Photographer's Guide to Sydney

Your location guide to some of the best photo spots in Sydney, Australia

Welcome to Sydney, the gateway to Australia.  Most trips to Australia will start here, or at the very least, your itinerary will have you pass through here on your way to somewhere else in the land Down Under (Melbourne, the Red Centre or Tasmania perhaps).  Most of the city’s highlights you can see in three nights, two and a half days.  The city is most famous of course for the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach, but to really dig in and access more photography opportunities, you’ll want to plan three full days.  So let’s start the guide to some of Sydney’s best photo spots.

Pro-tip: When you arrive at the airport, grab an Opal card.  This is the rechargeable, all-access ticket for the Sydney area metro system, buses, ferries and trains.

Bennelong Lawn

Bennelong Lawn

Start your photography journey through Sydney with a spectacular, close-up view of the famous Opera House!  In fact this little park is so close, right next to the Opera House, that you’ll want to break out the wide-angle lens.  The spot is also perfect for a panorama, with the Harbour Bridge right behind.  Walk here from Circular Quay, or through the park next to Macquarie Street.  Note that there is a fence right at the edge of the lawn, so you may have to get creative in setting up your tripod.

Recommended for: City views, night photography

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Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour

An easy walk east from the Sydney center, here you’ll find a small harbor and inlet, rimmed on three sides with city buildings and attractions.  The Australian National Maritime Museum houses a few historic vessels, which can make for good photo compositions (especially the 19th century sailing ship, James Craig).  You’ll find that the harbor is excellent for night photography, with the Sydney city lights reflecting and shining in the calm inlet waters.

Recommended for: Urban shots, night photography

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Harbour Bridge

Harbour Bridge

One of the longest and tallest arch bridges in the world, the Sydney Harbour Bridge spans the harbor from north to south.  Plan for an hour or more during late afternoon, and you can walk from CBD (Central Business District) across to the North Shore.  Views of the city and the Opera House framed by bodies of water on all sides will be spectacular.  I don’t recommend it for night shots, however, as there aren’t good places to set up a full-size tripod, and the vibrations from the bridge traffic will probably ruin long exposure shots.  Coming from CBD, the best access point is the bridge stairs on Cumberland St (cross street is Argyle).

Recommended for: City views, architecture

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Mrs Macquarie’s Point

Mrs Macquaries Chair

This is a peninsula that juts north into Sydney harbor.  The area is mostly parkland, and you can stroll along the water and enjoy some fine views west towards CBD, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  Keep going, to the very end of the peninsula, and you’ll find sandstone rocks that fall away into the seawater.  This is the best spot to photograph the Opera House and the bridge, but chances are, you’ll be joined by more than a few photographers doing their take on the scene.  My advice is to get down as close to the water as possible.  (watch out for waves and don’t fall in...)  You’ll get a better shot, with the least chance of tourists getting in the way.

The nearest Metro stop is quite a ways away, so if you want to get here fast for golden hour/blue hour, your best bet is to take an Uber.

Recommended for: City views, night photography

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Manly Beach and North Head

Manly Beach

A long stretch of sand that faces directly to the Pacific Ocean, Manly Beach is a great spot for people watching and street photography.  And if you walk along the shore towards Shelly Beach, you might even see a few wild birds.  Keep going past Shelly Beach, and you’ll climb up to the lookouts and the starting point of the walking trails.  The wide open ocean vistas, cliffs, crashing waves and the Manly center will give you a lot of photo opportunities.  And if you’re lucky, you might see some lizards and possums.

Recommended for: A little bit of everything, street photography, ocean vistas, wildlife

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Manly Ferry

Manly Ferry

The ferry to Manly is a cheap and easy way to soak up some views of the Sydney waterfront and environs.  Use your Opal card to get on at Circular Quay, grab a spot on the ferry outside and upfront, and point your camera at all the fantastic ocean views.  Watch for the little sailboats breezing about the harbor.  And enjoy sea-level views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  Also on the trip, you’ll pass by a couple lighthouses and the cliffs of North Head.

Recommended for: Ocean and waterfront scenes

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Circular Quay Platform

Circular Quay

Here you’ll find the main ferry terminal for Sydney Harbour.  Bustling with crowds, commuters, vendors, buskers and tourists, Circular Quay is a fine location for people watching and some street photography.  But the real reason I recommend this spot is for the panoramic view you will find from the vehicle expressway bridge above the terminal.  Walk east from the main terminal area and look for an elevator or stairway.  Once up top, you can walk the entire length of the bridge and enjoy views of the harbor, downtown and the Harbour Bridge.  Very much recommended for night shots of the waterway!  (unfortunately, you cannot view the Opera House from here, as there’s a building in the way)

Recommended for: Street photography, night photography

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Captain Cook’s Landing

Captain Cooks Landing

About an hour south of Sydney central district by car (or an hour and a half via public transport), Captain Cook’s Landing will afford a natural getaway from the city.  Amble along the bayside trail for a chance at bird watching.  If you’re lucky, you may see some herons and sea eagles.  And if you happen to be visiting during whale watching season, enter the national park and head further down the road to Solander Point.  Solander Point is said to be one of the best whale watching spots around Sydney.

Recommended for: Nature and wildlife

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Chinese Friendship Garden

Chinese Friendship Garden

A small taste of China, in Sydney.  An easy walk from Darling Harbour, the Chinese Friendship Garden charges a small entrance fee (which is well worth it).  Explore the extensive gardens, with pathways meandering around pools, ponds, waterfalls, and about the brightly-colored pavilions and Chinese architecture.  You can also observe a few types of birds and koi carp in and around the garden pools.

Recommended for: Architecture, urban and nature

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Luna Park

Luna Park

On the north side of Sydney Harbour and just under the Harbour Bridge, here you’ll find one of the best places for a waterfront view of downtown Sydney, the bridge and Opera House all at once.  The quickest way to get here from Central District is via ferry from Circular Quay, but if you walked across the bridge, come back to the waterfront through the little residential area.  You can get right up to the water here, to look for nice compositions that will include the big three favorite attractions.  Also worth checking out is Luna Park itself, a little amusement park right at the harbor’s edge.

Recommended for: City views, night photography

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Observatory Hill

Observatory Hill

Sweeping views of Sydney and the harbor, this time from the south side.  Named for the historic observatory that still stands on the grounds, Observatory Hill Park will give you some nice photo and panorama opportunities.  Looking north, the bridge will stretch away and over the harbor, and you’ll have Sydney downtown central business district to your right.  Best viewed during the afternoon and golden hour.

Recommended for: Urban and city views

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Bonus...

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Approximately two hours from Sydney by train or car, Katoomba and the Blue Mountains is the best overnight trip you can do from Sydney.  But for the most satisfying experience, I recommend staying at least two nights.  You can check out Echo Point for a view of the famous Three Sisters rock formations.  Then explore the cliffside walking trails (the Prince Henry Cliff Walk) and the Giant Stairway.  Nearby Wentworth Falls and Luera Falls are a good day hike as well.

Recommended for: Landscapes, vistas and nature

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Photographer’s Guide on DailyPhotoBlog

Skilled photographers know that good photography is about subject, lighting and composition.  So my Photographer’s Guide series on DailyPhotoBlog aims to give you the best chance to create shots you love, by bringing you to the most photogenic places and the most beautiful viewpoints.  (i.e. the subjects)  The composition and lighting are up to you!

Credits

Additional Creative Commons photos from Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/belpo/3094352813/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/blachswan/35751656180/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/md111/3807163713/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/woulfe/5359001843/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tcbutler/8651953094/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/md111/3802349193/

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Hi, I'm Chris. Thanks for visiting my site. Going since 2014, DailyPhotoBlog posts about digital photography, travel and the outdoors. Not necessarily in that order. My home base is Colorado Springs, Colorado. But you can expect to see a fair amount of travel photography and travel guides too. All content is released under Creative Commons attribution license.

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