VISITED: December 2017
Located on the eastern coast of Australia, Sydney is widely considered the gateway to the rest of the country. This vibrant metropolis is the state capital of New South Wales and is the country’s oldest and largest city. Besides being the most populated city in Australia and Oceania, Sydney also surrounds the world’s largest harbour. One of the waterfront’s most recognizable landmarks is the Sydney Opera House, with its distinctive sail-like design that seems to act as a welcoming beacon for all who visit. Sydney is also famous for its sun-drenched beaches, award-winning cuisine, and world class attractions, which all brilliantly showcase the city’s eclectic atmosphere. As a pedestrian-friendly city, many of the historical and architectural landmarks are within a reasonable proximity to one another. An additional benefit of sightseeing on foot, or by bike, is that pedestrians have the advantage of stopping to marvel at the array of overlooks and vistas that can only be appreciated along the walking paths. Regardless of how or when you visit, it is easy to see why tourists rank Sydney as one of their most desired travel destinations.
Sydney Opera House – The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s most recognizable building and one of the world’s great icons. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has attracted worldwide acclaim for its unparalleled design, outstanding engineering, and innovative construction, which influenced subsequent architecture of the late 20th century. The Sydney Opera House’s design has been said to resemble a ship’s billowing sails, which was achieved by comprising three groups of interlocking shells. This modern architectural approach, along with its remarkable waterfront location on Bennlong Point, is a driving force behind why the building radiates as the focal point in the Sydney Harbor. Be sure to set time aside to stroll along the promenade towards Mrs. Macquaries Point and Mrs. Macquaries Chair for one of the best photo opportunities in Sydney. It is exceptionally stunning during the early morning/sunrise or sunset/late evening when the lights from the Sydney Opera House and downtown appear to glimmer off the harbour.
For those who wish to tour the facility, the operating hours of the Sydney Opera House are from 9am-5pm with free entry to the foyer and eateries; however, daily guided walking tours are held in a variety of languages and start at $37AU for adults. The hour-long walking tours provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes view of the concert hall and performance theatres, as well as a historical account of how the magnificent structure was brought from concept to fruition. After the tour, take in the sights and sounds from one of the nearby restaurants, or walk along the pedestrian concourses for varying perspectives of the iconic structure.
Sydney Harbour Bridge – Before the construction of the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was the city’s most prominent landmark. Also known as the “Coathanger,” the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest steel arch bridge, which utilizes eight lanes of traffic and two pedestrian walkways to connect Sydney’s north and south shore. The design of the bridge features a single curve that rises 134 meters (440 feet) above the harbor and is supported by massive double pylons at each end. For those who traverse the Sydney Harbour Bridge on foot, the Pylon Lookout on the southeaster pylon of the bridge offers spectacular panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney skyline, and the Sydney Harbour. Access to the pylon is gained via the pedestrian walkway on the eastern side of the bridge by way of the Bridge Stairs on Cumberland Street. Admission to the top of the Pylon Lookout is available 7-days a week from 10am-5pm with an entrance fee of $15AU for adults.
Mrs. Macquaries Point – Mrs. Macquaries Point is located on a peninsula in the Sydney Harbour between Farm Cove and Woolloomooloo Bay, near the eastern edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens. From Mrs. Macquaries Point, there are two slightly different vantage points that provide photographers and sightseers with iconic views of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Harbour. The first is from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, which is a stone seat that was hand carved out of a sandstone overhang by convicts in the early 1800’s. The chair commemorates Elizabeth, the wife of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie (Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821), and her favorite area for relaxing and watching the ships sail into the harbour. Along with being nestled within a peaceful environment, the most enduring feature of this sandstone seat is its phenomenal elevated view.
The second vantage point is from the walking path on the Farm Cove bay bank, just below the Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair overlook. This jaw-dropping vista is nearly identical to that of Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair; however, it is from street level and includes the Sydney skyline, as well. The best time for photography from either location is typically early morning (pre-dawn and sunrise) and late evening (sunset and twilight), but I prefer dawn since there are fewer people meandering in the area. Be sure to have a lens (or a couple lenses) with varying focal lengths as you may want to dance between taking some wide-angle and telephoto shots of the skyline.
Milsons Point – Milsons Point is a small cape located in the lower North Shore, just beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge and near the entrance to Luna Park. From here, visitors are greeted with a remarkable panoramic view of the skyline, Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House. A rewarding feature of this location is the brick promenade that navigates the edge of the water. What makes the pathway so advantageous is the fact that it is set against the water and allows photographers to compose a scene with minimal distractions. This convenient attribute also allows visitors to move along the walkway in order to shoot from an abundance of sites, which showcase the various perspectives. My favorite location, and one of the most popular, was near the Milsons Point ferry wharf because of how the Harbour Bridge is framed as the focal point with the skyline and Opera House in the distance. It is beneficial to have a wide-angle lens in order to capture this view without compromising any of the shot due to the bridge’s proximity. The best time to visit is usually in the early morning (pre-dawn and sunrise) and the evening (sunset and post-sunset) to capture the transformation and contrast in the clouds as the sun illuminates the sky. Paid parking is available, but since this is a hotspot during sunset, spaces will fill up quickly. Other options, like ferries, water taxis, and the train, can be utilized to forgo the stress of finding a parking spot.
Kirribilli – Kirribilli is located on the outskirts of Sydney CBD, near Milsons Point on the northern side of the Sydney Harbour, and is another region that provides unobstructed views of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Sydney skyline. The best photography spot is situated adjacent to the Jeffrey Street Wharf, near the intersection of Broughton Street and South Drive. As with Milsons Point, Kirribilli has ample parking, but it fills up quickly later in the day and especially during sunset. There are also water taxis and ferries that go to the Jeffrey Street Wharf, or there is the option to catch a train to Milsons Point Station and then walk to the viewpoint. Along with the view from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, Kirribilli is considered the quintessential overlook that captures the raw magnetism of the Sydney skyline. It is best to photograph at any time of day, but I found that during sunrise and sunset/late evening to be the most spectacular. To beat the crowds, I recommend arriving at sunrise and enjoying Kirribilli when there is hardly anyone else around. There is something mesmerizing about staring the day watching the sky transform into a myriad of pastel colors and they way it contrasts with the city lights.
Darling Harbour – Darling Harbour is a vibrant waterfront hub that is been dedicated to satisfying tourism through its shopping, dining, and entertainment venues. It is situated on the western outskirts of the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) and is accessible by ferry, car, water taxi, or the Sydney Monorail. Darling Harbour is family friendly with an extensive network of pedestrian walkways that are packed with fascinating attractions, from exhibitions and museums to playgrounds and recreational gardens. For singles and adults, Cockle Bay and the King Street Wharf are teeming with fine cuisine, swanky wine bars, and vivacious nightclubs. For photography, the west side of Cockle Bay has two locations with fabulous views of the Sydney skyline. The first is to the north at Pier 7, near the Pyrmont Bay Park, which offers a panoramic view of Darling Harbour. The second site is in from in front of the Harbourside Shopping Centre and Sydney Convention Centre, which provides a narrower view of the southern portion of the Sydney CBD. One of the best features of the area are the neon lights from the district and how they dance along the rippling water, creating a breathtaking reflection after the sun has gone down. To this point, my preferred time to photograph the Darling Harbour is at dusk or late evening so that the city lights have turned on and are illuminating the quarter.
The Rocks – The Rocks is a historic harbourside quarter that is situated near Circular Quay in the shadow of the imposing Harbour Bridge. The district extends from the Sydney Harbour in the north and east, to Kent Street in the west, and Grosvenor Street in the south. Meandering down the narrow cobbled streets of and gazing at the architecture, which still remains from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century, is reminiscent of stepping back in time. Over the last few centuries the area has undergone a fascinating transformation, from the traditional aboriginal lands of the Gadigal, to a settlement for convicts, and eventually to the tourist hotspot that it is today. The Rocks is now the home of artisan open-air markets, convivial pubs, chic restaurants, and cutting-edge contemporary art exhibits. Due to its proximity to the Circular Quay transportation hub and Wynyard railway station, using public transportation is a preferred method of getting to The Rocks. Walking time from Circular Quay or Wynyard Station is 2-minutes and 10-minutes, respectively, via the George Street entry point. For a great photo location, take the short walk along the promenade to Dawes Point, which boasts up-close views of the Harbour Bridge as it spans northward towards Milsons Point.
Sydney Tower – Soaring 309 meters (1012 feet) from the ground to the tip of the spire, the Sydney Tower is the city’s tallest building and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Since it was erected 30 years ago, this integral structure has become synonymous with the Sydney skyline and has been referred to as the Centrepoint Tower, AMP Tower, and the Sydney Skytower, just to name a few. The tower is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Sydney with its golden turret towering above city streets, complete with restaurants, coffee lounge, and Observation Deck. The Sydney Tower Eye Observation Deck is 258 meters (847 feet) above the bustling metropolis and features interactive touch-screen interfaces that are spread throughout the Observation Deck to enlighten visitors on the neighboring points of interest. One tidbit that I learned was that the tower is ranked as one of the safest structures in the world thanks to the rigorous engineering of making it capable of withstanding earthquakes and extreme wind speeds. This is particularly reassuring if you have purchased the upgraded SKYWALK ticket to undertake the exhilarating adventure of venturing out onto the glass-floor viewing platform. General admission starts at $28AU and is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Depending on the season, the operating hours are 9am-9:30pm (last entrance at 8:30pm) or 9am-10:00pm (last admittance at 9pm), but no matter when you go it is a breathtaking view and rewarding experience that should not be missed.
Royal Botanic Gardens – Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a major botanical garden located in the heart of the city. This harbourside haven is the oldest garden in the country with approximately 5,000 types of plants that are under cultivation along the grounds. The themed gardens allow visitors and locals to step away from the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in a tranquil oasis. An added benefit is that the Royal Botanic Gardens are a short scenic walk from the Opera House and are open year-round. Surrounding the expansive gardens is the Domain, which is a popular event venue that has open green space and sports areas. The area has not only become a favorite destination for relaxing but they are also a prime location for taking romantic walks, running, and picnicking. Since the gardens are so expansive, a train tours the grounds and allows people to hop-on and hop-off at their leisure in a more comforting fashion. Although admission is free and the gardens are open all year, the operating hours vary depending on what month it is (November-February: 7am-8pm; March: 7am-6:30pm; April & September: 7am-6pm; May & August: 7am-5:30pm; June-July: 7am-5pm; and October: 7am-7:30pm).
Kings Cross – Kings Cross is an inner-city borough of Sydney that is bounded by the suburbs of Darlinghust, Rushcutters Bay, Potts Point, and Elizabeth Bay. It is colloquially known by locals as “the Cross,” and is considered a multi-faceted red light district that boasts an intriguing and unorthodox past. Despite its unsavory reputation at night, the daytime shines a different light on the region. This shady section of Sydney has started a slow transformation towards a more vibrant atmosphere through its trendy cafes, restaurants, and boutique hotels. Most tourists insist on visiting Kings Cross’ electrifying nightlife, if only to see how the ‘other half’ spends their evenings. The streets are lined with various strip clubs, adult bookstores, brothels, and tacky nightclubs, which give the district its seedy characteristics. A more welcomed sight is the large Coca-Cola billboard at the intersection of William Street and Darlinghurst Road. The sign is referred to as the “Gateway to The Cross” and was recently restored to a more energy efficient display that still emanates its classical red and white color scheme. Albeit it might be unpleasant for some, Kings Cross is best visited during the early evening when the sign is illuminated and the antics of the quarter haven’t reached their peak.
Queen Victoria Building – The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is a late nineteenth-century, Romanesque-style landmark that radiates as a high point of shopping in the central business district of Sydney. As well as housing a grand shopping center, the history and architecture of the QVB makes the visit gratifying. The QVB was constructed as a monument to the long reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, on the original Sydney markets site. It occupies an entire block on George Street and encompasses four levels that are filled with over 150 retail stores, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Originally, this sandstone building was set to be demolished after years of neglect, but thanks to a successful restoration project, the original design was faithfully restored. Today, the site has been modernized to accommodate the avid shopping industry; however, the revitalization of its arches, pillars, sculptures, mosaic floors, and stained glass windows, has reinstated the landmark’s quintessential exquisite character. Guided tours are available for $15AU and run at 11:30am on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sundays from the QVB concierge desk on the first floor. If forgoing the tour, be sure not to miss the building’s two large mechanical clocks, The Royal Clock and The Great Australian Clock, on the upper level. The Royal clock showcases animated dioramas of various events in English history, while The Great Australian Clock illustrates scenes from Australian history as seen from both Aboriginal and European perspectives.
St. Mary’s Cathedral – St. Mary’s Cathedral is a historical landmark that faces Hyde Park and overlooks the Sydney CBD. The cathedral was built on the site of the first Catholic Chapel and represents the spiritual beginnings of the Catholic faith in Australia. It was constructed out of sandstone in the Gothic Revival-style, which is reminiscent of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The inspiring façade of the church is topped by twin spires that emulate the design of Notre-Dame in Paris, France. Not to be outdone by the grandeur of the exterior, the interior is adorned with intricate stained glass window displays, traditional wooden pews, and imposing stone columns. This stunning display reinforces why the St. Mary’s Cathedral is considered an awe-inspiring and welcoming destination for parishioners and tourists.
Hyde Park – Hyde Park is the oldest public park in Australia and one of the most well-known. It is approximately 16.2 hectares (40 acres) of open space that is full of sprawling lawns, fountains, monuments, and diverse flora. This peaceful sanctuary of greenery can be found in the heart of Sydney and is divided by Park Street into two sections: north and south. Hyde Park north highlights the iconic Archibald Fountain, an ornate water feature that depicts a bronze Apollo surrounded by horse heads, dolphins, and tortoises, as well as themed gardens like the Sandringham Gardens. Hyde Park south is comprised of the Anzac Memorial, Pool of Reflection, and other statues and monuments like the Captain Cook Statue. Located along the periphery of the park are historically significant buildings like the Hyde Park Barracks, the Supreme Court of New South Wales, St. James’ Church, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the Australian Museum. There is plenty to do and see along this lush stretch of lawn, but it is also the ideal setting for taking a midday break and soak up the sun while people watching.
Circular Quay – Circular Quay, referred to as “the Quay,” is a harbour and main ferry terminus that is situated in the heart of Sydney Cove, between Bennelong Point and The Rocks. The magnetism of this bustling hub is that it serves as a gateway for connecting visitors to Sydney’s major landmarks, attractions, and famed locations. It is also functions as a vital connection for commuters rushing to and from work, as ferries, buses, and trains are constantly shuttling passengers to all parts of the city. Much of the appeal of the Quay lies in the phenomenal views of the harbour and the selection of outdoor eateries that are nestled along the promenade. The top deck of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, on the western side of the Quay, presents a splendid view of the Sydney skyline and the Harbour Bridge. It is one of the best places to appreciate Sydney’s unique waterfront setting. Depending on which way you’re facing, and what the focal point of your photograph is, these are the best times to photograph:
Facing west towards the Harbour Bridge: pre-dawn, sunrise, and post-sunrise
Facing east towards the Opera House: pre-dawn, late afternoon, sunset, and late evening
Facing south towards the Sydney skyline: pre-dawn and late evening
Besides the sparkling scene of Circular Quay, another photography location that is worth mentioning is from Observatory Hill. It is only a 15-minute walk to the east from the Quay and it is a spot that was recommended by many of the locals. The view is from the grassy knoll at the top of Observatory Hill, facing the Harbour Bridge with a direct line of sight down Lower Fort Street. Personally, I prefer photographing this location before sunrise or after sunset, as the lights of the city and bridge are still illuminated. Another reason I favor shooting at this time of day is because I am able to implement long exposures that create an astounding effect with the light trails from the passing cars. If you have the time to spare then this jaw-dropping view should not be missed.
Bondi Beach –Bondi Beach is a world-famous coastline that showcases the foaming swells of the ocean as they kiss the pristine white-sandy shore. Framed within the rocky headlands, this sweeping crescent of shoreline is one of Australia’s most iconic beaches, which draw tourists from all over the world. It is situated 7km (4.5miles) from downtown Sydney and is the closest ocean beach that exemplifies the beach lifestyle. Often referred to as the “Bondi Bubble,” this quaint oceanside town features Campbell Parade, the main travel vein that runs along the periphery of the beach. The thoroughfare is lined with an eclectic a mix of innovative and trendsetting cuisine, fashion boutiques, and dramatic coastal views. No views are more sought after than those found along the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk. This prominent, cliff-top walking path begins at the Bondi Icebergs pool, a Bondi landmark for over 100 years, and hugs the coast for 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) before terminating at Coogee Beach. Along the way, visitors will pass by the ocean rock pools of the Bronte Baths, Aboriginal rock carvings at Tamarama Rocks, and soothing beaches of Tamarama, Bronte, and Clovelly. This illustrious trail is considered to be a major highlight when visiting Bondi Beach because of how it encompasses the natural beauty of this dazzling environment.
Recommended Local Eateries:
The Vogue Cafe – 7:30am-4pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday), 7:30am-6pm (Thursday), & 8:30am-5pm (Sunday) - (109 Waterloo Road, Macquarie Park NSW 2113, Australia) – Oreo-stuffed Cinnamon Bun & Outrageous milkshake options that come topped with mouth-watering goodies like kit-kats, donuts, sour gummy worms, and more!
Speedo’s Cafe – 6am-5pm - (126 Ramsgate Avenue, North Bondi NSW 2026, Australia) – They serve a variety of creative cronut options & delicious bowls like the Pittaya Bowl: veganola that is topped with mango, coconut, blackberry, strawberry, passionfruit, and kiwifruit.
Mary’s – 4pm-12am (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-12am (Friday and Saturday), & 12pm-10pm (Sunday) - (6 Mary Street, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia) – American-style hamburgers with mouth watering sides.
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