History of Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour is a majestic cove coalescing stunning views and national parks, internationally renowned architecture as well as heritage-listed fortifications – not to mentions the pristine waterscape of Australia’s most iconic harbour. The rich history of Sydney Harbour is responsible for much of the area’s unique, exceptional character.

The first fleet arrived in Botany Bay on the 18th January 1788. However, the lack of fresh water meant that Captain Arthur Phillip led the fleet further North to Port Jackson a few days later (now known as Sydney Harbour). The fleet discovered lush pristine forest in the cove of the harbour fed by a stream (Tank stream) and as such decided to establish the first penal colony. The fleet of 11 vessels and over 1000 settlers started building huts, farms and settling into life in the new colony.

  1. Aerial view of Milsons Point during construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Arthur Phillip held a formal flag raising ceremony on the shore of Sydney Harbour to proclaim the Colony of New South Wales in the name of the King of England on the 26th January 1788. The Captain named the area Sydney Cove in honour of Thomas Townshend, Baron Sydney, who was the minister that commissioned the first fleet’s voyage. Popular use later dropped the word cove, leading it to become known as Sydney.

The first free settlers began arriving in Sydney in 1793 and the transportation of convicts to New South Wales was abolished in 1840. In 1842 Sydney was established as a city. This, combined with the discovery of gold in 1852, caused a massive influx of people from all over the world and a drastic increase in Sydney’s population. Town Hall was officially opened in 1888 and Australia was established as a commonwealth in 1901.

Colonisers built fortifications around the harbour to defend the colony and expand maritime navigation and trade, which became the backbone of the Australian economy. Fort Denison is an example of a former penal site in Sydney Harbour. It was a defensive facility occupying a small island north of the Royal Botanic Gardens and it remains an important historical icon of Sydney Harbour.

Today Sydney Harbour remains one of the most historically significant and iconic locations in the country, one which people travel to frequently, and why so many people visit Sydney. The harbour truly comes to life one day each year with the coveted Sydney New Year’s Eve celebrations. Celebrating on the Sydney Harbour is the best way to enjoy the incredible fireworks display while immersing yourself in the rich cultural significance of the harbour – a symbol of just how far this country and community has come in just over 200 years.

To make the most of the iconic Sydney Harbour New Year’s Eve celebration and simultaneously feel a part of the country’s past, present and future, book yourself on to the lavish MV EPICURE I harbour cruise this New Year’s Eve.