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I take one look at the bright yellow jet boat and my body-length spray jacket and can’t help but wonder what I’ve let myself in for, especially when the driver tells us to remove our hats and sunglasses “unless they’re really, really tight” and fasten our seatbelts. Not “low and tight” like they said on the flight here, but “so tight you can’t fit a bit of paper in there.”  Plus I’m seated next to the jet boat equivalent of nervous flyers, a couple of teenage girls who are already squealing as we putter out of Circular Quay. Something tells me they haven’t been on a jet boat before.

Enjoy the Harbour views
Enjoy the Harbour views

Our driver starts off easy, zooming around the smooth curved sea wall of the Sydney Opera House before coming to an abrupt halt in front of the Botanic Gardens – cue white spray and even more screams – then charging back into the main harbour. There’s time for a couple of 360 degree spins – and some more serious lung action from The Screamers – before we head towards Manly and its fleet of brightly coloured sea craft. Along with all the excitement there is plenty of time to enjoy the view. Multi-million dollar mansions and tiny beaches are tucked into corners of the harbour that I have never seen before. Even for a regular visitor to Sydney like me this thrilling ride offers something new. We head towards the famous Sydney heads which offer a tantalising glimpse of the open ocean with each cliff silhouetted against a perfect blue sky.  

An exciting view of Sydney heads

I can taste the salt on my lips as the driver seeks out the wake from a larger boat and cuts across it, teasing the wheel left and right so we disco across the waves. Even The Screamers are laughing at the sheer fun of it. Then he asks ‘Do you want to get wet?’  Of course, we all shout ‘Yes!’ He speeds off again then hits the brakes so a wave of water arcs over the boat. I was glad that I was listening back at the wharf when he said people at the rear of the boat tend to get the wettest.

I decided to sit near the front, even though the seats at the back are apparently more thrilling during the 360 degree spins. Water trickles down our backs under the spray jackets but everyone is laughing and trying to decide who is the wettest.  When the driver asks ‘So, do you want to get wetter?’ you would think we had learned our lesson, but no. Everyone shouts ‘YEAH!’ even louder than before. He goes even faster this time and a tsunami of water sails over the entire length of the boat. It is such a stellar effort that some of the passengers have to empty out their spray jackets.

Catch the wake of the Manly Ferry
Catch the wake of the Manly Ferry

As we motor sedately back to the wharf I’m still wearing a grin as wide as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. New Zealand may be famous for jet boating but this trip has a much higher fun factor. Being able to jump the waves of the other boats – especially the big ferries – was a blast and the view from one of the world’s most famous harbours was stunning.  Luck was also on my side for this trip. Unlike some of the other girls, I didn’t wear a white t-shirt! 

Disclaimer: The writer was a guest of Thunder Jet.

If you are in Sydney for a few days and would like to do some activities, here are our suggestions for great things to do in Sydney and beyond. We also enjoyed our stays at the self-contained SKYE Suites Sydney and the luxurious Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.