Best Places to Photograph Sydney Opera House

If you love travel photography, then getting a perfect photo of the Sydney Opera House will be on the top of your Sydney shot list. While it’s not particularly hard to get good pictures of the Opera House, it can be harder to get interesting ones. So let’s go hunt down some perfect Instagram shots for your visit to Sydney. 

Finding the best places to take photos of the Opera House?

Let’s start with the classic shots. These are my own, and I am very much an amateur, so I am sure you can do better!

The Opera House from The Royal Botanic Gardens

Wander the footpath that runs around Farm Cove, turning back often to take in the changing view. Start at the Opera House and stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens, shooting different angles as you walk.

Sydney Opera House from Botanic Gardens lillies
Find this spot by the Boy with a Thorn statue

About halfway around the path between Mrs Macquarie’s Point and the Opera House, these vibrant red calla lilies make a great foreground.

The Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Point

Two icons in one frame! Arrive here in the late afternoon for the best light.

The view of Sydney Opera House from Mrs Macquaries point
Head to Mrs Macquarie’s Point for golden hour and keep shooting as the light changes.

The sunset is spectacular from this spot. If you arrive early enough you can walk via the gardens; they close at sunset. However you can access the point 24 hours a day via Art Gallery Road.

From the deck of a Sydney Harbour ferry

A ride on a ferry should be on the top of your to-do list, and if you can, more than one! Depending on the route you take, you will capture different aspects.

Photo of Sydney Opera House taken from ferry
You can often catch another ferry in your view as you depart Circular Quay

This is best from Wharf 2 or Wharf 3.

The Opera House view from a west bound ferry

Heading west under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a Darling Harbour, Balmain, or Parramatta ferry will allow you to take a shot of both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

This shot is taken from the back of a Balmain bound ferry

This is a good spot to alight for a walk either around Lavender Bay or under the bridge to Mary Booth Reserve (see below).

From an Inner Harbour Ferry

These ferries head to North Sydney, Mosman, Cremorne and Neutral Bay. They allow you to shoot the front of the Opera House almost directly on with the skyline behind. It is hard to get this exact angle from any other Sydney Ferry.

Afternoon sun on the Opera House

If you do jump on one of these ferries, I highly recommend you do a short harbour walk while you are there. The Cremorne Point to Mosman walk is a relatively easy one. For a longer walk, get off at Taronga Zoo and follow the track to Balmoral.

Approaching sunset on the Neutral Bay or North Sydney ferry.

From an Eastern Suburbs or Manly Ferry

Both the Manly or Watson’s Bay ferries glide past the Opera House.

Ride the Manly or Watson’s Bay ferry for a chance to get a perfect shot from the water

These two ferry routes are great for getting an afternoon shot with the Opera House silhouetted against the sunset. Go late afternoon or early morning for the best light. The harsh midday sun is not optimal, but if that is the only time you have, you can still get some great shots.

Check out our detailed post on using Sydney Harbour ferries to explore the harbour.

Walk around Circular Quay via the Cahill Expressway to the Rocks

There is a walkway that runs the length of the Cahill Expressway and allows a different perspective of the Opera House. 

An Opera House view from above – keep walking along to capture palm trees in the foreground.

To get the full view, you need to walk two-thirds of the way across. From here, you can capture the building and the harbour in action. If the wind is kind, you might even get an Australian flag in the frame.

Foundation Park from the Cahill Expressway.

Photos of the Opera House from The Rocks and Dawes Point

There are a couple of key vantage points in The Rocks, the first being the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

Overseas Passenger Terminal

Head to the Campbells Cove end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal; a viewing platform is directly opposite the Opera House. You can access the platform via the escalators at the front of the cruise terminal – you will find it just past the Museum of Contemporary Art.

A photo of the Opera House from the Overseas Passenger Terminal
You can also get a similar view from Cruise Bar

At the southern end of the terminal is Cruise Bar, make your way to the top floor for this view.

Opera House View from Cruise Bar Sydney
Credit: Cruise Bar

The VIVID Festival usually runs each year during May/June for just over three weeks. In 2021 it will be held in August. It is now one of the most popular festivals in Sydney.  Check my tips for enjoying Vivid Sydney.

a photo of the Sydney Opera House during the VIVID festival
This is an especially good spot during the VIVID Sydney festival

Campbell’s Cove is a great place to shoot the Opera House and a tall ship. When you have finished continue around the path to the harbour bridge.

There is usually a tall ship or two at Campbell’s Cove

The grassy area under the Harbour Bridge is known as Dawes Point or Tar-Ra in the Gadigal language.

best photos of the Sydney Opera House with a palm tree
Perhaps try to not get a light fitting in the middle of your shot!

This is best in the early morning just after sunrise when the streets are almost deserted.  You can also frame beautiful shots with the iron fence.

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon.

The Pylon Museum is currently closed for renovation but will hopefully reopen soon.

The Pylon is open from 9am-5pm, but you can get a similar shot from the deck of the bridge.

You don’t need to book a Bridgeclimb to get a birds-eye view. The pylon museum will only set you back $20, and you can bring your camera – a big no-no on Bridgeclimb. The Pylon is open daily from 9-5pm. You can see my review of the Pylon Museum

Walk, train or ferry across to Milson’s Point.

Walk across the Harbour Bridge or get a ferry to Milson’s Point.

Sydney Opera House from Milsons Point Whard

Wander east towads the Opera House to the other side of the bridge. Here you will find a couple of sandstone shelters that allow for some fun framing.

After you have captured all the regular postcard views, why not try a few more unusual shots.

Follow the foreshore to Mary Booth Reserve for this angle

You can also continue walking around to Blues Point for more shot looking east that takes in both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Getting up close – Walk around and inside

Head to the eastern side of the sails at sunset for some lovely sillhoulettes

The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre identified as one of the 20th century’s most distinctive buildings.

I like getting up close and looking at the tiles’ texture; try framing shots that do not include the whole building.

Close up view of Sydney Opera House tiles
The patten made by the two tone tiles

And don’t forget to get yourself inside – the northern foyer is only available on a guided tour or during a performance interval.

Northern Foyer Sydney Opera House Purple Carpet
You can see the public areas by taking a tour or even booking a performance.

You might also like to read our post on the best spots to photograph on Sydney Harbour.

Take a photography tour or class

Join a professional photography for a class in the Rocks and Circular Quay.

If you are an amateur like me, you might want to hire a pro to join you – they are not as expensive as you think and perfect for a lifetime memory to take home.

First published 3 July 2013, updated 6 April 2021

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