Today we share our tips on how to take the best photos of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Looking for some harbour locations that are a little different? Even for amateur photographers, it is not hard to take a great picture of Sydney, and it’s the harbour, it is so incredibly beautiful that all you need is a camera (or your phone) and a sunny day.
Here are my favourite places for taking a perfect, classic tourist shot of Sydney. Unless noted these photos were taken on either my Samsung phone or Canon EOS.
When the sun is shining it is pretty hard to get a bad photo in Sydney. I should say upfront I am not the worlds best photographer so these are easy shots the average person can expect to capture.
The Cahill Walk is the name for the footpath over on the Cahill Expressway. It is the only good thing about this otherwise ugly road. Sitting above Circular Quay Train Station the expressway takes traffic from the Harbour Bridge to the Eastern Suburbs.
It can also take you to photography heaven providing the perfect spot to take pictures of the harbour or zooming in on any aspect of harbour life from above. On New Year’s Eve, the expressway is closed off to traffic, and a ballot is held for tickets to watch the NYE fireworks from this dress circle location.
Get there: You can reach the footpath via stairs on Macquarie Street, just past Albert Street, or via a glass elevator near Wharf 1. The exit stairs on the western side will take you to the backstreets of The Rocks near the Sydney Youth Hostel
Top of Sydney Harbour Pylon
The footpath over the Harbour Bridge is another great spot to get photos of harbour life – minus the Bridge of course. You can take shots like this one from the footpath by sticking your lens through the wire fence. For $15 and a little energy (200 steps), you can climb to the top of the eastern pylon and on the way explore the 3 levels of displays on the history and building of the bridge.
To walk the length of the bridge will take you about 20 minutes and it’s well worth the effort.
Get there: You can join the footpath at either end of the bridge. The city side steps are in ‘Bridge Stairs’ in Cumberland Street, The Rocks and the Northern steps are near Milson’s Point Station.
Mrs Macquarie’s Point
One of my favourites places to take visitors to is Mrs Macquarie’s Point. It is on the very edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens and outside the official gates which means you can visit any time day or night. The perfect place for a sunrise or sunset photo.
Get there: You can walk or drive to the point via Art Gallery Road (there is limited metered parking here) or walk through the gardens along with harbour path. The 441 bus from York Street in the city will drop you on Art Gallery Road. Mrs Macquarie’s point is also a spot on the Sydney Explorer bus.
Observatory Hill Park
One of the highest natural points in the Centre of the city Observatory Hill will give you an alternative view of the Bridge and let you capture the character of the Rocks in the foreground. There is a beautiful old rotunda, a huge tree and, of course, the Observatory.
Get there: A staircase from either the Cumberland Street or off Argyle Road opposite the Garrison Church.
Milson’s Point is worth a visit on a sunny Sydney afternoon. With a couple of nice views, Wendy’s Secret Garden and, of course, Luna Park’s famous smiling face, a short visit offers lots of photo opportunity. After exploring the area, you can jump on a ferry either back to Circular Quay or over to Darling Harbour or Balmain. This photo was taken on a ferry heading over to Darling Harbour. This is a great sunset spot too so why not pack a picnic and walk around to Blue’s Point Park to watch the sun go down over the harbour.
Get there: Take a train to Milson’s point, walk across the Harbour Bridge or catch at the ferry to Milson’s Point wharf.
There are a bunch of great angles for shooting both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from the Kirribilli shoreline.
Walk from under the bridge right around to Mary Booth Reserve where you will find yourself almost opposite the Opera House.
This is a great spot to watch cruise ships leave the harbour, usually between 5-7pm, and a perfect sunset location.
Get there: Take the train to Milson’s Point or walk across the bridge from Observatory Hill. Find the exact location of Mary Booth Reserve here
Along with photos of the harbour and its icons, like the shot above a stroll along the Cremorne Point Walk will give you a chance to photograph the Sydney harbour lifestyle with plenty of beautiful homes, gardens and communities.
Check out our photo guide of the walk for our favourite spots along the way.
Get there: Take the Route F6 – Circular Quay to Mosman or F2 Taronga Zoo Ferry.
The harbour foreshore walk around the waterfront from Neutral Bay to Taronga Wharf provides plenty of opportunities to take beautiful shots that are a little less common.
Sirius Cove was home to Curlew Camp an artists colony in the 1880s which was frequented by some of Australia’s best known artists, including Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, who’s 1899 painting of this cove can be seen at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Get there: Take the ferry to Mosman Wharf or the 230 bus from Milson’s Point or North Sydney. You can find the exact map location here.
One of our favourite harbour walks is the track from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach and along with just being a fabulous way to stretch your legs, the track provides plenty of photo ops of both the icons and some of the secluded bays.
There is a stone wharf and amphitheatre at Bradley’s Head that is popular for both fishing and weddings and another great sunset spot.
Get there: You can walk from Taronga Zoo Wharf, about 15 minutes around to Bradley’s Head. You will find the exact location here
Want some really special photos to take home?
If you want a really special souvenir why not hire a professional photographer to get some great family photos to take home.
Join our Sydney Facebook Community
Do you have a favourite photo of Sydney Harbour? Where did you take it from? There are several photographers in our Sydney Expert Facebook community who can help with any specific questions about photographing Sydney.
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First published February 2012, updated July 2020.
1 thought on “How to Take the Best Photos of Sydney Harbour”
These are excellent recommendations for anyone who wishes to have some great photographical memories of Sydney.