Sailing Journey: Sydney to Brisbane

After 9.5 long years of building the boat, it’s time to start the sailing journey along Australia’s extensive eastern coast from bustling Sydney to calmer Brisbane.

Part 1Part 2launching, and finishing the boat in this Sailing Journey series shares the trials and tribulations of building a boat up until packing up to leave for some coastal cruising.

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

I need to apologise in advance for the poor quality of the photos in this post, which are taken from 1992-1993.

The 35mm colour negatives suffered damp on the boat, then heat in storage and are in poor condition, some also stuck together.

Sydney to Brisbane, Australia, Oceania

Finally leaving Sydney

sailing, Sydney, Australia, OceaniaFollowing the 4-year-long-slog in Sydney working, saving money, but also finishing Naiad (boat), it’s time to weigh anchor and cut loose.

You can if you want, whizz up Australia’s eastern coast in a matter of days should you wish, but what’s the point? You don’t see anything but sea on your starboard side and coastline on your port side.

Too many fabulous riverways to explore along the NSW coastline. The whole point of coastal cruising is to take your time sailing at your leisure and enjoy yourself whilst absorbing the sights along the way. It’s all about visiting isolated spots that you can only get to with a private boat. Escaping society. Having loads of fun and meeting new friends.

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Now is the time to enjoy the benefits of our hard work whilst building the boat. It’s also time to move to a more accommodating State for yachties. New South Wales but especially Sydney, is a tad resentful of the nomadic and free existence of liveaboards.

Exploring Australia’s eastern coastline

sailing, Sydney, Australia, OceaniaMeandering along Australia’s east coast and ducking into an anchorage, Naiad weaves comfortably through picturesque sheltered riverways.

It’s such an amazing feeling to be finally sailing this boat instead of working hard on her all the time. But, also to unshackle the chains of working life for a while and enjoy life.

Taking our time, we anchor where we want and when we feel the need – there’s no pressure to be anywhere.

The final destination is Brisbane, but this city can wait for now…

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Each inlet, bay, and river offers a unique anchorage full of natural beauty and ever-changing panoramas. And, a peacefulness that Sydney Harbour lacks.

Clarence River, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

If you’re lucky enough, you may experience a pod of Dolphins during a feeding frenzy on dusk with a splendid backdrop vista. The roaring noise whilst dolphins drive a school of fish towards the shore will leave you in awe. Not familiar with this sound, decide to venture on deck and witness the excitement.

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania
Tranquil mornings in calm waters await.

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Why not venture onshore to explore the countryside? There’s always time especially whilst waiting for squalls to abate for discovering new sights. Lush rainforest ferns are a delight to wander through…

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania
Photo credit: Colin Palmer

…whilst climbing to the top of Laurieton’s Lookout in stunning Dooragan National Park.

Laurieton Lookout, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Surveying the sweeping coastline is a favourite pastime…

Laurieton Lookout, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

…as is catching a decent-sized fish for dinner. If I don’t catch a fish in 15 minutes, I’m bored and give up – much prefer spearfishing.

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania
Photo credit: Colin Palmer

Underway and displaying full sails just relishing life…

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania
…gliding past craggy outcrops extending out to sea, much prefer sailing than motoring. The serenity and peacefulness of sailing forces you to linger much longer.

sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

And, after an amazing 6-months or so exploring this gorgeous part of Australia, Naiad crosses the watery border into the state of Queensland.

southport, sailing, Sydney, Australia, OceaniaSouthport

Under the cover of dusk, Naiad sails slowly past eerily dark Gold Coast buildings that create a backdrop resembling tombstones, to the blazing lights of the Gold Coast Waterway.

Tired after the day’s sail from Ballina and with so many similar-coloured blinding lights, it’s hard picking out correct channel markers.

Motoring Naiad gingerly down the sliver of land sheltering this waterway, finally anchor safely in Southport. It’s a welcomed relief in many ways and a new chapter begins in a new state.

Cruising to Brisbane

With Brisbane in our sights for work, it’s on the move again after several weeks of playing in this lovely becalmed waterway of Southport.

Southport, Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, OceaniaSlowly meandering from Southport, we stop at a couple of lovely islands in Moreton Bay. Trying not to run aground along the way, finally reach the long channel to the Brisbane River.

The murky Brisbane River is the longest in South-east Queensland and stretches some 186NM (345 kilometres).

Today we navigate only 19NM (around 36 kilometres) of its calm protected waters. Riverbanks graced with multi-million-dollar flashy homes, private jetties, and expensive boats glide past.

You need to pick the right time to traverse this river as depending on the tide, you can push against 4 Knots. As Naiad only motors at around 5 Knots, it’s not worth the slog.

Finding a vacant spot ‘pile A7′ in the anchorage alongside the pleasant City Botanic Gardens, slinging ropes between two piles turns the page of this new chapter. The area later became known as the ‘Peyton Piles’ after the TV soap series Peyton Place.

Life in Brisbane

Life is more relaxed in Brisbane and much less hassle with authorities than in Sydney.

Dabble in a new little enterprise and shut ourselves away for several days making jewellery with freshwater pearls. Also blowing up surprise balloons – all this to sell at the Saturday morning markets. The balloons are a hit. The pearl jewellery not so popular. Think we’re ahead of our time with this concept.

Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Brisbane city in the early 1990s is similar to a big country town and doesn’t feel like a city. Only finding one BYO (bring your own bottle) restaurant, outdoor tables and chairs a rarity, and not much nightlife after 8pm. The work, however, is plentiful. So work it is for a couple of years. In a city of a couple of million inhabitants at the boat’s doorstep, finding work isn’t too difficult.

Several boats are approached to run lights up and down the mast resembling a Christmas tree. Then, to take part in a parade each night for an hour at Southbank whilst fireworks are blasting from a platform in the river. It’s hazardous as we’re close to the action but loads of fun and paid for the week.

Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Renting the space of water between two piles at The Gardens (now named Gardens Point Boat Harbour) also offers a fully-equipped communal laundry, a handy toilet/showers block, and an oar locker. Free cultural events and concerts are common in The Gardens.

Brisbane Gardens, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Compared to Sydney, which offers nothing but the mooring is cheaper, this spot offers everything required to live aboard at a minimal weekly rent.

This is not a walk-on/walk-off marina. The background in this photo during one of the many yachtie BBQs shows the anchorage. You need a decent dinghy with at least a 2HP outboard to ply up and down the tides.

Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Although, only using one oar whilst standing at the bow of the dinghy to row – good exercise – the outboard came out years later.

Exploring Brisbane by water and land

With only designated work holidays, exploring Moreton Bay’s numerous delightful islands sees a great way to further our sailing skills whilst having fun.

Taking around 3 hours of motoring to reach the mouth of the Brisbane River and to The Puddle. Aptly named by yachties as a safe-haven stop-over before heading out in the bay, this spot becomes almost a ritual over weekends and whenever possible.

Buying an old Honda CB350cc becomes the main set of wheels during the Brisbane stay. It’s cheap to run and easy to park in the city. Loading grocery shopping in panniers, holding the grocery overflow in both hands, and hugging tightly whilst swerving around corners is the weekly routine.

The motorbike takes us everywhere, even on camping trips to magnificent Hervey Bay, which is a few hours north of Brisbane. Note the whipper snipper on the bike. Picked this up for another project.

Hervey Bay, Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania
Photo credit: Colin Palmer

Camping in Queensland’s landscape can be trying as you’re devoured by tiny relentless inhabitants – midges and sandflies.

Hervey Bay, Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

Although the surrounding vistas…

Hervey Bay, Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania

…are worth the pain, lumps, and the raging scratching.

Hervey Bay, Brisbane, sailing, Sydney, Australia, Oceania
With work contracts finished and savings in the bank after almost 2 years living in Brisbane, it’s time to head off again. Anyone for some coastal cruising? Life is too short.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Australia at Image Earth Travel.

22 responses to “Sailing Journey: Sydney to Brisbane”

  1. unravelledthyme Avatar

    Absolutely amazing, what an incredible adventure!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you and yes, it’s an amazing lifestyle and adventure!
      Appreciate you taking the time to leave me feedback. 🙂

  2. emysway Avatar

    Wow that’s quite the adventurous lifestyle, love it!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes and a great way to explore Australia (and the world)!
      Thanks for stopping by and reading my post – much appreciated.

  3. Avatar

    Wow! That’s some kind of adventure. Good to know about the travel. Nicely captured and perfectly weaved story. I am curious to read more…😊

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes it was and lasted 21 years, so more chapters to come…
      Thank you for the great feedback! 🙂

      1. Avatar

        OMG!! Eagerly waiting for more chapters to come! 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you for the great feedback!
        Not sure if you started at Part 1, starting to build the boat? 😉

  4. Otto von Münchow Avatar

    What a fantastic voyage you committed yourself to back then. All the energy in preparation for the journey and then culminating in actual doing it. I love the photos despite – or maybe exactly for that reason – the rough handling of the negatives after the images were captured.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Otto, great feedback thank you!
      It was all worth the hard work in the end as Naiad became our home for 20 years before buying another bigger boat in New York. Stay tune for more chapters of the sailing journey. Cheers, Nilla

  5. Abirbhav Avatar

    What a fantastic post from you Madam, that too during the Women’s Day..!!
    Wishing you a very Happy Women’s Day..!!
    You are an inspiration indeed. After riding a 600cc bike and building a boat, you have fulfilled your dream of sailing in one.. 😊😊
    The pictures are amazing and perfectly complementing the article.. Thanks to you, I am learning more about Australia now, post learning about Italy.. 😊
    Wishing you endless travels and happiness.. Hope to be mesmerized by your travels and experiences..!! 😊

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Abir for your kind words and well wishes! 🙂
      There are more chapters to the sailing journey to come… 😉
      I think the photos are ruined from years of being on the boat, but at least something is left on the film and can show you a little of Australia.

      1. Abirbhav Avatar

        Well, the stories are still alive, aren’t they? It’s not the image quality one is concerned about.. Yous stories of fulfilling your dreams are inspiring.. ☺️☺️
        Waiting for more such chapters on your sailing journey.. You are most welcome.. ☺️

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Of course! The stories are always alive in my head and easy to write about. 😉
        Thank you Abir!

      3. Abirbhav Avatar


  6. the eternal traveller Avatar

    Cruising along the coast and exploring all those amazing inlets and waterways must have been a dream come true. We once stayed with a friend on his boat moored at the Botanic Gardens. The journey across the river in his little dinghy was a bit hair raising but a night on the boat was lovely.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha the city cats certainly churn up the river more so than the old ferries – although the Council vehemently disagrees! I wanted one of them to come and stay on the boat for an hour to try it out… 😉

      It is lovely cruising up and down Australia’s east coast – so much to see, so little time. I hear that the west coast is pretty spectacular!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  7. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

    Very nice post Nilla
    I actually posted my novel
    If you have time I really hope you enjoy reading it

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Mohamad.
      Will check your novel out…

      1. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

        Thank you Nilla

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