The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is one of the world's most prestigious ocean races, creating a vibrant carnival atmosphere in Sydney and Hobart as the yachts start and finish.
By Andrew Bain
The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is an occasion as much as a race. Each Boxing Day (26 December) a flotilla of sleek yachts races out of Sydney Harbour, following Australia's east coast down to Tasmania, where the yachts arrive in the city of Hobart in the days leading up to New Year's Eve. This race is about more than sails and speed - it brings Sydney and Hobart to life as they celebrate one of the country's great sporting events.
- Where: Sydney, Hobart
- When: 26 - 31 December
- Price: The main event is free
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race highlights
Things to do
Get among the starters
Sydney Harbour becomes an animated scene of colour and activity as race yachts and spectator craft fill the harbour for the Boxing Day start. A number of harbour cruises can get you close to the action, including the Sydney Sundancer, which positions itself right beside the start line as the gun fires. Another popular way to watch the start is from the public Manly ferry as it crosses the harbour.
Watch with a picnic
Spectators line Sydney's shores as the yachts race through the harbour to the ocean entrance at the Sydney Heads. Make the most of the occasion by taking a picnic to one of the city's many popular vantage points. Roll out your blanket at Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, or on the grassy shores of Watsons Bay. For a view with a ready-made picnic, book lunch at Doyles on the Beach in Watsons Bay, where the seafood is as lovely as the harbour scenes.
Sail the final leg
As the race yachts sail across Storm Bay for the approach into Hobart, the city's southern beaches begin to fill with people welcoming the boats (especially Long Beach in Sandy Bay and Taroona Beach). The best view in 2016 however, will come on a three day dedicated Sydney Hobart Yacht Race trip with Hobart Yachts. Sailing on the Helsal IV, a former race competitor, you'll journey from Hobart to the base of Australia's highest sea cliffs at Cape Pillar - a memorably picturesque journey usually accompanied by sightings of dolphins, whales and a fascinating array of bird life - before sailing back into Hobart at the same time some of the yachts are racing back. Cape Pillar to Hobart is the final leg of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, so it's a particularly exciting part of the journey to accompany the racing yachts on their way.
Drink at the Shipwright's Arms
Get into the race spirit (or spirits!) by paying a visit to this classic pub, a 15 minute walk from the docks in the beautiful Hobart suburb of Battery Point. The historic English-style Shipwright's Arms - known affectionately among locals as 'Shippies' - has long been a favourite with Sydney Hobart yacht crews, and the bar is a virtual museum of race memorabilia, with photos of every line honours winner and a mural recounting the history of the race.
Savour the taste of Tasmania
Hobart's major summer festival coincides with the arrival of the race yachts into the city. The Taste of Tasmania is held around the Princes Wharf No.1 shed on Hobart's docks, almost in sight of the yachts. Stalls showcase Tasmania's wonderful produce, food, wine and beer. Nightly open-air movies screen in the Parliament House Gardens across the road, and the high point of the festival is a New Year's Eve party looking out onto Hobart's fireworks. Entry to all but the New Year's Eve party is free.
In Australia, Boxing Day is synonymous with major sporting events. Once the yachts leave Sydney Harbour, head to a pub to watch the Boxing Day cricket Test on television. This multi-day cricket match is another of the country's biggest sporting contests, and though it takes place in Melbourne, television viewers tune in nationally to watch the game take place.
How to get there
Sydney is Australia's biggest airport hub, with flights to destinations around the world. You can fly direct to Hobart from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.