The beautiful commute on Sydney's ferries

Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:15am EST
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By Jason Reed

SYDNEY (Reuters) - On the ferries that crisscross Sydney's harbor, passengers sit inside hunched over their smartphones, ignoring the gorgeous scenery afforded by what many people think is the world's most beautiful commute. But not Nina Leatherday.

Eating a breakfast of hot oats before sunrise, Leatherday braves 9 degree C (48 F) mid-winter temperatures on the outside deck of a ferry from Manly to Circular Quay.

The Michigan native, who is accustomed to harsh winters, was the only passenger sitting on the outside deck of Sydney’s most famous ferry service recently, while others huddled in the heated cabin.

The bracing wind and salty spray are refreshing, she said, and afford her the only opportunity to experience the outdoors en route to a long day's work in a biscuit factory.

In this water-centric city, conversation inevitably steers to the scenic harbor - backdrop of countless tourist pictures. The arrival in 1788 of British Captain Arthur Phillip's 11 convict ships in Sydney Cove and subsequent discovery of a freshwater stream led to what is now Circular Quay ferry port and , in many ways, the birthplace of modern Australia.

Would those ‘first settlers’ even be able to imagine 225 years later the transformation from humble beginnings to a bucket list locale for most travelers? Lattes and smartphones aside, one thing would have been familiar: Sydney's commuters sail to work on ferries named after those in the first fleet. The Friendship, Charlotte and Golden Grove among others.

Sydney’s ferry system has been its lifeblood since the mid 1800s, transporting more than 15 million individual passenger journeys each year, according to the Bureau of Transport Statistics. From fast-food employees to finance industry executives, more than 40,000 trips are taken every day.

Corporate affairs executive Jake Krausmann took up his position on the bow of a city-bound ferry from Manly, performing a daily stretching and exercise routine in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge. The Manly ferry has been Krausmann's preferred commute for 10 years. He travels on the outside decks in any weather and says he never gets sick of the trip.   Continued...

The Manly-bound ferry Collaroy (foreground) picks its way between cruise ships Pacific Jewel (C) and Pacific Aria during a naming ceremony for the new P&O cruise ships on Sydney harbour, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed