Sydney is a spectacular city, with no shortage of photo opportunities. The icons of Sydney, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are very central and can be photographed from many different angles. And if you have time, why not explore this beautiful city with a focus on great photos? I have a comprehensive list of where to take the best photos of Sydney Harbour.
Circular Quay is a transport hub of Sydney, with trains, ferries and buses servicing many areas of the city and its surrounds. When you visit Sydney, you will certainly go through Circular Quay and start discovering the beauty of Sydney Harbour. There, two of the greatest icons of Sydney will greet you: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
Circular Quay boasts a range of cafes and restaurants, some of them with gorgeous views. There is a lift that will take you to the walkway along the Cahill Expressway, for some beautiful vistas. From up there, you can watch the ballet of ferries coming in and out, and the occasional cruise ship departing on. Furthermore, this is where you can start the walk across the Harbour Bridge to Kirribilli and North Sydney.
If you have time, I thoroughly recommend taking a walk through Sydney’s oldest and most interesting neighbourhood: The Rocks. Observatory Hill offers a great vantage point over Darling Harbour and Barangaroo. The angle of view over the Harbour Bridge is a slightly unusual one, yet very beautiful. Observatory Hill is also where you can admire the roofs of the old houses of The Rocks. The area is ideal for a picnic and the dimming light at the end of the day gives the place a very peaceful feel.
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, also known as Lady Macquarie’s Chair, is an exposed sandstone rock cut in the shape of a bench. It was carved out by convicts in 1810, for Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. She enjoyed sitting there, watching ships enter the harbour or leave for England. At the time, the views stretched to the Blue Mountains. Now, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair offers beautiful views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House cuts a fine figure against the sky background. Late in the afternoon and under a dramatic sky, you can take some of the best photos of Sydney Harbour there. Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is a twenty-minute walk from Circular Quay, around Farm Cove, and is also accessible by the 399 bus from Circular Quay.
Barangaroo is a new landmark waterfront destination and a site of historical significance. Initially a place of settlement of Aboriginal people, Barangaroo later became the site of shipyards and docks. In 1901, the bubonic plague broke out in that area. During the Great Depression, a long stretch of the dock was named The Hungry Mile, after the long lines of men waiting for day work. Now, Barangaroo has been redeveloped in a new neighbourhood, with restaurants, offices and residential units. The Headland Park offers views over Darling Harbour and North Sydney. Barangaroo is easily accessible by ferry or bus, or on foot from the city through the Wynyard Walk.
A ferry ride is a great way to discover Sydney Harbour and a very affordable one! There are many options but I especially recommend the Manly Ferry. One of the charms of Sydney Harbour is its tireless activity, with ferries, sailing boats and cruise ships passing through. As a visitor to Sydney, spending time on the ferry is a great way to see the sights. I have taken some of my best photos of Sydney Harbour from a ferry. And with a bit of luck, you might even spot a dolphin or a whale!
Watson’s Bay is Sydney’s oldest fishing village and an ideal spot for a seafood lunch. Even for Sydneysiders, the place feels like a holiday destination. I highly recommend the coastal walk around South Head for some diverse views. Watson’s Bay is accessible by bus or ferry from Circular Quay.
Bennelong Point is the location of the Sydney Opera House, one of Sydney’s most iconic monuments. A walk around the Opera House makes for some interesting photography and there are some beautiful views of the city and the Harbour Bridge. If you want to extend your time around this beautiful location, have a drink and nibbles at the Opera Bar. Both tourists and locals like to enjoy a casual drink, it makes for a quintessential Sydney experience!
North Sydney & Kirribilli
Across the bridge lie the suburbs of North Sydney and Kirribilli. Whilst North Sydney is a smaller business district, Kirribilli is known for housing the Prime Minister’s residence. There is a park under the Harbour Bridge and some beautiful views over the city and the Opera House. Always a treat for families, Luna Park is around the corner.
Dawes Point is the park under the Harbour Bridge but on the city side. In my opinion, it has one of the finest views of the Opera House.
On the west side of the Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour offers views over Balmain and Barangaroo. Darling Harbour is a popular nightspot, hosting live music events and festivals on a regular basis. Darling Harbour is easily accessible by bus or ferry.
The animals who call Taronga Zoo home must have the best views in town! A visit to the Zoo will introduce you to Australian species amongst others and will offer you unique views over the Harbour and the City. I especially recommend the giraffe enclosure, those beautiful animals posing against the city skyline make some of the best photos of Sydney Harbour!
Taronga Zoo is accessible by ferry or bus from the City.
Cremorne Point is a great vantage point, with direct views over the City and the Harbour Bridge. If you go early in the morning, the light reflects against the office buildings of the City like a mirror. Cremorne Point is a little less known, however there is a very pleasant walk around the point into Mosman Bay. Cremorne Point is accessible by ferry or bus from the City.
Middle Head is one of Sydney’s Headland and the one most notable for highlighting Sydney’s military history. There are many viewpoints around Middle Head, overlooking the beach suburb of Manly or the City from the Georges Heights Lookout. Middle Head is accessible by bus through the suburb of Mosman.
North Head is probably the wilder of the Sydney Headlands, with thick bushland and gorgeous views over the City and the harbour’s entrance. The Fairfax Lookout is a great place to observe the geography of the Eastern Suburbs and to see how dramatic South Head is. Read my blog post on North Head here.
South Head is Sydney’s most popular headland, in the suburb of Watson’s Bay. In my view, it’s also the most spectacular, as you can stand on a vantage point between the ocean and Port Jackson. You can get beautiful and dramatic views around Gap Bluff, and Hornby Lighthouse is most picturesque with its white and red stripes.
Fort Denison is a rocky island in the middle of the harbour. Turned into a defensive fort by the British, it holds a unique position within Port Jackson, giving the visitor a very good idea of how busy the harbour is. The restaurant is no longer operating, which is a shame, but Fort Denison, also known as Pinchgut, offers the best views over Sydney CBD. Fort Denison is accessible by ferry from Circular Quay.
Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout
The most spectacular view point in Sydney is also the most underrated. The Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout is a little-known tourist attraction. Indeed, the south east pylon of the Harbour Bridge holds a little museum about the construction of the bridge and a viewing gallery. From there, you can get panoramic views of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the City, the Rocks and Sydney Harbour. My favourite thing about the Pylon Lookout is how close it is to the arch of the bridge and how reasonable the price is… You can read more about this underrated tourist attraction here.
The Best Photos of Sydney Harbour
What’s your favourite spot to take the best photos of Sydney Harbour? Tell me in the comments below!