wharf, which was already in use as a stop on the Parramatta River service. This would create a new interchange between Parramatta River and Darling Harbour services; a terminal in which was created with the December 2011 timetable change, though, Pyrmont Bay still served as the terminus of the service until the October 2013 timetable change.[nb 6]

In May 2013, it was announced by Transport for New South Wales that a new terminal servicing the redeveloped Barangaroo precinct will be built to replace the King Street Wharf terminal.[5] The new wharf at Barangaroo was to be located a few meters north of the King Street Wharf; construction commenced in 2015/16 and opened in June 2017. Darling Harbour wharf was then decommissioned by Sydney Ferries for use for tourist and commercial purposes after the new wharf's opening. Both Darling Harbour and Parramatta River services were rerouted from the Darling Harbour to Barangaroo.[6]

The Darling Harbour service was replaced by the F4 Cross Harbour service on 26 November 2017.


The Darling Harbour service is usually operated by First Fleet class ferries, such as the Golden Grove

The Darling Harbour service is officially known as the F4 Darling Harbour service, under current Transport for New South Wales design and operation architecture. It is one of seven distinct routes on the current Sydney Ferries network. The fleet of ferries that run the F4 Darling Harbour service are of the First Fleet class; ferries commissioned and entered into service in 1984 to 86. The First Fleet ferries are a series of compact, catamaran double decker vessels, which include a third deck for crew, designed to carry up to 396 passengers.[7] There are currently nine First Fleet class ferries that operate on the Sydney Ferries network, however only four are used for the Darling Harbour service. First Fleet ferries are typically swapped out for use on other Inner Harbour services, though, the Golden Grove and Scarbrough are the most common of the ferries to operate on the route. HarbourCat class ferries Anne Sargeant and Pam Burridge also operate the route as backup vessels.

Ferries travelling towards Barangaroo from Circular Quay depart from Wharf 5. It typically takes 23 minutes to travel from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, where the service terminates. There is a short interval between arrival and departure of ferries from Barangaroo travelling towards Circular Quay, lasting 3 minutes off-peak and 7 minutes on-peak. The Pyrmont Bay wharf can be accessed only on the Darling Harbour to Circular Quay service. Ferries travelling towards Darling Harbour do not stop at Pyrmont Bay. A trip from Darling Harbour towards Circular Quay usually lasts 27 minutes.

In 2015, both Balmain East and Pyrmont Bay have been closed for reconstruction and upgrades. Balmain East was officially closed for upgrade on 14 January 2015, with the upgrade completed by May 2015.[8] Pyrmont Bay was closed in April 2015 .[9] The Casino wharf nearby was used to temporarily replace Pyrmont Bay during the upgrade.[10]


  1. ^ A Sydney Ferries map from 1992 shows Aquarium as the only stop in the Darling Harbour precinct.
  2. ^ Sydney Ferries maps from 1992 and 1995 showed Darling Harbour services, coloured purple, stopping at McMahons Point, Balmain West (Darling Street Balmain) and terminating at Aquarium.
  3. ^ An April 2002 Sydney Ferries map shows Milsons Point, Balmain and Pyrmont Bay included on the route, with Pyrmont Bay being the new terminus of the service. Maps based on September 2006 timetables show that this stopping pattern was kept.
  4. ^ A July 2008 Sydney Ferries map shows the route being split into two, with Balmain and Pyrmont Bay as terminuses and Balmain East as a junction between the two.
  5. ^ (Chapter Three, Page 55) "One partial solution to the congestion at Circular Quay is for SFC to develop an additional CBD hub at King Street wharf... SFC currently has exclusive use of King Street No 3 wharf."[3]
  6. ^ A December 2011 Sydney Ferries map shows that the King Street Wharf was included on the Darling Harbour route. It became the terminus with the 2013 timetable, represented in the 2013 Sydney Ferries map.[4]
  1. ^ Daily Mail Australia staff (29 March 2007). "Ice skaters killed in ferry disaster". The Daily Mail. DMG Media / Daily Mail and General Trust. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  2. ^ Besser, Linton; Wainwright, Robert (1 November 2007). "Sydney Ferries' day of reckoning". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  3. ^ Walker, Bret (1 November 2007). "Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Sydney Ferries Corporation" (PDF). Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Sydney Ferries network map" (PDF). Sydney Ferries. Transport for New South Wales. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  5. ^ Saulwick, Jacob (5 May 2014). "Tenders released for Barangaroo ferry wharf". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  6. ^ O’Rourke, Jim (11 December 2014). "New ferry terminal a part of new Barangaroo skyline preview". The Daily Telegraph. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Sydney Ferries Fleet Facts". Transport for New South Wales. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Balmain East Wharf Upgrade" (PDF). Roads & Maritime Services. Transport for New South Wales. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  9. ^ Altmedia staff (27 November 2014). "Small victory for businesses as Pyrmont Bay Wharf upgrade on hold". Alternative Media Group of Australia. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Pyrmont Bay wharf upgrade" (PDF). Roads & Maritime Services. New South Wales Government. Retrieved 2 April 2015.

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