Best places to photograph the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge View

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. 

Where are the best places to take photos of the Sydney 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 Mrs Macquarie’s Point

The view of Sydney Opera House from Mrs Macquaries point

Start here and walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens, shooting different angles as you walk.

Sydney Opera House from Botanic Garden
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.

Sydney Bucket list sunset

If you can, try to head here at the end of the day, the sunset is spectacular. The Botanic Gardens is open until sunset each day, but you can access Mrs Macquarie’s Point 24 hours a day.

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.

On West Bound Ferries

The Darling Harbour or Balmain Ferry 

View from Sydney harbour Ferry
This shot is taken from the back of a Balmain bound ferry

Heading to the 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.

photo of the Sydney Opera House from Milsons Point
This shot is taken from near the Milsons Point Wharf

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.

Sydney Ferry view
From Neutral Bay or North Sydney ferry.

From an Eastern Suburbs or Manly Ferry

photo of the Sydney Opera House in the late afternoon sun
Ride the Manly or Watson’s Bay ferry for a chance to get a perfect shot from the water

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

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

photo of the Sydney Opera House from Cahill walk
An Opera House view from above – keep walking along to capture palm trees in the foreground.

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

From the top floor public viewing deck of the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

At the Campbells cover end of the Overseas passenger terminal, there is a viewing platform that is directly opposite the Opera House. You can access the platform via the escalators at the front of the ship terminal – you can see if 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

This is especially good during the VIVID Sydney festival

a photo of the Sydney Opera House during the VIVID festival

The VIVID Festival runs each year during May/June for just over three weeks.  This year it begins on Friday 25 May and runs to Saturday 16 June 2018.  It is now one of the most popular festivals in Sydney.  Check my tips for enjoying Vivid Sydney.

From Dawes Point

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

Keep walking around the point to get a nice shot with both the Bridge and the Opera House. 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.

A instrgram hot spot the Sydney Opera House Pylon View
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 $15, 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 Pylon Museum

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

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

Opera House photo from Milsons Point Sydney

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.

How to get great photos of the Sydney Opera House Kirribilli

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

Getting up close – Walk around and inside

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

Close up view of Sydney Opera House tiles

And don’t forget to get yourself inside

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.

Have you been to Sydney? Are you a local? Share your tips on getting the best shot of the Sydney Opera House?

Need help planning your trip to Sydney? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group, where you can ask questions, stay up to date with what’s happening in Sydney and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!

22 Comments

  1. Good information. I am planning a trip in April and would like to ask whether going in the morning to take the Opera House will give me the morning sunlight? I am planning for the sunset as well but want to get the shot in the morning before the harsh light. Also I will try to get the North ferry to get the shot with the skyline. What is the shortest trip I should take.. My only mission is to take that shot you mentioned.

    • Hi Reuben, The Neutral Bay or Mosman ferries will get you those shots in about the same time. I would take whichever one is there when you arrive. The sun rises from the east so Opera House shots in morning light are best before 9am.

  2. You must be thrilled with the news that racing ads will obscure the night view. I’m an expat Australian. This building is a tourist icon. Tourists are not going to be happy to photograph that building with advertising on it.

  3. Such a unique article. Thank you for sharing this, I never thought of trying to shoot the Opera House from different angles. It was the same boring frontside shot every time. My favorites among your recommendations are #5 and #6. Not sure how I can take those angles with #7 but I will definitely try!

  4. Thanks for the great information. The Opera house “World Heritage Site” is on my “photo list” when we visit this year from Canada.

  5. I don’t think that there is a bad place to photograph that beauty! Great suggestions. I hope to have an issue of where to take the best picture some day. 😉 Sydney is fabulous!

  6. Great suggestions! I’ve gotten shots from most of these spots, but I had no idea that you could climb the bridge pylon without doing the walk! I’m definitely going to do that on my next visit to Sydney!

  7. I loved when we had a drink at the Opera House in the evening and got to sit right under it- such an experience! We were also staying in The Rocks so had a pretty great view the whole time.

  8. Glimpses of the Opera House sails are great too like from walking in the grounds of NSW Government House during general public visiting hours.

  9. Pretty much covers all great views……I also like the view from the Royal Botanic Gardens…the giant stairway that takes you to the back of NSW Government House (you can see the glasswork of the shells) and the main stairs….the pathway immediately to your right from Queen Elizabeth gates and takes you up a hill.

  10. I have not been to Sydney but any city with great architecture is worth taking the time to learn some photo tips. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure it can be applied anywhere !

  11. Haven’t been to Sydney yet in Australia but I so want to see the Opera House and get some great angles of the buildings, so thanks for all the tips 🙂

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