The Naval Historical Society (NHSA) now offers three Navy harbour cruises so you can learn about the Navy bases and activities from 1788 to the present.

NHSA is a non-profit organization run by volunteers. A comprehensive commentary is provided supported by information and photos on TVs to bring the commentary to life. A complementary booklet with lots of information and photos is provided as a souvenir.

Each cruise visits several locations seen from the water. At the start of each cruise the strategic importance of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) will be covered as well as an overview of the RAN fleet today.

The following is a summary of each cruise.

Cockatoo Island 1943


HMAS Waterhen. The Navy mine warfare and clearance diving base.

Cockatoo Island. Learn about shipbuilding, ship repair and submarine refits. Also, the conversion of merchant ships to troop and hospital ships.

Spectacle Island. This is where the high explosive ammunition was held for RAN ships.

Snapper Island. Where many young people were trained in Navy skills.

A virtual tour of HMAS Vampire to learn what life was like on board at “action stations” on a Daring class destroyer.


Dawes Point. The story of the observatory built by Lt William Dawes and the construction of the gun battery.

Sydney Cove. The story of Fort Macquarie and the Navy activities to protect ships and the colony after the arrival of the first fleet

Garden Island

Garden Island. The first use of Garden Island as a garden and its later development. The construction of the Captain Cook Graving Dock was second largest project after the Snowy Mountain Scheme and larger than the construction of the Harbour bridge. The story of the hammerhead crane and the role of HMAS KUTTABUL. The decision in 1987 to establish two Navy bases – Fleet Base East and Fleet Base West to cover both the Pacific and Indian oceans.

HMAS Rushcutter. One of the oldest RAN shore bases, commissioned in 1920. A Naval Reserve training facility for anti-submarine warfare, diving, and radar.

Clark Island. The storage of gun barrels during WW II. The midget submarines were also brought here after they were salvaged.

Rose Bay. The story of HMAS TINGIRA that trained over 3,000 sailors from 1912 to 1927.

Watsons Bay. HMAS WATSON the training centre for maritime warfare. Watson’s Bay was the home base for pilot boats and the lifeboat over the years.

Georges Head. The location of the western end of the anti-submarine boom net during World War II.

Chowder Bay. The base to protect the Harbour with mines during the 1880’s. Now a fuel installation for the RAN.

Bradleys Head. Ships were degaussed here during WW II to protect them against magnetic mines. The story of our first battle and first victory involving HMAS SYDNEY I and the SMS EMDEN.

Neutral Bay – Sub Base Platypus. Home of the six OBERON class submarines for 30 years and the torpedo factory established during WW2. The current COLLINS class submarines are based at Garden Island off Rockingham in Western Australia.


This cruise visits all the “battlefield” locations where action occurred during the battle of Sydney on the night of 31st May and the morning of 1st June 1942.

Lady Bay. This is where there was an underwater loop to detect ships coming into and leaving the main Harbour.

Georges Head. The western end of the boom net to stop submarines from entering the Harbour and where midget submarine M-27 was entangled in the net.

Taylors Bay. Midget submarine M-22 was destroyed here by depth charges.

Clark Island. The salvaged submarines were taken here for inspection.

The location where midget submarine M-24 fired its torpedoes.

The boat then follows the track of the torpedoes past the location of USS CHICAGO at her buoy to HMAS KUTTABUL at Garden Island where the torpedo exploded.

A comprehensive commentary with photos will be provided on the way to Lady Bay to set the scene in WW II both in the world and Australia and what happened after the attack.


Cost: $75 per person (group of 10 or more rate). $80 for individuals. Frequency:     Last Friday of the scheduled month except December

Check-in Time: 09:30am

Boarding Time: 09:45am for 10:00am departure.

End Time: Between12:30pm and 1:00pm

Departure Point: King Street Wharf 3, Darling Harbour, Sydney NSW.

Access: Ferry to Barangaroo, or Train and walk from Wynyard or Town Hall Stations. Detailed information will be emailed to you approximately 1week prior to departure

Vessel: MV BENNELONG operated by Caprice Charter Cruises Pty Ltd. This boat can take 70 people on board.

Refreshments: Morning tea is included.

SPECIAL NOTE: Our cruises can only proceed if sufficient tickets are sold to cover boat charter costs. If sufficient tickets are not sold, a decision will be made 14 days prior to the event on whether to proceed or not.

If a cruise must be cancelled by NHSA, all concerned will be advised and they will be offered a transfer to another cruise, or a full refund of the ticket value (not including booking fee) will be made to ticket holders.

Ticket Cancellation/Refund Policy: More than 30 days full refund of ticket, 30 -15 days – 75 % of ticket value.
14 – 7 days – 50% of ticket value.
Less than 7 days – no refund

Full details are available on the Naval Historical Society of Australia Website