What you need to know about ferry fares
Before the Opal card, you could easily pay too much for ferry travel if you didn't plan in advance which paper ticket to buy. Now that only Opal is available, there is no longer any need to plan in advance.
What you need to understand about ferries is that there are three different types of fares, and only one of them accepts Opal.
Most Sydney Harbour commuter ferries are the Government-owned fleet which is operated under contract by Harbour City Ferries. The ticketing is integrated with trains, buses and our single tram line and is now only Opal. There are several automatic discounts with Opal smartcards. The daily discount is a maximum of $15 all day (and $2.50 on Sundays until 5th September). There are two different weekly discounts, a $60 maximum per week, and no extra charge after your first 8 journeys per week; the Opal week is Monday to Sunday (but this becomes 50% discount after 8 journeys from 5th September).
Any travel is more expensive if you use Opal single trip paper tickets. They can be much more expensive if you do several trips in one day and could have used the $15 cap. At a paper Opal ferry fare of $6.20 or $7.60 per trip (depending on distance), you will spend more than the $15 smartcard cap very quickly indeed.
If you don't already have an Opal smartcard, you can get both Adult (full fare) and Child (half fare) cards from any Opal retailer (see the Opal retailers web page). The card itself is free but you have to put a minimum of $10 adults and $5 children on the card when you buy it. For the Child/Youth card, your kids must be below 16 years (or a full time school student in NSW or ACT). Children below 4 years are free (no card).
Seniors and pensioners can only get concession fares with a gold Opal card, which has to be ordered in advance. This gets you half fare, but with much lower caps, of $2.50 per day and $17.50 per week.
On all ferries except Manly, use your Opal card the same as for a bus or train - tap when you get on and again when you get off - the Opal machines are located on all wharves. On the Manly ferry it is different - tap to go through the gate to get on, and there is no tap-off.
IPART regulated private ferries
On the (NSW government regulated) commuter ferries run by the private operators, you have to pay separate cash fares to the crew at all times. Children, seniors and pensioners get half fares, but there are no integrated fare deals. This includes the ferries to Bundeena, Longueville/Northwood, Dangar Island, Scotland Island, Ettalong, The Basin, and Empire Bay.
Commercial private operators
Manly Fast Ferry, Sydney Harbour Explorer and the Eco Hopper all set their own fares, and unlike the government services, have to pay their own way. They don't use Opal. These ferries can get you to places that nobody else can - such as Goat Island, Fort Denison or the Q Station near Manly - and take you on different routes such as Watsons Bay to Manly. If you are travelling only between the city and Manly, the single fares are generally comparable to those charged by the government. But if you combine these ferries with other travel, or if you go to out-of-the-way places, you're not getting the Opal cap on all your travel for the day, and you will probably end up paying rather more. This is presumably why, at some wharves such as Watsons Bay and the Zoo, you will see these ferries arrive and leave with few passengers, while everyone else waits for the "government" ferry.
But if you're in Sydmey as a tourist paying for nightly accommodation, these ferries can be worth while because you can see more in one day than you can on "government" ferries.
This page was last modified on Sun Jul 31, 2016
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