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Largest Natural Harbours

by NickFord on 23/08/09 at 5:05 am

Which harbours are the largest in the world?

Many of the world’s greatest cities have developed around natural harbours.  These provide sheltered anchorage without the need to build a breakwater.  Aesthetically, they are fantastic places to work. That said, not all natural harbours are intensively built up. Some lie in areas of outstanding natural beauty. Most formed when a river valley became flooded.

The five largest natural harbours are generally regarded to be:

Port Jackson, Sydney Harbour, Australia

Image via Wikipedia

This natural harbour was the site of the first Western settlement in Australia. This picture clearly shows the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Opera House can be seen on the left.

Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Source Wikipedia

This is a view looking across Rio de Janeiro towards the Sugar Loaf Mountain

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Halifax Harbour is a flooded river valley.  Halifax Harbour is strategically important because it lists close to the Great Circle Route between the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway and Europe.  It is the first and last port in North America which has good rail connections. It is an important refuge for ships that have suffered in Atlantic storms.

Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall, England

Base view of Falmouth Harbour.

Falmouth Harbour is another flooded river valley.  This harbour lies at the western end of the English Channel. It used to have repair facilities for ships that had suffered in Atlantic storms.

Poole Harbour, Dorset, England

Source: Wikipedia

This picture looks through the mouth of Poole Harbour.  Brownsea Island is visible at the centre of the picture.  The town of Poole can be seen in the background.  An area known as Sandbanks can be seen in the mid right. Sandbanks is one of the most expensive areas of real estate in the world.

Cork, Republic of Ireland

When the list of large harbours is extended beyond the first five it becomes contentious. Many districts like to be consider that their harbour is among the largest in the world.  Some world famous natural harbours include New York, Pearl Harbour, Istanbul, Scapa Flow, Milford Haven, Portsmouth Harbour, San Fransisco Bay and Boston Harbour.

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Liked it


Aug 24th, 2009

Beautiful article. I enjoyed. I like the Poole Harbour the best. The water looks so deep there!


Dec 8th, 2009

what about the Trincomalee in Sri Lanka, which is regarded as the fifth largest

Brian Linehan

Dec 31st, 2009

Port Jackson is known as the largest natural harbour in the world but after that there is no general agreement on the next few in order of size as other web sites have different answers.

Ben Howson

Mar 7th, 2010

I was wondering when making the list, what measurements do you consider? Volume of water, coastline, area? Great photos.


Mar 25th, 2010

San Francisco Bay Area is far larger than all the above…..should be considered as it is physical development is the same as Poole and Sydney

big boat

Jun 15th, 2010

i thought cork harbour was the second largest in the world,,,,,,,dose any one really know??

John Wayne

Nov 23rd, 2010

I came across a article which they claim that Habour in trinco is the second largest next to sydney


Nov 23rd, 2010

Yeh same here i’ve came across the same thing


Jan 23rd, 2011

kaipara harbour in new zealand is th lasgst natural harbou in the world

Richard Peter

Jan 23rd, 2011

I wanted to know where Valetta, Malta harbour ranked for size in the world, but could only find the top 6

Keerthi Rajapaksha

Jan 28th, 2011

trincomalee harbour in sri lanka is the 5th largest natural harbour

Jon of Kent

Feb 27th, 2011

Difficult to define what a harbour is though. If you just define it as a big body of water with just a little entrance, then the biggest harbour in the world is the Mediterranean. How is it decided what’s a harbour and what’s not?

John Moore

Jul 10th, 2011

Kingston, Jamaica. Kingston Harbour is the seventh largest natural in the world. With 10 miles long and 2 miles wide. And deep enough to accommodate some of the worlds’ largest vessels.


Nov 7th, 2011

Kingston is the seventh largest natural harbour in the world its not mentioned here


Jun 6th, 2012

I’m with Jon of Kent on this one….Its the mediterranean for me. I did hear recently that Poole harbour was the biggest in the northern hemisphere….having recently been there i found that the Mediterranean is a little bigger

Charles of Reading

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